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[Face Off] Google Pixel 4a vs OnePlus Nord

Settle for pure Android or Never Settle?

by: - Last updated on: October 23rd, 2020

They both mark moves by their brands into a more affordable price segment. They both claim to deliver a great experience. They both come from well-known brands. And they are both priced under Rs 30,000. So, if that is your budget, should you be going for a Google Pixel 4a or the OnePlus Nord? Both have their pros and cons. Which of the two is best for you? Let us try to figure it out.

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Who has got the Plus in the looks – the Nord or is this Pixel an a-grader?

Design and appearance is a very subjective issue and this really comes to the fore when you look at these two phones. In terms of sheer design effort, there is no doubt that the Nord has the clear edge with its premium glass front and back (and it uses Gorilla Glass 5 rather than Gorilla Glass 3 like the Pixel), but from what we have seen, there are many who will love the far more compact form factor and the minimalistic design of the Pixel 4a. Yes, the Nord has colors and flair, while the Pixel 4a has Just Black (literally), but the Pixel 4a is way more compact, with a length of 144.3 mm as compared to the 158 mm of the Nord. Both are equally slim at 8.2 mm, but the 4a is way lighter at 143 grams as compared to the 184 grams of the Nord.

If you are looking for a phone to flaunt, the Nord would be it, but in terms of just blending into your hand and pocket, the Pixel 4a would win easily. We are giving this one to the Nord, purely because of the flair, but this is incredibly close. If you want a compact phone (and many do), the Pixel wins it comfortably because it is so much more comfortable to use.

Winner: OnePlus Nord. The colors and do it and the glass helps.

Let’s look at the display, shall we – how do the two OLEDs compare?

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Both the Pixel 4a and the Nord come with Full HD+ displays. But they are very different, with the Nord having a 6.44-inch fluid AMOLED ones while the Pixel 4a comes with a 5.8 inch OLED display. In terms of performance, neither is likely to give Samsung sleepless nights, but by and large, we felt the Pixel 4a seemed to deliver better colors. The Nord does come with a 90 Hz refresh rate for faster scrolling and for better graphics with supported apps, so is likely to appeal more to the geeks. Some might also like the bigger Nord display for watching content. It is a rather close call. We are calling this one a tie.

Winner: Tie. Better colors versus a bigger display and refresh rate!

Let’s talk of processors, RAM, and innards. Who has the edge?

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The OnePlus Nord takes this by a mile. It comes with a newer and more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 processor as compared to the older Snapdragon 730G on the Pixel 4a. In terms of RAM and storage variants, the Nord comes with 6 GB/ 64 GB, 8 GB/ 128 GB, and 12 GB/ 126 GB, all of which are well ahead of the single 6 GB/ 128 GB variant of the Pixel 4a. Even in terms of cameras, the Nord sports four at the back and two at the front, while the Pixel has a single one on either side. The Pixel does score with stereo speakers and a 3.5 mm audio jack, though. Neither device has expandable storage, but in terms of connectivity, the Nord brings 5G to the table, which might not be available right now, but still gives the Nord a distinct future-proof touch.

Winner: OnePlus Nord. Chip, RAM, 5G…you name it!

What about software…wait, this is the Pixel. Does the Nord even have a chance?

Well, it is an out and out win for the Pixel 4a if you love stock Android and value regular updates. The clean and uncluttered UI on the Pixel 4a is the stuff of Android dreams for Google fans, with no bloatware at all, and regular updates assured for a while. The Nord with its OxygenOS is no pushover. Indeed, OxygenOS is believed to have been inspired heavily by stock Android and is also known for its regular updates, although the latest version of OygenOS is believed to be moving away from it.

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That said, the very fact that the Pixel comes with Android 11 while the Nord is waiting for its update to that version gets this round to the Pixel. You are more likely on the latest OS on the 4a than on the Nord. Once again, it is not as if the Nord is bad, it is just that if you like stock Android, the Pixel has the edge.

Winner: Google Pixel 4a. Android, Pixel…duh!

I wanna really push the phone, with high-end gaming and multitasking. Who wins?

When it comes to general performance in day to day matters, there is not too much to separate the devices, but get into the gaming and multi-tasking zone and the Nord’s superior hardware makes a telling difference. Games like Asphalt of Call of Duty work way more smoothly on the Nord at higher settings, and tasks like image editing and even multi-tasking work much more smoothly on the Nord than on the Pixel 4a. Yes, in routine tasks, the Pixel 4a is smooth enough and some might even find the interface better than the Nord, but up the work tempo and there is only one winner here.

