This week are going to move away from the traditional tips and tricks and how to
guides to a wider discussion on the two biggest mobile releases of the year.
OnePlus and Google both have announced their mid-range releases which pretty
much go head to head to each other and are well poised to capture the very
the lucrative Indian market, but which one should you buy? Do you buy the all so
mighty Google or should you buy the OnePlus which has shown tons of potential,
let us have a deep look inside each of them to better understand.
Pixel 4a OnePlus Nord
Google’s latest affordable Pixel is a phenomenal little phone, delivering just
enough of everything for most people at its mid-range price point. The Pixel 4a
stands out in this segment thanks to its camera, which punches well above its
weight thanks to Google’s HDR+ technology. However, the small size and fairly
dull design may be a turn-off for some, and you’ll miss out on 5G connectivity for
as long as you’re using it.
Pixel UI with helpful features
Three years of fast platform updates
All-day battery life
Boring plastic design
Display only 60Hz
No water resistance
Limited global availability
The OnePlus Nord offers a ridiculous amount of smartphone for £30 more than
the Pixel. The display is larger, with a smooth 90Hz refresh rate, and the Nord also
boasts a more attractive glass design and superior processor. However, the quad
cameras can’t compare to the Pixel’s single shooter. Although OnePlus has a good
software update track record, it’s unlikely to keep pace with Google’s day-one
updates over time.
Superior 90Hz AMOLED panel
Faster performance with Snapdragon 765G
More RAM/storage options
Beautiful glass-backed design
30W fast charging
Main camera falls short of Google’s
Secondary cameras are mediocre
Only two years of Android platform updates
No headphone jack
On both the inside and outside, there’s a stark contrast between the
OnePlus Nord and Google Pixel 4a. There’s no question that the Nord has
the more striking design of the two, especially in its trademark “blue
marble” hue. While Google opts for a subdued matte black plastic chassis,
OnePlus’s handset definitely has the appearance of a more premium
smartphone thanks to its glass back and reflective mid-wall.
The Nord is considerably larger than its rival too, with a 6.44-inch display
diagonal compared to the Pixel’s mere 5.8 inches. That makes one-handed
use a little trickier, though if you’re used to modern, large-screened
smartphones, the Nord won’t be a challenge to use. The Pixel 4a,
conversely, is definitely the winner for fans of small phones, being one of
the few high-profile Android phones around the same size as a smaller
“Pro” model iPhone.
On the inside, the OnePlus Nord is clearly the technically superior phone. It
features Qualcomm’s upper mid-range chipset, the Snapdragon 765G,
boasting more computational horsepower in general, but especially in
terms of graphics. The 765G also enables 5G connectivity for added future-
proofing, which may not be a concern right now, but will ensure the Nord is
equipped to run on next-generation networks as they roll out.
OnePlus also offers dual SIM support, whereas on the Pixel side you’ll need
to switch your main SIM to an eSIM in order to use the single physical SIM
slot in dual-SIM mode.
The Nord is the technically superior phone, but Google’s strengths lie
The single biggest performance advantage you’ll actually notice while using
the Nord, however, comes from its display. The 6.44-inch panel packs a
90Hz refresh rate, which until recently have been exclusive to expensive
flagship phones. The extra fluidity and responsiveness this brings is
palpable, and it’s hard to go back to 60 once you’ve experienced it.
One area where the Pixel 4a pulls ahead of the Nord, though, is in audio.
Not only does it pack a pretty loud and clear stereo speaker setup —
combining a bottom-firing loudspeaker with the earpiece tweeter — but
the 4a retains the good old 3.5mm headphone jack.
While the Pixel 4a comes in a single SKU with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of
non-expandable storage, the OnePlus Nord can offer upgrades beyond its
base 8GB/128GB configuration — up to 12GB of RAM and 256GB of
storage. While 128GB should be enough for most people, the option to
double it (for a price) is certainly nice to have.
On paper the Nord’s battery also bests the Pixel by a considerable margin.
However due to a larger display and higher refresh rate, the Nord’s real-
world lead is shorter than you might expect. With my usage patterns, both
phones got me through a full 15- to 16-hour day of use, with the Pixel 4a
clocking in between 4 and 4.5 hours of screen-on time and the Nord
creeping closer to five. OnePlus also wins on charging speeds, thanks to its
Warp Charge 30T spec, which promises zero to 70% charging in 30 minutes.
4a OnePlus Nord
6.44-inch 90Hz Fluid
Gorilla Glass 5
Chipset Snapdragon 730 Snapdragon 765G
GPU Adreno 618 Adreno 620
RAM 6GB 6GB/8GB/12GB
Storage 128GB 64GB/128GB/256GB
MicroSD slot ❌ ❌
Rear camera 1
4K at 30fps
48MP (IMX586), 0.8μm
4K at 30fps
Rear camera 2 ❌ 8MP wide-angle, f/2.25
Rear camera 3 ❌ 2MP macro, f/2.4
Rear camera 4 ❌ 5MP portrait lens, f/2.4
1.12μm fixed focus
32MP, f/2.45 (IMX616)
0.8μm, EIS, fixed focus
f/2.45, 105-degree field-
Connectivity 4G 4G/5G
5G Bands N/A Europe: N1/3/7/28/78
Battery 3,140mAh 4115mAh
Charging 18W USB-PD USB-C 3.1
Warp Charge 30T (5V/6A)
resistance ❌ ❌
Security Rear fingerprint
144 x 69.4 x 8.2
158.3 x 73.3 x 8.2 mm
Colors Just Black Blue Marble, Grey Onyx
Smooth software or the best cameras?
