Google Pixel 4a 5G Review

November 30, 2020 | Tim Coleman | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


You'd be forgiven for thinking that the Google Pixel 4a 5G is simply the Google Pixel 4a with added 5G connectivity. However, there are a swathe of differences.

Of course, there is the price. The Pixel 4a 5G is £499, which is £150 more than the Pixel 4a (and £100 less than the flagship Pixel 5). Now that would be quite the cost to obtain 5G alone.Naturally, there's more.

The Pixel 4a 5G has the largest screen size of the latest crop of Pixels, measuring 6.2-inches. It also shares some Pixel 5 features including a better processor, higher capacity battery and dual cameras, one of which is an ultra-wide optic.

So would this phone be better known as the Pixel 5 XL? Well, no. It's got a plastic body like the Pixel 4a, less RAM, while its larger display is of lesser quality.

After much time with all three of the latest Pixel phones, the Pixel 4a 5G is the most...befuddling. It would have made more sense to go down the Pixel 5 XL route - packing identical features into a larger and more expensive phone.

All being said, the Pixel 4a 5G is still a decent phone in its own right. You get the same easy-to-use camera as in the Pixel 5, but in phone that costs £100 less.

Also, at the time of writing, Google is chucking in a pair of Bose wireless headphones worth £299 with any pre-orders of the Pixel 4a 5G. That's a deal! The phone is available in 'Just Black' only.

Ease of Use

Google Pixel 4a 5G

Consider the Google Pixel 4a 5G as a mashup of the flagship Pixel 5 and entry-level Pixel 4a, though we'll start by looking at what sets the phone apart, its larger display.

At 6.2-inches, the 19.5:9 aspect ratio screen is the largest display in the range. However, when held against the Pixel 5 and even Pixel 4a, the size difference isn't so great as to blow us away.

Essentially, the Pixel 4a 5G is a scaled up Pixel 4a - they appear identical in every way. Yes, size is the only attribute that differentiates the displays, with otherwise identical tech specs. They share a FHD+ with 2340x1080 pixel resolution, 24-bit colour depth and 100,000:1 contrast ratio.

The Pixel 5 screen has a higher contrast ratio, seen in a greater detailed tonal range. Also the screen here is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 3, not the tougher Corning Gorilla Glass 6 like in the Pixel 5.

Overall, we do really like the adaptive display which offers surprisingly clear viewing considering its spec. What we would have liked though is a quicker refresh rate. At 60Hz, the Pixel 4a 5G does not offer the most fluid of displays.

Google Pixel 4a 5G

Neither is the polycarbonate (plastic) Pixel 4a 5G IP rated - there's no weather-sealing here. If you demand better materials and water resistance from a Pixel phone, you'll need to splash out on that flagship model.

Knowing the Pixel 4a 5G is not weather-sealed does impact your degree of caution - we've been tentative exposing the phone in adverse weather conditions.

It's got the same slippery matt-finish as the Pixel 4a, somehow exemplified by its larger size. We'd recommend buying a protective case straight from the off - perhaps that's why the phone is only available in one colour.

Yes, it's dimensions are getting on to the two-hand-use category, but only just. If you have large hands you might be fine navigating the OS and camera app with one hand.

The reliable fingerprint scanner is positioned sensibly on the camera's rear and blends in to the matt-finish. Otherwise, the only splash of colour is the pale blue power button.

Google Pixel 4a 5G

Battery life is competitive. That 3,885mAh capacity battery comfortably lasts a whole day of frequent use and can be topped up quickly using the supplied 18W charger and USB-C port. A fast charge time of 30 minutes will top up the battery some 40-50%. Wireless charging is absent.

The estimated time that the battery will run out can be displayed in the notification bar. That's a much more useful metric than the usual percentage remaining (although you can see that info, too).

As for speed, the Pixel 4a 5G is a halfway house. It packs the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor as the Pixel 5, but only 6GB of RAM like in the Pixel 4a. Given we're at the £500 price mark, we'd have hoped for 8GB of RAM. Overall, the Pixel 5 is a twinge snappier.

The Pixel 4a 5G starts life with the Android 11 operating system and you're guaranteed up to three years of updates - truly this device is future proofed.

