The Google Pixel 5a is finally here, and it is quite similar to the Google Pixel 4a 5G that came before it, in both appearance and specifications. There are a few upgrades this time around, but it feels like the slightest upgrade to the last year’s model.
At least the Pixel 5a’s price remained the same as the 4a 5G, and for owners of last year’s Google Pixel 4a (without 5G) – and even more so if you have an older Pixel phone – there’s plenty of reason to pick up the new Pixel 5a. It’s a great mid-range phone at a reasonable price.
This smartphone has the same Snapdragon 765G chipset, 6GB RAM, and 128GB storage as the Pixel 4a 5G, so there’s no advancement in its specs. This phone also has the same cameras as its predecessor: a 12MP main camera and 16MP ultra-wide shooter on the rear, along with an 8MP front-facing camera.
Pixel 5a has a battery capacity (4,680mAh), a 6.34-inch Full HD Plus OLED display, dust, and water-resistant rating (IP67, so your phone will be safe submerged up to one meter of water for 30 minutes).
In short, then, the phone brings few improvements over its predecessor, but it’s still one of the best mid-range devices you can buy. It’s unlikely to impress anyone who’s looking for true innovation, but it’s probable that Google is keeping back the big upgrades for the Tensor chipset-powered Google Pixel 6 coming later this year.
Google Pixel 5a specifications
OS: Android 11
Display: 6.43-inch OLED (2400 x 1080)
CPU: Snapdragon 765G
Storage / Expandable: 128GB / No
Rear cameras: 12.2MP (f/1.7), 16MP (f/2.2) ultrawide
Front camera: 8MP (f/2.0)
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 9:45
5G: Sub-6Ghz, mmWave (US only)
Size: 6.1 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches
Weight: 6.5 ounces
Colors: Mostly Black
Google Pixel 5a price and availability
The $449 Pixel 5a features 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM. It comes in one color option, Mostly Black. You can buy one unlocked from the Google Store and through the Google Fi wireless carrier.
The Pixel 5a is only available in the US and Japan, possibly due to the chip shortage that led to rumors of the phone being outright canceled earlier this year. However, no one knows if Google will expand this smartphone’s availability in the future.
Google Pixel 5a design and display
The build quality of the Pixel 5a feels very solid, and it comes with an IP67 water-resistance rating — a first for A-series Pixel phones. Even though the 5a is a large polycarbonate slab, it has a smooth, soft-touch finish. Unfortunately, that also means it attracts fingerprint oils, which appear prominently on the black plastic. Unlike fingerprints on glass back phones, these oils can be difficult to remove with just your shirt or a microfiber cloth. The rear-mounted capacitive fingerprint sensor is incredibly accurate.
The sound quality of the Pixel 5a is very good, thanks to stereo speakers. The top speaker is nestled in the earpiece, which is a barely noticeable slit above the display. Combined with the bottom-firing speaker, the Pixel 5a can get very loud and punchy. While it lacks the bass and warmness you’d find in a pair of headphones (or higher-quality phones), the 5a has better sound than most other phones in this price range.
Google is pretty proud of the Pixel 5a’s display, calling it the biggest one ever on a bezel-less Pixel, which covers the Pixel 4a, 4a 5G, and 5. At 6.43 inches, the full-HD OLED screen on the Pixel 5a is vibrant and bright. It’s not the most impressive panel we’ve ever seen, but it’s very good all the same, especially at this price.
The Pixel 5a is like most other Android phones out there, in that you can only achieve maximum brightness with Adaptive Brightness enabled. In our testing, the phone reached a 501-nit max, which is surprisingly lower than the Pixel 4a’s 681 nits and the iPhone SE’s 651-nit average.
Google Pixel 5a cameras
The Pixel 5a has the same cameras as the Pixel 4a 5G: a 12.2MP f/1.7 dual-pixel main camera with autofocus and both optical and electronic image stabilization, and a 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera.
There’s no telephoto lens (the main camera is capable of up to 7x digital zoom), but aside from that, the Pixel 5a’s camera setup is as good as its predecessor’s and the rest of the Pixel line, taking shots that have stunning clarity and realistic colors. And thanks to Google’s near-magic photo software, in even complete darkness you can capture decently-lit images without much noise. The Pixel 5a keeps its predecessor’s crown as one of the most affordable phones with a great night camera out there.
There’s also an 8MP selfie camera, which takes fairly detailed photos for a front-facing camera, likely also thanks to Google’s exemplary image software.
Google Pixel 5a performance
The Pixel 5a has respectable specs, headed up by last year’s Snapdragon 765G chipset – although this is the same silicon that powered the Google Pixel 5 and Google Pixel 4a 5G. In other words, it may not rival flagship phones featuring the latest Snapdragon 888 chipset, but with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, you’ll have no trouble browsing, playing games, watching videos, and more.
The phone has sub-6 5G connectivity, and that’s it – unlike some versions of the Pixel 4a 5G, there isn’t any mmWave 5G capability. This won’t affect too many consumers outside the US, and only Verizon and T-Mobile customers would be affected, though they’ll still get higher speeds on each carrier’s sub-6 5G networks anyway – just not the blindingly-fast speeds mmWave is theoretically (but not always practically) capable of.
Google Pixel 5a battery life and charging
One of the most noticeable improvements in the Pixel 5a is its 4,680mAh battery, which has a capacity noticeably higher than the batteries in the Pixel 4a 5G (3,885mAh) and the Pixel 4a (3,140mAh). Larger capacity generally translates to longer battery life, and that’s the case here.
In practice, the Pixel 5a lasted over a day. Gaming or watching media drained the battery at a typical rate for phones – playing a 10-minute match of Wild Rift sapped 4% charge, while a 30-minute Netflix show drained just 3%.
The phone comes with an 18W fast charging adapter in the box, which isn’t especially impressive, recharging 33% in 30 minutes – given the larger capacity this may be less of an issue, but it’s still not the fastest-charging of phones by a long shot. Like its predecessor, the Pixel 5a does not offer wireless charging, let alone reverse wireless charging.
The Pixel 5a is worth strong consideration if you want the Google software and camera experience for a lower price. Despite $449 is a $100 hike from last year’s phone, the Pixel 5a delivers almost everything that the $699 Pixel 5 managed, minus the 90Hz display, for $250 less.