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Google Pixel 4a in the test: strong features at a fair price

Birgit Götz, Dennis Steimels, Chris Martin

Google's long-awaited Pixel 4a is a great mid-range smartphone, but should appeal to a niche audience due to the lack of 5G support and its 60 Hz display.

EnlargeThe Google Pixel 4a can be pre-ordered from September 10th and will be available from October 1st, 2020

Google has presented its new Pixel 4a smartphone, which will cost around 340 euros. Read more about equipment and availability in this post. Our English colleagues from Techadvisor have already had a closer look at Google's Pixel 4a. You have given the new smartphone 4 out of 5 stars. There are plus points for the compact design, the great camera and for the 3-year update guarantee from Android. They judge negatively that 5G is missing and Google is only installing a 60 Hertz display. However, you have to keep in mind that this is a cheaper mid-range cell phone. Because the new Samsung Galaxy Note 20 also comes with 60 Hertz and 4G and costs over 900 euros in this variant!

You can pre-order the new Pixel 4a from September 10th, delivery is to begin from October 1st. Overall, Google has done a very good job with the Pixel 4a to offer the most important functions even more cheaply than with the Pixel 3a.

The question is: is it worth waiting for the Pixel 4a?

Design and construction of the Pixel 4a

The Pixel 4a keeps the design of its predecessor, but there are a few changes that make the new model a little better than its predecessor. But sometimes also a little worse!

The unibody housing of the Pixel 4a is still made of polycarbonate (plastic) instead of glass, as is used in the flagship models. Even if the case doesn't feel quite as high-quality, at least it won't break if it falls - and it's lighter. The Pixel 4a is currently only available in Just Black, as Google also had supply chain problems due to Covid-19.

The smartphone is still 8.2 millimeters thick, but a bit lighter at 143 grams. Plus, despite the larger screen, it's a bit shorter and it's one of the most compact phones on the market. There aren't many smaller smartphones on the market.

We like the matte surface, but it's a shame that the distinctive glossy area at the top is no longer there. The fingerprint scanner is still on the back and is finer than other pixels. The camera module in the corner may be square to match the Pixel 4, but it actually only has one lens.

Google kept the 3.5mm headphone jack, but fans of the Active Edge feature will be disappointed. The pressure sensors previously attached to the side, via which the assistant could be started, are no longer available on the Pixel 4a. In part, this should enable a lower price and you wanted to concentrate on other functions. In this respect, it is not surprising that the Pixel 4a is not waterproof.

On the front, the Pixel 4a looks completely different and more modern compared to its predecessor. Let's take a look at the new screen.

Display now modern

Google has reduced the display bezel compared to its predecessor, making the new design look fresher and more modern. The Pixel 4a is also the first Pixel phone to feature a punch-hole design. The front camera is therefore located directly on the screen.

The 5.8-inch screen seems like a really good compromise between ease of use and the fact that it offers enough space to enjoy content. The OLED screen displays such content in full HD + at most. With a pixel density of 443 ppi, you get a sharp picture without unnecessarily stressing the battery. The colors are vivid, the contrast is solid, and HDR is also supported.

The Pixel 4a has one of the nicest screens you can get for this price. Only a high refresh rate is missing, but the 4a is probably not intended for users who are interested in it.

Specifications & performance

You don't get 5G with the Pixel 4a either. That's because Google chose a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G processor, while many competitors have the more powerful 765G. If 5G is at the top of your priority list, then you'll need to move on to another device. The OnePlus Nord would be particularly suitable here, as it also supports 5G for a small surcharge. However, Google plans to introduce a Pixel 4a with 5G later this year - for everyone who needs this technology.

Overall, the Snapdragon 730G runs very solidly. Google has expanded the storage to 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal storage. You can read a benchmark test in the original post on techadivsor.co.uk.

Cameras

Many manufacturers take the approach of simply slapping a lot of cameras with different lenses on the back, just to score with the number! Although you often don't use all of them at all. Google takes a different approach here and only installs one camera. This main camera is the same as in the flagship Pixel 4 with Google's incredible software! The camera offers 12 megapixels and an aperture of f / 1.7. It has an autofocus with dual-pixel phase detection and optical image stabilization. The telephoto lens as a secondary cam is missing.

There is an 8 megapixel camera on the front. The main difference here is the positioning in the corner of the screen.

Where competitors have sometimes complicated camera apps, Google puts things in an intuitive way so that it is easy to access the functions that you use all the time. That is the regular camera mode together with portrait and night photography. As with previous Pixel models, the level of photography offered is excellent and user guidance is easy. The app shows useful tips, such as moving back slightly to improve focus or when to keep the device perfectly level.

Live HDR + means that the final photo result is displayed before you even press the shutter button. So you can still adjust things like brightness and shadows.

In the original post, you can view test photos in an image gallery, where pictures in low light look like normal photos. Night mode can also handle astrophotography, although this is not made clear in the app. By aiming the Pixel 4a at the sky, you can take long exposures of the night sky. However, you need a tripod or a place where you can put the smartphone down so that the picture does not shake.

You will likely be recording video more often than using the astrophotography feature. The Pixel 4A can record videos in a maximum of 4K at 30 frames per second. If you turn the resolution down to 1080p, 120 frames per second are possible. The main feature, however, is photography. The front camera takes excellent selfies and an exclusive pixel feature called Portrait Blur lets you apply the portrait mode bokeh effect to an image taken with normal camera mode.

The battery

Google has increased the battery capacity from 3000 to 3140 mAh. Not much of a difference, but strangely enough, Google gives a battery life of 24 hours for the Pixel 4a, while the 3a is officially advertised as 30 hours. Nevertheless, we were able to determine that the battery life is very good, whereby the 4a manages an average of one and a half days without dark mode and with the screen function always switched on. This should get better over time, as the Adaptive Battery function unfolds its effect - namely, reducing the power consumption of apps that, according to Google, are rarely used.

Fast charging hasn't gotten faster, and there is no wireless charging. However, if the included 18 W charger charges the Pixel 4a from 0 to 51 percent within 30 minutes, that's a pretty decent result.

software

The Pixel 4a runs the latest Android 10, of course. It will also be one of the first phones to receive Android 11 as soon as it is available. On the Pixel phones, you get Android in its purest form. That means everything is clean and simple and there is no bloatware. While other manufacturers often put their own user interfaces with additional functions on top of Android, many manufacturers are also simplifying their user interfaces again in order to be as close as possible to pure Android, with one or two optimizations. You will also get the latest version of Android for three years. Most manufacturers only guarantee 2 years.

Price & alternatives

With a price of 340.20 euros (with reduced VAT, afterwards: 349 euros), the Pixel 4a is around 60 euros cheaper than the Pixel 3a when it was launched. You can pre-order in Germany from September 10th, deliveries from October 1st, 2020.

Nevertheless, there is strong competition this year, also because One Plus with the OnePlus Nord