Just announced, just tested. Google has finally made official its Pixel 4a, a compact, affordable and yet well-off smartphone. We had the opportunity to test it for several days and share with you all our conclusions regarding the one that is already shaping up to be the iPhone SE killer! Unless its real competitor is the OnePlus North?
With its Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL, Google last year kicked off the marketing of a more affordable version of its range of smartphones. It is true that at more than 850 €, we thought twice before acquiring a Pixel 3, especially since the device did not really benefit from the latest technological innovations against the competition, except of the photo part. So Google had to find an alternative for smaller budgets, and that’s where the Pixel 3a and 3a XL appeared. If the two devices did not have all the strengths of their big brothers, they nevertheless had a better autonomy and mainly displayed at a much sweeter price.
In this summer of 2020, Google does it again and therefore releases a Pixel 4a, light version of the Pixel 4 marketed last October. However, this time, no XL model on the horizon: fans of large smartphones will therefore have to fall back on the Pixel 3a XL released last year or on a competing model.
With the Pixel 4a, Google is therefore playing its game on the compactness and one hyper aggressive price. But are these its only strengths, or does the device have other good surprises in store? What about photography, an area where Google is good at? Is the performance of the SoC better than that of the Pixel 3a, a point that left us unmoved? And what about the autonomy of the device? We have tested the Pixel 4a for several days and here we offer you our full review on Google’s new super affordable smartphone.
Google Pixel 4a datasheet
|Dimensions||144 x 69.4 x 8.2 mm|
1080 × 2340 pixels, 443 ppi
|Chipset||Snapdragon 730G (8 nm)|
|Rear sensor||12.2 MP, 1.4µm, f / 1.7|
|Front sensor||8 MP, 1.12 μm, f / 2.0|
|Biometrics||Impression scanner on the back|
Price and availability
The price of 349 € the Pixel 4a makes it one of the most affordable mid-range smartphones out there today. The device can only be accessed in one color (black) and one storage capacity (128 GB). No variant is currently considered.
While the Pixel 3a was released in the spring of 2019, the 4a is, this year, marketed in offset. The smartphone was announced on August 3, 2020, but won’t be available right away. It will take wait until September 10 to pre-order it, deliveries being scheduled from October 1st. The device can be purchased from the Google Store (it goes without saying), but also from e-merchants such as Boulanger and Fnac-Darty. It is also possible to find it at the operators Orange, SFR and Bouygues.
A simple, compact and critic-proof design
When you take the device out of its box for the first time, you are surprised by its small size and low weight. With its 5.83 ″ screen and 143 grams on the scale, the Pixel 4a is a smartphone that will appeal to fans of truly compact models. If its screen is slightly larger than that of the Pixel 3a, which was 5.6 ″, the device nevertheless benefits from a smaller size: we go from a height of 16.01 cm for the Pixel 3a to 14, Only 4 cm in the case of the Pixel 4a. Width and thickness are substantially the same.
One of the main changes to this model is on the front: Google has opted for a selfie sensor placed in a notch. A real little “revolution” for the Mountain View company, since even the Pixel 4 and 4 XL still benefited from a wide black band intended to accommodate the photo sensor and the speaker (we nevertheless remember the large notch central part of the Pixel 3 XL). This time, Google has decided to place the photo module in a small punch located at the top right of the device, while the speaker is placed on the edge of the screen. Note in passing that the little trick that allowed the Pixel 3 XL to “hide” the notch with a black strip is not available on this model.
Consequently, we gain in comfort and in display area. Which is why the screen size is larger on the Pixel 4a compared to the 3a, while its dimensions are smaller. Of course, purists will say that the “hole” in the screen is not ideal for watching a movie or series. In fact, there are very few programs that actually play in the screen ratio offered by the Pixel 4a, so black bands are usually displayed on the left as well as on the right. Black bands which therefore cover the punch and make it difficult to perceive.
On the right side, we find the same power and sound adjustment buttons as on the Pixel 3a and 4. Only the power button is a different color compared to the rest of the device, which allows to spot it easily in the dark. Otherwise, the device is dressed all in black. Fans of wired connection will approve of the presence of a jack, located as it should be at the top of the smartphone.
At the rear, there is also a fingerprint sensor, located as on the Pixel 3a on the upper part of the device and 1.5 cm away from the photo sensor. Despite its small size, the sensor is perfectly accessible and reacts quickly. Of course, Google could have definitely done away with this back-end sensor and opted for a system placed under the screen, like the competition. But that would likely have resulted in an increase in the price of the device, even if we find this kind of technology on the OnePlus Nord, which is only worth 50 euros more than the Pixel 4a.
Also at the rear, we note the presence of a photo module placed in a square module 1.7 cm on the side and with rounded edges. Another change, since the Pixel 3a’s photo sensor was simply housed in a small circular space. Here, this design change is reminiscent of the Pixel 4’s module, except that there is only one photo sensor.
Ultimately, the Pixel 4a really has everything to win the hearts of those who need a discreet, light device that fits in a small pocket, which can be easily used with one hand while walking or in transport. in common.
Balanced power and autonomy
Served by a Snapdragon 730G, the Pixel 4a ultimately delivers truly satisfying shooting power for a mid-range smartphone. Certainly, some will criticize Google for having overlooked an even more powerful SoC (still the midrange category), such as the Snapdragon 765G. It is this model that equips the OnePlus Nord, Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite and Motorola Edge in particular. But the price of the Pixel 4a would certainly have been revised accordingly.
