Pixel 4A 5G review: If you want affordable 5G, you’ll want this phone

Back in August, Google unveiled the Pixel 4A, an affordable $349 (£349, AU$599) phone with an excellent camera. Fast-forward to today and the company has launched its main flagship, the Pixel 5, and a 5G version of the Pixel 4A, aptly called the Pixel 4A 5G. This phone not only connects to the next-gen mobile network; it also has a second, ultrawide camera, a bigger display and battery and a slightly more powerful processor. Naturally, the extra hardware goodies mean the phone costs more, at $499 (£499, AU$799).

The price bump is worth it, especially if 5G is available in your area or you’re preparing for its arrival. The Pixel 4A 5G’s solid battery life, fantastic dual rear cameras, reliable performance and robust software support from Google also make it a worthy choice among other 5G phones, like the Motorola One 5G ($445 at Best Buy), which will receive only one major OS update.

Like

  • 5G-enabled
  • Affordable price
  • Great battery life so far
  • Headphone jack

And while it’s easy to be tempted by the $699 (£599, AU$999) Pixel 5, I’d still lean toward the Pixel 4A 5G. True, Google’s marquee handset does have attractive features like a 90Hz display, wireless charging and reverse wireless charging. But outside of those differences (plus a few more that I’ll describe below), the two Pixel phones share the same cameras, processor and general look and feel. If you’re looking to save money, the Pixel 4A 5G isn’t quite worth that extra $200.

Because of the similarities between the Pixel 4A 5G and the Pixel 5, be sure to check out CNET’s Pixel 5 review for more details on both phones’ cameras and Android 11 software. Otherwise, read on to know about the Pixel 4A’s key spec differences, design and performance.

Pixel 4A 5G vs. Pixel 5: What’s the difference?

To see what makes all of the 2020 Pixel phones and the Pixel 4 ($390 at Back Market) different from each other, check out this full spec-by-spec rundown. You can watch CNET’s video, a Pixel 4A 5G and Pixel 5 spec comparison, for a deep dive on just the two new Pixel phones, too. In any case, the main takeaways about the Pixel 4A 5G and the Pixel 5 are:


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Pixel 5 and Pixel 4A 5G spec comparison

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Pixel 4A 5G and Pixel 5 differences

Pixel 4A 5GPixel 5
Display6.2 inches6 inches
Headphone jackYesNo
Battery3,800mAh4,000mAh
Refresh rate60Hz90Hz
Water-resistantNoYes (IP68)
Wireless chargingNoYes
Reverse wireless chargingNoYes
RAM6GB8GB

Pixel 4A 5G’s bigger screen and budget looks

Aside from the Pixel 4A 5G’s slightly bigger size, it looks nearly identical to the Pixel 4A. They both have a smooth, matte design made out of polycarbonate, or plastic. While I do like that it has a hole-punch camera display and thinner bezels than last year’s Pixel 4, overall the Pixel 4A 5G still feels as “budget” as the Pixel 4A. It definitely lacks the high-gloss, elevated looks of its competitors, like the Motorola One 5G and the lustrous LG Velvet ($600 at AT&T).

The phone’s display is sharp and bright, and easy to view in direct sunlight. Like most phones, the Pixel 4A 5G’s display refreshes at 60 frames per second. If you want a higher refresh rate, which makes scrolling through news feeds and webpages feel smoother and peppier, the Pixel 5 and the Motorola One have 90Hz displays. And still other phones have 120Hz screens, like the OnePlus 8 ($679 at Amazon) and Galaxy S20, but they cost much more.

google-pixel-5-5g-8914

The Pixel 5 (left) and the larger Pixel 4A 5G.


Angela Lang/CNET

Pixel 4A 5G performance and battery

The Pixel 5 and 4A 5G have a Snapdragon 765G processor. It’s a slight upgrade from the Pixel 4A’s Snapdragon 730G chipset, but not as powerful as many other high-end phones, including the Pixel 4’s Snapdragon 855 processor. Still, the Pixel 4A 5G is speedy and scored comparable benchmark numbers to other devices with the same chipset, like the Motorola One and LG Velvet. Keep in mind the Pixel 4A 5G also has less RAM than the Pixel 5 (6GB compared with 8GB), but between the two I didn’t notice any difference in performance for daily tasks like launching the camera and opening apps.

