Google Pixel 4a review: Fantastic camera phone

Google Pixel 4a review: Fantastic camera phone

Google's new Pixel 4a is undeniably one of the best camera phones in its class and aptly priced for the Indian market.

Recently, Google launched the new Pixel 4a along with Nest Audio smart speaker in India.

The Pixel 4a comes with an incremental hardware upgrade over the predecessor but costs Rs 31,999, much less than the Pixel 3a's launch price of Rs 39,999. This is a good strategy to attract consumers in a price-conscious market such as India.

But, does the new Pixel 4a deliver the goods? Let's check it out.

Design, build quality and display

The raven-hued Pixel 4a looks gorgeous in the sunlight. With a matte finish, there is less worry of the fingerprint smudges on the rear-case and also it offers a really good grip for the fingers to hold on to the phone. 

Add to that, the compact body (144.00 (H) x 69.4mm (W) x 8.2mm (depth) ) and 143g weight make it even more helpful for people with small palms.

It has a popping mint hued power button, which makes a really good phone colourway for eyes. Just below it, Google has incorporated the volume rockers.

On the other side, you will find the SIM tray near the base. It can accommodate one single nano-SIM and if the customer one more, have to subscribe for an e-SIM from any of the available cellular operators in India.

Below, it has two single-grille stereo speakers and they offer decent sound output. And there is a Type-C USB port and a mic in the middle.

On top, Pixel 4a has a 3.5mm audio jack (thank you Google) and a mic. And, on the back, it features a polycarbonate-based shell and a very responsive fingerprint sensor. The latter is aptly placed just above the middle for easy access for the index finger to unlock the phone. The biometric sensor worked flawlessly during the entire week of testing it. Also, there is a big 'G' brand engraving at the base.

Google Pixel 4a. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

On the front, Pixel 4a sports a 5.81-inch full HD+ (1080 x 2340p) OLED-based screen with a transmissive hole, which houses the camera. The latter is really small and rightly placed in the top left corner and it never distracted me while watching any videos or while playing games.

The display has a pixel density of 443 ppi (pixels per inch), 100,000: 1 contrast ratio, has 19.5: 9 aspect ratio and supports HDR content. Though the screen is small compared to the current crop of phones, I still had a delightful time watching videos. Also, I did not face any pressing issue while viewing content on the screen under the direct sunlight. The phone's display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3. 

Google's Pixel 4a comes with 6GB RAM, 128GB storage and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G octa-core processor, which can clock speed up to 2.2Ghz. It is backed by Adreno 618 graphics engine. The device works smoothly in terms of app loading, operating camera, internet browsing, and other day-to-day chores.

However, when using the camera or playing games for an extended time of 20 minutes or more, the phone tends to warm up a bit, particularly beside the camera module. Having said that, it did not over-heat or went beyond my comfort level.

On the Geekbench, the Pixel 4a got decent scores of 528 and 1,484 points on single-core and multi-core tests. 

Asphalt 9 series game played on Google Pixel 4a. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

It houses proprietary Titan M Security Module (2nd Gen), which stores all the sensitive data of the phone in Google-protected Pixel Imprint enclosure and can thwart tampering or illegal modification of the phone's security settings by the hackers. Also, it protects all the passwords stored on the phone.

Right off the box, our Pixel 4a review unit came with Android 10, and once after setting up the phone, Android 11 notification popped up and gleefully downloaded. Installation of the new software was over in a few minutes.

I love stock Vanilla Android in Nokia's phone and even more so with Pixel 4, as Google has full control over the device's hardware and software. A prime example is the photography capabilities(more on that later).

Without any bloatware, the Pixel 4a user-interface is clean and easy to navigate through the phone and the Google Assistant just can do any chore with just voice commands. Be it replying to a friend on messenger or sharing photos on social media, its a walk in the park. 

