Google Pixel 5a 5G Review: A Small But Worthwhile Upgrade


Google Pixel 5a 5G

RRP $ 449.00

“The Pixel 5a continues to live up to its camera expectations and offers smooth performance, expressive photos and lowlight functions at an affordable price.”


  • Excellent camera performance

  • Smooth, clean software

  • IP67 water and dust resistance

  • Affordable price for its skills


  • Standard, a bit boring design

  • No high refresh display

Google’s Pixel 5a 5G was the subject of so many leaks at the time that there are no surprises here – but it never had to be. The Pixel A series has always represented cheaper, scaled-down versions of Google’s main phones while offering the same high quality camera hardware and software performance. This has not changed with the Google Pixel 5a either.

In terms of hardware, it’s a step above the Google Pixel 4a 5G, with a larger battery and IP67 water and dust resistance. Conversely, it leaves out some of the premium features you get on the Pixel 5, such as the increased RAM and high-resolution 90Hz display. Overall, it continues to deliver exactly what users of the Google Pixel A series want: clean software, a strong camera and no major disadvantages.

Google Pixel 5a from the back.Ajay Kumar / Digital Trends

Design and display

The design of the Pixel 5a 5G is largely unchanged from its predecessor, the 4a 5G, and borders on boredom. It’s a standard candy bar design with sleek black plastic, rounded sides, and a screen with narrow bezels. The hole punch selfie camera is located at the top right, and a fast-reacting fingerprint sensor is located on the back. There is a 3.5mm audio jack on top, just like the 4a 5G.

The big change compared to the previous model is not visible, but a significant one. They now have IP67 water and dust resistance, which means the Pixel 5a can withstand full immersion in water, splashes, and rain, as well as a day at the beach. That was missing from previous generations and it’s uncommon these days to find even mid-range phones that don’t have water resistance, so it’s nice to see that this durability issue has been fixed.

The screen is largely unchanged. It is a 6.34-inch OLED screen with a resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels. That’s a slight change from the 4a 5G’s 6.2-inch screen, which gives you an aspect ratio of 20: 9 while keeping the resolution and pixel density the same at 413 pixels per inch (ppi). The viewing angles are great both indoors and outdoors, with high maximum brightness. Videos, games, and text look razor-sharp and I didn’t notice any pixelation while using it.

The only thing I missed was the Pixel 5’s high-resolution 90Hz screen, which allows for smoother scrolling, animations, and transitions. After you get used to the higher refreshing 90Hz screen on the Pixel 5 and the 120Hz Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, it’s hard to go back to a normal 60Hz refresh rate.

Google Pixel 5a shows apps.Ajay Kumar / Digital Trends

Performance and battery

The Pixel 5a 5G is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal storage. This is the same configuration as the Pixel 4a 5G and the same chipset as the Google Pixel 5. So I’m not going to go into too much about performance. Everything is smooth enough for everyday use with no noticeable app slowdowns.

It also handles demanding games like Asphalt 9 and Genshin Impact without chugging, although the lack of the high-refresh panel is noticeable. Even so, it will get the job done with no major problems. There’s nothing more to say about that.

Battery life is a big step up from the Pixel 4a 5G. With a 4,680 mAh cell, it’s one of the more powerful batteries I’ve seen on a mid-range phone and has a significantly longer shelf life than the 3,885 mAh cell on the Pixel 4a 5G. I used an average of one and a half to two days of regular use before charging, with normal daily use consisting of surfing, tweeting, gaming, and photography. There’s no wireless charging, but the included adapter gives you 18 watts of fast wired charging.

It will get the job done with no major problems.

Over time, the phone’s adaptive battery feature also learns your app usage and habits. That means it finds out which apps you use the most and what times you use them (for me it’s Twitter and Reddit 24/7), and it makes sure that apps you don’t use often aren’t Waste of energy in the background. Over time, this feature should be able to learn your habits and optimize performance better to get more juice out.

A powerful camera

Camera features are why you’re here for the Pixel 5a 5G and the phone doesn’t disappoint in that regard. On paper, the hardware is identical to the Pixel 4a 5G. The main sensor is a 12.2 megapixel (MP) camera with a 16 MP ultrawide camera with a 117 degree field of view. The 8MP front camera works perfectly well for selfies and videos. But it’s the software chops from Google that really make the sensors glow.

In good lighting, the main sensor takes excellent pictures with lots of detail, without noise or blurring. Despite a brutally bright and sunny day that can often hide the automatic exposure of smaller phones, all the shots I took while walking in the park turned out to be beautiful. The colors were accurate, vivid without being oversaturated, and the green tones stood out particularly well in the contrast between sunlight and shadow.

