Google Pixel 8a vs OnePlus 12R preview

Google Pixel 8a vs OnePlus 12R preview

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Intro

Earlier this year OnePlus put out an awesome mid-range phone, the OnePlus 12R. It packs a ton of performance and even some flagship-level qualities, making it hard not to reccommend for a starting price of just $500.
Now the OnePlus 12R has some serious competiton entering the market, the Pixel 8a, or otherwise said Google’s 2024 mid-ranger. The Pixel 8a might not have a chipset that is as powerful, but unlike the 12R it packs many of Google’s AI-related features.

In fact, as far as software goes, the Pixel is arguably the better phone here, especially when you factor the fact that it comes with 7 years of guaranteed Android updates. Suffice it to say, this is an interesting comparison to make, so let’s stop swimming in shallow waters and get into the nitty gritty.

Pixel 8a vs OnePlus 12R differences:

Table of Contents:

Design and Size

Two very different looks and durability choices

The design situation is a bit interesting when comparing the Pixel 8a to the OnePlus 12R, as we have quite the mixed bag here. For starters, the Pixel is much smaller and compact in comparison, take a look:

Then you have a choice to make as far as durability goes. If you value a more sturdy screen that will scratch and break less easily, then the OnePlus 12R’s Gorilla Glass Victus 2 will be the better choice compared to the Gorilla Glass 3 on the 8a.

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Another small detail regarding the materials is that the Pixel 8a comes with a plastic back panel vs the glass one on the OnePlus. That said, both phones appear to be with good build quality, so this shouldn’t be too big of an issue.

If you want higher protection against the elements, though, the Pixel has a significantly higher dust and water resistance rating (IP67 vs IP64 on the 12R).

Of course, we cannot forget to mention how different the overall look of these two phones is. The Pixel 8a is rocking a more subtle version of the iconic camera bar, which, in our opinion, looks much better than the circular camera island the OnePlus is rocking. Also, the Pixel looks much more oval and round thanks to those curved edges, whereas the 12R is a bit more “blocky.”

Here are the color options for both phones:

Pixel 8a

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

OnePlus 12R

The unboxing experiences that Google offers is very different (and arguably worse) compared to OnePlus. While Pixel 8a buyers get just the phone and a cable, OnePlus 12R buyers get a 80W power adapter, type-A to C cable, a welcome letter, a pre-applied screen protector, and a logo sticker.

Display Differences

The Pixel 8a comes with a 120Hz display variable refresh rate (upgraded from 90Hz on the Pixel 7a), which is what you also get with the OnePlus 12R. That is where the similarities end, though.
OnePlus claims a peak brightness of 4500 nits, which is not exactly the case given the results we got during our display tests. The Pixel 8a comes with the same display as the pricier Pixel 8, which managed to beat the 12R in our display tests by about 300 nits.

Size-wize, of course, the OnePlus 12R definitely takes the cake with its 6.8-inch screen here, at least if you want as big of a display as possible. It is also a curved display, versus the flat one on the Pixel 8a, so yet another point of decision making in case you are particular about that aspect.

Lastly, the Pixel 8a only supports the HDR10+ format for HDR content, whereas the OnePlus 12R also supports Dolby Vision.

Stay tuned for our display lab analysis and some nerdy statistics in the next few weeks!

Performance and Software

New does not mean better
The Tensor G3 in the Pixel 8a is about a year newer compared to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 that’s powering the OnePlus 12R, but that doesn’t meant it is capable of more. In fact, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is significantly more powerful. You can check out our OnePlus 12R vs Pixel 8 comparison to see just how big the difference in performance is across the board. The Pixel 8a and Pixel 8 share the same chip, so results should be similar.

With the OnePlus, you also have the option to go up to 16GB of RAM, making the phone much more capable at handling many tasks at the same time. In other words, the 12R should be smoother to operate. Both phones come with the same storage, however, and you can choose between 128GB or 256GB of internal storage.

