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Google Pixel 7a review: Meet the new best sub-$500 Android phone

The Pixel A-series phone sees key improvements that should make it the best Android for most consumers, especially if you're on a budget.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
Reviewed by Min Shin

Google Pixel 7a

4 / 5
Very good

pros and cons

  • Smooth-looking 90Hz OLED display
  • First A-series with wireless charging
  • Reliable dual-camera system
  • Priced to compete
  • Middling battery life with acceptable charging rates
  • Only one storage configuration
  • Display may not be bright enough for some

Smartphone shoppers are eating well this week. Google just announced its first-ever foldable, the Pixel Fold, for $1,799, and discounted its most affordable phone, the Pixel 6a, down to $349. And if you can't decide between splurging for a fold or hitting the budget road, there exists the Pixel 7a for $499.

Let me be clear: The Pixel 7a won't win any design awards. And its not-so-smooth alignment of back glass and aluminum frame should tell you all you need to know about where the phone sits within Google's Pixel hierarchy.

Also: All the hardware Google announced at I/O 2023

But at the end of the day, it's an A-series device; the fifth generation of its kind. That means Google has had years to refine, polish, and upgrade its mid-ranger formula, and the maturity shows on the new Pixel.

This is a mid-range phone done right. Mostly. Here's why.



6.1-inch FHD gOLED at 90Hz


Google Tensor G2


8GB with 128GB


64MP main, 12MP ultrawide, and 13MP front


4,385mAh with 18W wired charging and 7.5W wireless


USB-C, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, 5G (mmWave and sub6)


Charcoal, Snow, Sea, and Coral



What's new with this model

There are three major improvements to this year's Pixel A-series device: Display refresh rate, an upgraded processor, and wireless charging, all of which were expected arrivals sooner or later. As a result, the Pixel 7a also gets a price bump from last year's $449 to now $499.

1. 90Hz is now standard

Person holding the Pixel 7a.
June Wan/ZDNET

A fast refresh rate display really spoils you. It certainly has for me. So you could imagine the grin on my face when Google decided to bring the smoother panel from its flagship Pixel line down to the 7a.

The outcome is a clean Android experience that's just as smooth to look at as it is to swipe, tap, and interact with. And scrolling through longer webpages doesn't come off as a blur of text, but rather a river of perceptible words that make the visual of it easier on the eyes.

Also: Google unveils Pixel Fold,'the thinnest foldable phone on the market'

Note that by default, the Pixel 7a is set to 60Hz; you'll have to dig into the display settings and toggle on Smooth Display in order to see (and feel) the difference. Even then, Smooth Display is only an adaptive refresh rate setting, meaning the Pixel will throttle between 90Hz and 60Hz depending on what task you're doing and the phone's battery life.

From what I could tell (or what I couldn't tell?), the shift is not that aggressive, which is great.

2. Finally, wireless charging*

The backside of the Google Pixel 7a next to a silicone cover.

Here's a look at the Pixel 7a in Sea blue.

June Wan/ZDNET

The Google Pixel A-series is finally getting wireless charging -- but there's an asterisk there. The charging rate maxes out at 7.5 watts, which is not the best, but also not the worst. It takes a good two hours to charge the phone from 0% to 100%, so I'll let you decide what to make of that.

Also: Google announces the Pixel Tablet, and it's not the iPad killer we hoped for

That shouldn't be a problem if you've assimilated into a wireless-powered lifestyle and often plop your phone onto a charging dock at any given moment. I'm guilty of that, so I appreciate the existence of the Pixel feature more than how capable it is.

3. Tensor G2 brings all the magic

An image of a cityscape on the Pixel 7a.

The new 64MP main camera lets you capture more detail. 

June Wan/ZDNET

Google's flagship processor, Tensor G2, has also made its way into the Pixel A-series, bringing improvements to the 7a's machine-learning capabilities, computational features, and overall efficiency.