Taking pictures with the ultra-wide 16MP camera gives you a much larger field of view of 117 degrees. It’s marked 0.6x in your camera app and allows you to capture a lot more of your surroundings and background. It’s useful for landscape photography, and I enjoyed using it to capture the entire perimeter of the fountain and pond in the park.

But it’s the software chops from Google that really make the sensors glow.

There are some tradeoffs with the ultrawide camera. While the barrel distortion is not significant, some of the finer details in the recording are lost. Zooming in on leaves and branches reveals more artifacts and debris than if you were just shooting with the standard 12.2 MP sensor. And it is also worth noting that there is no telesensor. There is a 2x zoom option in the camera app, but it is a digital zoom, not an optical one, so there is a corresponding loss of quality there as well.

Pixel 5a night vision example.

Google Pixel 5a 5g Review Portrait mode example 1500x1000

Unsurprisingly, lowlight photography is another of the Pixel 5a’s strengths. On a cloudy day in my kitchen, the phone automatically activated Night Sight to capture the colors of the slowly ripening banana and the pattern of the granite tabletop behind it. You can also enable night vision in portrait mode, which gives you access to a variety of powerful onboard editing options to control things like background blur and color pop, as well as enable black and white shooting.

Among the other features included, you also get astrophotography, which, like the Pixel 5, lets you take vivid shots of the night sky. For video recording, the phone can process 1080p and 4K at 60 frames per second. The capture of people kayaking in the lake was smooth, with minimal jerking or autofocus panning issues. I was even able to track an airplane flying overhead and take several clear shots.

Pixel 5a camera app.

Pixel 5a portrait mode.

Software and connectivity

The Pixel 5a is running the latest version of Android 11. It’s Google’s clean version of Android that most people are probably familiar with. The 5a is guaranteed to receive operating system and security updates for three years, so you are sure to receive the upcoming Android 12.

In terms of unique features, there are various smarts and integrations from the Google Assistant. You can identify songs, you can put the Google Assistant on hold for a call using the “Hold for me” feature in your phone app, view calls and identify songs. It also has a built-in recorder that can automatically create transcripts, which I found particularly useful for recording interviews and referencing quotes.

In terms of connectivity, the Pixel 5a 5G supports Sub-6 5G, dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0 and NFC. I’ve tested mine on T-Mobile, but it’s compatible with all the major US carriers, Japanese operator SoftBank, and Google’s Project Fi.

Price and availability

The Google Pixel 5a 5G will only be available in the US and Japan. In the US, it will be available from the Google Store and Google Fi for $ 449 or through a subscription program for $ 15 per month. In Japan, it will also be available from the Google Store for 51,700 yen.

Our opinion

The Google Pixel 5a doesn’t make promises it can’t deliver. It’s not a generational leap from the Pixel 4a 5G – the differences are pretty minor at best – but it improves on key points like waterproofness and battery life. Camera performance continues to be as expected, software is clean, and performance is smooth, so you get a great mid-range phone at a reasonable price.

Is there a better alternative?

If you already own the Google Pixel 4a 5G, the differences are in the IP67 sealing and improved battery life, which isn’t worth the upgrade. Conversely, if you have an older Pixel 4a, you’ll also benefit from the faster processor, 5G connectivity, bigger screen, and two rear cameras, making the investment a much more worthwhile investment.

On the high end, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE costs around $ 100 to $ 150 more on average, but it gives you a crisp 120Hz screen, triple rear camera array, wireless charging, and much more powerful processors and specs. There is currently a shortage of other compelling mid-range phone options in the US alongside the non-5G iPhone SE, but there is no shortage of competitive options like the OnePlus Nord 2 5G in the international market.

One last thing to keep in mind is that Google has already announced the existence of the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro that use the new Tensor processor. So if you want to wait another year, we expect a future unacknowledged Pixel 6a to have a version of the same new chipset.

How long it will take?

The Google Pixel 5a 5G comes with a one-year warranty as standard, but you can expect it to last a lot longer. While it shares the same Snapdragon 765G processor, it is guaranteed three years of operating system and security updates to keep it feeling new. It also has IP67 water and dust resistance, which gives it more durability than previous generations.

Should you buy one?

Yes. As a mid-range phone with a great camera, clean software, long-lasting battery, and water resistance, the Pixel 5a doesn’t have many comparable competitors. However, if you already own a Pixel 4a 5G, the difference isn’t big enough to be worth the upgrade.

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