On that same theme, as its name so helpfully suggests, the Pixel 4a 5G comes equipped with 5G connectivity for the fastest data available.

Google Pixel 4a 5G

Like the other current Pixel phones, storage is built-in only and the 4a 5G is only available as a 128GB version. For a £500 phone in 2020, that's the least that we would expect.

Google does offer its online storage option to offload media from the phone into 'Google Photos' and the direct compatibility makes for a pain-free process.

A brief note on audio before we get onto the camera; there are powerful stereo speakers, plus headphone jack is included!

So, the camera. Really this is a copy paste of the Pixel 5. Which, on balance given that the Pixel 4a 5G costs £100 less, is especially a good thing.

Starting with the modest, there's a 8MP f/2.0 front camera with 84° field of view. Again, the lens is found in the top left of the display - that's an increasingly common-place design.

Google Pixel 4a 5G

On the rear is the standard 12.2MP f/1.7 dual-pixel rear camera with 77° field of view - that's roughly a 24mm focal length.

The second camera is a 16MP f/2.2 ultrawide lens with 107° field of view - that's a 0.6x magnification of the standard camera.

Should Google have stuck with a 2x telephoto camera (like in the Pixel 4) instead of introducing an ultrawide camera? Well, with a cropped-in portrait mode plus an effective 2x digital zoom, we feel that including an ultrawide lens makes for a more verstaile camera setup. Not everyone will agree with us!

Each camera is supported by the highly effective dual-pixel phase detection auto-focus. We've been able to acquire sharp focus is most scenarios including at night - the same cannot be said for all phones.

Not only does focusing increase your chance of sharp shots, but the camera also benefits from optical and electronic stabilisation, the latter is added for video.

Google Pixel 4a 5G

Stationary handheld videos appear completely still, while panning and walking videos are smooth enough. It's no gimbal, but it's impressive. For photography we have certainly enjoyed sharp images with no obvious softness caused by hand shake.

With identical cameras, the camera app is identical between the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G. There's only one distinction from the Pixel 4a because that phone lacks the second camera, so you can't go wider on the zoom slider.

As for navigating the camera app, this is a simple user experience.

There's a choice between the standard camera, portrait camera, Night Sight and Video, each with a basic degree of customisation and framing guides, plus Panorama, Photo Sphere, Slow Motion, Time Lapse and Google's 'Lens'.

As standard, full-size JPEG pictures are 4:3 aspect ratio, although you can shoot in 16:9. Given the 19.5:9 aspect ratio of the screen, there is a reasonable bookend on the display outside the image area where app controls are displayed. It's a clean look.

Google Pixel 4a 5G

The regular camera offers the most customisation, where you can select aspect ratio, self timer, flash modes, plus add RAW image capture alongside JPEG.

The portrait mode crops in tighter to your subject than the standard camera setting and produces a background blur effect.

Video wise, you get 4K and Full HD up to 60fps when using the rear camera, or Full HD 30fps with the front camera. The slow motion is a 1/4x speed in Full HD (120fps) or 1/8x speed in 720p (240fps).

Panorama and timelapse modes both handle well. For the latter, there are five speed options with suggestions for what type of action the speed is best suited to, with the fastest 120x speed ideal for a sunset.

Night Sight provides a subtle but welcome improvement to images in low contrast light. You're guided to keep the phone steady during image capture, and the end result is an overall punchier image.

Google Pixel 4a 5G

There's also an astrophotography setting within the Night Sight mode. We've not received this prompt in real world conditions despite spending nighttime outdoors in a rural location.

We've already raved about the Live HDR feature in our Pixel 4a review. For us, it is superior to the auto HDR option in almost all other phones.

Simply tap the image area to reveal highlight and shadow sliders, through which brightness levels can be independently adjusted. Live HDR is ideal for discerning image makers who want manual control over brightness levels.

On the surface, the Pixel 4a 5G's camera is modest. However, for us image makers it is entirely logical and offers the manual control where it is most needed (for a phone), backed up by key features that ensure sharp handheld pictures.

Image Quality

The Google Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 share an identical camera and therefore the same image quality, though there are some extra features in these phones over the entry-level Pixel 4a that make the camera more versatile.

The dual camera setup offers a maximum 12.2MP resolution in the standard mode and 16MP in the ultrawide setting, with average 6MB JPEG file sizes, depending on the shooting mode.

