- The $450 offered by Google Under $500, the Pixel 5a 5G is the best mid-range smartphone.
- Among all the phones we’ve tested, it provides the finest blend of performance, camera quality, and pricing.
- Paying extra for a premium phone, in my experience, resulted in fast decreasing returns – the Pixel 5a 5G solves that problem.
Google Pixel 5a 5G
Pros: Under $500, quick for the price, nice screen, good battery life, premium wide and ultra-wide cameras, headphone port, 18W fast charger included, IP67 water-resistant
Cons: There are no disadvantages.
At first sight, Google’s Pixel 5a 5G appears to be remarkably identical to the Pixel 4a 5G from last year, with the same design, performance specs, and cameras.
That’s not at all a terrible thing. The general design implies there will be less differences of opinion about how it looks, and the performance hardware will not need to be upgraded.
The distinctions are modest yet significant. The Pixel 5a 5G, for example, is $50 less expensive than the Pixel 4a 5G. Most importantly, it has a much larger battery, which results in excellent battery life.
As a result, one may say that the phone is “perfect.” It has a “universal” appearance, runs well, has superb cameras, has a long battery life, and is reasonably priced. During my testing of this phone, I couldn’t think of anything to complain about.
|Google Pixel 5a 5G||Specifications|
|Display||6.34 FHD (2,400 x 1,080) OLED|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G|
|Memory and storage||6GB RAM, 128GB storage|
|Rear cameras||12-megapixel wide, 16-megapixel ultra-wide|
|Battery||4,680mAh, 18W charger included|
|5G Connectivity||Sub6 5G|
Display and design
The Pixel 5a 5G from Google is proudly bland and unobtrusive – it’s neither ugly nor lovely. The metal unibody design of the Pixel 5a 5G ensures that it looks and feels more premium than most mid-range smartphones. It’s entirely metal save for the display and buttons, and it seems robust and long-lasting. It’s also water resistant to IP67, which is remarkable for a mid-ranger.
The Pixel 5a 5G is only available in a color called “mainly black” by Google, but it actually has a tiny greenish tint to it. That’s great; you can add a splash of color with a case or preserve the device’s ultra-generic look without one.
The Pixel 5a 5G‘s 6.34-inch OLED display with 1080p quality wouldn’t have looked out of place in a luxury phone that cost twice as much just a few years ago. Today, we’d expect expensive premium phones to include a high-refresh rate screen for that buttery-smooth experience, but at the Pixel 5a 5G‘s price point, that’s not the case. Higher refresh-rate screens are available on some mid-range phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy A52, although they usually come at a cost, such as performance or camera quality. As I’ll explain below, the Pixel 5a 5G makes no concessions in terms of performance or camera quality.
Battery life and performance
The characteristics, performance, and price of the Pixel 5a 5G reach the sweet spot for phones accessible in the United States. Only Apple’s iPhone SE outperforms the Pixel 5a 5G in terms of value and performance, but the Pixel 5a 5G‘s superior camera quality, as well as its design and battery life, puts it in a league of its own, but more on that later.
To be fair, the Snapdragon 765G powering the Pixel 5a 5G isn’t as quick or as smooth as more powerful CPUs like the Snapdragon 888 seen in premium phones costing twice as much. Nonetheless, the Pixel 5a 5G is a quick phone, and it’s difficult to argue that the premium performance advantages are worth twice as much.
Geekbench 5, our go-to benchmarking app, wasn’t available for the Pixel 5a 5G at the time of writing. The Pixel 5a 5G, on the other hand, offers the same performance specs as the preceding Pixel 4a 5G and even the $700 “flagship” Pixel 5. With these in mind, we can estimate that the Pixel 5a 5G will achieve a single-core score of roughly 590 and a multi-core score of around 1,630.
Surprisingly, they are lower scores than the $400 Galaxy A42, which runs on the Snapdragon 750G and scored roughly 640 for single-core and 1,865 for multi-core performance. Despite these results, the Pixel 5a 5G and Snapdragon 765G perform substantially better than the Galaxy A42 in terms of reliability and smoothness. It’s a great illustration of how benchmark numbers don’t always tell the complete story.
The phone’s battery life is fantastic. In our typical battery test, we streamed a video at full screen brightness and at the screen’s 1080p resolution, and it lasted 14 hours and 45 minutes. In the same test, the Galaxy A52 and Galaxy S21 lasted nearly an hour longer, and the iPhone 12 lasted two hours longer.
While we’re on the subject of battery life, it’s worth noting that the Pixel 5a 5G comes with a charger, which you usually have to pay for if you spend more than $700 on a premium phone these days. The 18W charger isn’t very quick, but it is faster than the 15W charger that comes with Samsung’s A42 and A52 phones.
By far the greatest cameras on a phone under $500 are found on the Pixel 5a 5G. The Pixel 5a 5G is capable of competing with premium phones in the big leagues. Only the Apple iPhone SE competes in this pricing bracket, but it only has one lens, whereas the Pixel 5a 5G has a regular wide lens and an ultra-wide lens, making it more versatile.
With varied lighting, the photographs above taken with the Pixel 5a 5G‘s main and ultra-wide cameras put the phone’s HDR, colors, and clarity to the test, and it excels beautifully in all three.
Although the Pixel 5a 5G lacks a zoom lens, it does offer a 2x zoom button that uses the main camera lens to zoom in. Despite the fact that zooming is done digitally rather than optically, the outcome is still quite outstanding, with plenty of detail and clarity. If you zoom in any farther, though, the details will be lost. Nonetheless, I’d rather have two excellent cameras than three mediocre ones.
One of the things I like about Google’s phone cameras over others is that they preserve more natural colors and lighting rather than overprocessing a photo to make it appear better. Samsung phones, in my opinion, are guilty of over-processing, resulting in photographs with unnecessarily enhanced colors and lighting that seems flat rather than dynamic.
Is the Google Pixel 5a 5G worth your money?
If it isn’t obvious now, the answer is a resounding “yes.” The Google Pixel 5a 5G is not only the greatest phone for individuals on a budget of under $500, but it’s also a phone that luxury phone aficionados should consider buying if they want to save money these days.
When compared to the Pixel 5a 5G, spending more on premium phones yields quickly declining returns. The performance advantages from spending more are obvious, but not quite enough to justify the additional hundreds. Plus, opting for a $800 Galaxy S21 or even a $800 iPhone 12 won’t offer you a better camera.
What other options do you have?
The Samsung Galaxy A42 or Galaxy A52 are the finest Pixel 5a 5G alternatives. We prefer the Pixel 5a 5G because of its superior performance, cameras, and battery life, but the Samsung phones have larger screens if that’s what you’re looking for.
Last but not least
The Google Pixel 5a 5G is a champion of a phone that should be purchased by everyone. People who prefer premium phones and are willing to spend the extra money may not be swayed.
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Lirien Chen, a writer who is always seeking to learn and grow, both as a storyteller and as a person. I believe that writing is not just about putting words on a page, but about constantly challenging oneself and pushing the boundaries of what's possible. I strive to create work that is both original and thought-provoking, that pushes the limits of what's possible with the written word. I believe that writing has the power to change the world, and I am honored to be a part of that tradition