Tech reviews

Google Pixel 4a: Australian First Look Review

This week the long-awaited Google Pixel 4a was finally announced. I’ve spent about a day with it now and have some initial review thoughts.

Google Pixel 4a changes the mid-range narrative, again.

Last year’s Google Pixel 3a was a sensation. I’ve said this over and over again but it’s still true – it rocked the phone market. The Pixel 3a offered beefy specs and a gorgeous camera for just $649. It completely changed what customers should expect at that price point.

And other brands quickly followed suit. Within a few months Huawei and Oppo brought out mid-range versions of their flagships at around the same price.

Things got even more serious earlier when Apple followed suit with its new iPhone SE which largely did the same thing – offered great specs in a little body at a damn fine price.

In a world where ‘mid-range’ increasingly means $1,000 (as we recently saw with the LG Velvet and Motorola Edge) phones like the iPhone SE and Google Pixel 3a are important. They call bullshit on this trend.

Now the Pixel 4a is here to do the same and so far it’s making its predecessor proud.

Google Pixel 4a Specs

Pixel 4a
I love you. Image: Tegan Jones

Before I dive into my first look, let’s quickly recap the key specs of the Google Pixel 4a.

  • Display: 5.81-inch OLED 1080×2340 display with 60Hz refresh rate
  • Processor: Snapdragon 730
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Rear Camera: 12.2MP
  • Front Camera: 8MP
  • Battery: 3,140mAh with 18W fast charging
  • LTE: 4G
  • Colours: Just Black

These are some nice numbers, and most are an upgrade from the Pixel 3a. We’re seeing more RAM, double the storage capacity, a larger processor and a chunkier battery.

While there is no 5G included at the moment, a Pixel 4a 5G variant will be coming out around the same time as the Pixel 5, so stay tuned for that.

There’s also some new software goodies — gesture navigation, adaptive battery, the recorder app, smart copy paste and some new safety features.

Now, let’s crack into some day 1 impressions. Keep in mind I’ve only had this thing for about 24-hours — so I can’t accurately comment on things like battery life, which needs more lived experience. Don’t worry, I’ll have a full review up next week. But for now, here’s what I think.

Google Pixel 4a camera

Just like last year, the stand  out for me is the camera. On the hardware front it has the same 12.2MP rear and 8MP front set up as the Pixel 4. It also has some of the same powerful software inclusions, such as Night Sight, Time Lapse and astrophotography mode. I tried the latter last year on the Pixel 4 and its spectacular.

pixel 4a review
Please enjoy these colour balanced flowers. Image: Tegan Jones

While you won’t get the same outcome as a $2,000 camera, the Pixel 4a results are very impressive.

The portrait mode on the rear and selfie cameras are lovely as ever — even when it’s dealing with my face. And as with previous generations there’s built-in editing software if you want to tinker a little. I’ve left my shots as is, though.

Portrait mode with the seldie cam. Image: Tegan Jones

When it comes to low light, there is a little fuzz in particularly darker settings. But again, considering the price point I’m happy with the outcome. For $599 I don’t expect it to be able to see in the dark like last year’s Huawei P30 Pro or even the more recent Samsung and Apple devices.

Portrait mode with the front-facing camera. Image: Tegan Jones

While shooting regular point-and-click shots I’ve found the Pixel 3a to be warm and vibrant. But importantly, it doesn’t over expose or over saturate the colours.

pixel 4a review
Obligatory food shot. mage: Tegan Jones

I’m looking forward to spending some more time with the camera and getting some comparison shots with the iPhone SE. But for now, I think the Pixel 4a is pretty much on par with the Pixel 4, which is an outstanding outcome.

Impressive low light. Image: Tegan Jones

No Water Resistance

Unfortunately, just like last year, there is no water resistance for the Pixel 4a. This is a point against it for me due to my lifestyle. I’m clumsy, go on a lot of coastal hikes and take too many baths. I need that IP68 rating.

That being said, this isn’t exactly surprising for a $599 phone. If you’re interested in how rugged the Pixel range can be though, we’ve talked about it before.

Great Design

Something I love about the iPhone SE, Pixel 3a and now the Pixel 4a are their sizes. I’m getting tired of huge phones that won’t fit comfortably into my back pocket or small hands. Not everyone wants phone that borders on being a tablet.

And despite being wrapped in plastic the 4a doesn’t feel cheap. It’s lovely to touch, not to mention comfortable (thank you smol boi handset) and extremely light.

I switched back to my iPhone 11 Pro Max (which I have in a wallet case) at lunch today and noticed the difference immediately. The Pixel 4a really made me realise how heavy my daily driver is. Ouch.

No wireless charging

Another minus for me is the lack of wireless charging. This is something I never used to care much about, but have become accustomed to over the last couple of years.

But again, this feature is very much gravy when it comes to phones. It’s not standard on every device yet and certainly not those in this price bracket. The only reason I mention it at all is because it’s super hard to find downsides to this phone.

And on the plus side, it has fast charge which is awesome.

Google Pixel 4a price

pixel 4a
I used to hate the colour pop on Google Pixel devices, but I gotta admit the mint looks hot. Image: Tegan Jones

As a Pixel 3a stan I didn’t expect to be shocked by anything the Pixel 4a threw at me. But then I saw the price tag. Generally prices go up year on year and I expected a $699 price point this time around. Instead, Google dropped the price by $50.

$599 is a stupidly good deal for a phone of this calibre. Considering the hardware, camera, software bumps and first-in-line Android updates first – this in an incredible buy.

You won’t get all the bells and whistles of a $2,000+ device but I don’t care. I get to try a lot of phones and none of them have nestled into my tech-loving heart in the same way as the Pixel 3a, until now.

I still need to spend more time with it to see how it performs on the daily, particularly when it comes to battery life and processing power. But in the meantime, I’m impressed.





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