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Games of throne Google’s latest $350 Pixel 4a makes the idea of spending $1,000 on a smartphone completely ridiculous


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Games of throne Google’s latest $350 Pixel 4a makes the idea of spending $1,000 on a smartphone completely ridiculous

When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more. Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider The Pixel 4a is a fantastic little phone that offers an exceptional core smartphone experience, especially at its $350 price tag.Its camera is equally as effective as the Pixel 4 series that starts at $800, and…

Games of throne Google’s latest $350 Pixel 4a makes the idea of spending $1,000 on a smartphone completely ridiculous

Games of throne

When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

games of throne Pixel 4a front



Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider


  • The Pixel 4a is a fantastic little phone that offers an exceptional core smartphone experience, especially at its $350 price tag.
  • Its camera is equally as effective as the Pixel 4 series that starts at $800, and it runs apps and the Android operating system smoothly, with only the rarest and faintest stutter. 
  • This phone doesn’t have some of the premium flourishes, like wireless charging, water resistance, a triple-lens camera, or 5G connectivity. But, it gets the core features so right that those extra flourishes seem irrelevant. 
  • The Pixel 4a should be at the very top of the list for anyone looking to spend under $400 or even under $500 on a smartphone.
  • The Pixel 4a costs $350, and is available to preorder from the Google Store online, Google Fi, Amazon, and Best Buy starting on August 3. It will be fully released and available to buy from the Google Store, Google Fi, Best Buy, Amazon, US Cellular, and Verizon starting on August 20. 

Wow, what a little gem.

Ever since I started using the Pixel 4a a couple weeks ago, I’ve enjoyed two new realizations:

1. Midrange smartphones these days are amazing, and they’re only getting better

2. I don’t think I can spend anywhere near $1,000 on a smartphone in good conscience anymore.

You may notice that I don’t make comparisons with the recently announced and super-hyped OnePlus Nord — a highly rated midranger that would typically be an obvious choice for comparison with the Pixel 4a. That’s because we currently focus on devices available in the US, and the OnePlus Nord is currently only available in India and the EU.

Check out the Pixel 4a and what’s it’s like to use.

Games of throne Google Pixel 4a specs

  • Display: 5.81-inch 1080p (2,340 x 1,080) 60Hz OLED
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G
  • Memory and storage: 6GB RAM and 128GB 
  • Rear camera: 12.2-megapixel single lens
  • Selfie camera: 8-megapixel
  • Battery: 3,140mAh, 18W fast charger included

games of throne pixel 4a back



Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider


Games of throne Design and display

The Pixel 4a is a handsome little device with narrow screen bezels, a premium-feeling solid plastic back with a frosted matte texture, and Google’s signature colored power button (mint green on the 4a) that tastefully accents the totally stealth-black phone. I should note that the frosted matte coating on the Pixel 4a’s back can scuff quite easily, but that shouldn’t be an issue when used with a case. 

It’s pretty amazing to see an OLED display on a $350 midranger — a feature that has previously only existed on phones that cost over $400. The 1080p resolution is totally expected at this price and range, and nothing to scoff at — I’d still be happy with 1080p resolution on a premium flagship phone, quite frankly.

Thankfully, there’s no notch, but there is a Samsung-style hole-punch selfie camera that’s un-intrusive and doesn’t raise eyebrows.

You get a 60Hz screen here compared to the super-smooth 90Hz and 120Hz screens you find on high-end and expensive flagships. That’s nothing to cry about — 60Hz is still plenty smooth for a $350 phone. 

(Most midrange smartphones have flat screens rather than the curved screens on some high-end flagships, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Pixel 4a’s screen is flat. Still, it’s worth a positive mention to encourage and reinforce the fact that curved screens aren’t good.)

Games of throne Performance and battery life

Google could have messed up very easily by cheaping out on the performance. Thankfully, it didn’t. 

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G running things in the Pixel 4a delivers impressive performance, especially when you consider it’s $350. I used the Pixel 4a just as I use an expensive high-end smartphone, and I while I notice the rarest and most minuscule stutters here and there, I never feel frustrated by the phone’s performance. Apps open and run quickly and smoothly, and navigating around the Android operating system feels smooth and natural. I made the Pixel 4a work and feel even faster with a little trick I use on pretty much every Android phone. 

The “G” you see after the Snapdragon 730 model nomenclature indicates that the chip has slightly boosted performance for gaming. Indeed, the Pixel 4a runs power-hungry games like “Asphalt 9” and “Fortnite” smoothly enough, albeit with slightly reduced graphics settings compared to the experience you get with high-end flagships.

The battery size and performance is about average and what you’d expect from a vast majority of phones. On a day of light usage, including some video streaming and some straightforward web browsing and app usage, I ended the day with 45% battery life remaining before plugging it in for bed. On a day of heavy usage, including two long video calls, downloading two large games (and playing about five minutes of each), and general app usage like Slack, Reddit, Google News, I ended the day with 25%.

As for charging — if you compare the Pixel 4a’s included 18W charger with the iPhone SE’s 5W charging brick, then yes, it’s special. Otherwise, it’s about standard for midrange Android phones.  

games of throne pixel 4a camera



Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider


Games of throne Cameras

There is no distinguishable difference between the $350 Pixel 4a’s and the Pixel 4’s camera, a phone that starts at $800. That’s incredible, and if you like your photos to look good, it’s a major reason why the Pixel 4a should be at the very, very top of your list. Apart from last year’s Pixel 3a and Apple’s iPhone SE 2020, other midrangers around its $350 price tag simply don’t come close to the Pixel 4a’s camera quality. 

There’s no zoomed or ultra-wide lens, which may be a little of a shame, but shouldn’t be totally expected on a $350 phone. You do get Google’s software-based Super Res Zoom feature to enhance zoomed photos, which works fairly well.  

