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The cameras on the Pixel 4a with 5G (left) and the Pixel 5 (right).

Which 5G Pixel is best: Pixel 4a with 5G vs Pixel 5

There are two 5G Google Pixel phones this year, and each come in at a different price point, so which 2020 Pixel is best for you?

While it’s normal to expect two new Pixels each year, Google made things a little bit different in 2020. Granted, the year has been a little crazy overall — thanks coronavirus — but Google has added to the craziness with something a touch unexpected: two very similar phones at slightly different price points.

Armed with almost identical specs in different casings, the Pixel 4a with 5G and the Pixel 5 are very much the same phone with a few different features. They’re both 5G. They both have 128GB storage with no way of expanding on things. They both have two cameras.

Comparing the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a with 5G side-by-side, it’s pretty clear they share a lot of similarities, and while the Pixel 5 is easily the more obvious flagship, they still might surprise you in which is better for you.

Which do we think is the better Pixel in 2020: the Pixel 4a with 5G or the Pixel 5?


Google Pixel 5 (left) vs Google Pixel 4a with 5G (right)
Google Pixel 5 (left) vs Google Pixel 4a with 5G (right)

Let’s start with design, because both are similar, albeit with a shift in material. It’s hard to call for one over the other in design, as beyond the material, there’s really nothing different here.

Both the Pixel 4a with 5G and the Pixel 5 offer a simple design with a volume and power buttons, and both are relatively slim at 8.2mm and 8mm, respectively.

There’s not a lot of difference in design here, beyond the materials, which are plastic and glass for the Pixel 4a with 5G, while aluminium and glass are the materials of choice for the Pixel 5. We’ll typically prefer the premium feel of metal and glass over plastic and glass, so this one goes to the Pixel 5.

Winner: Google Pixel 5

Build and durability

And unsurprisingly, aluminium and glass offers a better build for the Pixel 5, too.

It’s not that plastic and glass is a bad combination — it’s not, and the Pixel 4a 5G is pleasant to touch and hold — but the Pixel 5’s aluminium is a little stronger, plus it’s also water resistant, something the Pixel 4a 5G misses out on.

It shouldn’t surprise you that one of the Pixel 5’s premium features is water resistance, which helps it secure the win in this category.

Winner: Google Pixel 5


The USB Type C port on the Pixel 5

However the Pixel 5 may not win every category.

These days, it’s not unusual to expect no 3.5mm headset jack, with that typically lost to the Type C port on Android phones or the Lightning port on Apple’s.

But the Pixel 4a with 5G keeps it in the design, offering both Type C and 3.5mm for headphones and headsets.

That’s a big win for us. Not that we’re not over the loss of headphone ports — it’s not a huge issue altogether — but if you have a great pair of headphones, you can plug them right in with the Pixel 4a with 5G, rather than rely on a Type C to 3.5mm converter, which is a nice thing for the phone to have, for sure.

Winner: Google Pixel 4a with 5G


Another one that feels like it might be an obvious win, but only barely, is that of specs, with the Pixel 5 just barely edging out its sibling in this category. Not that you’d ever realise it.

Both the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 come with almost identical specs, offering the eight-core Snapdragon 765G and 128GB storage, the latter of which cannot be upgraded.

Where they differ, only marginally, is the amount of memory, with the Pixel 4a with 5G offering 6GB, while the Pixel 5 gets 8GB RAM. The Pixel 5 also gets wireless charging, which is also a spec above what 4a equivalent of a 5G phone receives, so this one is won by the Pixel 5, but only barely.

Winner: Google Pixel 5

Google Pixel 5


Armed with almost identical specs in a slightly different design, you might expect the Pixel 5 to pull ahead of its Pixel 4a with 5G sibling in performance because of the extra memory.

And you’d be wrong.

Even though the Pixel 5 is technically the faster phone, the Pixel 4a 5G handles itself just as well, delivering solid performance with little to no lag overall.

Performance is one category we think both are on par with, and so there’s no clear winner here.

Winner: Tie


Holding the Pixel 5

That’s distinct to the display, where there is clearly a winner because of the tech involved.

While both the Pixel 4a 5G and 5G Pixel 5 get a Full HD+ screen of around 6 inches (6.2 inches for the 4a, 6 for the Pixel 5), only the Pixel 5 gets a 90Hz display, a faster screen technology that can allow for smoother animations and better response in games.