All that is to say that the Pixel 7a breezes through most apps and services that you throw at it, from daily activities like social media browsing and emailing to more strenuous tasks like exporting 360-degree videos and running GPS navigation in the background. The phone gets warm to the touch, but never to the extent of discomfort.

Also: Google Pixel 7a vs iPhone SE (2022)

The camera system on the Pixel 7a is as performative as Google's best phones, and I'm getting natural-looking images with fantastic dynamic range most of the time, but the post-processing perks are what separate the phone from other sub-$500 offerings like the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G and iPhone SE (2022).

An image of a park bench, captured by the Google Pixel 7a

Here's an image I captured with the new 64MP main lens. Notice how well the clouds in the background are captured.

June Wan/ZDNET

Photo-editing tools like Magic Eraser and Photo Unblur are enabled with Tensor G2 at the helm, and there are other Pixel favorites, like Long Exposure, that I used to capture the moving subway below. You'll get some ghosting effects if you're not holding the phone steadily when it's capturing such images, but when everything goes as planned, you end up with photos that would typically require a tripod and other accessories to capture.

An image of a moving subway captured with the Pixel 7a's Long Exposure mode.

With the steadiest of hands, you too can capture speed like never before.

June Wan/ZDNET

What I'd like to see in the next model

The Pixel 7a is not perfect, and has its reasons for being relatively affordable, though I'll admit that finding its flaws was not the easiest. In fact, there are only two aspects that I would suggest improving heading into the next model. 

1. A larger battery (or faster charging)

Holding the Pixel 7a in blue.
June Wan/ZDNET

When you introduce a more powerful SoC and a faster refresh rate display, but keep the battery capacity roughly the same as last year (4,385mAh from 4,400mAh), endurance numbers are bound to take a hit.

On average, I got about two and a half hours of screen-on time with the Pixel 7a; not great, but acceptable if you can deal with battery anxiety or don't label yourself as a power user.

Dialing the refresh rate back down to 60Hz got me about 30 minutes of more usage, but at that point, you're better off picking up the discounted Pixel 6a -- which Google still sells in stores -- that gives you 80% of the Pixel 7a experience.

Review: Google Pixel 6a: Half the price of a Pixel Pro, but just as good

The middling battery life is only further emphasized when you realize the phone only charges at 18W, wired. That's compared to similarly-priced competitors that are slowly but surely adopting faster 30W and 65W charging rates.

There are two solutions to the above problems, as I've hinted in the titling: A larger battery, faster charging, or both! A larger battery size, even if it's at the expense of a slightly thicker phone, would put the Pixel 7a comfortably at the top of my recommendations lists.

2. A display that beats the sun

It's only May, but New York is in full-on summer mode right now. That means there's a street performance every other block, tourist mayhem, and the sun beaming down with pride. And as I make my commute to the office, I can't help but notice how difficult it is to see what's on the Pixel 7a screen when outside.

Also: Patch your Pixel and Samsung phones immediately. Here's why

Perhaps I should've expected this when I found myself setting the brightness to around 80% at home. Even as I'm typing this review from the ZDNET office, the Pixel's adaptive brightness thinks that 100% is the most appropriate level in this ambiance.

A Google spokesperson tells me the Pixel 7a gets up to 500 nits on regular brightness, with a peak of 1,000 nits for HDR and high brightness mode. From what I'm seeing, that may not be enough to beat the sunnier months to come.

Bottom line

The Google Pixel 7a delivers the best A-series experience yet, with much-desired improvements like the 90Hz refresh rate display, wireless charging, and the company's latest Tensor G2 processor. That all contributes to its $499 price tag, snapping the A-series streak of $449 over the past two generations. 

Should I buy one?

For the new price, the Pixel 7a is in a very interesting position within the Google lineup. It's about $100 less than the still-relevant Pixel 7, which has a better camera system, larger display, and longer battery life, and is about $150 more than the still-available Pixel 6a, which provides a similar Android experience but without the fancier display and charging tech. If you can't decide between either end of that spectrum, then the 7a may just be the right phone for you.

Alternatives to consider

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