The budget smartphone market has become incredibly competitive over the past year or so thanks to ever-climbing flagship prices. Two of the hottest on the block are the Google Pixel 4a and the OnePlus Nord.
The former utilizes software to the fullest to get the most out of its limited hardware, while the latter relies more on specs to get the job done. Two completely different approaches to a mid-range smartphone, but which one comes out on top?
Find out in Android Authorityâ€™s Google Pixel 4a vs OnePlus Nord hands-on comparison.
Google Pixel 4a vs OnePlus Nord
|Google Pixel 4a||OnePlus Nord|
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
19.5:9 aspect ratio
Gorilla Glass 3
|6.44-inch Fluid AMOLED
2,400 x 1,080
20:9 aspect ratio
90Hz refresh rate
In-display fingerprint sensor
Corning Gorilla Glass 5
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G
|Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
|RAM||6GB RAM||8GB / 12GB LPDDR4X|
No microSD slot
|128GB / 256GB UFS 2.1|
12.2MP, f/1.7, 1.4Âµm pixels, optical + electronic image stabilization
– 48MP main (f/1.75, 0.8Âµm)
– 8MP ultra-wide (f/2.25, 119 degrees)
– 5MP depth (f/2.4)
– 2MP macro (f/2.4)
No wireless charging
Warp Charge 30T (5V/6A)
No wireless charging
|IP Rating||No IP rating||None|
|Software||Android 10||OxygenOS 10.5
|Colors||Just Black||Gray Onyx
|Dimensions and weight||144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm
|158.3 x 73.3 x 8.2mm
Design and display
The designs of these smartphones differ greatly. The OnePlus Nord has Gorilla Glass 5 on both front and back with a plastic rail around the outside. The power button is on the right and the volume rocker is on the left. OnePlusâ€™ signature mute toggle switch also resides on the right-hand side. The USB-C port is rated at 2.0 speeds and the optical in-display is faster than most other mid-range phones.
The most striking part of the design of the model Iâ€™ve been using is the Blue Marble colorway, which really pops in certain lighting conditions. It looks even more dramatic in person, though thereâ€™s also a far more muted Gray Onyx option too. The phone feels premium in the hand and a lot like a flagship thanks to its tapered glass back and large size.
The OnePlus Nord looks and feels more like a flagship.
Comparatively, the Pixel 4a feels â€œcheaperâ€� with its full polycarbonate build. However, its buttons â€” which are all on the right-hand side â€” feel crisper and more tactile. The single black color is a bit boring but isnâ€™t offensive to look at by any means. The Pixel 4aâ€™s USB-C port is rated at 3.1 speeds and thereâ€™s even a headphone jack at the top.
The deviceâ€™s haptics are also more impressive than the Nordâ€™s. The rear capacitive fingerprint scanner is faster and more accurate than the Nordâ€™s in-display reader and can be used to pull down the notification shade. Its single punch hole is also smaller than the Nordâ€™s double punch hole as itâ€™s only housing a single camera. However, the bezels are ever so slightly thicker on the Pixel 4a.
On paper, the Pixel 4aâ€™s 5.81-inch 60Hz display shouldnâ€™t be as impressive as the Nordâ€™s 6.44-inch 90Hz panel.
However, the Pixel 4aâ€™s panel came out as the better of the two in our display testing. It has better color accuracy and is more precisely calibrated than the Nordâ€™s panel. In everyday use, it doesnâ€™t make a major difference to the user experience, but holding both devices side by side shows the discrepancies in image quality between the two.
What does make a difference is the OnePlus Nordâ€™s higher refresh rate display which, when combined with the increased screen real estate, help the device feel smoother, snappier, and more like a flagship phone.
The form factor is the biggest difference between these two phones. Even if youâ€™re not so concerned with aesthetics, the OnePlus Nord is a significantly larger device than the Pixel 4a. Those after a more compact phone may want to opt for Googleâ€™s budget handset.
Performance, battery life, and software
Unsurprisingly, the OnePlus Nordâ€™s more powerful Snapdragon 765G handily beat out the Pixel 4aâ€™s 730G in our testing. Between the impressive raw performance, the faster display, and the snappier animations in OxygenOS, the OnePlus Nord feels a lot quicker under the finger than the Pixel 4a. Just flicking between apps, the Nord is noticeably faster.
