Review: Google Pixel 4a 5G – A good choice even without 5G

Review: Google Pixel 4a 5G is cheaper than the Pixel 5, has a larger display, and the same great camera. Even without 5G it is a great deal

Review: Google Pixel 4a 5G – The third in the league: After the successful performances of the Pixel 4a and Pixel 5, we are now taking a closer look at the third current mid-range model from Google. In addition to numerous similarities, the members of the trio naturally also have unique selling points.

In the case of the Pixel 4a 5G, which is priced between its namesake, the size should be mentioned here: the 6.2-inch OLED display offers the viewer the most in terms of content within the 2020 year.

Since the resolution (1080 x 2340) remains unchanged, the point density drops a little (413 ppi). But that is practically irrelevant, because the display quality of the screen, which is also easy to read outside, is convincing.

The waiver of a higher refresh rate can be noticeable when scrolling or playing. The more expensive Pixel 5 has the better cards with its 90 Hertz display.

In a direct comparison, the 5G variant of the 4a lacks protection against water and dust according to IP68 specifications. Important prerequisites for the required everyday robustness are nevertheless met: Gorilla Glass 3 hardens the display against scratches and bumps. The connection to the substructure made of polycarbonate, which is made from one piece, is rock solid in the best sense of the word – like the entire workmanship.

On the front, the 8-megapixel front camera placed in the display – which incidentally shoots good selfies – allows narrow edges all around. The non-slip plastic housing, which is only available in matt black, is largely insensitive to fingerprints and is also comfortable to hold. In short: the feel is great.

One of the typical features of the current Pixel vintage is the release of the screen via a very responsive fingerprint sensor on the back. The Pixel 4a 5G dispenses with unlocking via face recognition.

Affordable hardware

A Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G currently working in many 5G-capable mid-range smartphones ensures a befitting, brisk work pace. Compared to the Pixel 5, the working memory has been reduced a bit (6 GB).

The storage capacity is also okay: As with the other Pixel models, around 114 GB are available for free. There is no provision for topping up with a microSD card.

An integrated 5G modem is becoming more and more relevant in view of the rapidly advancing mobile network expansion – especially for those who rely on fast Internet connections while on the move and who, as contract customers, can use the speed advantages of the latest mobile network generation in their tariffs at no extra charge.

Our test candidate supports 5G. Anyone who wants to use a second cellular connection via an eSIM generally has to make do with LTE. With Bluetooth 5.0, NFC for contactless payment and WiFi-5, all common radio variants are open. The only thing missing for the technically upgraded home office is the relatively young WLAN-ax.

Those who like to listen to music will be just as pleased with the powerful stereo speakers as they are with the jack socket for connecting a headset, which is available as an accessory. The operation of high-quality headphones is limited by the low output voltage (276 mV).

Permanently up-to-date software

As usual, Google relies on a non-built, modern operating system and thus gets more out of common hardware. Android 11 is also at its best in the Pixel 4a 5G. This is how it should stay in the long term:

After all, the Google Phones are at the forefront when new Android versions are rolled out or security updates are pending. A three-year update promise applies to the current Pixel models.

The range of functions is state-of-the-art: extras such as a battery-saving dark mode with individual power-saving settings or the display of the latest notifications when the display is deactivated are seamlessly embedded in the system.

In addition, Google repeatedly contributes its know-how in the areas of AI (artificial intelligence) and speech recognition. For example, the audio recorder automatically converts at least English-language recordings into searchable text.

Google Pixel 4a 5G

Strong photo quality – even under difficult lighting conditions

Taking over the photo department, including optical image stabilization and powerful AI-supported camera app, from the Pixel 5 pays off: the Pixel 4a 5G saves photos in impressive quality even in weaker ambient light. This is also supported by the results of our QB benchmark, which includes numerous laboratory tests:

Google Pixel 4a 5G

Under good and difficult lighting conditions, the main optics deserve the rating of very good in the evaluation of the photo quality. The ultra wide angle camera scored well in the test lab. The performance of the digital double zoom is still okay. With Teleoptik an even better overall result would have been possible.

Google Pixel 4a 5G
Google Pixel 4a 5G

Metrologically up to date

The Google Pixel 4a 5G also cut a good figure in the test lab. In terms of radio properties, dispensing with a metal housing obviously has advantages. Because the transmit / receive performance in the UMTS and the more important LTE passageway were very good. There were no notable weaknesses in the acoustics.

Great: Thanks to the practical endurance of 12:31 hours, you can easily get through a long working day. When charging, the included 18 watt adapter increases the energy reserves of the 3885 mAh battery from 10% to 90% in around an hour. Anyone who appreciates Google’s current smartphone concept and its characteristic advantages will also get their money’s worth here.

On top of that, there is individual added value: the largest pixel model scores with consistently good to very good wireless properties as well as excellent endurance, 5G capability and a classic headphone jack.

Google Pixel 4a 5G

The Pixel 5 lacks the latter, which is distinguished by an IP68-protected metal housing and wireless charging. When it’s all about a low price, the LTE-only Pixel 4a is the favorite among Google phones.

The key data of the pixel camera: unspectacular. Tele focal lengths, an additional depth sensor or a professional mode for manual optimizations are just as in vain as extremely high-resolution image sensors that try to increase the detail and light yield via pixel binning.

Google does it differently: As in the Pixel 5, there are “only” two optical units with different wide-angle focal lengths (35 mm equivalent 27 mm and 16 mm) and respectable apertures (f / 1.7 and f / 2.2).

The additional data from the slightly higher resolution ultra-wide-angle camera (16 megapixels) facilitate the correction of typical (ultra) wide-angle distortions in image processing, for example. Regardless of the selected focal length, photos in 4: 3 format are ultimately saved with a maximum of 12.2 million pixels.

The highlight of the pixel cameras is their powerful, AI-supported software, which does a lot single-handedly and thus leads to convincing photo and video quality in a convenient way. In practice this means: In portraits, background blurring is automatically incorporated and clearly delimited from the main subject.

The incidence and intensity of light can be subsequently adjusted using the portrait lighting setting option. The pixel phones combine tripod recordings of the night sky from several individual images exposed for a few seconds (astrophotography). Well-lit night shots are one of the particular strengths of the Pixel 4a 5G anyway.

With action photos, the enormous speed of the camera and the moving image mode bring advantages. Simply select the best still image from the recorded short video sequences. This increases the chance of the photo of the perfect moment considerably.

Google Pixel 4a 5G

The camera app is clearly structured and easy to use. Matched to the selected mode (night vision, portrait, camera, video …), there are few customization options such as switching on the dual LED light to choose from. In addition to the usual manual brightness adjustment in the display, shadows can also be influenced in a targeted manner using a second slider.

In addition to the photos, the videos are also popular. Film recordings are possible with a maximum of 4K resolution and 60 frames per second. Effective optical and electronic image stabilization is also on board. There are four stabilization variants, depending on the recording situation. This includes the option of automatically creating “decelerated” pans with half the shutter speed for smoother transitions – almost like in the cinema.

Pros of Google Pixel 4a 5G

  • Handy unibody case with top processing
  • practical 6.2 inch OLED
  • AI-supported dual camera with very good photo quality
  • slim, current Android with update guarantee for 3 years
  • Jack connection and impressive stereo speakers
  • 5G support
  • long endurance of 12.5 hours
  • very good LTE radio performance

Cons of Google Pixel 4a 5G

  • Camera without telephoto focal length
  • no wireless charging possible
  • some extras like WiFi-6 and face recognition are missing