Google released three solid phone options this year in the Pixel 5, Pixel 4a 5G, and Pixel 4a. Since each finds itself in a different category of phone, that has left so many to ask, “Which new Pixel should I buy?” The answer isn’t easy because the prices do vary so greatly, but there are few areas we would look at that could help you decide.
For the most part, it comes down to budget, obviously. But from there, you could get into cameras, battery life, performance or display experience. You could also look to those bonus features, like wireless charging or a headphone jack or the case material used. I know they look quite similar, but we’ve got some differences to work with here.
Let’s try and break this down.
Buy the Pixel 5 if…
…you have the budget, you can’t live with a 60Hz display again, and you really, really need wireless charging.
At $699, the Pixel 5 certainly isn’t the best value in smartphones, but if you only want the Pixel experience, it will provide the best Pixel experience. Over the Pixel 4a 5G, it has wireless charging, a slightly bigger battery, a metal body (that’s encased in plastic), more RAM, and most importantly, a 90Hz display.
The $200 jump in price from the 4a 5G is kind of a tough sell, unless like I just said, you can’t live with a 60Hz display. I happen to fall in that category, where 90hz and 120Hz displays look so good to my eye, that going backwards to the 60Hz days of old almost gives me a headache. I would buy the Pixel 5 for the display alone, while the other differences are nice bonuses.
Of course, the 12.2MP main and 16MP wide-angle camera setup is the same here as it is on the Pixel 4a 5G, as is the processor (Snapdragon 765G). You do get more RAM (8GB vs. 6GB), but generally speaking, the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G are going to provide very similar performance, especially in the camera and while running day-to-day tasks. They happen to have equally impressive battery life as well.
To recap, buy the Pixel 5 if you need a smooth display and might get use out of wireless charging.
Buy the Pixel 4a 5G if…
…your budget tops out at $500 or you don’t need wireless charging or a high refresh rate display, but do like the idea of having a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Yes, we’re now in the area where budget is a factor. At $200 cheaper than the Pixel 5, the Pixel 4a 5G is a very similar phone, but it will feel cheaper in the hand (it’s plastic), the display won’t look as nice as you use it, you don’t have wireless charging, and the battery and RAM are slightly below. Deciding if the $200 difference is worth it is the tough part here.
My thought comes back to the display, as I mentioned above. If you’ve never used a phone with a 90Hz or 120Hz display, you’ll likely think the Pixel 4a 5G’s display is perfectly fine. And if you can handle that, you really do get similar (if not better) battery life, the same 765G processor, and the same cameras, plus there’s a headphone jack, guy who still lives in 2016.
There aren’t many downsides to owning the Pixel 4a 5G instead of the Pixel 5. I will say to avoid Verizon’s $599 model, because with it you are paying an extra $100 just to be able to access their non-existent 5G mmW network. Stick to the $499 model and plug-in those headphones.
Buy the Pixel 4a if…
…your budget is limited or you love small phones. That’s it. Those are the only reasons to consider the Pixel 4a over the Pixel 4a 5G or Pixel 5.
At $349, the Google Pixel 4a is a really nice budget phone, but it doesn’t stand-up well to the Pixel 4a 5G or Pixel 5. Sure, it’s cheaper, but you are missing the extra wide-angle camera, the larger batteries (it still gets solid battery life), and it has a slightly less impressive Snapdragon 730G chip inside.
I don’t think you can go wrong with a Pixel 4a if you are on a tight budget or love its small size (it’s smaller than the 4a 5G and the same size as the Pixel 5), but I would take the extra camera, longer battery life, and bigger display for an extra $150.