Google Pixel 4a 5G review: A smarter choice than the Pixel 5?

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You might ask why the Pixel 4a 5G basically has the same feature set as the Pixel 5, rather than just being a larger version of the Pixel 4a that was announced earlier in 2020.

That would be a well-placed question too, because Google’s 2020 line-up of Pixel devices isn’t as straightforward as it has been in the past.

The Pixel 4a 5G is the largest device of the lot, with the same core power and same camera as the Pixel 5, but at an even lower price point. So how does that work?

Design

  • Dimensions: 153.9 x 74 x 8.2mm / Weight: 168g
  • Stereo speakers and 3.5mm socket
  • Polycarbonate body
  • Finish: Just Black

While there’s much about the Pixel 4a 5G that bears a resemblance to the Pixel 4a, with its polycarbonate back and black colouring – that’s the only option we’ll be getting in the UK – both these phones share a design with the Pixel 5 too.

The advantage that the Pixel 5 holds is that it uses an aluminium enclosure, so it’s a more premium material, but it’s coated and painted, so doesn’t feel too different to the Pixel 4a models. There’s the soft warmth of plastic here, but with a matte finish, so it stays free from fingerprints. It’s not quite as grippy as the texture of the Pixel 5, not quite as fancy as the ‘Glasstic’ of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, but it doesn’t feel cheap.

There’s no flex to it and a decent heft to the phone, which brings it closer to the premium end of the mid-range in which this phone really sits. There’s no IP rating on this phone – so it’s not as well weather-protected as the Pixel 5 – but that’s not uncommon in phones in this price bracket – the Sony Xperia being about the only exception.

There’s a rear mounted fingerprint scanner that’s fast, reliable, and on reflection, a lot easier to use than under-display scanners that have adorned many recent devices. So while it doesn’t make for such a seamless look to the back of the phone, we can’t help feeling a sense of relief with the ease of use it brings.

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There’s another major difference that the Pixel 4a 5G exhibits over the Pixel 5 in the audio department. The Pixel 4a 5G, as a cheaper device, has been adorned with a 3.5mm headphone socket. That’s useful for those with legacy devices – or wanting the convenience – but it’s not the most important thing.

While the Pixel 5 hides the ear speaker at the top of the display, the Pixel 4a 5G has a grille in the bezel, like the smaller Pixel 4a, which lets the sound out. That, combined with the main loud speaker on the bottom of the phone, makes for a much better audio experience than the more expensive Pixel 5.

Calls sound better, the stereo effect is better, and the experience when watching video or playing games is better. It’s a better solution overall, and that plays to this phone’s positioning with a larger display for those more interested in watching video or gaming.

Display

  • 6.24-inch Full HD+ OLED panel
  • 2340 x 1080 pixels (413ppi)
  • Punch-hole camera
  • 60Hz refresh rate

The big sell of the Pixel 4a 5G is that it has a bigger display – it’s the largest of the 2020 Pixel devices, at 6.24-inches. Google has stuck to a Full HD display and that’s been pretty common on devices in 2020, especially around this price level.

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It’s a good display too, using an OLED panel, so it has the colour and vibrancy that you’d expect, meaning nice deep blacks. It supports high dynamic range (HDR), so that will swing in on compatible services like Netflix to give you even better visuals.

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