Google Pixel 5a vs Pixel 4a: What’s the difference and should you upgrade?

the google pixel 5a on a piece of cement showing its back in mostly black color

Credit: Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

The Google Pixel 4a was one of our favorite budget-friendly devices of 2020, and it showed that small Android phones could be hot again. Now, its successor is here in the Pixel 5a, and it packs a whole host of changes. With two rear cameras, a larger display, and 5G connectivity, some might call it a closer successor to the Pixel 4a 5G.

If you have the older affordable Pixel, is it time for an upgrade? Let’s compare the two in this Google Pixel 5a vs Pixel 4a battle and find out.

Our verdict: Google Pixel 5a review


Google Pixel 5a vs Pixel 4a


Specs

  Google Pixel 5a Google Pixel 4a
Display 6.34-inch OLED
2,400 x 1,080 resolution
413ppi
20:9 aspect ratio
60Hz refresh rate
Corning Gorilla Glass 6
5.81-inch OLED
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
443ppi
19.5:9 aspect ratio
60Hz refresh rate
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G
RAM 6GB 6GB
Storage 128GB 128GB
Power 4,680mAh
18W fast charging
No wireless charging
3,140mAh
18W fast charging
No wireless charging
Cameras Main:
– 12.2MP dual-pixel
1.4μm pixel width
Autofocus with dual pixel phase detection
Optical + electronic image stabilization
ƒ/1.7 aperture
77-degree field of view

Secondary:
– 16MP ultra-wide
1.0μm pixel width
ƒ/2.2 aperture
117-degree field of view (107-degrees after distortion correction)

Front:
– 8MP
1.12μm pixel width
ƒ/2.0 aperture (fixed focus)
83-degree field of view

Main:
– 12.2MP dual-pixel
1.4μm pixel width
Autofocus with dual pixel phase detection
Optical + electronic image stabilization
ƒ/1.7 aperture
77-degree field of view

Front:
– 8MP sensor, f/2.0 aperture, 1.12µm pixels, fixed focus, 84-degree field-of-view

Audio Stereo speakers
Headphone jack
Stereo speakers
Headphone jack
Biometrics Rear-mounted fingerprint reader Rear-mounted fingerprint reader
Software Android 11 Android 10 (Upgradeable to Android 11)
Dimensions and weight 156.2 x 73.2 x 8.8mm
183g
151.3 x 70.1 x 8.2mm
147g
Colors Mostly Black Just Black
Barely Blue


Design and display

Google Pixel 4a screen in hand 4

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

The Google Pixel 5a doesn’t deviate from the established Pixel formula like the upcoming Pixel 6 series is expected to. It keeps a corner-mounted punch hole camera, a corner-mounted rear camera, and a headphone jack on the top. It looks very similar to the Pixel 4a (pictured above), although it does have a slightly bigger footprint overall and a larger camera module at the back, due to the extra sensor. It also sports a more premium metal build.

See also: The best Google Pixel 5a cases you can get

The display on the Pixel 5a measures 6.34 inches, while the one on the Pixel 4a comes in at 5.81 inches. Both offer a Full HD+ resolution, a 60Hz refresh rate, and Gorilla Glass 3 protection.

The growth spurt allows the Pixel 5a to pack more punch into an affordable package.

The Pixel 5a is the first A-series Pixel to offer an IP rating, coming in at IP67. The Pixel 5a’s aspect ratio changed slightly, going from 19.5:9 on the Pixel 4a to 20:9. You might notice that the Pixel 5a is quite a bit heavier than its predecessor as well, though that’s not unexpected with the increase in size.


Hardware and cameras

the google pixel 5a camera module and fingerprint sensor

Credit: Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Neither the Pixel 5a nor the Pixel 4a pack flagship-grade processors, but they were never meant to. Instead, the Pixel 5a keeps the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G as you’d find on last year’s Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G. It comes equipped for sub-6GHz 5G, though there’s no mmWave 5G support. The Pixel 4a, however, skips the 5G bandwagon, as it comes with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G chipset.