This does not prevent Google’s smartphone from enjoying more than respectable performance. At this level, no real surprises, since we had already experienced the performance of the 730G with the Mi Note 10 from Xiaomi, for example.
We get 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage space. As is the tradition at Google, and it is rather a shame, it is not possible to expand the storage capacity. The only available slot of the device is intended to accommodate the SIM card, period. On the other hand, we see that the storage space has doubled compared to the Pixel 3a released last year and that the device has gained 2 GB of RAM in the process … Which is not so bad in the end. .
And what about the autonomy of the device? While the Pixels 3 and 4 both suffer from a very bad reputation for battery life, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL did not last year. As if Google knows how to manage the autonomy of smartphones with a mid-range SoC, but not those with a high-end processor. You can also rely on the resources required by the photo software: the Pixel 3 and 4 offer better shots than the Pixel 3a, but require more processing.
Anyway, beware of the drum roll… The battery life of the Pixel 4a frankly did not disappoint us again! As we do with all the smartphones we test, we have experienced the 3140 mAh battery management under different conditions: 1 h / d of streaming video playback, 1 h / d of music listening always streaming, 1 h / d of video games, 1 h / d of GPS use, 1 h / d of telephony, and of course excessive web consultation, chat on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, etc. Small clarification: if the phone is not used during the night (about 7 or 8 hours), it remains in standby mode and is not completely switched off. And we repeated the experiment a second time, in order to validate our first phase of testing.
Under such conditions, the Pixel 4a holds up for almost two days in a row. A good performance when you take into account the modest energy capacity of the 3140 mAh battery. For comparison, the Pixel 4 XL hardly takes a day and a half, while the Pixel 4 struggles to reach the full day.
A beautiful display, audio quality a little behind
With its OLED screen and its density of 443 ppi, the Pixel 4a benefits from a definition of 1080 x 2340 pixels,. The image is crisp and clear, the colors are neither too flashy nor too dull. In short, the smartphone screen is doing very well. Note, however, that the brightness of the device in direct sunlight is not crazy and that it will be necessary to find a point of shadow to really distinguish what is happening on the screen.
Despite the presence of two small speakers, the audio reproduction is below expectations. You really have to push the volume up to almost 50% to really hear the spoken directions from Google Maps, for example. But be careful not to boost the audio level of the device too much at the risk of saturating the device. This is what we saw while streaming content on Deezer.
Another point that deserves to be improved: the restitution of calls. We have found on several occasions that, if the interlocutor perceives us very clearly (the microphone is therefore not to be questioned), we sometimes had trouble “picking up” the conversation for a few microseconds. Nothing really annoying, but we would still have appreciated that Google looked at this point, especially since this is the first time that we have seen such a problem on a Google smartphone. It is now hoped that this is more of a software issue than a hardware issue and that a small OTA update will resolve it before it goes to market.
Photo & video
Now let’s take a look at the photo part of the device. At the rear, there is a single 12.2 MP (ƒ / 1.7 aperture) sensor, while at the front, an 8 MP (ƒ / 2.0 aperture) module captures the selfies. . The Pixel 4a’s camera equipment is therefore extremely scarce in number, at a time when it is not uncommon to find 3, 4 or even 5 back sensors, and sometimes 2 front sensors. As a result, it is not possible to take ultra-wide-angle, macro mode, or optical zoom photos. The processing is done in digital and the zoom does not go beyond 7x.
Despite the unique rear photo sensor, the Pixel 4a is a smartphone that has it all. The color reproduction is frankly excellent, whatever the weather conditions. However, we found that the device sometimes had a bit of trouble bringing out the darker areas of a shot, as shown in the photo below (the booksellers’ book box on the right struggles to come out ).
In low light, the device does quite well here too. You might as well say it right away: the rendering quality in low light is ultimately very close to what you can get on a classic Pixel!
During our different shooting phases, we noticed a slight overheating coming from the back of the camera: as soon as each shot benefits from a little a posteriori processing, the processor is used more than with a smartphone with several sensors (like an S20 or P40, for example). Nothing unusual about that, but the Snapdragon 730G shows its limits here.
On the capture side, the device is capable of filming in 4K at 30 FPS, 1080p at 120 FPS or 720p at 240 FPS via its rear sensor. The software stabilizer fulfills its role correctly: even during a small freehand traveling, the image remains unstable and does not suffer jerks, as we have unfortunately seen with smartphones that are nevertheless high-end and therefore significantly more expensive.
Android 10 in control while waiting for version 11
It’s no surprise, it’s a “pure” version of Android 10 found on the device, with the operating system here accompanied by Google’s famous Pixel Launcher. And of course, it is possible to preview the latest beta of Android 11, before it is fully finalized. For our testing purposes, we did it in two stages: We used Android 10 for the first few days, and then we migrated the device to the Android 11 beta two days before this article was published. On this subject, do not hesitate to take a look at our little tutorial on how to migrate to Android 11.
Google having stopped production of the Pixel 3a and 3a XL in early July, it was time for the Pixel 4a to show up. Remember that when they were released, the Pixel 3a was worth 399 euros. With this new model, Google has therefore reduced the bill by 50 euros, while offering its smartphone a more powerful SoC, more RAM and storage space, as well as a larger display (thanks for the punch!). The quality of the photo is always there, there is absolutely nothing to complain about. In short, you will understand, this light version of the Pixel 4 really seduced us … Maybe even more than its big sister!