It is far from being a flagship, but this does not prevent it from claiming the title of one of the most interesting smartphones of 2021.Google smartphones are not officially sold in Russia, but they can always be purchased through intermediaries or dealers. Yes, it’s harder and more expensive than ordering Xiaomi from AliExpress, but in the case of the Pixel 5a 5G, all the effort is worth it.
Why the new product is so cool and why you should pay close attention to it – we will tell you in this review.
Table of contents
- Design and ergonomics
|Display||OLED HDR, 6.34 inches, 2,400 x 1,080 pixels, 60 Hz, Corning Gorilla Glass 3|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G (7nm)|
|Memory||6 GB of RAM + 128 GB of user|
|Cameras||Main: main – 12.2 Mp, f / 1.7, 1.4 microns, PDAF and OIS; wide-angle – 16 MP, f / 2.2, 119 °
Front: 8 MP, f / 2.0
|Communications||5G (SA / NSA / Sub6), Wi-Fi 802.11 a / b / g / n / ac (2.4 and 5 GHz), Bluetooth 5.0 LE|
|Battery||4,680 mAh, 18W wired charging (USB Type-C 3.1)|
|Dimensions (edit)||154.9 x 73.7 x 7.6 mm|
|The weight||183 g|
|Additionally||IP67 water resistant, stereo speakers, 3.5mm jack, fingerprint reader, NFC|
Design and ergonomics
Pixel 5a 5G inherited the design of its older brother – Pixel 5. The novelty has the same aluminum case with water resistance (IP67) and a pleasant-to-touch matte coating. Tactilely, it can be confused with plastic, but the chill characteristic of metal will not let you fool yourself. Fingerprints and greasy streaks are noticeable on such a surface, but they are quite easy to erase.
Photo: Victor Podvolotsky / Lifehacker
The smartphone does not have a familiar frame. The back surface of the case smoothly flows into the ends, which excludes the appearance of cracks or the accumulation of dust at the joints – they simply do not exist.
The main camera module is very small by modern standards and almost does not protrude. Just below it is a round fingerprint scanner. It works very accurately and quickly.
The Pixel 5a 5G has a 3.5mm audio jack on the top, a USB-C port and two grilles on the bottom. A speaker is located under one of them. The second, forming a stereo pair with it, is combined with the voice one and is located above the display. The SIM card tray is located on the left just below the center.
The smartphone comes out only in black, which has a barely noticeable greenish tint. It’s officially called Mostly Black, or “mostly black.” The only highlight in color is the power button on the right. It is light green, its surface is ribbed. Such accents have already become a tradition for Google smartphones.
The button, however, turned out to be not very convenient. If the smartphone is in the right hand, then you cannot reach it with your thumb without intercepting it. In addition, it has a minimal and at the same time tight stroke, so it takes a little more effort to press it than usual. It would be more convenient if this button was recessed and located in the place of the volume rocker, that is, somewhere in the center of the side edge, as, for example, in the Honor 20 Pro .
Overall, the Pixel 5a 5G is very thin, narrow and lightweight. To some, this will seem a big plus, but after the devices are larger, it will not be easy to get used to the dimensions of this Google smartphone. Every now and then you want to wrap it up in a cover to make the body more grippy.
By the way, there is no cover in the kit, but separately for this Google model sellsbranded silicone cases in four original colors. There are no fabric options that are traditional for the Pixel this time, but AliExpress has not been canceled either.
The Pixel 5a 5G smartphone features a 6.34-inch OLED display with a resolution of 2400 × 1080 pixels and HDR support. The standard refresh rate is 60 Hz. The manufacturer probably abandoned the smoother picture for the sake of autonomy and a lower price.
In terms of colors, the screen is excellent, with a rich palette of shades, high contrast and real black for all lovers of dark interface themes.In the color rendition settings, you don’t really roam – you can choose only one of two profiles: natural colors or bright ones, which we installed.
There is also an adaptive adjustment, which is not always fast, and an eye protection filter that gives the image a yellowish tint.The screen backlight setting can also be set to adaptive mode, and this must be done if the smartphone is used in the sun. The thing is that in manual mode, the brightness ceiling is about 500 nits, and in automatic mode it can exceed 800 nits.The Pixel 5a 5G’s display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 – far from being the most durable, although with an excellent oleophobic coating.
The stereo speakers of the smartphone are quite loud and almost do not distort the sound even at maximum values. Listening to podcasts or YouTube videos where the emphasis is on the voice is very enjoyable. Speakers are also suitable for music, but a Bluetooth speaker, even an inexpensive one, cannot be replaced by a smartphone.
Of the settings in the system, only the “Adaptive sound” switch is provided. In theory, this parameter allows you to automatically adjust the equalizer taking into account the noise in the room. But in practice, what’s with him, what’s without him – it’s very difficult to catch the difference.
The smartphone is equipped with 6GB of RAM and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor, which is manufactured using a 7nm process technology. This is the same chip found in the Pixel 5. It includes eight cores and Adreno 620 graphics.
There is enough filling for all day to day use scenarios. There were no lags or slowdowns with a bunch of running online services and instant messengers. And this is the merit not only of the processor itself, but also of excellent OS optimization, traditional for Google.
During testing, the smartphone made us wait only in one scenario – when processing a photo after shooting. And we are talking about standard post-processing, which has always been the strong point of all Pixel smartphones. It uses many different algorithms and allows you to pull even frames that are taken in very difficult conditions. Therefore, a couple of seconds of waiting after the shutter is released can be forgiven.
For games, a smartphone is also quite suitable, but in heavy online shooters you will have to be content with not the highest graphics settings. The heating of the case in such scenarios is noticeable, but does not reach critical values.
