Google’s budget Pixel 8a delivers updated silicon, Gemini access for $499

Google’s budget Pixel 8a delivers updated silicon, Gemini access for 9

Google, it seems, couldn’t wait until I/O next week to show off the latest addition to the Pixel line. For the past several years, the company has used its annual developer conference to showcase an update to its budget line, but exactly a week out from the event, Google just announced the Pixel 8a.

When I asked Google about the timing, they told me, “It is its own device and we want to give it its own moment to shine.” Take that for whatever it’s worth.

The handset actually starts shipping the day of the I/O keynote (May 14), but presale starts today. The device sports the same starting price as its predecessor, at $499. The updates, too, are what we’ve come to expect from these refreshes. At the top of the list is the addition of the Tensor G3 chip. You can read all about that one in October’s Pixel 8 review.

Google has developed a good release cadence, introducing new silicon for flagship devices and rolling it out to its budget line six months later. You could argue that the quick turnaround is blurring the line between the premium and mid-tier devices, but Google has no intention of competing with the Apples and Samsungs of the world on the $1,000+ side of the fence (well, with non-foldables, at least).

The other notable bit here is the addition of Google’s Gemini  The generative AI platform can be made the default device assistant when setting up the product. Given the hit or miss nature of these LLM-based systems it’s for the best that Google is keeping it as an opt-in feature for now. The platform can summarize an inbox and help the user take notes, for starters,

One wonders, however, how soon Gemini will supplant Google Assistant outright. More info at I/O, perhaps.

The system will be inheriting some other AI-based tools from the premium line, including Audio Magic Erase, which pretty much does what it says on the tin, reducing incidental noise from a recording. Other features include Magic Eraser, Best Take, Magic Editor, Real Tone and Face Unblur, all aimed at prettying up your photos.

Circle to Search is also now available on the device. Introduced in January, the feature lets users perform a Google search on keywords by manually drawing a circle around them — pretty much what it says on the tin.

Beyond that, the device sports a 6.1-inch display at 1080 x 2,400. The adaptive brightness now peaks out at a very high 2,000 nits. The handset sports a generous 4,492mAh battery, which is rated at 24 hours of life, or upwards of 72 hours, if you really want to squeeze the most out of it with “Extreme Battery Saver” mode.

The 8a features a dual rear-facing camera system, with a 64-megapixel wide and 13-megapixel ultrawide. The base-level system remains 8GB of RAM and 123GB of storage, though Google has added an additional 245GB option. Google also announced that it will be selling the Pixel tablet as a standalone — without the hub — for the first time.

It arrives in a blue “bay” color and a striking green “aloe,” which Google classifies as “limited edition.”

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