Pixel 4a Review: All you really need

May 10, 2021

Ever since Google launched the Pixel 3a last year, the A series of Pixels has been the go-to value phone I would recommend. The Pixel 4a brings the value to a whole other level. At $50 cheaper than the 3a, the 4a checks a lot the boxes of what most non-tech enthusiasts want in a phone.

Disclaimer: I purchased all devices reviewed in this article. I did not receive any review units from Google. I am NOT sponsored or affiliated with Google in any way. I do not accept copy approval from Google or any other organization. All opinions are mine and mine alone.

Specification

  • ๐Ÿ“บ 5.8 inches 1080 x 2340 pixel OLED (Gorilla Glass 3)
  • ๐Ÿง  Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G
  • ๐Ÿ—ƒ๏ธ 6GB 128GB
  • ๐Ÿ“ท Rear: 12.2 MP, f/1.8, 28mm, 1.4ยตm, OIS, dual pixel PDAF
  • ๐Ÿ“ท Selfie: 8 MP, f/2.0, 24mm (wide), 1.12ยตm
  • ๐Ÿ”‹ 3140 mAh
  • ๐Ÿ“ 151.3 x 70.1 x 8.2 mm
  • ๐ŸŽจ Just Black
  • ๐ŸŽ 3.5mm Headphone Jack, 18W Fast Charge
  • ๐Ÿ’ธ $350 in the US
  • ๐Ÿ“… 2020.08.20

The upgrades from the 3a

Let us start by going over the improvements from the Pixel 3a. First, you get a slightly larger punch-hole screen up from 5.6 inches to 5.8 inches. The processor has upgraded from the Snapdragon 670 to the 730G. You now get double the storage (128GB) and 2GB more RAM (6GB total). Instead of slow eMMC storage, you now get the faster UFS storage. The battery has also bumped up slightly from 3000mAh to 3140mAh. Let us not forget that the device is now $50 cheaper at $350 as well.

The Snapdragon 730G is very capable

I am honestly surprised at how capable the Snapdragon 730G is. Whereas the Snapdragon 670 did feel slightly slow, especially compared to flagship processors at the time. The 730G's performance has blended into the background. I have been able to use the Pixel 4a without ever feeling like I need a faster processor. Frankly, after using this phone as my only phone, I have completely forgotten that it does not have a flagship processor.

The camera is top-notch as always

The camera on the Pixel 4a has not been upgraded. It is still the same camera as the Pixel 3a and the wide camera on the Pixel 5. You still get the same Pixel quality photos you would on higher-end Pixel devices. Most of the improvement in the camera has been on the software side. This is something that Google has consistently been updating for all Pixel phones.

Battery life is decent

The battery has been bumped up slightly on the Pixel 4a. I have gotten better battery life than the Pixel 3a. The Pixel 4a gets roughly 4-5 hours of screen on time with one full day off the charger. If you aren't a very heavy user, this phone will easily last you a day.

Software is where it is at

Pixels have always been very software-focused. The Pixel 4a is no different. You'll be getting the slew of Pixel features, like three years of software and security updates.

On the phone app side, you get Google's Call Screen feature which allows you to screen spam and possibly fake number calls.

On the camera front, you get the full Pixel experience as well. The Portrait Mode is as top-notch as the Pixel flagships. Astrophotography and Night Sight are here as well with no compromises. The magical Portrait Light feature (a feature that allows you to add and direct a face light from any direction after you've taken a picture) is also here.

Nice to have that are missing

Those of you who are tech enthusiasts might have noticed the Pixel 4a is missing some nice to have. The display of the Pixel 4a only 60Hz. It is not certified for any water or dust resistance. It is a single camera while many others (even budget devices) have multiple cameras. The battery isn't the largest. It doesn't have wireless charging or 20W+ fast charging. Will you care about any of these things? Probably not that much. Frankly, I think you'll be more focused on the $500+ you just saved and how you get to put that money to better use.

Recommendations

Last year I recommended that people looking for a well-rounded value phone should get the Pixel 3a. This year the Pixel 4a is an even better value. There is just so much to like here. If you are someone looking for a solid phone, the Pixel 4a is a no-brainer. At $350 and the value that this phone brings a lot to the table.

Sure, it may not have the more modern bells and whistles of the current flagships. But for those looking for the nice-to-have, the Pixel 5 or the Samsung Galaxy FE are better options.

If you wish the 4a's screen was larger or the 4a had 5G, you'll want to look at the Pixel 4a 5G.

If you already have a Pixel 3a, I don't think there is much reason to upgrade though. The Pixel 3a is still a solid phone and perfectly capable of lasting another year or two. And with where Google is going with the Pixel A-line, I'm confident that the Pixel 5a or 6a will be just good.