October 24, 2020
Pixel 4A 5G review: If you want affordable 5G, you want this phone

Pixel 4A 5G review: If you want affordable 5G, you 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 5G Pixel 5
Display 6.2 inches 6 inches
Headphone jack Yes No
Battery 3,800mAh 4,000mAh
Refresh rate 60Hz 90Hz
Water-resistant No Yes (IP68)
Wireless charging No Yes
Reverse wireless charging No Yes
RAM 6GB 8GB

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 ($699 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 5G Google Pixel 4A Motorola One 5G LG Velvet Google Pixel 5
Display size, resolution 6.2-inch FHD+ OLED; 2,340×1,080 pixels 5.81-inch OLED; 2,340×1,080 pixels 6.7-inch LCD; 2,520×1,080 pixels 6.8-inch OLED; 2,460×1,080 pixels 6-inch FHD+ OLED; 2,340×1,080 pixels
Pixel density 413ppi 443ppi 409ppi 395ppi 432ppi
Dimensions (inches) 6.1×2.9×0.3 in 5.7×2.7×0.3 in 6.61×2.91×0.35 in 6.58×2.92×0.31 in 5.7×2.8×0.3 in
Dimensions (millimeters) 153.9x74x8.2mm (Sub-6 only) 153.9x74x8.5mm (mmWave + Sub-6) 144×69.4×8.2mm 168x74x9mm 167.2×74.1×7.9mm 144.7×70.4x8mm
Weight (ounces, grams) 5.93 oz; 168g (Sub-6 only) 6.03 oz; 171g (mmWave + Sub-6) 5.04 oz; 143g 7.41 oz; 210g 6.35 oz; 180g 5.33 oz; 151g
Mobile software Android 11 Android 10 Android 10 Android 10 Android 11
Camera 12.2-megapixel (standard), 16-megapixel (ultrawide) 12.2-megapixel 48-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 camera 8-megapixel 8-megapixel 16-megapixel (main), 8-megapixel (ultrawide) 16-megapixel 8-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K 4K
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
Storage 128GB 128GB 128GB 128GB 128GB
RAM 6GB 6GB 4GB 6GB, 8GB 8GB
Expandable storage No No Up to 1TB Up to 2TB No
Battery 3,800mAh 3,140mAh 5,000 mAh 4,300mAh 4,000mAh
Fingerprint sensor Rear Rear Side In-screen Rear
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Special features 5G-enabled; dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); fast charging Dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); fast charging 5G-enabled, TubroPower charging, Macro camera ring flash, HDR 10, 90Hz-refresh-rate display 5G-enabled; water-resistant (IP68); wireless charging, Fast Charging 4.0 5G-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 £349 Converts to about £341 Converts to about £460 £599
Price (AUD) AU$799 AU$599 Converts to about AU$618 Converts to about AU$830 AU$999

*prices are at launch



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