Google Pixel 5a Review: Boring, But Better Than Ever

GoogleGoogle is revealing a phone this year where rumors say it will be cutting edge and a bold new look.

However in this review, we will concentrate on the new Pixel 5A, this new update does not bring an extraordinary change though it does improve many features. The screen is a bit bigger, there’s an IP rating for water resistance, and the battery gets a decent boost. That’s more or less all the changes done.

The Pixel 4A and 4A 5G were really good midrange phones, Google didn’t want to mess with this formula so they made strategic tweaks to keep the 5A at the top of its category, and even better, the 5A will cost USD 449, which is USD 50 less than the 4A 5G’s introductory price.

The GoodThe Bad
IP67 water resistance ratingLimited availability
Much improved battery lifeGood but not class-leading support policy
The camera is still at the top of the classLacks software-level C-band 5G support

The Pixel 5A is a good device but it’s not exactly a game-changer. Their security support policy is not the best. It misses software-level support for C-band 5G frequencies that US carriers will use in the next few years and to op that it is being released only in the US and Japan.

On the positive side, Google has managed to address some of the weak points in its previous A-series models while also bringing the price down.


The Pixel 5A uses a 6.34-inch 1080p OLED screen, which is a bit bigger than its predecessor. That’s not much at all, especially when compared to the 6.5-inch-and-beyond screens that are common on budget Android phones. It has a standard 60Hz refresh rate, so the scrolling experience is not as fast as in 90 or 120Hz rates devices. 

At least is a good quality screen — the OLED technology delivers rich contrast, and it’s bright enough to be viewable outside in the direct sun without too much effort. There’s no change to the processing or memory specs from the 4A 5G: the Pixel 5A they all use the same Snapdragon 765G chipset with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Apps do open very quick without any significant delays.

Complex image processing tasks are also carried out in a second or two, and that happens in the background so you users can keep taking portrait mode photos without having to wait for every frame to finish the processing. 

The Pixel 5A gets a 4,680mAh cell compared to the 4A 5G’s 3,885mAh. That’s much closer to the 5,000mAh batteries that are common among the competition. For Google, they are considered an  “all-day” performance, with up to 48 hours if the user turns on extreme battery saver.

The Pixel 5A includes IP67 dust and waterproof rating, meaning it can be submerged in about three feet of water for up to 30 minutes. This IP rating is rare in the $500-and-under bracket outside of the Samsung A52 5G and iPhone SE, so this is one area where the 5A rises to the top of the class.

On the front side, there’s Gorilla Glass 3 for screen protection and underneath, the phone’s outer plastic shell is a metal unibody. 

There is only one color option this year and it’s black. 

The 5A OS is Android 11 and is backed by Google’s three-year OS and security update policy. That’s a longer shelf life than most all the other budget phones, except for Samsung that just recently started offering four years of security updates, and Apple will offer its latest OS upgrade to the six-year-old iPhone 6S this fall.

The device will have 5G connectivity supporting sub-6GHz 5G on all of the major US carriers, and unlike the 4A 5G, won’t be sold in a mmWave-compatible variant. The Pixel 5A has the hardware support and FCC certification to use C-band, but Google did not enable the software-level support for these frequencies and it doesn’t seem it will change any soon. 

We can find many budget and midrange phones on sale right now that fully support C-band, starting as low as the USD 279 Galaxy A32, so, oddly, Google won’t commit to supporting it. 

The 5A camera doesn’t look exciting, but it adds up to much more than the sum of its specs. The 12.2-megapixel main rear camera includes optical image stabilization, which is hard to find on devices under USD 500. This kind of lens-based stabilization helps to ensure that pictures will stay sharp, which is especially handy in dimmer light conditions.

That camera is accompanied by a 16-megapixel ultrawide, and there’s an 8-megapixel selfie camera. 

If those specs sound familiar, that’s because it’s the same hardware like the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4A 5G. Even without new sensors or lenses, the 5A still offers probably the best photo quality in the midrange class, and that is thanks to Google’s smart image processing. Plenty of Pixel 5A’s competitors can take good photos in bright outdoor light, but Google is still the low light champion in the budget class.

Unsurprisingly, what was true of the 4A and 5’s image capabilities is also true of the 5A. It handles high contrast scenes well, and colors are rendered a little more naturally than you’ll get from a Samsung phone. Portrait and night mode photos are among the best you can get from a midrange phone. 

You can find devices with flashier standout features than the Google Pixel 5A. For example, the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G features a big 6.5-inch screen with a 120Hz refresh rate and Motorola Moto G Stylus includes a huge display and (of course) a stylus.

However. the Pixel 5A is just a good all-arounder with a great UI, speedy, fast software updates, and all of the basics covered at a reasonable price. The 4A 5G was a good phone, and the 5A’s made some very smart improvements like waterproofing and a bigger battery.

Unfortunately, the Pixel 5A will have a limited release, both in terms of countries where it will be available and where it will (and won’t) be sold in the US, it seems likely to become a very boring, very good phone that I think a lot of people would like.

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