As for software, the Pixel 8a comes with vanilla Android 14, and the OnePlus 12R comes with an Android 14 skin dubbed OxygenOS 14. OxygenOS is a fairly simplistic and neat Android skin that offers a bit more customization.

Where the Pixel 8a wins is in its AI prowess, showcased with features such as Circle to Search, Live Translate, Generative Edit, Chat Assist, and more. This is something that the 12R is sorely missing in 2024, and likely won’t get anything of this sort in the future.

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Speaking of the future, one major benefit that comes with the Pixel 8a is its 7 years of software support (updates and security patches), whereas the OnePlus 12R only comes with 4 years of Android updates and 5 years of security patches.

Camera

Google claims Pixel 8a has the best camera under $500: we’ll see

If you want a phone with a dedicated telephoto camera, then you probably should look at another option, like the S23 FE, for example. Neither the Pixel 8a, not the OnePlus 12R come with a telephoto camera.

Pixel 8a camera specs:

  • 64 MP main with f/1.9 and OIS
  • 13 MP ultra-wide with f/2.2
  • 13 MP front with f/2.2
OnePlus 12R camera specs:

  • 50 MP main with f/1.8 and OIS
  • 8 MP ultra-wide with f/2.2
  • 2 MP macro with f/2.2
  • 16 MP front with f/2.4

Now, technically, the OnePlus 12R has one more camera meant for macro photography. That said, it is quite a useless camera so we can’t really call it an advantage over for the 12R.

As for video recording, both phones are capable of 4K 60FPS with the main cameras, but only the Pixel can record 4K 30FPS with the selfie camera. The 12R can only go up to 1080P 30FPS with its front snapper.

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

OnePlus phones, even the more affordable OnePlus 12R, have great speakers. Judging by the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro, we also expect the 8a to have some pretty good audio quality. How it will compare to the 12R remains to be seen, or… heard once we get to spend some time with it.

Haptics are a different story. Google upgraded this part of its phones with its latest flagships, but we don’t know if that has trickled down to the mid-ranger too. On the other hand, OnePlus has placed an awesome vibration motor inside the 12R, so there’s a good chance it could be better in comparison.

Battery Life and Charging

OnePlus 12R has much faster charging but no wireless

We expect the OnePlus 12R to have longer battery life given that it comes with a 5,500 mAh battery vs 4,492 mAh on the Pixel 8a.

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Of course, there’s more to battery life than just the battery capacity so the end result will also depend on the power efficiency of these two phones. Tensor G3, for example, is not as efficient as the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, which gives us even more reason to speculate the OnePlus performing better in this segment.

Charging is kind of a no-brainer most of the time when a OnePlus phone is in one end of the ring, as its phones typically have faster charging then most of the competition.

The case here is exactly that, the the OnePlus 12R sporting a maximum of 80W wired (100W outside the US) charging compared to the 18W of the Pixel 8a. That said, the OnePlus does not come with wireless charging, unlike the Pixel, which can be wirelessly charged at a maximum of 7.5W.

Specs Comparison

There is almost not specification that is the same between the Pixel 8a and the OnePlus 12R. For the most part, the OnePlus appears to be equipped with more imperssive hardware, given its larger display and battery, faster charging and chipset, the option to go for more RAM. That said, the how the camrea systems compare cannot be detirmined just by looking at the specs here.

Summary

The OnePlus 12R was definitely worthy of the “flaghsip killer” moniker that the company made popular years ago, and it still is. For $500, you can have much of the flagship phone experience thanks to premium hardware.

On the other hand, the Pixel 8a opens a door to all of the Google software that makes Pixel phones (and other Pixel devices) impressive, and does that for a significantly lower price than Google’s flagships. Of course, there’s also the longevity aspect when we talk about the Pixel, particularly when it comes to those 7 years of software support.

We can’t say either of these two mid-rangers is better than the other. A lot depends on how useful you find the perks that come with them. One thing that can be a major deciding factor, though, is their camera performance, so if that is an important part for you stay tuned for our full comparison with samples and test results for the battery, performance, and display.



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