3DMark Slingshot Unlimited

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.5.0 single-core

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.5.0 multicore

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

The Pixel 4A 5G has a 3,800-mAh battery, which has been observably great so far. It lasted more than 24 hours without a charge with mild usage. I remember back in 2019, the Pixel 4’s battery drained noticeably fast through the day. Thankfully, that’s not happening with this phone. Battery tests on the Pixel 4A 5G for continuous video playback on Airplane mode clocked an average of 22 hours, 30 minutes. That’s nearly the same as the LG Velvet, which has a 4,300-mAh battery. The Motorola One’s massive 5,000-mAh battery outlasted both phones, however, with nearly 25 hours. If you’re really worried about battery life, though, the Pixel 4A 5G has a new Extreme Battery Saver mode that severely limits app usage to extend battery life.

Pixel 4A 5G spec comparison

Google Pixel 4A 5GGoogle Pixel 4AMotorola One 5GLG VelvetGoogle Pixel 5
Display size, resolution6.2-inch FHD+ OLED; 2,340×1,080 pixels5.81-inch OLED; 2,340×1,080 pixels6.7-inch LCD; 2,520×1,080 pixels6.8-inch OLED; 2,460×1,080 pixels6-inch FHD+ OLED; 2,340×1,080 pixels
Pixel density413ppi443ppi409ppi395ppi432ppi
Dimensions (inches)6.1×2.9×0.3 in5.7×2.7×0.3 in6.61×2.91×0.35 in6.58×2.92×0.31 in5.7×2.8×0.3 in
Dimensions (millimeters)153.9x74x8.2mm (Sub-6 only) 153.9x74x8.5mm (mmWave + Sub-6)144×69.4×8.2mm168x74x9mm167.2×74.1×7.9mm144.7×70.4x8mm
Weight (ounces, grams)5.93 oz; 168g (Sub-6 only) 6.03 oz; 171g (mmWave + Sub-6)5.04 oz; 143g7.41 oz; 210g6.35 oz; 180g5.33 oz; 151g
Mobile softwareAndroid 11Android 10Android 10Android 10Android 11
Camera12.2-megapixel (standard), 16-megapixel (ultrawide)12.2-megapixel48-megapixel (main), 5-megapixel (macro), 8-megapixel (ultrawide), 2-megapixel (depth camera)48-megapixel (standard), 8-megapixel (wide-angle), 5-megapixel (depth-sensing)12.2-megapixel (standard), 16-megapixel (ultrawide)
Front-facing camera8-megapixel8-megapixel16-megapixel (main), 8-megapixel (ultrawide)16-megapixel8-megapixel
Video capture4K4K4K4K4K
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 765GQualcomm Snapdragon 730GQualcomm Snapdragon 765Qualcomm Snapdragon 765GQualcomm Snapdragon 765G
Storage128GB128GB128GB128GB128GB
RAM6GB6GB4GB6GB, 8GB8GB
Expandable storageNoNoUp to 1TBUp to 2TBNo
Battery3,800mAh3,140mAh5,000 mAh4,300mAh4,000mAh
Fingerprint sensorRearRearSideIn-screenRear
ConnectorUSB-CUSB-CUSB-CUSB-CUSB-C
Headphone jackYesYesYesYesNo
Special features5G-enabled; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); fast chargingDual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); fast charging5G-enabled, TubroPower charging, Macro camera ring flash, HDR 10, 90Hz-refresh-rate display5G-enabled; water-resistant (IP68); wireless charging, Fast Charging 4.05G-enabled; water-resistant (IP68); 90Hz-refresh-rate display; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); reverse wireless charging; fast charging
Price off-contract (USD)$499$349$445 (AT&T), TBD (Verizon)$600 (AT&T), $700 (Verizon)$699
Price (GBP)£499£349Converts to about £341Converts to about £460£599
Price (AUD)AU$799AU$599Converts to about AU$618Converts to about AU$830AU$999

*prices are at launch

First published Oct. 14

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