The Pixel 4a review. Google quality at an affordable price

Google Pixel 4a review

Google Pixel 4a he is the child of the pandemic. A smartphone that should have arrived on the market between May and June but which failed to overcome the obstacles imposed by this absurd 2020. The Mountain View company, however, did not want to give up its mid-range and so decided to present it today. , August 3, to then actually launch it on October 1, 2020.  

Will the wait pay off? In short, is it worth waiting two months to buy this smartphone? We talk about it in this review.

The legacy of Pixel 4 and Pixel 3a

Pixel 4a is a hybrid born from the union of its predecessors. The small size (no XL version this time) comes from the Pixel 4, as well as the square camera module, which houses a single 12 megapixel sensor and the LED flash. From Pixel 3a, on the other hand, it inherited the rear fingerprint reader. Yes, you got it right. There is no fingerprint reader under the display and not even the facial recognition that characterizes the current top of the range from Google. The choice seems to be dictated by the current needs of users: in a world that relies more and more on masks, unlocking with the face would only be an annoying impediment.

So far we have seen two of the renunciations dictated by the historical period in which we are living: a single variant, 5,8 inches, and no facial recognition. There is a third that concerns the colors: Pixel 4a will arrive only in the black variant, no white and no Oh So Orange.

What's the Pixel 4a like?

Having clarified the direction taken by Google, let's see how the new smartphone is made.

On the front we have a 5,8-inch OLED display with FullHD + resolution, HDR support and a small hole located at the top left that houses the 8 megapixel front camera. In everyday life it behaves exactly like Pixel 4: we have deep blacks, excellent brightness and vivid, natural colors. From the settings menu it is possible to define a color mode by choosing between Natural, Enhanced and Adaptive; you can also activate the dark theme, schedule the activation of the night brightness and enable the Watchful Screen, which prevents the screen from turning off while you are looking at it.
There is also theAlways-On Display with the always appreciated Now Playing, which identifies the music you are listening to by showing you the title and artist.

On the back instead we find a shell in opaque polycarbonate, the camera module, slightly raised compared to the rest of the body, and the very fast fingerprint reader. The right edge instead houses the power button, blue so as to immediately distinguish it, and the volume rocker, while in the left one we find the SIM slot. Finally we have the 3,5 jack, on the top, and the USB-C connector at the bottom, flanked by two speakers.

Adapting to the Pixel 4a, with its small size, was not easy. We spent the first few hours comparing it with the other mid-range, which certainly offer larger displays, but once this phase was overcome we began to appreciate its compactness. Google's little smartphone is easy to handle, it can be easily kept indoors and still allows you to do anything without difficulty.

Google Pixel 4a review: fluid and performance

On board Pixel 4a we find the Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 processor, the Adreno 618 GPU and 6 GB of RAM. Then there are 128 GB of storage space and the Titan M module, which takes care of the protection of the device. Together with Android 10 and the excellent optimization work, the hardware of this smartphone guarantees you power and fluidity for all kinds of activities.

On the connectivity front, there is everything we need: there is dual-band WiFI, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, GPS and Google Cast. Instead, 5G is missing, a choice that Google has justified with the current backwardness of the networks but which in reality would have been a welcome addition. Big G in fact guarantees updates for 3 years and it is clear that at that point the new standard will certainly be more widespread.

Speaking of software, the device delivers the best of the Google experience. We have Android 10 navigation gestures, an improved copy and paste, an enhanced Google Assistant, Live Captions - automatic subtitles for audio, video and even calls - and the Recorder app, which not only records audio. but it performs automatic transcription.

Finally, we come to autonomy. On paper 3.140 mAh is not a lot but in reality we had no trouble making it to the end of the day or even to cover a good part of the second. In short, really not bad for the little one from Mountain View.

La stessa fotocamera on Pixel 4, o quasi

The photographic sector was one of the strong points of Pixel 4, its flagship. Pixel 4a does not want to be outdone and so Google has decided to equip it with the same 12,2 megapixel camera as its older brother, flanked by Dual Pixel technology, autofocus and optical and electronic image stabilization. On the other hand, the wide angle is missing, as well as on the front, which offers a single 8 megapixel lens.

The Pixel 4 had convinced with its photographic module and expectations for the new Pixel 4a can only be high. Obviously this is a different smartphone, which can count on a single rear camera, but the on-board sensor is the same with 12,2 million pixels that we have already known with Pixel 4. Several have been "stolen" from the older brother functions, such as night shooting with astrophotography mode, just to name one. Before taking a look at the results, however, I would like to underline my appreciation for Google's choice to limit the number of pixels in the small sensor of the smartphone. Having a lot of megapixels is not always good, especially when they have to occupy a very small area. Few pixels, on the other hand, are able to capture the light better and therefore work without too much difficulty, even in low light conditions. We may not have the detail that in optimal conditions can be obtained with a 40 or 50MP smartphone, but in principle the result will be more realistic and less digital. The more photographic rendering I am talking about can be seen in several shots of our test, especially those with a reduced depth of field. We can indeed appreciate the quality of the background blur, which is soft and very pleasing to the eye.

It lacks an optical zoom, but we can count on an excellent processor that allows us to achieve discreet photography with 2x digital zoom. Going further is not advisable, unless you simply want to make a note or cannot in any way get close to the subject.
The yield in portrait mode is very good, which confirms how much good Google has done on digital photo processing. As there is no sensor dedicated to portrait mode to create the bokeh effect, Pixel 4a outlines the contours of the subject and blurs everything else. Until recently, there were many smartphones that behaved in this way, but often with many difficulties. On the other hand, it is to be appreciated the precision with which Pixel 4a is able to identify even the subject's hair and making the transition between the in-focus area and the out-of-focus area very gradual. Well done. But we apologize for the subject ...

Despite Google claims to have entered the same night mode of Pixel 4 also on the new Pixel 4a, some doubts remain. There seems to be a little more noise than we expected and as you can see there are problems in the management of light sources such as street lamps. However, they could be problems due to the pre-production version we are testing and that could be solved with a firmware update from here to the actual release on the market of Pixel 4a.

In a quick comparison between brothers, we could see that the results obtained, without activating any particular modality, are very similar. To be picky, on the new Pixel 4a you can see a slightly higher saturation than on Pixel 4, which instead remains more neutral. In terms of details we are exactly at the same level and the yield of the background blur is equally good.

Overall, a smartphone that from a photographic point of view does not betray expectations, with Google increasingly raising the bar to try to compete with Apple, Samsung and Huawei. From a photographic point of view we are getting closer and closer to the top.

Google Pixel 4a: technical sheet

As always, before the conclusions let's take a quick look at the technical characteristics.

Dimensions: 144 x 69,4 x 8,2 mm
Weight: 143 g
Display: 5,81 ″ OLED - 1080 x 2340 pixels
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 730
Memory: 128 GB
Network: 4G
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.1, USB-C, GPS, NFC
Battery: 3.140 mAh
Rear camera: 12 MP
Front Camera: 8 MP
Videos: 4K @ 30fps
Operating system: Android 10

Google Pixel 4a review: buy it or not? 

Google Pixel 4a is a great mid-range device, especially if you love smartphones with a compact size. The display is great, the performance is excellent, the battery life is more than convincing and the camera does not disappoint in any situation. Difficult to miss given the price: 389 euro. Too bad only for the absence of 5G.

We remind you, however, that to buy it on the Google Store you will have to wait for October.

Google Pixel 4a

  • OLED display
  • Excellent build quality
  • Excellent performance
  • Over a day of autonomy
  • Camera
  • No 5G

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