Learn more about SoCs: Qualcomm’s smartphone processors explained

As for the RAM and storage, these two devices may as well be twins. You’re looking at 6GB of RAM either way, and the 128GB storage option is your one and only choice. Neither model offers a microSD slot, so you’ll have to get comfortable freeing up space with a service like Google One.

One of the biggest differences between the latest affordable Pixel models comes in the battery department. The 18W fast charging via USB-C hasn’t changed, but the Pixel 5a offers battery life that puts the Pixel 4a to shame. It packs the largest battery of any Pixel ever at 4,680mAh compared to 3,140mAh on the older model. While it’s true that 5G tends to burn through the battery slightly faster, the increase in size should more than make up for it.

Google Pixel 4a back camera and fingerprint macro

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

Google’s Pixel 4a is shaping up to be the last model to offer just one rear camera. You’ll only find one 12.2MP shooter onboard, though it does come with all of Google’s powerful image processing capabilities. The 8MP selfie camera follows closely in the rear camera’s footsteps, while the new Pixel 5a veers closer to the Pixel 4a 5G in this area. It keeps the signature 8MP front shooter, but a 16MP ultra-wide camera joins the 12.2MP lens.

Related: The best budget camera phones you can buy

Even though the image processing should be about the same on both devices, the Pixel 5a has a clear advantage due to the extra lens on the back, as it provides more versatility when taking photos.


Price and colors

  • Google Pixel 5a: $449 / 51,700 Japanese yen
  • Google Pixel 4a: $349 / £349 / €349

As mentioned before, there’s only one version of both the Google Pixel 5a and the Pixel 4a available. No matter where you are, you’ll get 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage starting at $349 for the Pixel 4a. The Pixel 5a comes with a $100 premium, but that’s not a surprise given the larger display, faster processor, IP rating, and 5G connectivity.

Read next: The best Pixel 5a cases to get

Right now, you can grab the Pixel 4a fully unlocked straight from Google. It’s beginning to sell out at several retailers as the Pixel 5a becomes available. As for color options, the Pixel 4a launched exclusively in Just Black before rolling out in Barely Blue a few months later.

Google Pixel 4a
The best of Google for $349
Getting the Google experience has never been more accessible. A compact phone that’s easy to use, a beautiful screen, and one of the best cameras in this price range. The Pixel 4a is hard to beat.

Pixel 5a pre-orders opened on August 17, 2021, and those who pre-ordered should expect their phones to arrive around August 26, 2021. So far, it is available in Mostly Black, which almost looks green in the right lighting. Google has only launched the Pixel 5a in the US and Japan for the time being, but it may make its way to new markets in the future.

Google Pixel 5a
Water resistance comes to the Pixel A-series
Google’s Pixel 5a offers a few quality-of-life upgrades over its previous devices that may make you want to join Team Pixel. It has a metal unibody design, an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance, and a battery that just won’t quit.


Google Pixel 5a vs Pixel 4a: Which should you buy?

the google pixel 5a on a bench with water splashed droplets

Credit: Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

There’s little doubt that the Google Pixel 5a is the better buy in 2021. It’s larger, lasts longer, and offers more punch than the Pixel 4a can match. The $100 price increase is justifiable considering the additions, too.

If you want the power of Pixel at an affordable price, the Pixel 5a is the way to go.

The Pixel 5a offers 5G connectivity, nearly half an inch of extra screen real estate, an IP rating, and an extra camera on the back. Not to mention the battery with an extra 1,500mAh of charge.

If you want the power of Pixel at an affordable price, the Pixel 5a is the way to go. It’s tough to ignore the $349 price of the Pixel 4a, but it comes with some sacrifices. The Pixel 5a is built to keep up for years as 5G rolls out to more and more locations, while the Pixel 4a will eventually see 4G LTE fall behind.

Check out: Google Pixel 4a review

If you already have the Pixel 4a, the answer to whether or not to upgrade to the Pixel 5a comes down to how much you value all the extra features of the device. If you’re happy with your current handset, there’s really no need to upgrade at this time. But if you really want the bigger display, the larger battery, and other features like 5G support, then go for it. The Pixel 5a really is one of the easiest-to-recommend smartphones of 2021.

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