After spending a few days with the Google Pixel 4a 5G one thing is clear: this is far closer to the Pixel 5 than the 4a, to the point it should probably be called the Pixel 5 Lite, and that’s certainly no bad thing.
While I haven’t spent enough time testing the Pixel 4a 5G to give it a full score, this mid-priced device is the hardest of Google’s 2020 phone line-up to categorise.
It packs the same dual camera and 5G-enabled chipset as the £599 Pixel 5, however it misses out a few key features. The include a 90hz display, a metal frame, wireless charging and an IP rating. If those things are worth £100 to you (or $200) you’re probably better off with Google’s flagship.
Related: Read our Pixel 4a review
Design and display – Slightly bigger, a lot more plastic
As there’s no XL Pixel this year, the Pixel 4a 5G acts as the largest member of the family. Though only just. Here you’ve got a 6.2-inch display, whereas the regular 4a sports a 5.8-inch panel and the Pixel 5 comes in at 6-inches. That 0.2-inches might not seem like much on paper, but the screen is notably bigger and the phone feels larger due to the phone’s thicker bezels.
Like the other Pixels, the screen is good. It’s a FHD+ OLED panel, with plenty of brightness, great colours and a small cut out in the corner for the front camera. It has HDR support, which brings an extra pop to supported content. It doesn’t, however, have a fast refresh rate – something that’s becoming more common on Android phones this price.
Having spent time with the Pixel 5 and its metal-clad body, the Pixel 4a 5G feels more plasticky and a little hollow by comparison. Still, it’s light and pocketable with a durable finish and a nice pop of colour on the power button.
Some other colours would be nice (there’s a white option in the USA, us Brits only get black) and there’s no denying the overall look is a little bland, but it still works in a simple sort of way.
You’ve got 3.5mm headphone port on the top, USB C on the bottom and decent speakers that pump out loud audio.
Related: Pixel 5 vs 4a 5G
Performance and camera – More Pixel 5 than 4a
As the name suggests, this is the 5G phone. It’s the cheapest Pixel with this next-gen connectivity tech and works as expected as long as you have a 5G SIM and are in a covered area.
Powering the phone is the very capable Snapdragon 765G chipset, 6GB RAM (you get 8GB on the Pixel 5) and 128GB storage. You might not get true ‘flagship’ performance, but realistically for most people there’s enough grunt here to handle anything you throw at it.
Like the chipset, the two rear cameras and the front selfie camera are the same across the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G. That’s great, because the Pixel 5 shooter is excellent – as you’d probably expect if you’ve ever previously used a Pixel phone or seen images from one.
Related: Best mid-range phone
There are two sensors on the back, a 12MP main with an f/1,7 lens and an ultra wide 16MP companion. While there’s no dedicated zoom lens, Google said it has worked to recreate the 2x tele experience via software.
I’ve delved deep into the Pixel 4a 5G/Pixel 5 camera in our full in-depth Pixel 5 review so check that out for details on video improvements and lots of sample shots.
Other aspects I will look deeper into for the full review include battery life. There’s a 3800mAh cell inside the 4a 5G and it comes with an 18w USB C PD charger. While the battery is slightly smaller, endurance seems on par with the Pixel 5 (which has to push a faster screen) during my few days of testing. You do miss out on Qi wireless charging.
Pixel 4a 5G First Impressions
The 4a 5G is mash-up of both the 4a and Pixel 5 and that could make it hardest to recommend. It lacks some of the more ‘flagship’ features of the higher-end model and lacks a downright affordable price of the 4a. Still, for £499 you’re getting 5G and an excellent dual camera.