Today through the company’s rather short virtual launch event, among other novelties, Google has officially announced the new Pixel 4a (5G) and the new Pixel 5. Both phones had been teased for some time now as Google had pre-announced them back in in early August with the announcement of the Pixel 4a.

The new Pixel 4a (5G) is very much what its name implies, a variant of the Pixel 4a with added 5G connectivity through the addition of a Snapdragon 765 SoC. The phone here is very similar to its 4G variant, although Google had to grow the device’s dimensions a bit, and a more apt name for it would have been the 4a XL (5G) but that’s quite a mouthful.

The new Pixel 5 is a quite different phone for Google’s mainstream line-up as here the company has abandoned any attempts at making a flagship device, relegating itself into the mid-range to premium price segment. Also featuring a Snapdragon 765, the phone’s other specs are quite more conservative compared to other devices in 2020 – it’s somewhat of a risky move at a still rather high $699 price point.

2020 Google Pixels
  Pixel 4a
 
Pixel 4a (5G)
(NEW)
Pixel 5
(NEW)
SoC Snapdragon 730G

2x CA76 @ 2.2GHz
6x CA55 @ 1.8GHz


Adreno 618
Snapdragon 765G

1x CA76 @ 2.4GHz
1x CA76 @ 2.2GHz
6x CA55 @ 1.8GHz

Adreno 620
DRAM 6GB LPDDR4X 8GB LPDDR4X
Storage 128GB UFS 2.1 128GB 128GB
Display 5.81" OLED
2340 x 1080 (19.5:9)

 
6.2" OLED
2340 x 1080 (19.5:9)

 
6.0" OLED
2340 x 1080 (19.5:9)

90Hz
Size Height 144.0 mm 153.9 mm 144.7 mm
Width 69.4 mm 74.0 mm 70.4 mm
Depth 8.2 mm 8.2 mm 8.0 mm
Weight 143 grams 168g (sub-6)
171g (mmWave)
151g
Battery Capacity 3140mAh (typical)

18W Fast Charging
3885mAh (typical)

18W Fast Charging
4080mAh (typical)

18W Fast Charging
Wireless Charging - - Yes
Rear Cameras
Main 12.2MP 1.4µm Dual Pixel PDAF
f/1.7 77° lens with OIS
Telephoto - - -
Wide - 16MP 1.0µm

f/2.2 107°
Ultra-Wide Angle
Extra - - -
Front Camera 8MP 1.12µm
f/2.0 84° lens; fixed focus
I/O USB-C
3.5mm headphone jack
USB-C
Wireless (local) 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 5.0 LE + NFC
Cellular Snapdragon LTE
Integrated X15

(LTE Category 12/5)
DL = 600Mbps
UL = 150Mbps
Snapdragon 5G
Integrated X52

(LTE Category 18/13)
DL = 1200 Mbps
UL = 150 Mbps

(5G NR Sub-6 + mmWave*)
DL = 3700 Mbps
UL = 1600 Mbps

*excludes non-mmWave model of 4a(5G)
*excludes mmWave in non-US markets
Other Features Dual Speakers Dual Speakers Dual Speakers
IP68 Rating 
Dual-SIM 1x nanoSIM + eSIM
Launch Price $349 / 349£ / 349€
 
$499 / £499 / €499
$599* (mmWave)
$699* / £599 / €629
 

Starting off with the heart of the phones, both the new 4a (5G) and the Pixel 5 are powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G SoC. For the Pixel 5 this is a rather obvious choice given Google’s new targeted price range for the phone, although more on that later.

For the Pixel 4a (5G) this actually represents a rather larger bump in specifications compared to the Snapdragon 730G of the Pixel 4a, and the reasoning for the whole upgrade seems to have been 5G, and more specifically, the Snapdragon 765G’s ability to support mmWave connectivity.