One of the biggest advantages of owning a Pixel 4 is that Google offers three year Android software support and also get it released quicker than any branded phone-makers.
Google's Pixel 4a also features live transcription for recordings and also on phone calls, which comes in particularly handy for press persons such as me. It makes so much easy for us to get a dial-in interview edited and published faster than ever before.

The Pixel 4a comes with a rather small 3,140mAh battery capacity compared to the rival brands in its class, but rest assured, Google phone can easily last a full day under normal usage, which includes a session of voice/video calls (few minutes a day), small video clips streamed on Wi-Fi, gaming for around 20 minutes, internet browsing, reading news feeds on social media and other day-to-day tasks.

Google Pixel 4a. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

The Pixel 4a boasts Adaptive Battery tech, which can intuitively learn which apps are the user's favourite and reduces power to the ones that the owner rarely use.

Also, there is a Battery Saver feature. Go to Settings >> Battery and users can switch to Battery Saver which extends your battery life and switches to a 'dark mode' for apps such as YouTube, News, Gboard and reduces pings to the network to save the battery.

The device's retail package comes with an 18W Type-C charger and during the test, it was able to fully charge the Pixel 4a from zero to 100% in a little over 75 minutes.

Google Pixel 4a camera's photo sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

On the back, it houses a 12.2 MP dual-pixel camera with 1.4 μm pixel width, support autofocus with dual pixel phase detection, optical & electronic image stabilization, ƒ/1.7 aperture, and offer a 77-degree field of view.

Google Pixel 4a camera's photo sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

The single-camera and features may come off as average, but, make no mistake, this Pixel phone has Google's magic software and succeeds in delivering high-quality photos that put any triple or quad-camera phones to shame.

Google Pixel 4a camera's photo sample with blur effect. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

I love how Google's photography app delivers a variable blur effect. It feels so natural and at no point during the test, photos came off as artificial and also, the edge detection is just impeccable.

Google Pixel 4a camera's photo sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Night Sight is another praiseworthy feature, which I believe, even top-branded phones costing more than Rs 50,000 are yet to achieve such a feat.

Google Pixel 4a camera's photo sample with Night Sight feature on. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

The phone is able to pick the natural colours of the objects even in the pitch darkness is just surreal. Also, it keeps street lights' intensity under check without blowing away the dark night's essence.

Google Pixel 4a camera's photo sample with Night Sight feature on. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Google Pixel 4a camera's photo sample in the night with just the LED flash on. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Even the digital zoom photos and video quality are really good. It can record full HD (1080p) at 30 FPS (Frames Per Second), 60 FPS, 120 FPS, HD (720P) at 30/60/240 fps and 4K at 30 FPS.

Google Pixel 4a's zoom feature at work. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

On the front, it features an 8MP camera with a Fixed focus, 1.12 μm pixel size, ƒ/2.0 aperture, and 84-degree field of view. It takes pretty good selfies in both natural sunlight and low-light conditions.

Google Pixel 4a camera's photo sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

It can also record videos - SD (480p), HD (720p) and full HD (1080p) at 30 FPS.

Google Pixel 4a camera's photo sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Final thoughts:
Like the previous Pixel 3a, the successor too comes with exceptional photography hardware. What's amazing about the Pixel 4a is that despite having just one camera lens, Google has leveraged its top-notch Artificial Intelligence and machine learning tech in the photography application to deliver high-quality images compared to rivals, which come with three and some times four cameras on the back.

If only Google had incorporated an extra wide-angle lens, the Pixel 4a would have definitely given top premium phones, a run for their money.

Also, the intelligent Google Assistant has also got better with the new phone, you can do more such as smart reply, screen call (only in the US and Canada for now), send/share photos on messenger applications faster than ever before.

Google Pixel 4a. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

However, the mid-range Snapdragon 730 chipset shows up the Pixel 4a's shortcomings while playing extreme graphics-rich games. 

Except for the aforementioned aspect, the Pixel 4a is a decent phone for normal usage and camera hardware and software is just remarkably top-class.

Also read | Google Pixel 3a review: Top-notch camera phone

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