There's also the option to record in RAW DNG format with an average file size of around 15MB, although this does also vary.

We see a huge difference between the same picture in RAW and JPEG format when viewed side by side, making clear the extent of intelligent processing going on to create a JPEG.

Truly, the phone automatically realises the camera's maximum potential, squeezing the most amount of tonal detail possible and minimising lens distortion.

There's little more that can be done manually from RAWs that isn't already being done, ergo there is little benefit shooting in RAW format at all.

Video quality and indeed the features set is decent. Stabilised 4K video up to 60fps is not to be sniffed at! Also, the 4x slow motion setting and timelapse modes boast high quality end results.

In bright light, detail from the standard camera looks crisp when viewed on a phone or tablet. Sharpness is consistent from centre all the way to the corners, with very little fall-off.

The 'ultrawide' camera is less sharp, plus there is obviously more distortion in the corners including chromatic aberrations - revealed further by seeing the unedited RAW versions.

Really, smartphone wideangle lenses are typically soft. However, the Pixel 5's 'ultrawide' camera is decent as far as such cameras go and where needed we'd still happily use it.

The same goes for the 2x digital zoom, because we're pressed to tell the difference in image quality from those without zoom applied. Extend beyond the 2x digital zoom and understandably image quality progressively goes downhill.

Overall, the standard camera has a firm control over unwanted lens flare and ghosting. We've seen a little ghosting when shooting towards the sun, but in general it's an admirable performance. However, the ultrawide camera is more susceptible to flare.

Colours are understated, mainly staying true to real world conditions. It's a different approach to most other camera phones that usually snap vibrant 'like-worthy' pictures.

Ultimately, Pixel pictures benefit from a tweak to increase the contrast and vibrancy. This can be achieved in-camera via a swathe of presets or manually using the adjustment sliders.

For us keen image-makers, creating a solid base image to then spend a minute editing is a better approach than conversely trying to claw back some reality.

We also really appreciate the effectiveness of Live HDR. Auto HDR is fine for most scenarios, but a phone can't read your mind.

That's when the option to independently work highlight and shadow brightness sliders is so handy. Want more detail in the sky but lock shadow brightness? Bring down the highlight slider. Want a low key effect? Darken both sliders.

You can still get the strong HDR effect too, by bringing down the highlight slider and increasing the shadow slider to its highest setting.

There is no manual control over ISO, so it has not been possible to compare identical images at all of the ISO sensitivity settings. Our observations about noise are made over numerous images in different scenarios and light levels (and therefore random ISO settings).

Packing a standard camera with a fast f/1.7 aperture lens and effective image stabilisation, the Pixel 4a 5G is usually set below ISO 400 where there is little noise to speak of, meaning detail is sharp. Again, the ultrawide camera suffers more from noise than the standard camera.

Of course, the adverse effect of noise on image quality increases as you go up the ISO settings. For cleaner detail, ideally, the camera would not be set above ISO 800. Any setting above this possesses mushy detail.

Night Sight mode brightens images, typically by use of a slower shutter speed and lower ISO. It doesn't necessarily eliminate noise altogether, although images appear a tad cleaner.

We've already mentioned about the responsive and reliable phase detection autofocus and optical and electronic stabilisation, both of which positively impact image quality. Wayward AF and camera shake are otherwise typical causes of soft detail in many smartphone handheld shots.

This camera does not offer the best specification around, but it quietly and effectively makes lovely pictures. We've rarely binned photos on account of the camera's shortcomings.

Portrait Mode

In Portrait mode a slight crop is introduced and blur is applied to the background using Google's AI to help your subject stand out.

Overall, we're still impressed by the Portrait mode - it will take your candid portraits up a level compared to the standard camera and looks great on a smart device.

By default the image is saved twice - with and without blur applied. This enables us to compare the two versions and see how effective image processing is at applying blur.

When viewed on a phone, the blur effect looks good. There's no choice of bokeh shapes like you might get in other phones, but we find that feature a tad gimmicky anyway.

The effectiveness of blur application in the Portrait mode is impacted by the subject and their surroundings. If the background is densely packed with detail, or the subject does not have a clear silhouette, blur application can miss the mark.

