Latest!

Google Pixel 4a review: the new mid-range camera king

For the longest time, the Google Pixel 3 XL had been my daily driver, thanks to its no-frills software and powerful camera. This was despite the horrendous display notch on the top. To make things worse, Google went back to massive bezels with its the mid-range Pixel 3A, and Pixel 4 series.

The former also received a lot of flak due to its hefty price tag and a spec sheet that didn’t match up to the price. So, when Google announced the upgraded Pixel 4A with a punch-hole display and its India launch, I was quite excited.

Also read: Vivo V20 Pro 5G vs OnePlus Nord vs Google Pixel 4A: price in India, specifications and features compared

The smartphone is a solid upgrade over the Pixel 3A, has a more modern punch-hole display, no-frills software and offers a stellar camera that we come to expect from a Pixel device, at a reasonable price. Google is keeping things simpler this year with a single variant and a single colour.

While the Google Pixel 4a seems underwhelming on paper compared to the competition (read OnePlus Nord), this is one device that I can easily see myself recommending to others. Wondering why that is? Read my review to find out.

Table of Contents

Design and display

  • 144 x 69.4 x 8.2 mm, 143g
  • 5.81-inch OLED, FHD+, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 443ppi, Corning Gorilla Glass 3

I had my concerns about the small form factor of the Pixel 4a since I prefer my phones to be hefty. And when I first unboxed the device, I did find the Pixel 4a to be a little too small for my usage. However, over a week in and the device has really grown on me. At 143g, the Pixel 4a is quite lightweight and comfortable for prolonged usage. The compact form factor also makes it ideal for one-handed usage.

Google has opted for a unibody polycarbonate chassis with a soft-touch matte finish on the back. While the rear panel is expected to be smudge-resistant, my fingers did leave marks on it and I found myself cleaning it more often.

Apart from that — despite its plain jane look— the smartphone actually feels premium in the hand. Google has removed the Active Edge feature but retained the 3.5mm audio jack and stereo speakers. There’s a fingerprint scanner on the back which works well, but there’s no face unlock. Additionally, Google has skimped on an IP-rating for water-resistance as well.

Coming to the front, the Pixel 4a’s window to the world is a 5.8-inch OLED display with full HD+ resolution. This year, the Mountain View giant has ditched the massive bezels in favour of the punch-hole display. The screen supports HDR10 playback and has Gorilla Glass 3 for protection. The Google Pixel 4a offers features like colour profiles and Always-on display with a Now Playing feature.

As is expected from an OLED display, the colours are punchy with deeper blacks, and viewing angles are also good. I also found the brightness to be pretty good even in direct sunlight. Last but not least, the Google Pixel 4A is a Netflix-certified smartphone to play HDR10 content, which is a huge plus for a Netflix junkie like me.

Cameras

  • Rear: 12.2MP f/1.7, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS
  • Front: 8MP f/2.0, 1.12µm

I might be preaching to the choir here but the Google Pixel 4A has amazing cameras. The smartphone features a single 12.2-megapixel rear sensor with an f/1.7 aperture, dual-pixel PDAF, and OIS. And it retains all the photography features from the flagship models including the astrophotography mode. In the front, there’s an 8-megapixel shooter for selfies.

It’s almost impossible to take a bad picture with the Pixel 4a unless you have really shaky hands. Most spur-of-the-moment point-and-shoot images I clicked with the phone turned out to be amazing. The daylight shots are stunning with accurate colours and balanced dynamic range.

Also, thanks to the stellar Pixel imaging algorithm, the single-camera managed to capture best-in-class close-up and portrait shots with accurate edge-detection and pleasing bokeh effect in the background.

Coming to the low-light imaging, Pixel 4a manages to capture well-exposed and detailed images even without the dedicated Night Sight mode, which is impressive. The Night Sight mode comes in handy when you have to click pictures in extremely low-light situations. Moving on, I don’t often use wide-angle and telephoto cameras, so I didn’t miss those lenses much. However, some might have an issue with the absence of a wide-angle lens and I wouldn’t blame them.

Pixel devices are also known for clicking stunning selfies, and the Pixel 4a is no exception. The 8-megapixel front camera clicks well-detailed selfies in daylight and the dark. The portrait mode also works quite well with accurate edge-detection. However, here’s something you should know – the Pixel camera takes some time to process images captured from both rear and front cameras. You’ll have to wait for a second or two to see the image preview, but it’s worth it.

In terms of videos, the rear camera on the Pixel 4a can shoot 4K at 30 fps and 1080p at up to 60 fps. The front camera can shoot 1080p videos at 30 fps.

Performance, software and battery

  • Android 11
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G
  • 6GB + 128GB
  • 3,1400mAh battery, 18W fast charging

The Google Pixel 4a has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G SoC at its core, which is not the most powerful processor at this price point but paired with the stock Android 11, gets the job done well. The chipset is backed by 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, which can’t be expanded further. Additionally, the handset is equipped with the Titan M chip for enhanced security.

The Google Pixel 4a handles day-to-day tasks pretty well and thanks to the 6GB RAM, multitasking is smooth as well. As for gaming, I played basic games like Stick Cricket as well as intensive ones like the Asphalt 9. The Google Pixel 4A was able to handle all of them equally well. However, the phone did get a little warm after playing Asphalt 9 for a longer duration.

As for the software, the review unit I received was already on the latest Android 11. The interface is devoid of any bloatware and offers a clean user experience. As expected, you get several Google-exclusive features like the Now Playing, Live Captions, and a new Safety app. The Google Personal Safety app lets users set up emergency contact numbers for sharing your location in case of an emergency.

Lastly, the Pixel 4a features a 3,140mAh battery, which feels measly compared to the competition. However, thanks to the stock Android and an efficient processor, the Pixel 4a lasts all day with my moderate usage mainly comprising WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook. However, on days when I binged on several episodes on Netflix, I did find the battery draining too soon. The 18W charger provided with the smartphone charges up the battery to the full in just under an hour and a half.

Bottomline

At Rs 31,999, the Google Pixel 4a is a no-nonsense and no-frills smartphone catering to those who want to have a clean Android experience and brilliant imaging prowess. What makes the whole deal even better is the compact form factor, premium in-hand feel, immersive OLED display, assured software updates for three years, 3.5mm audio jack and stereo speakers. In case you are looking for a capable smartphone that will serve you for at least three years, you cannot go wrong with the Google Pixel 4a.

However, if you are more concerned about the specs, OnePlus Nord is the closest contender to the Pixel 4a. The handset offers a 90Hz display, Snapdragon 765G chipset with 5G support, 48MP quad cameras, 32MP selfie camera, and a 4,115mAh battery with 30W fast charging.

Pricebaba’s rating: 9 / 10

What works:

  • Excellent cameras
  • Stock Android 11
  • Compact form factor
  • Good display
  • Stereo speakers
  • 3.5mm audio jack

What doesn’t:

  • Average battery life
  • No wide-angle or telephoto lens
  • No face unlock
Comments
Tags:
Abhiman Biswas

Abhiman is obsessed with all things tech. His hobbies include reading on his Kindle and clicking random pictures on his phone. His secret superpowers happen to be mixing great cocktails and lip reading. In his spare time, you are likely to find him cleaning his aquascape, researching new species of aquatic fishes and planning which aquatic plants to buy next.