The Google Pixel 4a 5G sits in a very awkward place in Google’s 2020 smartphone lineup. As the newest member, the 4a 5G might initially seem like a no-brainer purchase over the Pixel 5 or the Pixel 4a. And for some it will be. But a closer inspection by a discerning buyer will reveal equally compelling arguments to upgrade or downgrade to either of its siblings—unless you definitely want a Pixel with 5G.
Everything’s a trade-off. If display matters, the 4a 5G has a slightly larger display than the Pixel 4a and 5 (6.2 inches versus 6 inches), but a slower refresh rate than the 5 (60Hz vs 90Hz). The 4a 5G has a headphone jack like the 4a, but it doesn’t have wireless charging like the 5. Got all that?
Even that 5G feature has its caveats. If you want Verizon’s speedier mmWave, it’ll cost you an extra $100, bringing the phone’s cost even closer to that of the $699 Pixel 5. 5G connectivity places a higher demand on battery life, too.
Basically, Google has made it so buyers need to check a very specific set of boxes before they decide to buy a 4a 5G. While anyone who opts to buy one probably won’t regret it, the Pixel 4a 5G isn’t as clear-cut of a purchase as the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE or Apple’s iPhone 12.
DESIGN: BIGGER, SOMETIMES BETTER
Based on its design, the Pixel 4a 5G is basically the Pixel 4a XL that we didn’t get in August. It closely resembles the 4a, right down to the plastic back and colored power button, just with a bigger 6.2-inch screen. It’s a touch heavier than the 4a (151 grams versus 143 grams), but it still feels incredibly light compared to other all-glass phones.
Let’s talk about that screen first. While it is bigger than the 4a’s, it has the same Full HD+ resolution as the 4a (versus the Quad HD resolution on previous Pixel XLs). As a result you’re getting a slightly lower pixel density—413ppi, compared to 443ppi for the 4a and 432ppi for the Pixel 5. It’s subtle, but a downgrade nonetheless.
The image quality is typical for a Pixel, with relatively muted colors and brightness, even after my usual switch to “Boosted” mode. It’s good, but compared to the iPhone 12 or OnePlus 8T, it’s a bit dull and underwhelming. I wish Google would change its display calibration to amp up the colors and the vibrance, but after five generations, that seems unlikely.
For cameras, the front of the 4a 5G has the same hole-punch selfie cam and bit of chin as the 4a. The square camera array on the back differs—the 4a has just one lens, while the 4a 5G adds an extra ultrawide lens. fits two lenses. We’ll talk about camera image quality later on.
Working our way around the phone, the design offers a number of features that could either make it feel old-school or retro-cool, depending on your perspective. The headphone jack (on the top edge of the phone) is never a bad thing. While the fingerprint sensor may seem quaint, it's in some ways an upgrade over the finicky in-display sensors that are all the rage on newer Android phones. The “Purple-ish” power button is a nice throwback to the Pixel 3, and the only bit of color you’ll find anywhere on the phone until you turn on the screen. The button is a little stiffer than the 5’s delectable chrome-wrapped version, but still more satisfying to press than the 4a’s.
A GOOD-ENOUGH PERFORMER THAT LASTS
The Pixel 4a 5G uses the same Snapdragon 765G chip as the Pixel 5. It isn’t the fastest chip by any stretch—benchmarks scores were closest to the Snapdragon 845 in the Pixel 3—and the 4a 5G still doesn’t feel quite as fast as the Pixel 5, because it has less RAM (6GB vs 8GB) and the slower display (60Hz vs 90Hz). However, it’s faster than the Snapdragon 730G in the Pixel 4a. In my time with it, I only experienced the slightest lag and jitteriness when launching and switching apps.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
What to look for in a gaming monitor: The specs that matter
Gaming monitors are awesome, but which one is right for you? Let us guide you through the specs you should care about.
WD Black SN850 NVMe SSD: Fantastic sustained write speeds via PCIe 4.0
This new PCIe 4 NVMe SSD is like-priced and about as fast as its mighty Samsung rival.
Tested: 5 things you need to know about AMD's Radeon RX 6900 XT
Don’t have time to sift through benchmarking charts? Read this instead.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate tip: How to get 3 years of access to hundreds of games for dirt cheap
This incredible deal is still possible, but who knows how long it’ll stick around.
How DirectX 12 Ultimate supercharges graphics on Windows PCs and Xbox
DirectX 12 Ultimate serves as a force multiplier for the entire gaming ecosystem.
8 ways to make Cyberpunk 2077 run faster
Put the pedal to the metal, choom.
Zenfox T3 3CH Dash Cam: Three cameras give you more to like
It provides good front, interior, and rear coverage, but its bulk could pose some installation issues.
Acer Swift 5 (2020) : This MacBook Air alternative plays Fortnite
At 2.3 pounds, the Acer Swift 5 is a tiny Tiger Lake powerhouse.
The Porsche Design Acer Book RS brings sports-car flair to the laptop
With a name like that, it has a reputation to uphold.
THE BEST GAMES of this GENERATION
THE END OF A CONSOLE GENERATION IS ALSO THE PERFECT TIME FOR A RETROSPECTIVE.
WHATSAPP GROWTH SLUMPS AS RIVALS SIGNAL, TELEGRAM RISE
Encrypted messaging apps Signal and Telegram are seeing huge upticks in downloads from Apple and Google’s app stores.
UK INVESTIGATES GOOGLE'S PLAN TO REVAMP CHROME BROWSER
Britain’s competition watchdog said it launched an investigation into Google’s plan to overhaul its ad data system over worries it could leave even less room for rivals in the online ad industry.
BOBBY STEIN MOTIV8 MINDSET
HAVE A VISION-TRUST THE PROCESS
LA SANTA BIBLIA
Una vez en la escuela, traté de escribir un reporte sobre el libro Rebelión en la granja, pero sin haberlo leído.
Search Engine Success
SEO Tips for the New Year, Rebranding, and More
GOOGLE WORKERS FORM NEW LABOR UNION, A TECH INDUSTRY RARITY
A group of Google engineers and other workers announced they have formed a union, creating a rare foothold for the labor movement in the tech industry.
how to hit the reset button
When emotions are spiraling out of control, it’s time to go within and meditate.
Brydge Stone Pro Thunderbolt 3 Hub
A rock–solid way to connect and power high–end devices
ZOOM: THRIVING IN A VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT
As billions of professionals tackle the transition from working in an office environment to staying productive at home, software like Zoom has exploded in popularity, climbing from 10 million daily users to 300 million.
SEARCH: APPLE COULD RIVAL GOOGLE WITH NEW INDEXING SERVICE
As antitrust battles continue to dominate Silicon Valley, Apple is using its initiative, planning for a future where multibillion-dollar tie-ups aren’t acceptable. In a perhaps surprising move, the Cupertino company has reportedly begun ramping up efforts to launch its own search engine tech to rival that of Google’s, a course of action that could change the face of search.