Winner: OnePlus Nord. That hardware makes a difference.

Who gets the sound right, or should that be…makes the right sounds?

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It is a classic clash of quality vs quantity here. The Pixel 4a’s dual stereo speakers deliver better quality sound but the volume levels are relatively low. The Nord on the other hand has only a single speaker but delivers slightly louder sound. However, the Pixel 4a’s 3.5 mm audio jack gives it a clear edger over the Nord here.

Winner: Google Pixel 4a. Stereo speakers and a 3.5 mm audio jack compensate for low volumes!

Should we even talk about photography? The Pixel wins, right?

Well, it does – with its single 12.2-megapixel sensor with OIS (and a lot of software magic) generally outgunning the quad-camera set up on the Nord, headed by a 48-megapixel sensor with OIS. If it is the pure point and click clarity and detail that you want, the Pixel is well ahead of the Nord. Google’s phone series has been legendary when it comes to photography and Pixel 4a carries this tradition forward. You get terrific details (sometimes even unreal ones) and good colors, which the Nord really cannot match.

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So why are we still writing this, and not simply handing it to the Pixel 4a and moving to the next point? Well, because the Nord actually gives you a bit more variety, with its ultrawide lens, and delivers more from its macro lens as compared to the Pixel 4a, which struggles in close up situations. The camera app of the Nord also gives you far more variety as compared to the very basic one on the Pixel 4a, which does not give you controls like HDR and a Pro mode. The Pixel will give you a better shot nine times out of ten, but the Nord will let you do more. So yes, it is a win for the Pixel but the Nord is not a loser if that makes sense.

Winner: Google Pixel 4a. Sheer point and shoot excellence.

What about videos and selfies? Still the Pixel?

Remarkably, no. When it comes to videos and selfies, the Nord’s 32 and 8-megapixel camera combo actually does better (those dual selfie cameras sure help) than the Pixel’s single 8.0-megapixel shooter, with better colors, although the Pixel does handle portrait mode better and often a little more detail. The sound on the videos is better on the Nord too and the option to switch to an ultrawide is very handy indeed. We are handing this one to the Nord.

Winner: OnePlus Nord. Videos remain an Achilles Heel for the Pixel.

Let’s get to the battery. Should be a walkover for the Nord with a bigger battery and Warp Charge, no?

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Remember how the camera was supposed to be easy peasy apple squeezie for the Pixel but turned out to be rather tougher than expected. Well, that happens in the battery department. With a 4115 mAh battery and 30W fast (Warp) charging, the Nord should outclass the 3140 mAh battery on the Pixel 4a with an 18W charger.

In reality, however, both tend to last about a day of normal usage in default mode – whether it is because of the Pixel’s smaller display, lower display refresh rate, or better power management, we cannot say. The Nord however outlasts the Pixel when you scale back that display to a 60 Hz refresh rate and it does charge faster too – about an hour, as compared to an hour and a half of the Pixel. And that wins the round for the Nord. But this was surprisingly closer than expected.

Winner: OnePlus Nord. Turn off refresh, turn on warp for the win.

Suppose I am on a tight budget. Which one?

Well, a no-brainer. The Nord starts at Rs 24,999 for 6 GB/ 64 GB while the Pixel 4a has only one variant at Rs 29,999. In fact, the Nord’s highest specced variant – the 12 GB/ 256 GB one is priced at exactly the same price as the Pixel 4a. In terms of simple value for money, the Nord wins.

Winner: OnePlus Nord. More specs for fewer bucks.

Right, after all that – which one do you think is the one that works for me?

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As always, it really boils down to what you need. If you want a compact phone, are a huge Google fan, and are into simple point and shoot photography, the Pixel 4a is the one for you. In fact, it is pretty much unbeatable in that zone. However, if you are the type that wants superior hardware, more eye-catching design, and far more versatile cameras and control over photography, the Nord wins comfortably. The Pixel 4a is really for Android fans. The Nord is the better option for more mainstream users.

Winner: If you are a Google fan and are in pursuit of Android purity, get Pixel-ated. If you want a more regular and occasionally fast and furious life, go North (Nord) and Never Settle.

Buy OnePlus Nord
Buy Google Pixel 4a

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  1. While the Nord surely has an edge over the Pixel 4a in terms of the look, design as well as the processor integrated, I would have preferred Nord to have been integrated with a Dimensity chipset over the Snapdragon one. Much more reliable and with that the price would have also been lower than what it is now.