In 2019, the Pixel 3a had been one of our biggest crushes. This little $ 399 smartphone was so good in photos that it eclipsed all the competition with bewildering ease. We would gladly forgive its few faults such as its screen not bright enough, its average autonomy and its rather weak storage capacity (64 GB).
With its Pixel 4a, available from 1er October 2020, Google hits hard. Cheaper (349 euros), this smartphone even has the luxury of carrying twice the storage (128 GB) while improving on all levels. We tested it for over a week and, you’ll see, we loved it.
Finally a bright screen
It was not until 2020 that Google opened its eyes. For the first time, one of its Pixel smartphones has a screen bright enough to be used in all circumstances, including outdoors. According to our laboratory measurements, the device emits on average 739 cd / m2 when pushed to its maximum capacity, which is much higher than 441 cd / m2 of Pixel 4 high-end, yet sold for twice the price. On a bicycle GPS mount, where the Pixel 3a was not bright enough (402 cd / m2), the Pixel 4a is perfect. We read his itinerary very easily, without twisting in all directions.
OLED technology, the Pixel 4a’s screen is very pleasant to use. The fidelity of its colors, satisfactory by default (Delta E = 3.39 according to our measurements) can be improved if we opt for the “Natural” mode in the display settings (Delta E = 2.05). At such a price, it would be hard to complain, Google really delivers a quality product.
Compact and (almost) pretty
If you only swear by giant smartphones, immediately exit this page, you will be disappointed. At 5.81 inches diagonal, the Pixel 4a’s screen is one of the smallest on the market. The smartphone is very easy to use with one hand, to our delight. How nice to see manufacturers thinking about people who don’t like big smartphones.
In addition, the Pixel 4a is also the most beautifully designed Google smartphone. No more hideous notches, goodbye borders with dispensable motion sensor, Google is for once pragmatic. The device’s front camera is concealed in a small punch located at the top left, which allows its screen to be completely edge to edge. Finally a modern design!
However, the Pixel 4a could be faulted for using a very “cheap” plastic back. Tapping with your fingernail on the back of the smartphone does not convey an impression of solidity. Let’s see a positive point, the smartphone is extremely light. Its 144 grams make it one of the lightest devices on the market. At a time when 200 grams is becoming the norm, this is a real relief.
Jack socket and fingerprint sensor
To the right of the smartphone’s USB-C port, there is a pretty good quality speaker. If Google swears its device is “stereo”, let us be more skeptical. The brand is content to increase very loudly the volume of the sound grid dedicated to calls to simulate stereo … but its quality is mediocre. Fortunately, Google had the good idea to keep a jack on its Pixel 4a. By car or in the evening, it can help.
On the back of the device, there is a fingerprint sensor. Less expensive than an under-screen fingerprint sensor or a Pixel 4-style 3D facial recognition system, the latter has the merit of being very effective. Google’s choice is the right one, it favors efficiency over unreasonable ways to cut prices.
The Pixel 4a comes equipped with the mid-range Snapdragon 730G processor but, to surprise you, that doesn’t really matter. Like Apple, Google has built its reputation on its ability to tame software to deliver a perfect user experience, which this Pixel 4a brilliantly delivers. Software animations are smooth, applications start quickly, and everything is easy to use. There is only in the application Camera that the smartphone processor, coupled with 6 GB of RAM, sometimes reveals its limits. The algorithmic processing of images, a trademark of Pixels, takes about ten seconds compared to two or three on a high-end Pixel. Unless you are in an extremely rush, you shouldn’t mind, but we’d rather let you know.
Finally, Google guarantees several years of Android updates to Pixel owners, always serving them first (for novices, Android is developed by Google). This is one of the advantages of this Pixel 4a which will lose less value than many other devices.
Autonomy: Google average
With its small 3140 mAh battery, the Pixel 4a seems under-equipped compared to the competition, used to offering at least 4000 mAh. Again, the software saves Google. The Pixel 4a resisted 13:26 in our versatile battery life test, which puts it at a decent level in our giant comparison of all smartphones on the market. In its class (200-500 euros, released between 2019 and 2020), the Pixel 4a finally recorded only 20 minutes less than the average. Nothing maddening then. For example, if we left in the morning at 100%, we usually returned in the evening with 30% autonomy. The Pixel 4a won’t last two days but doesn’t need to be recharged every three hours.
Video streaming (10:12) and in communication (22:42), this time the device is below the competition. These results are average but not bad.
On the charging side, however, we are disappointed with the results of the device. It is necessary 1h46 to fully charge it, which seems a lot given the size of its battery. Google is capable of better. Unlike the high-end Pixel 4, the 4a is not compatible with wireless charging. At such a price, hard to blame him.
The star of the picture
Google likes simplicity. Rather than increasing the number of cameras on the back of its smartphone, at the risk of making reading its technical sheet complicated, the brand is satisfied with a single 12.2 Mpix sensor, attached to a module opening at f / 1.7 . This proposal is similar to that of the Pixel 3a or the Pixel 3 (the Pixel 4 had the same sensor but also used a telephoto lens for the zoom).
Once again, Google’s bet is more than successful. The Pixel 4a is a photographic monster despite its low price. The end result often has nothing to do with the preview in the app (and processing takes time, as said above) but impresses every time. Day and night, the smartphone is strong.
The Pixel 4a’s camera is the perfect consumer camera. Very few options are offered, the interface is simple, and Google’s algorithm works mysteriously in the background. The result is in the end each time bluffing. What more could we ask for? It’s hard to fault the Pixel 4a’s camera for anything other than its lack of versatility. We would have liked an extra ultra wide-angle module but we’ll be happy with that amazing main camera. The other manufacturers can be jealous of Google, which manages to surpass them with less qualitative material.