When viewed closely, it is possible to locate occasional clumps of detail around your subject without blur applied, especially around hair. For context, those sharp enough to notice this in the first place are more likely to have the capacity to apply blur themselves to those missed areas.

Google has also opened up the blur effect to any image taken on any camera by using 'Portrait Blur' in Google Photos.









Focal Range

The Google Pixel 4a 5G has a standard camera with an equivalent focal length of 24mm - that's a 84° field of view. The digital zoom extends the standard focal length by up to 7x. The ultrawide camera has a 0.6x magnification (that's 15mm approximately) and 107° field of view.












Like any small-sensor smartphone, the Google Pixel 4a 5G has decent macro capabilities although it does not have a specific macro setting. The image below was captured with the phone's minimum focus distance - any closer in this scenario and the camera wasn't able to focus.



You don't get a HDR on/ off control - HDR is applied automatically. The degree to which this effect is applied can be manually tweaked using the 'Live HDR' highlight and shadow sliders, where the brightness in highlights and shadows can be independently adjusted.


Night Sight Mode

Without manual exposure control you can't select shutter speed or ISO. However, the Pixel 4a 5G is a very capable low-light shooter, especially its Night Sight mode.

In low contrast light, it's possible to get a sharp handheld shot using Night Sight, which ensures a bright image especially in shadow areas. The astrophotography mode demands a tripod for a sharp shot because exposure times are longer.



















Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Google Pixel 4a 5G camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample RAW Images

The Google Pixel 4a 5G enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files. We've provided some Google RAW (DNG) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative).

Sample Movies & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 3840x2160 pixels at 60 frames per second. Please note that this 9 second movie is 80Mb in size.

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 3840x2160 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 13 second movie is 77.9Mb in size.

This is a sample timelapse movie at the quality setting of 3840x2160 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 34 second movie is 195Mb in size.

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 60 frames per second. Please note that this 9 second movie is 38.5Mb in size.

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 11 second movie is 31.3Mb in size.

This is a sample 4x slow-motion movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 71 second movie is 91.9Mb in size.

This is a sample 8x slow-motion movie at the quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 93 second movie is 60.9Mb in size.

Product Images

Google Pixel 4a 5G
Google Pixel 4a 5G
Google Pixel 4a 5G
Google Pixel 4a 5G
Google Pixel 4a 5G
Google Pixel 4a 5G
Google Pixel 4a 5G
Google Pixel 4a 5G
Google Pixel 4a 5G
Google Pixel 4a 5G
Google Pixel 4a 5G
Google Pixel 4a 5G
Google Pixel 4a 5G
Google Pixel 4a 5G


The Google Pixel 4a 5G boasts the same camera as the more expensive Pixel 5, wrapped in a larger-version plastic body otherwise identical to the entry-level Pixel 4a.

Borrowing parts from entry-level and flagship models, is the Pixel 4a 5G a compelling choice? It should be, but somehow it isn't. We can't really think of any additional value that the Google Pixel 4a 5G adds to the Pixel range.

In its own right, the Pixel 4a 5G is a decent phone. Despite a modest specification, the display is still crisp and clear. There's a really decent battery life and of course 5G compatibility.

We rate the camera experience. The tech is not cutting-edge per se, but the story is different when looking beyond the numbers to real-world handling across a range of scenarios and the resulting image quality.

The mainly automated camera app is simple to use, while offering some manual tweaking where it really counts, such as Live HDR and a range of time-lapse speeds.

Pair that experience with a highly effective image processor, snappy auto-focus and smooth stabilisation, and you will regularly come away with great looking pictures, especially portraits, panoramas and night shots.

From Google's current range of phones, the Pixel 4a offers better value, while the Pixel 5 offers a superior build quality and display. So while the Pixel 4a 5G's final rating equals the Pixel 4a and Pixel 5, it is the least compelling of three.

Overall, the Google Pixel 4a 5G does just about enough to remain competitive, but there are more exciting alternatives out there for £500.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 3.5
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4
Value for money 4

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Google Pixel 4a 5G.

Google Pixel 4a

The Pixel 4a is a new entry-level smartphone from Google which offers the company's single-camera point-and-shoot photography in an affordable, reasonably sized handset. Read our Google Pixel 4a review, complete with full-size sample photos and videos, to find out if this is all the smartphone that you actually need...

