Google Pixel 8a vs Samsung Galaxy S23 FE: Is it worth paying $130 more for the Fan Edition?

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Google Pixel 8a vs Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Intro


The mid-range phone market cannot be more heated than it currently is in 2024, and two of the greatest examples of that are Google's Pixel 8a and the Samsung's Galaxy S23 FE. With a $100 difference, the question is which one you should go for?

Well, there are several differentiating factors that set the S23 FE and Pixel 8a apart. For one, the S23 FE comes with a three-camera system that features a dedicated telephoto camera. The Pixel 8a, on the other hand, offers a slightly better processor and longer software support.

Below you will find the pros and cons for both of these 2024 mid-range phones, and get a better perspective of which one might suit your needs best.

Pixel 8a vs Galaxy S23 FE differences explained:


Table of Contents:
Also read:

Design and Display

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.


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.


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. Also, Unlike the Pixel 8a, the S23 FE does not come with a an always-on display, which presents at-a-glance information.

Display Measurements:



The results we got during our display lab tests showed us that the Pixel 8a comes with a display that is indeed significantly brighter than that of the Galaxy S23 FE. We are talking 600 nits difference here, which it was clearly noticeable while using the phones outside.

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.

Performance Benchmarks:


Geekbench 6
SingleHigher is better
Google Pixel 8a1621
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE1566
Geekbench 6
MultiHigher is better
Google Pixel 8a4277
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE3839
3DMark Extreme(High)Higher is better
Google Pixel 8a2419
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE2208
3DMark
Extreme(Low)Higher is better
Google Pixel 8a1624
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE1208

For the most part, the Pixel 8a and Galaxy S23 FE have similarly-performing chipsets, so this is at least one aspect you don't have to consider too much when choosing between the two.

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.

Camera

Pixel has more computation features, Galaxy has the crispier 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.

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.

Now let's take a look at some sample photos and video and see the image quality these camera systems can muster up.

Main Camera



The Galaxy S23 FE's main camera manages to bring out more from this shot with higher levels of detail in the shadows, more contrast, and it also appears to be significantly sharper than the Pixel 8a.


In this low light scenario, the S23 FE once again has performed better than the Pixel 8a, producing an image that is brighter and with more accurate colors. The colors are also more saturated, which is not exactly representative of how things look in real life, but it still results in a more pleasing image.

Zoom Quality



In the zoom comparison between Pixel 8a and Galaxy S23 FE, it is obvious that the latter has taken the sharper image. That's to be expected given the Galaxy's dedicated 3X telephoto camera and the lack of any such camera on the Pixel. That being said, we think the colors that came from the Pixel are better here.

Ultra-wide Camera



The ultra-wide camera on the Galaxy S23 FE also performs noticeably better than that of the Pixel 8a. Just like with the samples from the main camera, images taken by the S23 FE have better contrast, with more detail visible in the shadow areas. Sharpness appears generally the same between the two cameras.

Selfies



It is immediately clear that the Pixel 8a's selfie camera captures much more thanks to its wider field of view. We also prefer the colors from the Pixel's front camera here. On the other hand, the S23 FE has once again done better at balancing the dark and bright areas, and it also seems to be somewhat sharper.

Video Quality


Video Thumbnail

Video stabilization is good on both phones. However, the Galaxy S23 FE is undoubtedly the one to go for if you are looking for the best image quality while recording video. That is especially true when zooming in, again, thanks to that dedicated telephoto camera. We do prefer the colors from the Pixel 8a, though.

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 but we prefer that of the Pixel 8a, as it is a bit more balanced and less tinny at high volumes.

The situation is similar with the haptics: neither is among the best, but pretty good with enough precision and strength. For even better haptics and audio quality you might want to look at the OnePlus 12R, for example.

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.

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:


Web Browsing(hours)Higher is better
Google Pixel 8a13h 53 min
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE16h 15 min
Video Streaming(hours)Higher is better
Google Pixel 8a8h 34 min
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE8h 3 min
3D Gaming(hours)Higher is better
Google Pixel 8a7h 16 min
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE4h 25 min

The Tensor G3 inside the Pixel 8a is not exactly famous for its efficiency, but it still manages to beat the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 inside the S23 FE by about 3 hours in our 3D gaming battery life test. Tbe Samsung is somewhat better when it comes to web browsing, but the two phones last a similar amount of time for video streaming.

PhoneArena Charging Test Results:


15 Mins(%)Higher is better
Google Pixel 8a22%
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE29%
30 Mins(%)Higher is better
Google Pixel 8a42%
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE58%
Full Charge(hours)Lower is better
Google Pixel 8a1h 46 min
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE1h 15 min

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 18W wired charging speed, and much slower with wireless charging at only 7.5W speeds.

Specs Comparison


Here is an overview of the Pixel 8a vs Galaxy S23 FE specs:


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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.

Which one should you buy?



At the end of the day, I think both phones are pretty good for the price they are going for. Yes, the Galaxy S23 FE costs $130 more than the Pixel 8a, but it also offers faster charging and a much more versatile and capable camera system.

The Pixel 8a, on the other hand, offers quite the nice package despite its $500 starting price. You get a significantly brighter display, some cool Pixel-specific AI features like removing unwanted noise from video recordings, correcting blurry images, and more. And all while offering similar and sometimes even better chip performance than the S23 FE.

So, you have to choose what's more important to you. If you use your phone's cameras more often and you think you would benefit from the telephoto camera and higher image quality on the Galaxy S23 FE, than paying an extra $130 might be worth it.

If you use your phone outside and often struggle with display visibility, then the Pixel 8a might be the one to go for instead. There's also the fact that you get 7 years of software support, so, if you want it to, the 8a can be your phone for that long of a period.

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