Looking at Google’s pricing and different models that they’re releasing in different markets, it’s easily to see that mmWave connectivity has been a rather integral part of why Google made some of their component choices in the new Pixel devices. In the US, both the 4a (5G) and 5 support 5G connectivity with mmWave, however the 4a (5G) also comes with a 5G sub-6-only variant that’s actually $100 cheaper – this one is the publicly marketed $499 unit Google was showcasing during the launch. The Verizon Pixel 4a (5G) on the other hand costs $599. The Pixel 5 in the US costs $699 and only has a mmWave model. More on the international pricing later in the article.

RAM and storage wise, the Pixel 4a (5G) continues the 6GB configuration we’ve seen on the Pixel 4a, whilst the Pixel 5 upgrades that to 8GB. Both new phones feature 128GB of storage, however Google didn’t exactly specify the storage grade – it’s likely the 4a (5G) uses the same UFS 2.1 as on the 4a, whilst we don’t yet have confirmation on what the Pixel 5 is deploying.

On the matter of connectivity, it’s disappointing to see that Google is avoiding Wi-Fi 6 / 802.11ax in even the Pixel 5, meaning it won’t be as future proof – however given the lower price compared to a conventional flagship that’s somewhat of an acceptable compromise.

The Pixel 4a (5G) is of a similar build and design to the Pixel 4a, essentially representing a larger device that frankly could have been called the Pixel 4a XL (5G) if one would have to give it a more apt description.

The phone is still made of a polycarbonate plastic and it features a now larger 6.2” OLED screen coming in at 2340 x 1080 resolution. There’s no high refresh rate to be found here as Google is sticking to 60Hz.

As noted, it’s a larger phone and the critical dimension for ergonomics is the width, which has grown from 69.4mm to 74.0mm. The weight of the phone has also gone up from 143g to 168g for the sub-6 model and 171g for the mmWave model of the device.

The Pixel 5 employs a very similar design to both the 4a and the 5a (5G) – to the point that you actually wonder wouldn’t know that these devices are named after different generations – if that even has any kind of meaning anymore given the 4a (5G) and the 5 are almost identical in specifications.

What’s different about the Pixel 5 that you wouldn’t recognize in the pictures is that it’s made out of aluminium, which is quite interesting as we haven’t had a unibody aluminium device by a manufacturer in quite some years. One odd thing about this aspect of the phone is that Google is still employing wireless charging – so what must be happening is that there has to be some sort of cut-out in the back that’s covered in paint or some sort of layer that is hiding a non-electrically-conductive part of the back cover.

The front of the Pixel 5 looks almost identical to the 4a (5G), defined by a uniform bezel and a camera hole cut-out in the top left corner of the screen which houses the same 8MP 1.12µm f/2.0 camera that’s sported on the 4a, 4a (5G) and the 5 units.

The display is still a 2340 x 1080 resolution OLED unit, but is slightly smaller at 6.0” diagonal. The good news here is that Google at least is employing a 90Hz refresh rate on this model.

The Pixel 5 actually being of a similar form-factor to the 4a, actually is able to house a significantly larger battery at 4000mAh typical capacity – quite a large jump over the 3140mAh unit of its budget sibling. That’s actually even larger than the 3885mAh typical capacity of the new 4a (5G), even with the Pixel 5 weighing less at only 151g.

On the camera side of things, there’s good news and bad news. The good news for the Pixel 4a (5G) is that it’s using the same main camera module as on the 4a and previous generation flagship Pixels. The 12.2MP unit with 1.4µm pixels and an f/1.7 aperture optics module is still quite good in this range.

Google has evolved its HDR+ algorithm and notes that with this generation it has introduced exposure bracketing capture ability – meaning instead of stacking several captures of low exposures, it’ll now do stacking of several different exposure lengths. Hopefully this will help the phone increase its dynamic range capture abilities.

The bad news is that the Pixel 5 still continues to feature this main camera sensor.