Google Pixel 5

The Pixel 5 is Google's flagship smartphone for 2020, yet it's priced at just £599 / $699. Does it offer similar performance and features to other, much more expensive range-topping handsets? Read our in-depth Google Pixel 5 review to find out if what it offers photographers, complete with full-size sample photos and videos.

Nokia 8.3 5G

The Nokia 8.3 is a new 5G smartphone with a large screen that won't break the bank. For photographers, it offers a 'quad camera' with wide (primary), ultra-wide and macro lenses, plus a depth sensing lens, up to 64 megapixel images, 4K video with H-Log profile and DNG RAW capture. Find out if the Nokia 8.3 5G is worth considering in our latest in-depth review...

OnePlus 8 Pro

The OnePlus 8 Pro is the latest flagship smartphone for 2020 from OnePlus. It features a 48-megapixel quad-camera setup with an upgraded ultra-wide camera, 4K/60p video recording, Pro shooting mode and the ability to shoot in Raw. Find out if this is the best smartphone for photographers by reading our in-depth OnePlus 8 Pro review with full-size sample photos and videos.

Sony Xperia 5 II

The Sony Xperia 5 II is a new mid-range smartphone that inherits a lot of the core features from the flagship Xperia 1 II model, in a smaller and more affordable form factor. Read our in-depth Sony Xperia 5 II review, complete with full-size sample images and videos, to find out if this new smartphone can satisfy the serious photographer...

Vivo X51 5G

You've probably never heard of Vivo before, but that shouldn't put you off the new X51 5G, one of the best smartphones for photography that we've ever reviewed. What makes the Vivo X5 5G so special for both stills and video? Find out now by reading our in-depth review...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Google Pixel 4a 5G from around the web. »

This phone makes the most sense in Google's 2020 Pixel series line-up. It's cheaper than the Pixel 5, has a larger display, and the same great camera, making it a win in our books.
Read the full review » »

It’s hard to get too excited about the Pixel 5’s cheaper sibling – or the Pixel 4a’s gangly cousin, depending on how you look at it. The Pixel 4a 5G has as many weaknesses as it does strengths: the phone’s slow performance detracts from the clean Android build, and the admirable battery life doesn’t cause you to forget that Google is losing its camera edge. For its price the Pixel 4a 5G is decidedly ‘fine’, but competing devices are far more exciting.
Read the full review » »

The Pixel 4a 5G may not be as good a value as the Pixel 4a, but it has many of the features of the Pixel 5 for hundreds less. That makes it a better option if you want a 5G phone from Google.
Read the full review »



Full-screen 6.24-inch (158 mm) display

Dimensions and weight

153.9 height x 74 width x 8.2 depth (mm)


Minimum 3800 mAh

Memory and storage



Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 765G 2.4 GHz + 2.2 GHz + 1.8 GHz, 64-bit Octa-Core Adreno 620

Rear camera

12.2 MP dual-pixel • 1.4 μm pixel width • Auto-focus with dual pixel phase detection

Front camera

8 MP • 1.12 μm pixel width • ƒ/2.0 aperture


1080p @ 30 fps, 60 fps, 120 fps, 240 fps


Proximity/Ambient light sensor • Accelerometer/Gyrometer


USB-C® 18 W adaptor with USB-PD 2.0

Buttons and ports

USB Type-C® 3.1 Gen 1 • Power button • Volume controls


Single Nano SIM • eSIM9

Media & Audio

Stereo speakers • Two microphones • Noise suppression

Wireless and Location

Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz + 5 GHz 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2x2 MIMO


Up to 4CC (12 layers) DL and 2CC UL6


Just Black

Hearing Aid Compatibility

M4/T3 HAC rating • Google's devices meet the hearing aid compatibility (HAC) requirements set by the FCC. See for more info.

Security and OS Updates

The latest Android 11 • Minimum 3 years of OS and security updates8


Soft-touch polycarbonate unibody • Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3 cover glass




2 years

What's in the box

  • 18 W USB-C® power adaptor
  • 1 m USB-C to USB-C cable (USB 2.0)
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Quick Switch adaptor
  • SIM tool

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