Google Pixel 5a Review: Is It Still Worth It?

The Google Pixel 5a is the solid, budget-friendly A-series pixel from 2021. I’ve been using the 5A over the past month, and I’m going to take you through my favorite things about it, cons and then my thought on who should get one, and is Pixel 5A worth in 2024?

Design and Build Quality

Google Pixel 5A Build and design

The Pixel 5A looks like a phone you saw last year (2021); that’s likely because it’s very similar to the Pixel 4A 5G in its size and weight, though its color is a different shade of black with forest green undertones, which looks really nice in person. Google in general actually does a very good job with ergonomics, and the Pixel 5a is just another example of that weighs a reasonable 183 grams.

As far as build, while the Pixel 5A does have an aluminum construction, Google gave it a grippy back, so it’s less likely to slip out of your hand, and the phone is actually lighter than I was expecting to make it easier to hold.

Display

Google Pixel 5a 5G Display Quality

The display on the Pixel 5A sports a 6.34-inch display that is a 2400 x 1080 OLED panel with a 413 PPi density and a hole-punch selfie camera. Text looks crisp, colors look good, and while it’s not the best OLED panel in terms of viewing angels, for $379, it’s a good screen, and things like reading our free channel newsletter on it look great.

And Google did add a high brightness mode, which will turn the display up to 800 nits of brightness. Another significant update Google made with this phone is bringing IP67 water resistance to the Pixel 5A, a first for an A-series pixel.

Software

Pixel 5a Exclusive Android

The Pixel 5A runs Google’s Pixel version of Android, which is slightly different than stock Android and comes with a lot of exclusive Pixel features. The pixel version of Android is, for me, just such a joy to use. It’s simple fast, there’s no crapware on it, and Google hasn’t automatically downloaded a bunch of third-party applications for you like you get with the Samsung phone.

You get Android’s great notification management and sorting, Android-exclusive features like smart lock, and the work profile that you can setup if you use G Suite to separate your work apps and personal apps.

Google Pixel 5a 5g Software and UI

It also gives you the ability to turn off all work apps and their notifications with a simple switch, which I use and absolutely love. And with the Pixel version of Android, you can use the Google Assistant right out of the box.

Pixel Exclusive Android Features

Some Pixel-exclusive features The Pixel 5A has call screening, which is a great way to weed out spam callers by having the Google Assistant pick up phone calls and screen them before actually ringing your phone, allowing you to see a transcript of the conversation the Google Assistant had with the person when your phone does ring.

Exclusive Android Hold for Me Feature on Pixel 5A

A related feature to the call screen that I absolutely love is called Hold for Me. Now you use this feature when you know you’re going to be on hold for a while with a customer service rep. The Google Assistant will stay on hold for you, letting you move on to other tasks and ringing your phone when it detects a customer service representative coming back on the line.

The Pixel 5A also comes with one of Google’s hallmark pixel features, which is Now Playing, which detects any music playing in the background and displays it on the always-on display. You can easily search your Now Playing History to see all of the songs your Pixel has detected.

Privacy and Security

Inside the Pixel 5A is the Titan M chip, which handles the phone’s most sensitive processes and information, such as password protection, encryption, and secure transactions in apps.

Safety check feature on Google Pixel 5a 5G smartphone

The Pixel 5A also has a personal safety app with features like safety check, where you can tell your Pixel to check in on you after a certain amount of time, like when I’m going on a walk. If you don’t check in after the time you set, the location of your phone will automatically be sent to the contacts you’ve selected.

The Pixel 5A also features car crash detection, where the phone will automatically detect if you’re in a car accident and let you check in if you’re safe, or it’ll automatically call emergency services if you don’t respond within 60 seconds. And new this year for Pixel devices, in Google Photos, you now have a private photos folder for sensitive on-device photos like scans of your passport, ID, etc.

Battery Life and Charging

The Pixel 5A has the largest battery of any pixel to date, and, in my opinion, this is one of the main selling points of this phone. The battery life is just solid; I’m typically seeing about a day and a half of battery life without the battery saver or extreme battery saver turned on. That’s easily 4-5 hours of screen time on the Pixel 5A, and I think you’d have to work really hard to drain this battery in a day.

If you use the extreme battery saver or the regular battery saver, you can likely get a full two days of battery life, which ain’t bad. You can actually schedule the battery saver to turn on automatically based on your routine and when Google thinks your battery is likely to run out or when your battery hits a certain percentage.

Extreme Battery Saver is another neat feature from Google that lets you extend your battery life in critical moments by turning off power-hungry background activities and certain features like Wi-Fi hotspots. You can go into extreme battery saver settings to set the essential apps that you still want to get notifications from when you have this feature turned on, and you can set the conditions for triggering it.

And when you need to juice up your phone, the Pixel 5A 5G does have quick charging using a USB-C cable; it does not have wireless charging, and yes, I am a bit bummed about that because I like this phone a lot. I wish it did have wireless charging, but wireless charging is still a pretty rare feature to see on a phone from 2021 at the budget price level, so it’s not like it was expected.

Camera Test

Google Pixel 5a 5G Camera Setup

The Google Pixel 5A gets the same exact wide and ultrawide cameras that the Pixel 5 got in the previous model, the Pixel 4A. You get Google’s excellent HDR+ technology, which performs very well in situations like a sunset or sunrise. You get Google’s Nightsight, which is handy for taking photos of objects in dark or low-light conditions, as well as Google’s astrophotography mode.

You also get some pixel-exclusive Google Photos features, like portrait light, which lets you change the direction of the main light source in portrait photos. And Pixel phones in general produce photos that have a great contrasty look, and their image processing is some of the best out there, often giving me photos that look better than ones from other phone brands.

And while the video quality on the Pixel 5A included isn’t nearly as good as what I’ve experienced on a Samsung or Apple phone, the Pixel 5A’s video quality is a step up from previous A-series phones thanks to the stabilization modes Google has brought, and the color accuracy has improved, although it’ll still shift colors as you pan the camera in shots, which can be annoying. But at this price level, the video quality at the end of the day is still pretty decent.

Final Thought

I think the Pixel 5a is a great choice of phone for anyone who just needs the basics of a 5G phone. It has great battery life, is one of the best cameras for the money, and has a nice design and screen size.

And the best part is that you get all of this for $379 dollars, which is pretty reasonable. Google really did everything it needed to do with the Pixel 5A, and as a result, it is a very solid device.

Now, if you want a Google Pixel Series with more premium build materials and with wireless charging, a much improved camera system, a better screen, and a likely much faster processor, that’s what the Pixel 6a and Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 7a and new Pixel 8 Series are for.

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