Google Pixel 5a Review: A solid mid-range phone with sensible compromises

Google Pixel 5a Review: A solid mid-range phone with sensible compromises

After what seems like an eternity of rumors, the Google Pixel 5a is official. There really aren’t any surprises here. It packs a Snapdragon 765G chipset, 6GB RAM, 128GB of storage, 12MP and 16MP cameras (f/1.7 + f/2.2 ultra-wide), and it comes with an 18W USB Type-C charger. Aside from a lack of wireless charging and a bit less RAM, it’s pretty much like a larger Pixel 5.

Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 5a side by side

Indeed, that might be exactly what you’re looking for though. Last year with the Pixel 5, Google caught some criticism for not offering an XL model, something it had never done before. And since it used the Snapdragon 765G in the Pixel 5, Pixel 4a 5G, and the Pixel 5a, this device is kind of the Pixel 5 XL you might have wanted. Again, with the exception of wireless charging.


Google Pixel 5a Specs

Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
2.4 GHz + 2.2 GHz + 1.8 GHz, 64-bit Octa-Core
Adreno 620
Titan M Security Module
Body 6.1×2.9×0.3in (156.2×73.2×8.8mm), 183g
Display 6.34 inches, 20:9 aspect ratio, 2,400×1,080, OLED, 413ppi
Memory and storage 6GB LPDDR4x RAM
128GB storage
Rear camera 12.2MP dual-pixel, f/1.7, 1.4μm pixel width, 77-degree field of view, Autofocus with dual-pixel phase detection
16MP ultra-wide, f/2.2, 1.0μm pixel width, 118.7-degree field of view
Front camera 8MP, f/2.0, 1.12μm pixel width, fixed focus, 83-degree field of view
Video recording Rear camera: Up to 4K 60fps
Front camera: 1080p 30fps
Battery 4,680mAh, 18W USB-PD 2.0 fast charging
Color Mostly Black
Material Premium Metal Unibody
Price $449

While the lack of wireless charging is a disappointing compromise, as is the lack of a 90Hz refresh rate, it’s worth remembering that this is a $449 smartphone. The smaller Pixel 5 retails for $699. The Pixel a-series is always all about value, and this device delivers.

Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 5a side by side

The color is called Mostly Black, which put simply, is not black. It’s green, sort of like a forest green. I quite like it, and I’m really pleased to see Google deviate from the standard Just Black and Clearly White. The Sorta Sage color on the Pixel 5 was a hit, and let’s face it. Regular black and white phones are boring.

Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 5a side by side

I’m not entirely sure why it’s called Mostly Black when it’s clearly a deep green, but it can look more black depending on the lighting. It’s really a nice look. It’s subtle but not boring.

On a side note, I really wish Google would drop the names that it seems to think are quirky and cute. Just call a black phone black, and call this device green.

Google Pixel 5 on top of Pixel 5a

The design is mostly the same that we saw on the Pixel 5. It’s got the same camera housing, the fingerprint sensor, and the unibody design. It’s still made out of metal, although you wouldn’t know it by holding it. The power button and the Google logo are matte, rather than mirrored like we saw on the Pixel 5. It’s the kind of changes that you’d expect from the Pixel 5a.

One other thing to note is that the battery is larger on the Pixel 5a at 4,680mAh, rather than 4,080. Combined with the lower refresh rate on the screen, that should lead to much better battery life.

Closeup of hole-punch camera on Pixel 5a

The screen still has a hole-punch cut-out for the 8MP f/2.0 front-facing camera. Indeed, if you just look at the front of the Pixel 5a and its higher-end predecessor, it’s pretty easy to tell that they’re related to each other. The same goes for if you look at the back.

Close up of headphone jack on Google Pixel 5a

The Google Pixel 5a once again has a headphone jack, something that continues to be pushed in the mid-range. Indeed. if you’ve got a flagship Pixel 5, the Mountain View firm expects that you’ll invest in some Pixel Buds. Of course, to go along with the a-series, the company does offer the less expensive Pixel Buds A.

I still find it bothersome when a company puts the headphone jack on the opposite side from the charging port, although Google has always done this. To me, it just makes more sense to put all exposed areas on one side, minimizing the risk of damage. Take it from someone who used to work in a lot of pizzerias in his youth, coming home covered in flour.

Hand holding Mostly Black Google Pixel 5a

It probably goes without saying, but the Pixel 5a does come with 5G support, although only sub-6GHz bands. Most people wouldn’t even notice if it had mmWave support anyway, except for how the device would cost more. Anything in this price range these days is going to come with 5G support though. Google did make a 4G version of the Pixel 4a, and I wouldn’t expect that to happen again.

The first Pixel handset from the a-series was the Pixel 3a, and it came in regular and XL sizes. The selling point from Google was that it was an affordable phone that had flagship features. With features like Now Playing – when the device automatically displays what song is playing on the radio at any time – and the camera single-lens camera as the Pixel 3 proper, the company delivered on that promise. Then came the Pixel 4a and the Pixel 4a 5G.

With the Google Pixel 5a, the company continues to deliver on that promise of offering the Pixel features that we all know and love, but in a more affordable package. The main compromises to get there this time, instead of a lower-end chipset, are wireless charging, the display refresh rate, and including 6GB RAM instead of 8GB. It’s pretty solid, and if you’re spending $449 on a phone, the Pixel 5a seems like a good place to start.

Google Pixel 5a Forums

You can check it out on the Google Store here.

    The Pixel 5a with 5G is Google's latest mid-range Pixel phone, and it packs the biggest battery ever in a Google phone.

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About author

Rich Woods
Rich Woods

Managing Editor for XDA Computing. I've been covering tech from smartphones to PCs since 2013. If you see me at a trade show, come say hi and let me ask you weird questions about why you use the tech you use.

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