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Google Pixel 4a Review: Compact Handset That Covers All Bases

by : Matt Weston on : 18 Aug 2020 09:40
Google

If you’re looking for a reasonably priced budget smartphone that is able to handle day-to-day tasks easily while also taking incredible photos, look no further than the latest device released by Google, the Pixel 4a.

When Google released the 3a last year, it was labelled as one of the best affordable phones of 2019. Google have kept what worked with the phone, improved the performance and camera, while now selling the 4a for a cheaper price than when its predecessor came out.

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I have been using the phone for a couple weeks now and I am very impressed, especially when you consider that the device is available for pre-orders starting at just £349 ($349). The reason for the cheap price is because Google has kept the phone extremely simple. With this device, you shouldn’t expect to see top-range specs and there are things that Google has left out to cut costs.

For starters, the phone only comes in one colour, black. If you’re looking for a vibrant and colourful smartphone, the Pixel 4a is batting on the opposing team. As a fan of minimalistic design though I’m not going to complain. Because of its size, you can use the Pixel 4a with one hand which is a nice surprise compared to the bloated screens that have become common for Apple and Android phones in 2020. Pixel phones have never been the most extravagant devices in the world and they don’t need to be. It’s just a well thought out, compact, light design. 4a weighs at just 143g thanks to its polycarbonate finish which sets it apart from the rest of the metal/glass-backed premium devices.

There’s no wireless charging, no face unlock and also no microSD support. The absence of wireless charging is to be expected from a budget phone, and Google has stuck to the tried and trusted fingerprint reader on the back of the device that has been popular on its other Pixel and Nexus devices. As for the lack of expandable storage, Pixel 4a ships with 128GB which is double the amount of storage of the Pixel 3a. As you can see, customers will have to make compromises just like Google if they were to own this device, but for me personally I think it’s a fantastic deal.

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It also has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 chip which although isn’t the most powerful on the market, it handles social media apps, watching videos and playing mobile games incredibly easily. Add to this a 3,140 mAh battery which is more than capable of getting you through an entire day with moderate usage. Thanks to its Adaptive Battery technology, Google says that it can get up to 24 hours usage on a single charge. Playing video and mobile games is one way to ensure that is unrealistic as I found that drained the battery significantly. But you’ll be pleased to hear I have easily made it through to the end of the day with more power left in the tank.

As for the display, it’s a 5.8-inch AMOLED screen with a 60Hz refresh rate. The bezel-less display makes for an aesthetically pleasing finish. I found watching Netflix and YouTube that the screen provided bright and colourful visuals. It’s worth pointing out that if you have recently been using a device with a bigger screen, you will notice the size difference more than ever when watching video. That’s why the 5.8-inch device won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

Google has kept the camera setup incredibly simple, with intelligent software doing most of the legwork for users. Despite the price of this device, I would say it has one of the best smartphone cameras I have ever used. Pixel devices have always been heralded as having brilliant cameras, but despite only having one sensor on the rear and a hole-punch senor on the front, the performance is staggering.  The Pixel 4a makes photography easy with its 12-megapixel f/1.7 sensor on the back. Portrait, panoramas and night mode all provided incredible results alongside the ability to shoot 4k video at 30fps. Live HDR+ does all the hard work, making it easier than ever to just point your camera at something and know that the results will be great.

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On the front, it’s a similar story with the 8-megapixel front-facing camera. It takes great selfies and can shoot 1080p video at 30fps. For its price, you will struggle to find a better smartphone camera in terms of value for money. The fact that in some categories it outperforms devices that cost around £1000 says it all.

Other notable features on this Pixel include a headphone jack. Located on the top of the device, it gives users the option if they want for plugging in wired headphones. Could this be the start of the jack being brought back on most devices? We can only hope! Android 10 on the device is incredibly clean and easy to use. The hardware and software of the device makes it a simple, clean experience that I have enjoyed using considerably. If you’re a fan of the Google ecosystem with its stock apps, Pixel Buds and Google Assistant, you will find using the device very simplistic in a good way.

This phone is perfect for the majority of people that just want to be able to do the basics, take good pictures and do it all without worrying about battery life. Add to it a simple, minimalistic design and software that’s just as good as iOS, it really is a winning formula. Google has pulled it out the bag to offer a device this good, for this price.

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Matt Weston

Matt Weston is a lover of electric cars, artificial intelligence and space. From Cornwall, he's a UCLan graduate that still dreams of being a Formula One driver in the very near future. Previous work includes reporting for regional newspapers and freelance video for the International Business Times.

Topics: Technology, Google, Review