The story continues for gaming. The Snapdragon 765Gâ€™s more powerful Adreno 620 GPU makes short work of 2D games and runs some 3D titles at 90fps. The Nord struggles with more graphically intensive games such as Fortnite and PUBG Mobile, though the games are still playable. The Pixel 4a doesnâ€™t cope as well. Gameplay is less immersive with hangs and lagging being more frequent due to its weaker chipset.
With all that said, the Pixel 4a is still a very capable performer and a significant upgrade over its predecessor. Check out our Pixel 4a performance deep dive belowÂ for more.
For software, picking between the Nordâ€™s OxygenOS and Googleâ€™s Pixel Experience will come down to personal preference. Both are very clean versions of Android 10. Similarly, both companies support have impressive track records with updates and version upgrades. You would expect this from Google, of course, but OnePlus is one of the best out there for long-term software support. OxygenOS is the more feature-rich of the two with a wide variety of customization options that look set to expand further when OxygenOS 11 rolls out.
However, Pixel Experience does more with the hardware that itâ€™s running on. It manages to make a Snapdragon 730G feel almost as smooth as the more powerful 765G in basic tasks. The Pixel 4a also processes images faster than the OnePlus Nord in our testing while also besting it in image quality thanks to Googleâ€™s celebrated computational photography smarts (more on this later). Pixel Experience also maximizes battery life by culling background tasks and adds in handy features like Now Playing, which detects ambient music and displays the title and artist on the lock screen. Â
Picking between OxygenOS and Pixel Experience will come down to personal preference.
The OnePlus Nordâ€™s battery may be larger than the Pixel 4aâ€™s cell, but Googleâ€™s budget phone wasnâ€™t far behind the Nord in our Speed Test G battery tests. This is likely due to the Pixel 4aâ€™s less power-hungry chipset and Googleâ€™s battery software optimizations. Thankfully, both devices will give you all-day battery life as long as youâ€™re not a power user.
The Pixel 4a canâ€™t compete with the OnePlus Nord on charging, however. The Warp Charge 30T standard took the Nord from 0-100% in just 57 minutes in our tests vs the 87 minutes it took to recharge the Pixel 4a with its maximum supported 18W charger.
Weâ€™ve been testing the Pixel 4a against the OnePlus Nord for full shootout contest (coming soon) and itâ€™s perhaps not all that surprising that the Pixel 4a came out on top overall. Despite having only a single rear sensor, thereâ€™s no denying that the Pixel 4aâ€™s main shooter takes the best photos of any mid-ranger, let alone just the OnePlus Nord.
When compared to the Nord, the Pixel 4a camera is sharper, captures much more dynamic range, and produces much more accurate colors.
The OnePlus Nord tends to add a lot of contrast to its images and doesnâ€™t gather much detail in the shadows. The Pixel 4a, on the other hand, gathers that shadow detail and captures excellent dynamic range. Youâ€™ll notice that the Pixel 4a leans towards a cooler white balance which is more realistic of the actual test conditions. The Nordâ€™s images pop more, but the Pixel 4aâ€™s images are the most lifelike.
Indoors, the OnePlus Nord captures more light which makes sense given its larger sensor. The Pixel 4a in photo mode does a better job of denoising images, however. Again, the Pixelâ€™s colors look far more true to life than the Nordâ€™s which are rather washed out by comparison. Moving to outdoor light, the OnePlus Nord now captures more saturated colors at the expense of realism. The Pixel 4aâ€™s images, while more â€œblandâ€� are closer to what youâ€™d see in real life. The shot of the leaves is a perfect example of this.
Neither device takes amazing selfies. As you can see here, the OnePlus Nord does a lot of skin smoothing and its overall exposure is very dark in low-light. The Pixel does more with the amount of light that is given. In selfie portrait mode, the Pixel 4aâ€™s edge detection is far better than the Nord and the focus roll-off is more realistic. In both good light and low light, the Pixel 4a better handles shadows and highlight roll-off.