The unit had been used since the Pixel 3 with only minor upgrades in the sensor versions. We don’t know if Google is planning to release a higher-end Pixel device above the Pixel 5 any time soon, so what this means is that Google needs to counteract with software an increasingly large hardware gap that’s kept on growing compared to the competition. The Pixel 4 already lost out to last year’s iPhone 11 series in picture quality and the Pixel 5 will unlikely to change much in that regard, as even Google’s own PR image samples of the camera show pronounced noise and lacking dynamic range.

Another positive is that there’s now an ultra-wide-angle camera module alongside the main unit. It’s been widely agreed upon that Google’s telephoto unit with the Pixel 4 was a faux-pas in a year where essentially everybody else has had or had introduced UWA cameras. Seemingly this year with the Pixel 5 Google has realised that people use phones in tighter spaces more often than shooting long distances, and opted for the UWA instead. This is a 16MP 1.0µm unit with an f/2.2 aperture and a 107° field-of-view. It’s likely amongst the narrowest UWA units out there, but I still prefer this to a telephoto – although other competitors out there don’t force you to make this choice and give you a full trifecta of camera modules to choose from.

Focusing on the mid-range? Or giving up on the high-end?

The Pixel 4a (5G) and Pixel 5 are devices that I’m having a hard time rationalising. Last year, I noted that Google had failed with the Pixel 4 – not that it was a bad device, it was just overpriced for what it delivered.

This year, Google at least made the change to their pricing structure to allow for more affordable devices, with the Pixel 5 coming in at $699, and the 4a (5G) coming in at $499 ($599 with mmWave). The problem I have is not with the prices, it’s with what Google actually delivers at those prices.

Right now, if you’re in the US you’d have to be utterly insane in considering the Pixel 5 at $699 given you have the option of a Galaxy S20 FE 5G for $599, with an SoC that obliterates the Pixel 5’s, a better higher-refresh rate screen, bigger batteries, Wi-Fi 6, and a more complete camera module setup – although I’m sure there’s arguments to be had in regards to the software processing front of things. Software support is also no longer a valid argument given that Samsung has started 3 year OS upgrade commitments going forward.

Google’s UK pricing is also frankly a bit absurd, especially on the Pixel 4a (5G) which costs $499/£499/€499 – yes there’s taxes included in the European prices, but the pound sterling hasn’t yet fallen in value like that. In these markets where we have fiercer competition available from the Asian vendors it also begs the question whether you buy a single Pixel 4a (5G) or you get two Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite’s for almost the same price – both Snapdragon 765G phones by the way. OnePlus here also undercuts both the 4a (5G) by 100€/£121 with the Nord, whilst the Pixel 5 is attacked by a slew of other flagship devices that have since fallen in price.

When I had reached out to Google asking for Pixel 5 samples, my local PR contact I’ve been relegated to replied that Google has no plans to release the device in Belgium & Luxembourg, and as such “he can’t help me further”. At this point I’m not sure what Google’s Pixel division is even trying to achieve – if you don’t even make an effort to even release the phones in most markets, and barely make the minimum effort of covering your devices during your launch event (A literal 7 minutes out of a 30 minute show) – then you’re just doomed to fail. The Pixel 4a (5G) and the Pixel 5 just feel dead on arrival for me.

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  • Foeketijn - Thursday, October 1, 2020 - link

    It's such an interesting industry. At first, supliers where trying to make the most original, most ergonomical, best software package. Hardware was of far less importance. And the more the industry crystallized, the more boring it became. At some point (around 2010) we almost got the perfect phones for everybody (HTC One S,
    The Iphone, the sony experia, blackberry bold etc) after that, everybody had a brain freeze or something.
    Samsung started to make 20 versions of the same phone, HTC like quality, LG like high spec more flimsy, Samsung like cheapish phones, and Apple just made more of the same iphones.
    Now we just get more expensive cameras, sizes we can't fully use with one hand, but nothing more.
    HTC could reboot the HTC One S factory. Put in some modern hardware, and again have the most ergonomical and superior build quality phone. After more then 10 years.
    Reply
  • Tams80 - Thursday, October 1, 2020 - link

