The OnePlus Nord is still the most affordable 5G smartphone in India, which in itself makes it great value. Apart from this, it’s also a very good all-rounder when it comes to the cameras, display, battery life, and app performance. Google’s recently launched Pixel 4a is here to challenge the Nord, but can it succeed?
The single rear camera is the highlight feature of the Pixel 4a, and this has been the case for nearly every Pixel smartphone so far. This year, the Pixel 4a fixes many of the shortcomings of its predecessor, making it a well-rounded mid-tier offering. It’s time to see which smartphone offers the best value, and which one you should be putting your money on.
OnePlus Nord vs Google Pixel 4a: Price in India and variants
The Google Pixel 4a is only available in a single configuration and colour. It has 6GB of RAM with 128GB of storage, and is priced at Rs. 31,999 (with a temporary promotional price of Rs. 29,999 at launch time). The OnePlus Nord on the other hand starts at Rs. 24,999 for 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage; going up to Rs. 27,999 for 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage; and Rs. 29,999 for 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. There’s a choice of three colours, but some of them are only available on certain variants.
In terms of value, the OnePlus Nord has an advantage with more variants at different price points.
OnePlus Nord vs Google Pixel 4a: Cameras
Let’s start with the camera tests, since this is what both companies boast of and most people are wondering about. Which phone captures better photos and videos?
|OnePlus Nord||Google Pixel 4a|
|Main Camera||Resolution||48 megapixels||12.2 megapixels|
|Ultra-wide Camera||Resolution||8 megapixels||None|
|Macro Camera||Resolution||2 megapixels||None|
|Depth Camera||Resolution||5 megapixels||None|
|Selfie Camera||Resolution||32 megapixels||8 megapixels|
|Ultra-wide Selfie Camera||Resolution||8 megapixels||None|
From the table above, it’s clear that the OnePlus Nord wins the numbers game as it has a total of six cameras, compared to just the two on the Google Pixel 4a. The Nord also has a higher resolution primary sensor, which in theory, should allow it to capture better detail. However, it goes up against Google’s superior machine learning and AI post-processing software, which we’ve seen work wonders before, so it’s time to compare the photos and see which ones are actually better.
In the first challenging backlit shot taken during the day, I found the Pixel 4a to do a slightly better job with HDR, as the warmer colours looked closer to the actual scene. Details were a little weaker though, and some textures on distant objects had a bit of noise, but all this was only noticeable after magnifying the image. The picture captured by the OnePlus Nord had a more neutral tone, which also looked good, and objects had slightly better detail thanks to the higher-resolution sensor. Looking at a closer subject, both phones captured very similar levels of detail, with the only difference being colour tones.
In close-ups, it’s the Pixel 4a that takes the lead most of the time. In this sample of a flower, every single vein in the petals is visible, giving it a striking look. The OnePlus Nord boosts colours a bit and fails to capture the intricate details of the flower.
In Portrait mode, the Pixel 4a produced a striking photo with a neutral colour tone and good details. The OnePlus Nord was not too far behind, packing in good details too, but I found the skin tone it captured a bit too yellow for my liking. Both phones did a decent job when shooting objects too. The Pixel 4a lets you adjust the level of background blur in the Google Photos app after taking shots, but this can’t be done on the Nord.
In low light, the Google Pixel 4a gets white balance spot on, with good exposure. However, if you magnify the image, details on objects are a bit weak. The OnePlus Nord captures slightly better details and exposure but the colour tone isn’t accurate to the actual scene. Night mode on both phones worked pretty evenly, but the Pixel 4a did a slightly better job in preserving shadows, giving photos better contrast and depth.
So far, the main rear cameras on both phones are pretty evenly matched when it comes to stills. The Pixel 4a does a slightly better job with portraits, and close-ups in general, in the daytime as well as in low light, but the OnePlus Nord manages slightly better details in landscape shots. It also has a leg up over the Pixel as it has an ultra-wide-angle camera and a macro camera, and a depth camera. While the usefulness of the latter two is debatable, no amount of AI wizardry can make up for the lack of a wide-angle lens.
On to selfies. With the beauty filters disabled on both phones, the OnePlus Nord had produced better selfies. It capturedt colours pretty accurately and even managed to expose the background correctly. The Google Pixel 4a offered up very good detail, but the colour tone was a bit too warm and not very pleasant. Both phones did very good jobs with Portrait mode sefies, blurring out the correct elements in the background. The Pixel 4a wins back serious points in low light, though.
Thanks to Night Sight for the selfie camera, you can expect very good exposure and skin tones even with weak artificial lighting. The OnePlus Nord doesn’t have the option of Nightscape for either of its selfie cameras, resulting in uneven exposure and weak details. In very dark environments, the Pixel 4a managed the impossible, making an almost pitch-dark selfie look well-lit, thanks to Night Sight. The Nord doesn’t perform nearly as well in comparison.
The OnePlus Nord also has an ultra-wide-angle selfie camera, for group photos, which is handy.
The OnePlus Nord and the Google Pixel 4a capture high-quality, stabilised videos at 4K. The Nord can also shoot at 4K 60fps, which the Pixel 4a cannot. Other than a slightly warmer colour tone from the Pixel 4a, details, colours and stabilisation were comparable when shooting with both phones during the day.
