Google Pixel 4a vs Google Pixel 5: which Android phone is best?

Our Google Pixel 4a vs Google Pixel 5 guide breaks down the differences between Google's premium and budget handsets

Google Pixel 4A vs Google Pixel 5 side by side
(Image credit: Google)

If you’re looking into Google Pixel 4a vs Google Pixel 5, then you can probably already guess that the more expensive Pixel 5 is likely to perform better. The question is whether the difference is enough for you to invest in a flagship Google phone, or are the features on the Pixel 4a enough to make you happy. The good news for you (and Google) is that both phones make it onto our best Android phones and overall best smartphones lists, so you're getting an excellent device either way.

We’ll take you through what makes these phones tick, note the similarities and mark the differences. We’ll take a look at the hardware and software behind these Google phones, how they relate to each other, and of course, to your budget.

If you want to know which of these is best for you, we’ll lay it all out below, but you can also take a more in-depth look at our Google Pixel 4a review and our Google Pixel 5 review if you want a full individual breakdown of these great Android phones.

Google Pixel 4a vs Google Pixel 5: Design & display

Google Pixel 5

(Image credit: Future)

We’ll begin by talking about the casings for these phones. Google has made a concerted effort to make the whole Pixel lineup look alike – and they do. There are some big differences to be aware of though.

While the Google Pixel 4a’s body is made from polycarbonate plastic and available in one colour (Just Black), the Google Pixel 5 is made from metal and glass and adds the green Sorta Sage to its colour options. From a distance you won’t be able to tell the difference in material, but up close, and in the hand, you’ll know which is the premium phone.

The Pixel 5's casing is also rated as being both water and dust resistant, a feature the Pixel 4a lacks. Although, the Bluetooth-resistant among you may want to know that the Pixel 4a comes complete with headphone jack, which the Pixel 5 has gone without.

Neither of these phones are big, with 5.8-inch Pixel 4a and 6-inch Pixel 5 screens making their way on to our best small phones list. There are differences in those displays though; both are OLED but the Google Pixel 5 has a 90Hz refresh rate compared to the 60Hz of the Pixel 4A. That’ll mean, among other things, smoother scrolling. Both have a resolution of 1080x2340, which means the Pixel 4a actually looks a tiny bit sharper because its screen is smaller, but the difference is so small as to be academic.

Google Pixel 4a vs Google Pixel 5: Camera & Battery

Google Pixel 4a

(Image credit: Future)

One of Google’s big wins with its low-cost Pixel 4a is how it managed to include such impressive camera quality. There are a few differences between the 4a and the Pixel 5, but Google has tried to keep its cameras as uniform as possible in terms of software and hardware quality.

So, the Pixel 4a sports a 12.2MP f/1.7 aperture rear camera and a front shooter at 8MP with an f/2.0 aperture. That is the same as you’ll find on the Pixel 5 – with the one notable difference being that the Pixel 5 has a second ultra-wide 16MP (f/2.2) rear lens. This means that there shouldn’t be much difference in picture quality with most snaps, but you’ll find the Pixel 5 gives you extra options for things like landscapes or city photography.

On the software side (where Google really shines), it’s much the same story. Both the Pixel 4a and Pixel 5 hold on to Google’s much lauded Night Sight and Super Res Zoom features, while the Pixel 5 has a couple of cherries on top. Namely, you’ll find Night Sight in portrait mode here, as well as an adjustable portrait light and improved image stabilisation.

Our Google Pixel 4a review and Google Pixel 5 review each feature more in-depth breakdowns on the pics that you can take with these phones.

When it comes to batteries, the Pixel 5’s is a fair bit larger at 4,080mAh vs the Pixel 4a’s 3,140mAh. The Google Pixel 4A should last you a full day, but the Pixel 5 will go longer – ensuring you wont be cursing yourself out for forgetting to plug it in at bed time.

Both phones feature impressive fast charging capabilities, though it’s only the Pixel 5 that supports wireless charging.

Google Pixel 4a vs Google Pixel 5: Processor and storage

Google Pixel 5

(Image credit: Future)

The Google Pixel 5 is powered by the 765G Snapdragon processor, with 8GB of RAM while the Google Pixel 4a has the slightly lower spec combo of a 730G Snapdragon and 6GB of RAM. That’s enough for the Pixel 5 to see real improvements with more intense stuff like gaming, especially if you’ve got other apps open. But for general light app usage, either will feel snappy enough.

Both phones come with 128GB of storage, but only the Pixel 5 can boast being 5G capable, which likely make it a phone you're happy to keep for longer. That said, there is now a Google Pixel 4a 5G model now available, though it’s more expensive (and bigger at 6.2-inches) than the standard Pixel 4a.

Google Pixel 4a vs Google Pixel 5: Price & verdict

Google Pixel 4a

(Image credit: Future)

If you’re after a great budget phone at a great budget price, or if you’ve decided to skip this flagship generation, the Google Pixel 4a is a great pick. Of course, you might want all the bells whistles of a flagship Google phone, at a price that’s still pretty affordable compared to other brands, in which case the Google Pixel 5 is your place to go.

At the end of it all, it’s very difficult to tell you which of these phones you should buy. The Pixel 4a had an official launch price of $349/£349, while the Pixel 5 had an official price of $699/£599. That's a big difference, and might decide things for you on its own.

The budget Google Pixel 4A represents excellent value for money with a feature set (especially that impressive camera) that sees it among our best cheap phones.

Unless you have an awfully specific desire for a 5.8-inch display rather than 6-inch, the Google Pixel 5 would win a head-to-head on every count. Perhaps not with a knockout, but almost every feature is improved or embellished on the more expensive device.

Geraint Evans