Google Pixel 5a Review: A solid mid-range phone with sensible compromises
For this section of the review, we’re going to be looking at performance and battery life. The Google Pixel 5a packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G chipset, just like the Pixel 5, and it’s got 6GB RAM instead of 8GB. Let’s talk about battery life first though, because that’s the part that’s interesting to me.
The Pixel 5a is bigger than the Pixel 5, and it has a larger battery that comes in at 4,680mAh instead of 4,080mAh. For me, this is actually the most impressive part of the phone. We’re actually talking multi-day battery life here, something that I hesitate to ever say out loud. Plenty of companies promise multi-day battery life, but it’s rarely delivered. However, I truly think that for most people, the Pixel 5a’s battery can last from when you wake up one morning until you go to bed the next day, so that’s roughly 36 hours.
Here are some examples. Every day that I started off with a full charge, the device was over 50% by the time I went to sleep, the lowest being 51%. That’s with normal, every day usage as my daily driver. I used apps as I normally would, Bluetooth was used frequently with the Pixel Buds A and the TicWatch Pro 3, and I’ve been taking pictures frequently.
Speaking of running around taking pictures, take a look at my camera samples from Yankee Stadium. I started off around noon, walked around Heritage Park where the old stadium used to be, and took pictures all day at the Motorola Edge product launch. I took so many pictures and videos that on several occasions, the phone got too hot and the flash needed to be shut off. However, deep into the game at around 9pm, I remarked that the battery was still, impressively, at 61%.
Obviously, these tales are anecdotal. I don’t run battery tests because I can’t tell you if a battery will last for two days based on a benchmark, or streaming video for hours on end. These things don’t represent how phones are actually used. Instead, I like to talk about battery life based on how I actually used it in my day-to-day, and it’s super-impressive.
And here’s something that’s bound to be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t miss wireless charging. For me, wireless charging is an easy way to set a phone down and have it charge while I’m not using it, usually at my desk. Indeed, that does help in having a device that’s just always charged. Wired Android Auto is another thing that makes me not worry about battery life. But seriously, the battery life is so good on the Pixel 5a that it wasn’t something I had to think about.
Now, let’s talk about performance. Anecdotally, performance was solid most of the time. Let’s be clear. When you get a Snapdragon 765G, it’s obvious that you’re not using a Snapdragon 888, or even a Snapdragon 870/865. A lot of the flagship capabilities are there; in fact, this might be your lowest-priced option if you’re looking for a smartphone that can record 4K 60fps video. It just kind of chokes up once in a while. Sometimes it’s just a minor annoyance, and sometimes it’s the weird overheating issues I had when using the camera.
Here are some AnTuTu benchmark scores. While I came from using a Pixel 5, obviously the target market for this is coming from something a little bit older.
|Device||OS||Processor and RAM||Total AnTuTu score||CPU||GPU||MEM||UX|
|Pixel 5a||Android 11||Snapdragon 765G, 6GB||380,038||109,951||101,183||73,022||95,882|
|Pixel 5||Android 12||Snapdragon 765G, 8GB||392,438||112,901||101,796||73,750||103,991|
|Pixel 4 XL||Android 12||Snapdragon 855, 6GB||536,036||141,725||183,083||84,720||126,508|
|Pixel 4||Android 11||Snapdragon 855, 6GB||503,595||139,009||185,602||65,743||113,511|
|Pixel 4a||Android 11||Snapdragon 730G, 6GB||339,903||102,692||87,543||59,248||90,420|
I actually wasn’t able to run AnTuTu on the Pixel 3 XL or Pixel 3a XL, although I had intended to. AnTuTu requires two apps to work, and something about those two devices prevented those two apps from working with each other, despite being installed. Google does weird stuff like that. For example, with the Pixel 5a, Geekbench and GFXBench don’t show up in the Play Store.
Overall, the performance is satisfactory. I’d have loved to have seen the newer Snapdragon 778G chipset, but then the Pixel 5a would have outshined the already-nerfed Pixel 5.
In fact, between the Pixel 5a, Pixel 5, and Pixel 4a, there really aren’t a lot of differences, a stark difference from when the Pixel 3a came out. All three phones use a Snapdragon 765G processor and the same dual-lens camera. The Pixel 5 has a 90Hz display while the rest are 60Hz, and it has wireless charging while the rest don’t.
But since the battery life is so good, like I said earlier, I really haven’t missed wireless charging. When you take that away, it’s just the 90Hz screen that’s the main thing you’re missing with the Pixel 5a, and suddenly, it’s easy to give that up when the device is $250 less expensive.