The device heats up much more when recording video. If you shoot in 4K at 60 frames, then after about five minutes the smartphone will ask for a break to cool down. Google alreadytrying to solve this problem.
The Pixel 5a has only 128GB of internal storage. There is no microSD slot, as well as unlimited cloud storage for photos – Google no longer provides it.
At the time of this writing, Android 12 has not yet been released, so we tested a smartphone with Android 11. And it was a very enjoyable experience. The clean version of the system is as simple as possible, understandable and easy to use. It is not overloaded with unnecessary options, utilities and add-ons.
Initially, the smartphone offers to control the OS using gesture navigation, when for the “back” action you just need to swipe to the side from the left or right edge of the screen. If you don’t like this method on Xiaomi or Samsung, then the Pixel smartphone should still be given a chance. The controls are very responsive.
All installed applications are displayed by default in a menu that opens with a swipe up on the desktop. There is also a universal Google search with a button for the Lens service. The latter allows you to recognize objects in a photo or directly through a smartphone camera. This is very convenient if you want to find a thing on the Internet that you have once seen, but do not know what it is called and where it is sold.
The desktop settings in pure Android 11 are pretty standard, with the exception of styles. They allow you to choose the shape of the icons, the color of the system icons and their appearance. You can use a ready-made template or create your own, if you are used to customizing everything.
We also note branded Google live wallpapers – very stylish and unobtrusive. Abstract backgrounds react to touching the screen with light animation, while landscape backgrounds change slightly.
On the wallpaper with natural landscapes, you can notice the movement of small details – clouds, waves or cars in the distance, as well as the change of day and night in accordance with the system time. All these are very nice little things that practically do not eat up the battery charge, but make the smartphone a little more “alive”.
Despite the fact that we tested the Japanese version of the device, there were no problems with localization. Google smartphones allow you to choose any language regardless of where the device was purchased.
The only unusual software feature of the Japanese version was the sound at the time of shooting. The characteristic click cannot be turned off in any way, it will be heard with each of your photos. This is a must for all smartphones sold in Japan. This is how the Japanese are fighting hidden footage of girls in skirts in the subway and other crowded places.
The smartphone has only two modules on the back: the main 12.2 megapixel with optical stabilization and the wide-angle 16 megapixel. The sensors and optics are exactly the same as in the Pixel 5, but there is a slight difference in the additional equipment. The Pixel 5a has lost a “spectral sensor” that detects flicker in ambient light sources and adjusts shutter speed accordingly. Probably, the manufacturer also sacrificed this sensor in favor of the availability of the smartphone.
However, in general, this did not particularly affect the quality of the images. Pixel 5a, like Pixel 5, may well claim to be one of the best photo solutions at least in its price segment. And it’s not about fantastic detail or incredible zoom. It’s about the banal confidence in every shot.
With the Pixel 5a, you don’t need to take two or three photos per scene to be on the safe side. When shooting with the main 12-megapixel module, one shot is almost always sufficient. And this shot will be sharp, with natural colors and correct white balance.
The camera perfectly recognizes scenes and itself turns on night shooting when needed. And it is with the example of night photos that you can fully appreciate all the magic of Google post-processing. Even if you see that the light from the lanterns gets into the frame or the picture turns out to be too “noisy”, then the output will still get a neatly “licked” photo, where all or almost all imperfections will be eliminated programmatically.
With a wide-angle camera, this magic is no longer enough, since the 16MP sensor itself is pretty run-of-the-mill. If during the day he shoots generally well, then in night mode, noticeable noise and distortion of the geometry of objects can often be observed at the edges of the frame.
The smartphone does not have a camera for measuring the depth of field, so the background blurring is exclusively software. And, unfortunately, the software does not always accurately separate the background, which can often be seen from the blurry hair of a person in the frame. At the same time, the skin tone is always correct, and the retouch is very neat.
Pixel 5a supports 2x zoom. It is also completely software, but at the same time it copes with its task – you can use the approximation both during the day and at night. The frames are quite clear.
For selfies, an 8MP camera is built into the display hole of the Pixel 5a. It would seem that the resolution for 2021 is very modest, but it is definitely not worth judging by it. The pictures are quite decent, including in portrait mode.
In terms of battery life, the smartphone can only be praised. The battery with a capacity of 4 680 mAh provides a confident one and a half or even two days of use, depending on the scenario.
If you are not a fan of filming video with a camera or playing online shooters, then you can safely count on about six hours of active screen. This is an excellent indicator, which has been positively influenced by both the OLED display with a high refresh rate of 60 Hz and the economical Qualcomm processor.
As for the charging speed, then everything is modest with this. The included power adapter supports 18W, and that’s the ceiling for the Pixel 5a 5G. With it, in 30 minutes, the smartphone will be refueled by 40%, and a full charge to 100% will take 1 hour and 40 minutes. Wireless – not supported.
You cannot buy a Pixel 5a 5G with a proprietary Euro plug in the kit, since the smartphone is sold only in the USA and Japan. Both use a fork with flat pins, so an adapter is required to use the adapter out of the box.
We noted that the Pixel 5a 5G allows you to be confident in every photo. But in fact, this confidence extends not only to shooting, but also to the autonomy of the device, the stability of its operation and future updates to the operating system, whichguaranteed until August 2024.
The smartphone will soon receive Android 12, followed by potential Android 13 and 14. Each new system will bring visual changes and fresh features that will revive interest in the device over and over again. No third-party skin, be it MIUI or One UI, will offer as many changes as a clean version of the OS from Google. And this is not to mention the timing of the release of system updates from other manufacturers.
Pixel 5a 5G can be recommended to absolutely everyone who wants to be confident in their smartphone for the next three or four years, and to those who want to watch the development of the real Android OS from the first row. With a price of $ 449 in the United States and from 45 thousand rubles in Russia, this gadget will work every penny.