The Pixel 5a 5G was released in August 2021, almost a full year after the Pixel 5 hit the market. While the Pixel a devices tend to be more affordable, mild downgrades to the main models, it looks like Google had other plans this time..
The “a” series of Google Pixels traditionally ship with plastic bodies, no ingress protection, and a less powerful processor. The 5a 5G arrived with a bigger display, same aluminium body with water and dust protection, and same processor. The 5a 5G looks like a different class of Pixel “a” device.
Let’s have a look at the core specs, followed by the pros and cons, of the Google Pixel 5a 5G.
Pixel 5a 5G specs at a glance:
- OS: Android 11
- Release Date: August 2021
- Network Type: 2G/3G/4G/5G
- Display: 6.34-inch, OLED
- Processor: Snapdragon 765G
- Selfie Camera: 8 MP
- Rear camera: 12 MP dual
- RAM: 6 GB
- ROM: 128 GB
- Battery: 4680 mAh with 18W fast charge and USB Power Delivery 2.0
Pixel 5a 5G review summary: Pros
- Handy size and weight
- Superb battery life
- Timely Android software updates
- Good camera
Pixel 5a 5G review summary: Cons
- It heats up too easily
- 18W quick charge isn’t good enough
Pixel 5a 5G review: In the box
The Pixel 5a ships in a very compact white box. It is one of the most compact smartphone boxes you will find and it is true to Google’s pattern over the years. Inside the box is the phone itself at the top of the pile. Below it are the SIM card ejector tool and pamphlets.
When you lift those out, there are two compartments housing the 18W charger on one side, and the USB C to C cable and USB adaptor on the other. And that’s it about the box and its contents.
While the Pixel 5a has a 3.5mm audio port, Google does not include a compatible headset in the box.
Pixel 5a 5G review
I am not a fan of the Mostly Black colour scheme of the phone. I very much prefer the Almost White colour and feel of, say, the Pixel 3, for example. The phone has a good heft to it in the hand. It isn’t heavy; it doesn’t feel nonexistent either.
There is a 3.5mm audio port at the top end of the Pixel 5a. It also has stereo speakers – one in the earpiece at the top and the other at the bottom end. The fingerprint scanner is at the rear side of the phone, adjacent the camera.
The phone ships with Android 11 OS, but thanks to Google’s timely updates system, Android 12 was waiting for it once we took it out of the box, powered it on, and set it up.
Stock Android 12 is beautiful. We have already reviewed it and shared our thoughts in our Android 12 review.
The Pixel 5a 5G has a SIM card slot, supported by an eSIM. So, it is effectively a dual-SIM device – just not the usual kind. And as the name suggests, it is a 5G device too.
It is an unusual thing to speak of a Pixel phone and great battery life, but you are going to hear it here. The Pixel 5a’s 4680mAh battery, coupled with the Snapdragon 765G and 6.34-inch OLED display, delivers excellent battery life. It is so good it matches and exceeds my Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Pro, which has really good battery life.
I imagine that if used on a 5G network, the battery life numbers will drop a bit, but I doubt that it will go from the excellent record we are seeing here to horrible. It helps that the display is not a high refresh rate unit. What is here is good old 60 Hz refresh rate.
Battery charging is pegged at a maximum speed of 18W. It is much better than 10W or 15W, but it is also such a huge downgrade from 33W quick charge that it almost feels painful. I guess I have been spoilt by my now aging Mi Note 10 Pro and also recently, TECNO Camon 18 Premier.
I have no doubt that most people will find 18W charging good enough. Just not Mister Mobility. To be honest, I have been dreaming of 65W fast charging and higher.
In use, Pixel 5a 5G does not lag or feel sluggish. Snapdragon 765G is quite a capable mid-range chipset. Even with 6GB RAM, app launching and switching have remained smooth. This is stock android anyway: there is no bloat or a custom UI to slow the system down.
However, this phone heats up rather fast while in use. I don’t think it is a problem with the Snapdragon 765G chipset. For example, the Pixel 3 heats up too under use. Whether you are just scrolling through social media, typing an email, or taking photographs, the Pixel 3 and 5a heat up. Perhaps the other Pixel models do too.
And what is worse, Google’s built-in protection will go into panic mode when the phone heats up and switch off your data connection, or completely power off the phone, right in the middle of whatever you are doing. Blistering barnacles. This is the one true sore spot of using a Pixel 5a 5G.
Photography on the Pixel 5a 5G is good. It is on the better side of good. But as it uses the same hardware from a few years ago, it isn’t in the same class as the cream of the crop any more. Google has attempted to rectify the situation with the arrival of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. The Pixel 6a should deliver more cutting edge photography features.
Google Pixel 5a 5G review: Conclusion
I like the Pixel 5a 5G. It is not large and chunky in the hand. It is highly pocketable. It has good cameras, great battery life and decent performance. And it gives you the fastest access to Android updates. It will receive Android 13 and 14 updates.
If you need super-fast 5G connectivity, it has got you covered too. The IP67 dust and water protection is a lovely addition. It really is a compelling smartphone to buy in 2021.
Its one big bad spot is the heating up during use, and how the phone takes care of the situation regardless of what you are doing. Perhaps you can live with that; perhaps not.
With the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro now selling, the Pixel 5a 5G just might be available at discounted prices here and there, including on Amazon, Best buy, eBay, and others. It isn’t officially available in more than a handful of companies, so if you are resident outside of the USA, UK, and those few others, it has to be shipped to you.
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Founder of MobilityArena. Yomi’s journey in mobile started in 2001. Besides obsessing over mobile phones, he also started creating WAP sites (early mobile-friendly websites created with WML). He began writing about phones in 2004 and has been at it since then. He has owned over 200 devices, from Symbian, Palm, PocketPC/Windows Mobile, BlackBerry/BB10, webOS, Windows Phone, Firefox, Ubuntu Touch, to Android, iOS, and KaiOS operating systems.