It’s a very small feature, and not even the best in the industry, with faster 120Hz panels on offer from other phones, while Google sticks with the 90Hz option used last in the Pixel 4 XL and the Pixel 4 last year.

A small improvement as it is, it’s enough to win the display category in our Pixel 5 vs Pixel 4a with 5G fight, but only barely.

Winner: Google Pixel 5


The cameras on the Pixel 4a with 5G (left) and the Pixel 5 (right).
The cameras on the Pixel 4a with 5G (left) and the Pixel 5 (right).

But this category might be harder for the Pixel 5 to win, and that’s because of one very obvious point: the cameras in the Pixel 5 are identical to the cameras in the Pixel 4a with 5G.

It might seem crazy, but that’s one of Google’s most interesting points this year: both 5G Pixel phones share the same standard and ultra-wide cameras, and the same front-facing cameras.

That makes both of the 5G Pixel phones pretty damn capable this year, delivering impressive daylight, solid night-time, and some excellent portrait imagery across the board. They’re excellent cameras across both models, and easily one of the best features, but because they’re also the same, as the Black Knight says, “we’ll call it a draw”.

A combination of images above, with the first two from the Pixel 4a with 5G, while the latter two are from the Pixel 5. Both are excellent, which should be hardly surprising: the cameras are the same across both phones, so they’re delivering solid results across both.

Winner: Tie

Mobile connection

Pixel 5 5G tests

Likewise, we’ll end up calling the mobile connection side of things a bit of a draw, because both the Pixel 4a with 5G and Pixel 5 use a 5G modem, which in Australia works on the Sub-6 part of the market.

It would clearly be a different matter if we were comparing the 4G Pixel 4a with the Pixel 4a with 5G, but this is a 5G vs 5G test, and no obvious choice over the other.

Simply put, there’s no clear winner over the other in this category, and both deliver much the same 5G performance, with the rest handled by the telco. Provided you’re in reach of a 5G connection, you should see some blazingly fast 5G speeds regardless of whether you’re using the Pixel 5 or the Pixel 4a with 5G.

Winner: Tie


But while they share a 5G connection, they don’t have the same battery life.

Throughout our Pixel 5 review, we found that phone’s 4080mAh could hit over 24 hours, but would likely need to be charged nightly, while our Pixel 4a 5G review found that model’s 3800mAh could hit a full two days, though would more likely hit a day and a half for most.

We suspect the reasoning may come back to the difference in screen, with the Pixel 4a with 5G missing out on that 90Hz screen, which may keep that battery on the 4a handling things a little better.

That’s a win for the 4a with 5G.

Winner: Google Pixel 4a with 5G


It’s also a win on value for the 4a, which delivers a very similar phone for a slightly less expensive price.

While neither model is what we’d describe as “expensive”, particularly when mobiles are pushing past the thousand dollar mark easily these days, the $799 Pixel 4a with 5G is $200 more affordable than the $999 Pixel 5, and that’s no small cost.

For that $200 saving, you miss out on wireless charging, water resistance, the 90Hz screen, and an aluminium body… and that’s it. In the process, you gain a 3.5mm headphone jack and a better battery life, plus a good $200 still in your wallet.

Frankly, we’ll call the value argument for the Pixel 4a with 5G. Easily. This phone is a much better value overall.

Winner: Google Pixel 4a with 5G

What should I choose: Pixel 4a 5G or Pixel 5?

After having reviewed both, we not only know which one is best, but also which we prefer, and bizarrely, the two aren’t the same.

The Google Pixel 5 is clearly the better phone, taking more victories in our Pixel head-to-head, but we actually might like the Google Pixel 4a with 5G more. There’s just more to like and appreciate about saving money for what is arguably the same phone, and one that delivers most of the Pixel 5 experience without the same price tag.

That last category — value — drives much of the feeling here, and while we would love water resistance and wireless charging, and noted these as the features missing from both the 4G Pixel 4a and the 5G Pixel 4a with 5G, for the price you’re getting the 4a models at, frankly it’s not a concern.

In the 5G Pixel 4a, Google has hit a value that’s hard to argue against. That’s a win few can complain about, and makes for a very compelling Pixel proposition.

While there is one clear winner in which 2020 Pixel is better, we actually suggest the less exy Pixel — the $799 Pixel 4a with 5G, because it’s more or less the same, but for less money. Both are fantastic and easy recommendations, but value is hard to argue with, especially as phones hit higher price points lately. That’s a big win, and makes the Pixel 4a with 5G our recommendation of the two.

Pixel 4a with 5G reviewed

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