Google Pixel 4a 5G
Not only have we had the opportunity to review the brand new Google Pixel 5 in the last few days, we've also been lucky enough to go hands-on with the cheaper and bigger Google Pixel 4a 5G. It's a phone that delivers most of the experience of it's smaller brother but does it significantly cheaper
The Pixel 4a 5G arrives, in the usual Google style, in a solid but unremarkable box. It's a much smaller package than many devices are shipped in and still manages to pack in a full charger alongside the phone. With many devices now shipping without chargers this is refreshing to see.
There are two colours available - Black and White. Unlike the Pixel 5, the Pixel 4a 5G is plastic backed and feels slightly less tactile but at the same time it doesn't feel at all cheap.
The phone is relatively simple in design - there's the smallest of bezels on the front while the back features just the slightly indented fingerprint sensor and the slightly more obvious camera bulge in the back. When it comes to phones we're firmly in 'the simpler the better' camp so this is all good.
As with the Pixel 5 we once again have a phone running the Snapdragon 765G chipset. However while that was a worry with the more expensive phone, it's far more excusable here given the lower price point.
In terms of raw benchmarks the Pixel 4a 5G hits a score of around 1,500 - 1,600 in multi-core performance putting it smack on the same performance as the Pixel 5. Given it's supposed to be a cheaper variant of the Pixel 4 the drop in performance here is again nothing we're concerned about and the Pixel 4a 5G feels beautifully smooth to use thanks to the stripped back vanilla Android installation we have here.
The processor is backed up with 6GB RAM - 2GB less than the Pixel 5 but with no noticeable downgrade in performance in the vast majority of cases. You might find a slightly lower upper limit on running apps but in day-to-day use 6GB is plenty..
The Google Pixel 4a 5G is 6.2 inches across the diagonal with a resolution of 2340x1080 offering 418ppi. It's nice and sharp and the OLED display is vibrant. The pixel resolution the same as the Pixel 5 but spread across the slightly larger screen means the PPI is reduced. In all honesty we couldn't see a difference other than the actual size of the screen and fans of larger phones will certainly feel satisfied with the increased dimensions offered by the Pixel 4a 5G.
The Pixel 4a5G also offers a 60Hz refresh rate which is lower than the Pixel 5 but not uncommon amongst other phones. The refresh rate was most obvious to us when using the camera app in low light - there was noticeable banding on the Pixel 4a 5G whereas side-by-side comparison with the Pixel 5 revealed a rock solid image.
The Pixel range has always been impressive for photography - especially when you consider that the actual tech in the cameras is actually now quite long in the tooth. The built in software processing however turns relatively average cameras into suitably strong devices for photography in a variety of light types.
The Pixel 4a 5G has two main cameras - the 12.2 megapixel main camera features a f/1.7 aperture and 1/2.55 inch sensor. The 107 degree wide-angle camera offers 16 megapixels and an f/2.2 aperture. This compares well with the Samsung Galaxy S20 which features similar specs but unfortunately that handset and most of the other flagships on the market in 2020 also offer a third camera with telephoto or hybrid zoom for long-distance photography.
Some even feature depth-based camera options too.
Despite this, the Pixel 4a 5G turns in some of the best Android captured images we've seen. They're more natural than the Samsung and Huawei devices we've checked out with more delicate colours. While the Pixel 5's might offer less of an impact on first view they feel nicer to look at and more realistic.
The post-processing is one of the more processor intensive activities the Pixel 4a 5G has to do and this is probably the one area where the underpowered CPU is most obvious to the end user with a second or two wait while the handset performs all of the work it needs to do before showing you the final grab.
The video camera has had a bit of an improvement here too with the option to capture fully stabilised 4K footage at 60fps - it's impressive and turns in quality results that put it close to industry best. It's arguable that the Apple iPhone 11 just about pips it in terms of actual detail captured but as with the photos the Pixel video looks that little bit more natural.
In all, the performance of the camera on the Pixel 4a 5G is identical to that of the Pixel 5.
The Pixel 4a 5G packs in an impressive 3,800 mHa battery - and it impresses. Not only does the battery give plenty of time between charges with heavy use, the built-in battery preservation functionality in Android 11 means that even when you get down to single-digit figures in terms of charge left you still have plenty of time to use the phone with power-heavy background tasks paused to preserve charge for your use. In practice we managed around 48 hours in general use which is on par with the Pixel 5.
The Pixel 4a 5G offers dual-SIM support (via a nano-SIM and a digital e-SIM) - great for anyone switching contracts when picking up the new handset.
Unlike the Pixel 5, there is no wireless charging available on the 4a 5G and therefore there is no reverse wireless charging option available too.
As crazy as it sounds, where the Pixel 5 was mildly underwhelming as a flagship, the Google Pixel 4a 5G excels in the mid-range. Saving over £100 is worthwhile to the vast majority of users when most of the lost functionality is unlikely to be actually missed.
Not only that you get the same camera and overall performance AND a bigger screen.
- Solid performance
- Great price
- Good, large, screen
- Good camera performance
- Nice to use
- Slightly dated chipset
- No expandable storage
- Not very exciting
- No 'WOW' features