We wondered if there would be any changes on Pixel 5a with 5G over the Pixel 4a 5G, when both devices share such tightly knit DNA? We’re here to examine the nuances, differences, and help decipher what has changed — and what hasn’t.

From afar, it’s easy to snipe at the Pixel 5a with 5G and wonder why it even exists. Heck, ahead of the official launch, it was confusing and the limited launch in just the United States and Japan means it’s a side note at best. There is no denying that it shares practically all of the DNA of last year’s Pixel 4a 5G, which confuses matters. In many ways, there isn’t much new here, but there is a little extra nuance to uncover.

If you’re coming from an older device, the two that probably stand out most are bound to the 5G-powered duo we’re comparing here. In all honesty, no matter which device you pick, we’re sure you’ll get that “Pixel experience” that you’re craving. This is everything you need to know about the Pixel 5a with 5G and Pixel 4a 5G to help you make the right purchase decision:

Video — Google Pixel 5a with 5G vs. Pixel 4a 5G: Are the upgrades worthwhile?

Subscribe to 9to5Google on YouTube for more videos

Hardware

It’s a case of tweaks and tuning where the bulk of differences will be found between the Google Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5a with 5G — name notwithstanding. In reality, the changes are skin deep. Almost all of the hardware is practically identical save a little bit of tuning.

Google Pixel 5a with 5G Google Pixel 4a 5G
Size 6.34-inches 6.2-inches
Display 60Hz / FHD+ / Gorilla Glass 3 / 415ppi 60Hz / FHD+ / Gorilla Glass 3 / 413ppi
Chipset Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
RAM 6GB 6GB
Storage 128GB UFS 2.1 128GB UFS 2.1
Battery 4,680mAh 3,885mAh
Rear camera 12.2MP wide / 16MP ultra-wide 12.2MP wide / 16MP ultra-wide
Front-facing camera 8MP 8MP
Biometrics Pixel Imprint fingerprint scanner Pixel Imprint fingerprint scanner
Colors Mostly Black Just Black

The only real differences between the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5a with 5G are down to the external hardware. All of the internals are identical but the 5a with 5G comes with an improved chassis and finish but even so, feels very familiar in your palm. If you want a colorful handset, then unfortunately you choose between two shades of black. However, the Pixel 5a with 5G has some deep green tones in certain lighting that might make it slightly more attractive.

While the external materials and metal chassis marginally favor the Pixel 5a with 5G, the unibody design is effectively the same on both handsets. You’ve got the same haptics, which are great for an affordable smartphone. Good audio is guaranteed thanks to the combination of a 3.5mm headphone port and stereo audio courtesy of a downward-firing tweeter and earpiece speaker.

Software

If you’re hoping for new additions, sorry, everything is the exact same on the Pixel 5a with 5G and Pixel 4a 5G. It’s the same build of Android 11 that ships with both devices as standard.

Google Pixel 5a with 5G Google Pixel 4a 5G
Software Shipped with Android 11 Shipped with Android 11
Features Headphone port
Standard earpiece speaker
5G connectivity
IP67 rating
Metal construction
Headphone port
Standard earpiece speaker
5G connectivity

As such, both devices will be eligible for OS upgrades up to and including Android 14. Beyond this release, you’ll get monthly security patches until the end-of-life phase. Your core daily experience is practically identical on both the 4a 5G and the 5a with 5G thanks to the same Snapdragon 765G at the heart of both handsets.

Battery

The battery on the Pixel 5a with 5G is the biggest ever on a Made by Google phone to date, and it practically dwarfs that of the Pixel 4a 5G. While the 2020 affordable Pixel is still capable of providing an all-day lifespan, the Pixel 5a with 5G is capable of multiple days of light or moderate usage.

Google Pixel 5a with 5G Google Pixel 4a 5G
Battery size 4,680mAh 3,885mAh
Charging Speed 18W wired 18W wired

Disappointingly only wired charging is available on both smartphones, with the charging speeds via USB-C still capped at 18W. Given the expansion of the Pixel 5a with 5G battery, this is pretty slow by 2021 standards but may help prevent battery fatigue or wear the longer you hold on to your device.

Cameras

Like last year, the cameras on the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5a are literally identical — from front to back. This even includes all of the software tweaks and new camera modes. This will undoubtedly take the stress out of choosing between the two devices when you know that no focal length or feature is left behind.

Google Pixel 5a with 5G Google Pixel 4a 5G
Main sensor Sony IMX 363
12.2MP
f1.7 aperture
Sony IMX 363
12.2MP
f1.7 aperture
Secondary sensor Sony IMX 481
16MP ultra-wide-angle
f2.2 aperture
107˚ FOV
Sony IMX 481
16MP ultra-wide-angle
f2.2 aperture
107˚ FOV
Front-facing sensor Sony IMX 355
8MP
f2.0 aperture
Sony IMX 355
8MP
f2.0 aperture
Camera hardware features OIS
EIS
PDAF
OIS
EIS
PDAF
Spectral sensor
Flicker sensor
Camera software features Night Sight Portrait
Portrait Light
4K UHD 60fps
Cinematic Pan
Locked Focus
Active mode
Night Sight Portrait
Portrait Light
4K UHD 60fps
Cinematic Pan
Locked Focus
Active mode

There is one thing to note here though, the spectral and flicker sensors have been removed from the Pixel 5a with 5G. These sensors help improve shooting when there is a pulsing light source such as under fluorescent or LED lighting. That said, the Pixel 4a lacks the sensor, and images are just fine there too. As with all 2020 models, Google has removed AR playground camera features yet again.

Camera results are indistinguishable from each other, which means that the camera is not a reason to even consider upgrading from the Pixel 4a 5G to the 5a with 5G.

Pixel 5a with 5G vs. Pixel 4a 5G: Which should I choose?

About upgrading: 9to5Google often gives specific product recommendations. Sometimes, we may suggest not upgrading, due to various reasons including, but not limited to: increased device cost, negligible performance gains, or environmental impact. Whether to upgrade is always your call, but our aim is to help you make as informed a decision as possible.

It all boils down to the hardware and finish. In much the same way the changes are similar between the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G, the Pixel 4a 5G and the Pixel 5a with 5G share around 99% of the same DNA. If you already have the Pixel 4a 5G, you only need to work out if an even larger battery and an IP rating is important. Sure, the screen is a tiny bit larger but not in any noticeable way, and the finish feels almost identical despite having more in common with the Pixel 5.

Everywhere else, these phones are the same, which means that although limited global availability is annoying, it’s not necessarily a major problem. However, given the $50 price reduction, if you were looking at the $499 Pixel 4a 5G in recent months, the Pixel 5a with 5G is a no-brainer and has one or two minor changes that are very welcome.

Like we said in our comparison of the Pixel 5a with 5G and the Pixel 5, you might want to hold on a little longer to see what the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro bring to the table. Don’t expect pricing to come down on the 5a, but you might have a better idea of which 2021 Pixel is right for you.

Where can I get the best deal on the Pixel 4a 5G or Pixel 5a with 5G?

If you want the Pixel 5a with 5G, then it is only currently available priced at $449 directly from the Google Store.

Given the similarities, you are able to get the Pixel 4a 5G for lower than the original $499 asking price, you can still grab it from the Google Store, Amazon, Best Buy with $50 discount after activation, Verizon, B&HPhoto, AT&T and more while stocks last.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.


Check out 9to5Google on YouTube for more news:

You’re reading 9to5Google — experts who break news about Google and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Google on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel

About the Author

Damien Wilde's favorite gear