Google Pixel 5a 5G vs Pixel 5 vs Pixel 4a 5G: What's the difference?

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(Pocket-lint) - Google revealed the Pixel 5 and the Pixel 4a 5G in 2020 - and is rumoured to be the adding the Pixel 5a 5G to the mix in 2021. That will give Google three phones, closely aligned, all offering 5G and many of the same features. 

So how do all these phones compare? Based on strong rumours and leaks surrounding the Pixel 5a 5G, we've compared all the devices to help you play spot the difference.

Prices

  • Pixel 5a 5G: TBC
  • Pixel 5: $699 | £599
  • Pixel 4a 5G: $499 | £499

The Pixel 5 was launched as the affordable flagship phone for 2020, with the Pixel 4a 5G naturally sitting beneath it. The new Pixel 5a 5G is thought to replace the Pixel 4a 5G, an affordable phone with Pixel advantages, while not offering all the premium features of the Pixel 5 - but bumping up the battery size to make it more appealing.

The pricing for the Pixel 5a 5G has not yet been confirmed, but it's expected to be available in Japan and the US, and a rumoured price of $450 has been linked to it. It's expected to be formally announced on 17 August.

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Design

  • Pixel 5a 5G: 156.2 x 73.2 x 8.8mm, weight TBC
  • Pixel 5: 144.7 x 70.4 x 8mm, 151g
  • Pixel 4a 5G: 153.9 x 74 x 8.2mm, 168g

Recent Pixel devices all look similar, with a rear square camera in the top left-hand corner, a rear fingerprint scanner and punch hole display on the front. 

The Pixel 5 was launched as the premium device for 2020, a slightly more compact flagship, with a higher quality finish. It had a metal rear shell - while still supporting wireless charging - and an IP68 rating to protect it from water and dust. It is available in black or sage green colours. 

The Pixel 4a 5G is larger than the Pixel 5 and has a polycarbonate back, i.e., plastic, with a matte finish and available in black. It added a 3.5mm headphone socket to the mix - giving it an advantage over the Pixel 5 for those wanting wired headphones, but lacked any sort of IP rating.

The Pixel 5a 5G is expected to be larger based on leaked measurements, but stick to the same overall design, so it will look at feel like the Pixel 4a 5G, again with a 3.5mm headphone socket. There is a difference though, with a ribbed power button. Leaks also suggest that it has a slightly more rubbery feel to the harder plastic feel of the Pixel 4a 5G. It may also have a IPX7 protection rating.

The Pixel 5a 5G is expected to come in black again, but a green model has also been seen.

Display

  • Pixel 5a 5G: 6.4-inch, OLED, 90Hz?
  • Pixel 5: 6-inch, OLED, 90Hz
  • Pixel 4a 5G: 6.2-inch, OLED, 60Hz

The Pixel 5 has a 6-inch OLED display. The resolution is 2340 x 1080 pixels, 432ppi, it has a 19.5:9 aspect ratio and offers support for HDR. It is also has a 90Hz refresh rate.

The Pixel 4a 5G has a 6.2-inch display, also OLED, but with a 60Hz refresh rate. The resolution is 2340 x 1080 pixels, 413ppi.

The Pixel 5a 5G is expected to be larger with a 6.4-inch OLED display, making it the largest of the lot. While the resolution is expected to stay at full HD+ - likely with the same resolution as the other Pixel models - there's some debate about whether it's going to be 60 or 90Hz. Moving to 90Hz gives it a small advantage over the Pixel 4a 5G, but that might raise questions as to why you'd consider the Pixel 5...

Hardware

  • Pixel 5a 5G: Qualcomm SD765G, 6GB RAM, 128GB storage, 4650mAh
  • Pixel 5: Qualcomm SD765G, 8GB RAM, 128GB storage, 4000mAh
  • Pixel 4a 5G: Qualcomm SD765G, 6GB RAM, 128GB storage, 3800mAh

Both the Google Pixel 5 and the Pixel 4a 5G run on the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G platform, which features integrated 5G. It's though that the Pixel 5a 5G will sit on the same platform, again with integrated 5G, meaning a lot of parity between these devices. 

The Pixel 5 has a slight bump in RAM, but it's only minor, so we'd expect the performance of these phones to be pretty much the same in daily use.

Where there looks to be a big difference is in the battery: the Pixel 5a 5G is expected to have a 4650mAh battery, which is the largest of the lot. This gives it a significant advantage over the Pixel 4a 5G that it replaces and in all liklihood it will outlast the Pixel 5 too. Big battery appears to be the biggest unique feature of the Pixel 5a 5G - if that turns out to be true.

The Pixel 5 offers wireless charging and reverse wireless charging, a little premium feature giving you a few more options on this top device, which neither of the others offer.

Cameras

  • Pixel 5a 5G: 16MP + 12.2MP, 8MP (?)
  • Pixel 5: 16MP + 12.2MP, 8MP
  • Pixel 4a 5G: 16MP + 12.2MP, 8MP

The Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G come with a dual rear camera, comprised of the main 12.2-megapixel, 1.4µm, with an f/1.7 aperture and an ultra-wide 16-megapixel with an f/2.2 aperture. Their front camera is 8-megapixels with an f/2.0 aperture.

It's expected that the Pixel 5a 5G will offer exactly the same loadout of cameras, before a much more substantial change comes in on the Pixel 6

With that in mind, we'd expect pretty much the same performance across all these devices. Pixel phones are characterised by their computational photography, reliability in varied situations and excellent low light performance. We'd expect exactly the same from the Pixel 5a 5G.

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Conclusions

There are few differences between these Pixel models, perhaps bringing an end to a slightly uncertain chapter in Pixel history. With the Pixel 6 expected to make substantial changes, the look, feel and the hardware performance of the Pixel 4a 5G, Pixel 5 and Pixel 5a 5G are all very much the same. 

There's the same core hardware and the same camera experience, and while the Pixel 4a 5G has a lower refresh rate on the display, the Pixel 5a 5G might change that.

The Pixel 5 hangs onto a few premium features you don't get elsewhere like the higher quality materials, the IP68 waterproofing and the wireless charging - but with larger phones available at lower prices, it's hard to ignore the Pixel a models.

If the leaks surrounding the Pixel 5a 5G turn out to be correct, then it look like an easy choice over the older Pixel 4a 5G if you're buying new - but if you've already got the Pixel 4a 5G, you're not missing out on much.

Writing by Chris Hall. Originally published on 17 August 2021.

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