In low light, the Pixel 4a takes the lead thanks to slightly better exposure and details with minimal shimmer when walking about. The OnePlus Nord still has a lot of catching up to do as details were comparatively weaker and there’s an almost constant wobble effect if you pan or walk about. When shooting video with the selfie cameras, the Nord captures sharper-looking video since it can shoot at 4K, up to 60fps.
The Google Pixel 4a is a reliable performer in terms of photography, and Google’s AI post-processing seemingly never ceases to impress us. However unlike last year with the Pixel 3a, the competition has caught up, and it’s come to a point where software tricks simply aren’t enough anymore. The OnePlus Nord might not have the best low-light performance with stills or video, but it manages to keep up. It also has other strengths such as the flexibility of having multiple front and rear cameras for various photography needs, which is what makes it the overall winner.
OnePlus Nord vs Google Pixel 4a: Design
Based on physical construction quality, I’d pick the Google Pixel 4a between the two. It’s lighter, more compact, and has a very understated charm to it. The body is polycarbonate, just like that of the OnePlus Nord, but instead of a glass back it has a unibody shell which looks good and doesn’t attract fingerprints. I really wish Google offered more colours, though.
If you want a bit of flash, the OnePlus Nord in this Nord Blue trim should be right up your alley. However, it’s heavier and larger than the Pixel 4a, and due to its glass back, easily attracts smudges. Neither of these phones has any IP rating, but in my experience, they’ve held up pretty well so far even with not-so-careful use.
Both smartphones have OLED displays, with full-HD+ resolutions. They also support HDR10+ video playback. Colours and brightness are good across both displays, but a few things make the experience of using the Nord a bit better. For starters, it has a 90Hz refresh rate versus 60Hz on the Pixel 4a. This makes navigation and scrolling feel snappier and more fluid. The Nord also uses Gorilla Glass 5, compared to Gorilla Glass 3 on the Pixel 4a. Lastly, the Nord’s display produces crisper whites compared to the Pixel 4a.
Coming to other physical differences between the two phones, the Pixel 4a has a headphone jack, which is missing on the Nord. However, it only supports a single physical SIM card (with the option of using an eSIM) while the Nord can accommodate two Nano-SIMs. The Pixel 4a has stereo speakers, which the Nord doesn’t. Both phones have biometric authentication. The OnePlus Nord has an in-display fingerprint sensor and face recognition, while Pixel 4a users will have to make do with only a capacitive fingerprint sensor on the back panel.
Overall, the OnePlus Nord does have the better display but it’s hard to ignore the comfortable size of the Pixel 4a.
OnePlus Nord vs Google Pixel 4a: Software
Software preference can be very subjective, but I think you should be happy with either one of these phones. The Google Pixel 4a should obviously be first in line to receive any major update from Google. The company promises a minimum of three years of OS and security updates. The user interface is clean without any bloatware and it has some useful gestures baked in.
The OnePlus Nord runs OxygenOS, which up until now, has been the best skin on Android in our experience. It’s similar to stock Android, in the sense that there’s minimal bloatware and it’s easy to use. However, you also get a bunch of useful add-ons such as Game Space to block calls and notifications when gaming, and gestures for things like taking a screenshot, etc. OnePlus also promises two years of software updates and three years of security updates, which is good.
OnePlus Nord vs Google Pixel 4a: Performance
For day-to-day use, the Google Pixel 4a and OnePlus Nord both perform very well. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G in the Nord is faster than the Snapdragon 730G in the Pixel 4a, but you probably won’t notice this when using social apps or texting. The Nord has a clear lead in benchmarks for sure, but both phones do commendable jobs when it comes to playing games or multitasking. The higher amount of RAM in the top-end variant of the Nord should give it more headroom to continue operating smoothly even in the long run. The Pixel 4a is still a snappy performer though, and I never once felt any lack of power for everyday activities.
Videos look good on both displays, but sound is better on the Pixel 4a thanks to its stereo speakers.
Battery life is one of the biggest differentiating factors between the Google Pixel 4a and the OnePlus Nord. The Nord has nearly a 1,000mAh battery capacity advantage (4,115mAh) compared to the Pixel 4a (3,140mAh). While both phones will easily get you through one full day on a single charge, the Pixel 4a struggles to go beyond that, while the Nord easily lasts for a day and half or even more, depending on your usage. The Nord charges a lot quicker too, despite having a larger battery. This is because it supports 30W fast charging, compared to just 18W on the Pixel 4a.
Verdict: Is there a clear winner?
All things considered, the OnePlus Nord (Review) wins easily when compared to the Google Pixel 4a (Review). It has a more attractive starting price, better hardware, and much stronger battery life. Camera performance was also surprisingly competitive, and it’s hard to ignore the usefulness of its ultra-wide-angle cameras. For most people, I think the OnePlus Nord should still be the phone to buy under Rs. 30,000 – plus it’s 5G ready.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t recommend the Google Pixel 4a at all. It might not be as competitive in terms of pricing as the Nord, but given the cost of Google’s previous smartphones in India, it doesn’t look so bad. It has a reliable set of cameras, great software, decent overall performance, and acceptable battery life. However, it loses this battle since other than low-light camera performance, compactness, and stereo speakers, it’s always a beat behind the OnePlus Nord.
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