Both devices support portrait mode on both humans and objects. In portrait mode, the Pixel 4a crops in more than the Nord in order to emulate a true portrait lens. This results in a more pleasing and realistic bokeh mode, but means that you have to step further back to get the same framing. Its focus roll-off is rather harsh compared to the OnePlus Nord, though. Both phones do a good job with these fairly complex scenes, though Iâ€™d call the Pixel 4a the winner in this category.
Neither device has any kind of dedicated zoom lens, but that didnâ€™t stop us trying the zoom function anyway! When zooming in 5x, both are surprisingly sharp. However, the OnePlus Nord adds a lot of sharpening when processing the image which results in too much contrast around the detailed areas.
The Pixel 4a remains sharp in a more natural way without any kind of harsh jagged lines in the wood on this telegraph pole. The Pixel 4a also captures more dynamic range, as illustrated in the shot of the telegraph pole. The OnePlus Nord is doing something strange with the colors and white balance as it tries to focus on the pole itself. whereas the Pixel 4aâ€™s shot looks more natural.
Both smartphones have their own versions of night mode. The Pixel has Night Sight, and the OnePlus has Night Shot. In these early morning photos of the side of my house, the Pixel 4a captures far more detail in the pebble dashing and the sky. The OnePlus Nordâ€™s Night Shot image has more noise reduction applied which results in a smeary final product. In the shots of the salt and pepper shakers and the Lego minifig, the Pixel 4a manages to capture a lot more detail in the shadows. You can read almost every word on those shakers in the Pixel 4aâ€™s image, whereas the OnePlus Nordâ€™s image has too much contrast. The Pixel 4a takes the win, no question.
The OnePlus Nord has the ability to zoom out to an ultra-wide where the 4a doesnâ€™t. However, the quality of that ultrawide camera is rather questionable.Â The OnePlus Nord also has a 2MP macro camera which whilst handy for a handful of moments, is very soft and doesnâ€™t capture much dynamic range. The Nordâ€™s rear depth camera doesnâ€™t seem to aid much in portrait mode, either.
The Nord is also able to shoot in more modes with its far more comprehensive camera app. However, its image processing is slower and not as high quality as the Pixel 4aâ€™s more simplistic app. Overall, the Google Pixel 4a has a much better camera.
More camera shootouts:
- Google Pixel 4a vs Pixel 4 camera shootout: Budget vs flagship
- Google Pixel 4a vs Pixel 3a camera shootout: Is it worth the upgrade?
- OnePlus Nord vs iPhone SE camera shootout: Which is better?
How do the prices compare?
The Pixel 4a is currently on a waiting list, but will release at â‚¬349 throughout Europe (aside from Italy and Spain, in which it is â‚¬389), $349 in the US, and 26,290 rupees in India.
- Google Pixel 4a with 6GB RAM+128GB storage: $349/Â£349/â‚¬349/26,290 rupees
The OnePlus Nord, on the other hand, is available in Europe and Asia, with no plans to bring it to the US.
- OnePlus Nord with 6GB RAM+64GB storage: 24,999 rupees (India exclusive)
- OnePlus Nord with 8GB RAM+128GB storage: Â£379/â‚¬399/27,999 rupees
- OnePlus Nord with 12GB RAM+256GB storage: Â£469/â‚¬499/29,999 rupees
This means that in the US at least, you only have one option â€” the Google Pixel 4a.
Google Pixel 4a vs OnePlus Nord: Which should you buy?
The Google Pixel 4a and OnePlus Nord are both great smartphones, so your purchase decision is going to be down to personal preference.
If you judge a phone on a specs sheet or the number of things it can do, the OnePlus Nord certainly gives you the most for your money. You get six cameras, a faster user experience, smoother gaming, faster charging, and a bigger battery. OxygenOS is fantastic and runs just as well on OnePlusâ€™ mid-ranger as it does on the OnePlus 8 series.
However, if you want a simple phone that nails the basics, the Google Pixel 4a is a masterpiece of essential smartphone design. Itâ€™s also far more widely available, which may be the biggest deciding factor!
The final choice between the Google Pixel 4a vs OnePlus Nord is down to you. Which budget phone would you buy?