Google Pixel 4a Review: Camera is full of surprises
“Google Pixel 4a has a stunning camera hidden inside one of the most attractive phone designs of the year”
Regular software updates
Long battery life
Dull, cheap design and materials
There is a good chance when you already know that the Google Pixel 4a is cheaper at $ 350, which is that Android software is often advanced and easy to use, and that the small phone is a solid enough everyday companion. You’ve probably also heard that the camera is also good, but do you really know how good it is?
It is so good that this is really the only reason you should consider buying a Pixel 4a. Because there is nothing else you wouldn’t know about Pixel 4a: it’s a bit dull otherwise. I will explain
The best thing
The camera of the Google Pixel 4a is wavering on the issue of antitrust in terms of its capability, and it embarrasses the cameras on phones that cost two or three times the price of the Pixel 4a. The Pixel 4a has only a 12.2-megapixel camera on the back. It is a nonsense sensor with optical image stabilization (OIS), and is about. There is no wide-angle mode, no optical telephoto mode (although it will digitally zoom in to the image), and no fancy features such as 8K video recording. Instead, it has Google’s computational photography expertise behind it, and it makes all the difference to its potential.
This is not a new formula, because Google Pixel 4, Pixel 3a, and Pixel 3 all have great cameras for one reason: software proves software rather than hardware. While the lack of attractive extras and multiple lenses slightly limits the camera’s versatility, you may not have everything for $ 349 – and what you get will be plenty to spend on a smartphone without an unlimited budget .
The colors are surprisingly natural, the exposure is spot-on, and the dynamic range is always judged perfectly. Every photo you take will come out the way you want it, in almost all environments, without the need to edit it. Portrait mode reveals a better edge than cameras with multiple sensors, and Night Sight mode is incredible, managing full brightness and contrast for natural color balance in dark scenes. Eliminating concerns about the end result boosts your creativity, and your confidence.
Close-ups are shockingly good, too. Nodus Sector watch photos taken at 2x zoom show mass of detail, and even at full 7x digital zoom, the photo is not ruined by noise or pixelation. Pixel 4 has been my go-to for close-up watch photos for a while – close-ups were taken with Pixel 4 in the G-Shock Frogman review.
When I wrote my hands-on report of the Asus ZenFone 7 Pro, I was in the middle of moving, and my camera equipment was already stuffed inside a box. I needed to take a photo on the phone, so I used the Pixel 4A. The result, in my opinion, is excellent and only needs a few tweaks before being used in the article. It’s not that the photos were good which surprises – it’s the confidence that I had the Pixel 4A’s ability to capture it and take pictures. I didn’t feel the need to find my primary camera when I knew the Pixel 4A would handle the task without the need for additional editing attention. I simply wouldn’t believe the same in many other phones at any cost.
It’s not just photos – the application and controls are excellent. Tap to focus and the camera maintains focus while adjusting the position. It is really great that it shows you what it is doing with a moving focal marker on the screen. This is a small thing, but it makes you believe that the photo you take will show how you want it. There is easy adjustment and locking of brightness and exposure, and a handy horizon meter that gives a subtle haptic alert when it is level. All of this is just so polished, fast, simple and incredibly capable.
Remember, I only described the single-lens camera on the back of a $ 349 smartphone. Everything you’ve heard about Pixel 4a’s camera is more and a little more. It is prominent, and is for many people. Only, the reason you buy the phone.
The Pixel 4a’s camera forces me to walk on my knees, but the design and materials used make my eyes roll. It is as if the entire design budget was used to make the power button in a slightly minty green color, as the rest of the cheap smartphone-Serba-2015 Snooze-Dome levels. You could argue that it doesn’t matter because the camera is great, but it’s not true – it seems like in a hurry that the approach taken here makes me not want to use the phone for very long. I agree that it’s better than the Pixel 3a from the front, thanks to its much smaller bezels, but it’s hardly a glow of praise.
Black plastic is the most basic material Google could have chosen, and it is as scary as it sounds. The texture provides some grip, but has a tendency to look sleek and ugly. The fingerprint sensor on the back is functional but very 2016, while it looks like a camera sensor to me and the boring square module has the flash inserted into the wrong hole. Buttons on the side only succeed in feeling cheaper than the black plastic casing.
When you take the Pixel 4a out of your pocket or place it on the table, you will not feel any emotion. It is the unbranded plastic carrier bag of the smartphone world. This is a reminder that this is indeed a $ 349 phone.
Outside of the superb camera and sluggish design, everything else about the Pixel 3A ticks the box marked “OK”. It is acceptable in a way that it all works, but never dazzles. The 5.8-inch OLED screen is a good size and on paper, the 2340 x 1080 pixel resolution is great for the price, but in fact it can be a bit cramped and not bright enough. At no point do I remember the maximum brightness down, and in the event of strong sunlight or rain, it is still not very legible.
Much has been made about Google’s version of Android on Pixel phones, and is well-organized and ineffective on the eye, but it’s actually three-year guaranteed future software updates that will make any operating system flourish. Appeal instead. There is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G processor with 6GB of RAM, okay, but that’s all. Benchmark results indicate that the phone is acceptable for everyday use, whether it is used for gaming or browsing:
3DMark Sling Shot Extreme: 2276 (Vulcan)
Geekbench 5: 1648 Multi Core / 551 Single Core
One area where it manages to elevate itself to “good” condition is the battery. I get two days with moderate normal usage, although it does not respond well to extended video calls or other power-intensive tasks. It takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes to charge, but we cannot expect much when the phone is cheap. Google’s clever software does a great job of managing apps that demand power, so they don’t cause too many problems.
Price, Availability and Options
The Google Pixel 4a costs $ 349 US or 349 British pounds, and is available from Google’s online store and Amazon, as well as a selection of carriers. These include Verizon and AT&T in the US and Vodafone in the UK.
If you’re not concerned with taking great photos and just want a cheaper smartphone, the Nokia 5.3 is just $ 200 with a bigger screen, Android One software with regular updates, and a slightly more interesting design. If you want a phone that looks better and still has a good camera, then the $ 399 Apple iPhone SE 2020 is a great buy.
Buy Pixel 4a for the camera. It is truly incredible how capable it is for any price, and the photos it takes are amazing. Just be aware of the rest of the phone, software aside, is perfectly normal.