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Google Pixel 4a 5G vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G 2021

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A 5G phone doesn't have to break the bank, and the proof of this fact comes from the Google Pixel 4a 5G and Samsung S20 FE 5G. Both phones cost less than $700, which seems like an impressive feat as the modern phone market continues to hit price points above $1,000. The Pixel 4a 5G is a modestly pared-down version of the Pixel 5 while the S20 FE is a slightly cut Galaxy S20. In both cases, we look at each phone's design, specs, performance, camera, and features to help you decide which one to pick.

Google Pixel 4a 5GSamsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G1080p OLED screen1080p AMOLED screenNo high refresh display120Hz high refresh screenSnapdragon 765G processorSnapdragon 865 processor$500 MSRP$700 MSRP

Design and Display 

The Pixel 4a 5G draws its design from the old Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL in terms of dimensions, more than it does the Pixel 5. However, the big forehead bezel and the two-tone design is gone in favor of fairly monotone plastic. Surprisingly, the 4a 5G keeps the 3.5mm headphone jack, something omitted by the Pixel 5.

The screen consists of a 6.2-inch 1080p OLED screen, working out to a crisp 413 pixels per inch. Images are clear, and the panel isn't as oversaturated as the previous models. One downside: there's no high refresh rate, meaning you can't take advantage of 90Hz like the Pixel 5. 

 Ach5 / Andrew Hayward

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE looks an awful lot like the flagship Galaxy S20. It's sleek and thin, made out of the classic mix of glass and metal. There are a variety of colors like orange, red, and green that match the aluminum frame that curves along the side. There's no audio jack, but the phone does support IP68 water and dust resistance and a microSD card slot, unlike the Pixel 4a 5G.

The screen is a sharp 1080p AMOLED Infinity-O display with a 2400x1080 resolution. That puts the resolution on par with the Pixel 4a 5G, however, it has a 120Hz refresh rate giving it smoother scrolling and animations.

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Performance and Camera

When it comes to day-to-day performance, the Pixel 4a 5G has a capable Snapdragon 765G processor. It's not the most top-tier chipset, but it provides smooth performance that's aided by Google's clean software optimization. It handles multitasking well and can tackle most games without difficulty.

Camera performance is equally impressive. There's a dual-camera setup on the rear, giving you a 12.2MP wide-angle and 16MP ultrawide sensor. It matches the Pixel 5 in terms of photo and video capabilities, providing excellent shots, accurate lighting, and colors, and solid digital zoom. Google's photo-processing algorithms are particularly effective at ensuring a great image. It can also record 4K video at 60fps.  

 Ach5 / Andrew Hayward

The Galaxy S20 FE cuts no real corners when it comes to hardware chops. It's powered by a Snapdragon 865 processor, putting it on the same level as the various Galaxy S20 models. It has less RAM at 6GB, but in terms of day-to-day performance, it compares favorably with the best Android phones and notably benchmarks better than the Pixel 4a 5G. It has more capabilities in gaming, which is handy because the 120Hz screen can take advantage of the higher frame rate it pushes.

Camera quality pretty much exactly matches the regular S20: there's a 12Mp main sensor, 12MP ultrawide sensor, and 8MP telephoto sensor. It's capable of 3x optical zoom that can boost to a 30x hybrid zoom and takes shot with excellent detail and vivid colors, albeit it sometimes has an unrealistic sheen. It can also shoot 4K video at 60fps.

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Software and Connectivity

Both are Android phones, but the Pixel 4a 5G runs the latest Android 11 OS and is guaranteed to get three years of OS and security updates. Google's version of Android is the most optimized and lightweight, giving the phone a leg up in simplicity and predictive features.

The Pixel 4a 5G connects to sub-6GHz 5G which is the most common, but it won't work with Verizon's mmWave-powered UltraWide 5G unless you specifically buy the more costly Verizon model from the carrier. 

 Ach5 / Andrew Hayward

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE runs its custom skinned One UI interface on top of Android 10. This isn't the latest version, but it's been updated fairly extensively to cut down on over the top bloat. That said, there are some Samsung apps preinstalled, and the Galaxy Store can provide access to certain apps you can't get elsewhere like Fortnite.

The phone supports sub-6GHz 5G, but also doesn't support mmWave 5G used by Verizon and T-mobile. As with the Pixel 4a 5G, there's a more costly Verizon-specific model that provides mmWave connectivity.

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Price

The Google Pixel 4a 5G will run you $499, which feels like a steal next to other costly 5G phones on the market, many of which cost between $800-1200. The Galaxy S20 FE 5G is a more expensive device, running $700 at MSRP, though as of this writing it can be found on sale for $50-100 off.

Final Verdict

The Google Pixel 4a 5G and Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G compete for a similar segment of more affordably priced flagship 5G phones, but they have different tradeoffs. The Pixel 4a 5G benefits from a lower price, more optimized software, reliable updates, and a great camera for low-light and post-processing. The Galaxy S20 FE has beefier hardware on paper, including a higher refresh display, a more powerful chipset, and better premium features overall, but it'll run you nearly $200 more. The choice between them will come down to which of these you prioritize.