Google Pixel 8a vs Samsung Galaxy S23 FE preview


If you are looking to purchase a brand new mid-range phone in 2024, two options you simply cannot ignore are the Google Pixel 8a and the Galaxy S23 FE. Picking which one to purchase, however, might be a bit tricky if you don’t have a clear view of how they compare to each other.

While the Pixel 8a and Galaxy S23 FE share some characteristics, they also differentiate in key areas such as their camera systems, software, and design. There’s also a clear price difference, with the S23 FE going for a starting price of $630 vs the $500 for the Pixel 8a.

Now that Google has officially announced the Pixel 8a and we know its specs, we can picture a more realistic comparison with Samsung’s mid-ranger for this year. By the looks of things, it appears that we have 

Pixel 8a vs Galaxy S23 FE differences:

Table of Contents:

Design and Size

Bold vs understated

Google’s Pixel phones have been well-known for their bold design thanks to that iconic camera bar on the back, which contrasts well with Samsung’s more minimalist and simple approach that drops the camera island altogether and leaves a few protruding lenses from the back instead.

Besides the cameras, though, the two phones have a very different feel to them, as the Galaxy S23 FE embraces the current trend of a more blocky design with flat sides, whereas the Pixel 8a has a more oval shape with curved sides, looking much more like a pebble.

We should also note the obvious: the Pixel is a smaller phone and it weighs less, great for compact phone lovers. Here’s a quick size comparison with a couple of other phones so you get a better idea of the size difference between the two:

There is also a difference in the materials that have been used, although both Google and Samsung have done a great job in terms of build quality. The Pixel 8a comes with a plastic back panel, whereas the S23 FE is rocking a glass back. Both have aluminum frames.

What’s more, the Pixel 8a uses Gorilla Glass 3, while the Galaxy goes with the newer and more durable Gorilla Glass 5, but both these types of glass are not quite as durable as those you would see on the latest flagships.

Another slight difference is in the IP water and dust resistance rating, with the Pixel getting IP67 rating vs the IP68 of the Galaxy. The difference between these two ratings is quite insignificant, though, so we can’t point it as something noteworthy.

Color-wize, the S23 FE comes in:

  • Mint
  • Graphite
  • Cream
  • Purple
  • Indigo
  • Tangerine

Versus a selection of very memorable and bright Pixel 8a colors:

  • Bay (light blue)
  • Aloe (light green)
  • Obsidian (black)
  • Porcelain (beige)

The unboxing experiences for both the Pixel 8a and the Galaxy S23 FE are very similar, which is to say with little else other than the phones themselves and a charging cable inside. Of course, you also have the SIM tool and some documentation.

Display Differences

The Pixel 8a comes with a 120Hz display variable refresh rate (upgraded from 90Hz on the Pixel 7a), matching what the S23 FE offers. That said, you have to got into settings and manually turn on the “Smooth Display” option if you want to make use of those variable 120Hz, as the Pixel is in 60Hz by default.

One difference that is almost immediately noticeable is that the 23 FE has a larger screen, so if you value that aspect the Galaxy might be more up your alley.

The screen on the Pixel 8a, however, can get a lot brighter, hitting 2,000 nits of peak brightness, while the Galaxy S23 FE maxes out at 1,450 nits. Also, Unlike the Pixel 8a, the S23 FE does not come with a an always-on display, which presents at-a-glance information.

We will be updating this section with our display lab analysis in the coming weeks, so make sure to check back for those results.

Performance and Software

Tensor vs Snapdragon
The Tensor G3 in the Pixel 8a is almost two years newer than the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 silicon that powers the Galaxy S23 FE. Despite the big generational gap, the performance of these two chips is very similar. Both phones also come with 8GB of RAM, which will cover most needs.
On the software side of things, the Galaxy S23 FE comes with Samsung’s One UI 6 Android skin, which includes some extra features added from Samsung, whereas the Pixel 8a ships with Android 14 in its pure vanilla form. 

Now, artificial intelligence (AI) has obviously become a major part of the modern phone’s tool set, and although the S23 FE did not launch with any, the One UI 6.1 update has brought AI-powered features such as Circle to Search, Live Translate, Generative Edit, Chat Assist, and more.

On that note, the Pixel 8a also comes with Google’s own bag of AI tricks including features like Circle to Search, Best Take for photos, as well as Magic Editor, Magic Eraser, Photo Unblur, and Portrait Light.

One thing the Pixel 8a has over the Galaxy S23 FE is the longer software support: seven whole years! Compare that to the 4 years of Android updates and 5 years of security patches that Samsung offers with the S23 FE, which will take it to Android 17 or 18 at the most.


Pixel has more computation features, Galaxy has the crisper zoom

While both the Pixel and the Galaxy have a main and an ultra-wide camera, only the Galaxy S23 FE has a native telephoto camera, which results in far better zoom photos.

But let’s go one by one. The main camera is a 64MP one on the Pixel and a 50MP one on the Galaxy. The Samsung has a slightly wider, 24mm field of view compared to a tighter, 26mm on the Pixel. Then, the ultra-wide camera is 13MP on the Pixel and 12MP on the Galaxy. And finally, only the Galaxy has an 8MP 3X telephoto zoom camera.

We can’t tell just yet which one would be better, but from the looks of it Google has not included any hardware changes to the camera system of its “A” series. In other words, the Pixel 8a‘s camera will perform similarly to its predecessor, which is no slouch. The S23 FE, however, should be better at zoomed photos.

For video quality, both support 4K recording at up to 60FPS, but only the Galaxy has 8K video recording at 24fps. Both phones can also record 4K 30FPS with their front cameras.

We will have a detailed camera comparison with sample photos and video here very soon, so make sure to check back.

Audio Quality and Haptics

The audio quality from Samsung’s and Google’s premium mid-rangers is enjoyable, although noticeably not as good as what you would find on a flagship. The S23 FE’s speakers produce overall good sound and we expect a similar experience from the Pixel 8a once we get to spend some time with it. More on that in the coming weeks when we finish our testing of the Pixel.

The situation is similar with the haptics: not the best, but pretty good with enough precision and strength.

Battery Life and Charging

Galaxy S23 FE offers more with faster wireless charging

The Pixel 8a has a slightly larger battery size than its predecessor, but not by much, and compared to the Galaxy S23 FE, they are practically identical: 4,492 mAh battery on the Pixel 8a and a 4,500 mAh battery on the Galaxy S23 FE.

So real-world battery life boils down to the power efficiency of the chipsets, displays, and other hardware. We will know for sure once we get to put the Pixel 8a through our battery life tests (expect these to appear in this section in a couple of weeks).

There are some charging differences too. For starters, the S23 FE comes with 25W wired and 15W wireless charging, whereas the Pixel 8a is a bit slower with the wired charging speed, but much slower with wireless charging at only 7.5W speeds.

Specs Comparison

You have the telephoto camera on the Samsung, a larger display, and faster wireless charging. With the Pixel, you get a slightly more powerful processor, a significantly lower price tag, a more compact body, and a higher-resolution main camera.


So… which one should you go for?

Leaving the $120 price difference aside, we have to say that these two phones match very closely. The Pixel 8a has the more quirky design, cleaner software, longer software update commitment (along with day one updates), and typically better image quality and speakers.

The Galaxy will appeal to those looking for a slightly larger screen, those who value a decent zoom camera, and faster charging speeds.

You can’t go wrong with either one, but there are some differences that make each of them better suited to a particular audience. That said, we advise you wait for our official comparison with results from our battery, display, chipset, and camera tests before making a decision. Stay tuned!

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