Otherwise, you get the usual array of photo modes, including portrait mode, Live HDR+ so you can see exactly what a photo will look like before hitting the shutter button, and even Night Sight. As for video, the Pixel 4a can record 1080p video up to 120fps (frames per second), adn 4K resolution video up to 30fps. 

Here’s a photo taken with the Pixel 4XL

games of throne Pixel 4XL photo (vs Pixel 4a)

Click or tap to enlarge this photo taken with the Pixel 4XL.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider


And here’s a photo taken with the Pixel 4a. 

It’s pretty much indistinguishable from the Pixel 4XL photo above, except for a slightly warmer color tone in the Pixel 4a’s photo. Otherwise, the Pixel 4a dealt with the dark  treeline and the bright clouds in the scene as well as the Pixel 4XL, and they’re equally sharp and detailed. It’s basically the same photo, which is to say the Pixel 4a, a $350 phone, has the camera quality of a phone that costs three times as much.

games of throne Pixel 4a photo (vs pixel 4xl)

Click or tap to enlarge this photo taken with the Pixel 4a.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider


Here’s another photo taken with the Pixel 4XL 

games of throne pixel 4xl flowers (vs 4a)

Click or tap to enlarge this photo taken with the Pixel 4XL.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider


And here’s the same photo taken with the Pixel 4a

The Pixel 4a’s photo has a slightly warmer color tone than the Pixel 4XL’s above, but the photo isn’t worse for it. The colors are equally rich, and details equally clear and in-focus.

games of throne pixel 4a flower (vs 4XL)

Click or tap to enlarge this photo taken with the Pixel 4a.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider


The Pixel 4a even comes equipped with Google’s Night Sight mode

I could barely see any of the things below when I took this photo at dusk.

games of throne pixel 4a night sight

Click or tap to enlarge this photo taken with the Pixel 4a.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider


Here’s a photo taken with the $400 Apple iPhone SE (2020), which now has to share the throne for best value smartphone with the Pixel 4a

games of throne iphone se vs pixel 4a

Click or tap to enlarge this photo taken with the iPhone SE.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider


And here’s the same photo with the Pixel 4a

The iPhone SE’s photo has boosted saturated colors and contrast compared with the Pixel 4a’s photo, which some might prefer. The Pixel 4a’s photo has a more natural look.

games of throne Pixel 4a flower 2 (vs iphone se)

Click or tap to enlarge this photo taken with the Pixel 4a.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider


The Pixel 4a has a decent selfie camera, too. But Google’s selfie cameras tend to have a fish-bowl effect, at least on my face

games of throne pixel 4a selfie camera

Click or tap to enlarge this photo taken with the Pixel 4a.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider


Games of throne Other features and things you should know about

It was great to see that several features I had been using on the Pixel 4 were present in the Pixel 4a. Features like Call Screen defer calls from unknown numbers to Google Assistant, which politely asks the called who they are and why they’re calling. It helps with the often-daily bombardment of spam calls. 

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Again, using the Pixel 4a didn’t feel much different from using the Pixel 4 XL on a day-to-day basis. 

The Pixel 4a uses a good-old fashioned capacitive fingerprint sensor on the back for unlocking the phone that’s faster, more accurate, and more reliable than in-display fingerprint sensors and advanced facial recognition that some phone makers are adding to their premium flagships. 

You also get a headphone jack, if you’re still interested in the option for wired headphones without a dongle. 

Games of throne Drawbacks

There are only two drawbacks I can think of about the Pixel 4a. It doesn’t come with water resistance, and it doesn’t have wireless charging. But, again, this phone is three hundred and fifty dollars.  

I suppose I could point out that the Pixel 4a doesn’t have 5G connectivity. But, right now, who cares? 5G isn’t mainstream yet, and no one really knows when it will even become ubiquitous. Plus, 5G hardware costs more, and the Pixel 4a would surely have a significantly higher price had it come with 5G connectivity.

I also suppose you could ask why the Pixel 4a doesn’t have the same chip that high-end flagships have — the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865. It’s a legitimate question when you think about the $400 iPhone SE, which runs on the same A13 chip that turns the wheels inside the iPhone 11 series. Well, maybe Apple’s got Google on this one. But chip names and model numbers and so on don’t matter. All that matters is that it runs well, and the Pixel 4a feels and runs fast and smoothly, and I have no complaints about its performance for both the short and long terms. 

And, I guess one might wonder why a $250 phone like the Moto G Power comes with a triple-lens camera system that includes an ultra-wide lens and a macro lens while the Pixel 4a comes with a single-lens camera. Truth is, the Moto G Power’s cameras don’t come close to the Pixel 4a’s camera. I’d rather have all the resources go to a single-lens camera that takes incredible photos rather than spread over a triple-lens camera that takes comparatively crummy photos. 

games of throne pixel 4a in hand



Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider


Games of throne Should you buy the Google Pixel 4a?

The Pixel 4a should be at the very top of the list for anyone looking to spend under $500 on a smartphone. It offers one of the best core experiences for a smartphone, and it’s the best value phones there is right now, hands down. 

In fact, unless you’re specifically after more premium features like multiple camera lenses (zoom and ultra-wide), water resistance, wireless charging, a larger screen, 5G, and/or a faster processor, the Pixel 4a should also be at the very top of your list. The core experience is so strong and price so good that you may be grasping at straws to find an excuse to get a premium smartphone. 

And even then, even if you want those premium things, you really have to wonder if they’re worth the extra few hundred you’d pay for a premium smartphone. The Pixel 4a truly makes you wonder what more you’re really getting when you spend twice as much or more. 

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Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at reviews@businessinsider.com.

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