    HTC HD2 2020 edition please. Reply
  • lexter999 - Thursday, October 1, 2020 - link

    the 765G specs are wifi6/802.11ax-ready (whatever the hell 'ready' means!) is there some other reason it doesn't have Wifi6, like external circuitry, antennas or something? That seems ridiculous. Unless ready means Qualcomm are going to enable it later? Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Thursday, October 1, 2020 - link

    Qualcomm advertises Snapdragons as a platform, not an SoC. In this case, the Wi-Fi 6 chip is simply not included by Google. The capability isn't and was never part of the SoC. Reply
  • gg555 - Thursday, October 1, 2020 - link

    I would be fine with this phone, even though they haven't upgraded the Pixel camera sensor in three years. But the $700 price for a midrange chipset is just insane. I barely benchmarks better than a three year old Pixel 2.

    Remember the days of the Nexus phones that were both inexpensive and *always* came with whatever the flagship chipset of the day was? Google can and has done way better.

    For my preferences the Xperia 5 II would be my choice, even with the crazy price tag, because at least it has things I want: 3.5 MM jack, front facing stereo speakers, very high quality camera, and a flagship chipset. But the Xperia 5 II does not support U.S. carrier networks well, lacking bands that inexpensive three year old phones have (like T-Mobile's band 71) and almost not supporting U.S. 5G bands at all. OnePlus Nord also lacks support for a whole swath of U.S. bands.

    Sigh, there are just no interesting phones anymore.
    Reply
  • FenCPH - Friday, October 2, 2020 - link

    ' no interesting phones anymore '

    You need to look at Samsung Galaxy xcover pro. :-@
    Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Friday, October 2, 2020 - link

    Wont touch a samsung and their garbage software again. Reply
  • flyingpants265 - Friday, October 2, 2020 - link

    My ideal phone would be a Oneplus 7 with front speakers.

    Or alternatively, the Sony Xperia whatever phone. But in a more normal shape, and in a variety of shapes and sizes. The wider the better for me, wider = a bigger keyboard and faster/easier/more accurate typing.

    It's really quite simple, we want a phone with all the features, and nothing missing. Make one like that, and we'll pay the $1400 or whatever ridiculous price you set for it.
    Reply
  • Ptosio - Thursday, October 1, 2020 - link

    @Andrei Frumusanu
    "Right now, if you’re in the US you’d have to be utterly insane in considering the Pixel 5 at $699 given you have the option of a Galaxy S20 FE 5G for $599, with an SoC that obliterates the Pixel 5’s, a better higher-refresh rate screen, bigger batteries, Wi-Fi 6, and a more complete camera module setup"

    I'd dare to disagree. If I had 700USD to spend on a smartphone, I'd definitely choose the Pixel.
    S20FE specs may sound nice, but it's size of 159.8 x 74.5 catapults its firmly into the phablet category, in which the competition is indeed fierce, but which is of little interest for me due to ergonomic constraints.
    Pixel 5, in turn, competes in "compact premium" segment, which has been severely neglected.

    Your complaints are mainly concerned with raw specs and benchmarks, which are mostly not that relevant for the real world use. I suspect the vast majority of general public would be satisfied with everyday performance of Snapdragon 765G, WiFi 5 or 90Hz screen and wouldn't even notice if they were swapped for the "high end" components unless they were told so.
    Battery may be bigger in Samsung, but what actually matters is not battery SIZE, but battery LIFE, which has been disappointing on the Exynos S20.Pixel 4a with way smaller capacity, seems to offer decent endurance, so I have high hopes for the 5.

    And while I'm also disappointed by the re-use of the old camera sensor, what matters here are the actual pictures, so for now the jury is still out.

    Overall, we must wait for the proper tests, but I find the Pixel 5 a REALLY PROMISING DEVICE. Potentially the best in its class.
    Reply
  • MetaCube - Thursday, October 22, 2020 - link

    "it's worse in every way, is more expensive but it's also smaller so 3000% worth it" Reply

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