Google and OnePlus are both well known for their slick, fast Android
software, and on the surface, the Nord and the Pixel 4a share a similar
software aesthetic. Neither diverges too much from vanilla Android, but
both have layered it with their own unique loadout of features.
Google’s Pixel software is all about tight integration with the company’s
own services, particularly Google Assistant, which is at the heart of the
phone’s intelligent capabilities. The Pixel 4a boasts the new-looking, faster
Assistant that’s still unavailable outside of Google’s own smartphones. The
Pixel software suite also includes on-device live transcription, which can
intelligently turn spoken words in any app into captions. Extras like the
Personal Safety app and car crash detection could be genuinely life-saving
in the right (or wrong) situation.
OnePlus comes close, but you can’t beat the Pixel’s software support
Google’s continuing to add to Pixels’ capabilities over time through its
regular feature drops, the most recent of which included video blurring
options for Duo video calls, and improvements to memory management to
allow more apps to remain in memory.
There’s actually quite a bit of Google to be found in the OnePlus Nord, too.
The Nord is the first OnePlus phone to use Google’s own phone dialer and
Android Messages app for calls and texts by default. That means you get
access to Google’s smart spam filtering options and caller ID features.
Meanwhile, OnePlus also recently integrated the Google Feed into its home
screen launcher, while all the company’s 2020 handsets have come bundled
with Live Transcribe.
Where OnePlus sets itself apart is in the speed and fluidity of its OxygenOS
software, as well as features inspired by its enthusiast community. Zen
Mode helps you disconnect with enforced smartphone downtime. Lock
screen gestures help you jump straight to favorite apps. And OxygenOS is
endlessly customizable, even more so than vanilla Android 10 on the Pixel.
When it comes to software updates, Google leads the way with a full three
years of platform updates for its Pixel phones from their U.S. launch date.
Meanwhile OnePlus is no slouch, offering two years of platform updates
and a third year of Android security patches. Nevertheless, OnePlus likely
won’t be able to match the speed of update deployment to Google’s Pixels.
During their supported lifespan, Pixel phones can update to new versions of
Android from day one.
The greatest software edge for Google, however, might be the Pixel 4a’s
camera. On paper it’s identical to the camera of the flagship-priced Pixel 4,
only with slower photo processing because of the weaker chipset. There’s
only one rear camera, as opposed to the four of the OnePlus Nord, but
considering the price and the quality of that one camera, it’s a worthy
The Nord’s Sony IMX586 sensor is a proven component, and combined with
OnePlus’s software processing and HDR features, produces pleasing shots
with ample dynamic range and vibrant colors. The Pixel’s main camera
arguably produces more lifelike images, with less tendency to crush shadow
detail. Google’s processing also produces shots with greater highlight detail,
and a trademark grain effect when examined up close.
Both cameras offer impressive dedicated night modes. However, only the
Pixel can boast Google’s astrophotography mode, which (with the help of a
tripod or stand) allows extreme computational long exposures of stellar
While the Nord’s main camera is no slouch in the photographic
department, its secondary cameras are fairly weak, with even the 8-
megapixel ultrawide producing blotchy images without much fine detail.
Also, the lack of telephoto zoom feels like a missed opportunity in a phone
with so many lenses — instead you’ll be getting 12-megapixel crops from
that 48-megapixel sensor when you zoom in.
Google’s camera relies on computational zoom based on the movement of
the lens, which is decent at up to around 2X, but beyond that can produce
strange artifacts around certain objects.
Around the front, OnePlus offers two selfie cameras — one standard, and
another ultrawide, for fitting more people or stuff into your images. That’s
something Google doesn’t offer, however the Pixel’s front camera does
benefit from Google’s software portrait mode and the excellent Night Sight
OnePlus Nord vs. Google Pixel 4a A question of priorities
With the OnePlus Nord not being sold in the U.S., and the Pixel 4a limited
to a handful of countries at present, there are only a few territories where
both the Nord and the Pixel will be sold side-by-side. That means for many
people, the question of which to buy will be answered by whichever one is
Provided you are in a country where both are sold, you really can’t go
wrong with either. Both offer excellent value for money, great software,
fast performance and long term software support. Instead, the choice
between the two comes down to your own personal priorities.
If great photos are your main priority, I’d have to hand the win to Google.
The 4a’s camera is that good, and such quality is unprecedented at this
price point outside of the phone’s immediate predecessor, the Pixel 3a.
Same deal if you want a great, small phone at this price. It doesn’t get any
better than the Pixel 4a. The Pixel is also first in line for new Google
features with its day-one Android updates and regular Pixel feature drops,
so if you’re an Android nerd, that’s a big draw.
Superior photos and pocket-sized charm? Or souped-up specs and faster
However, OnePlus is a step ahead in terms of sheer technology. So if you
want more power for gaming, as well as the speed that only a fast refresh
rate can deliver, it’s a clear win for the Nord. Likewise, spec fiends will
appreciate the ability to bump up to 12GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, as
well as real dual-SIM support and 5G connectivity. True to its heritage,
OnePlus has the better and more powerful phone for enthusiasts.
Neither device delivers everything you could want. Are you a power-hungry
enthusiast who lives for big screens and fast refresh rates, or are you
swayed by the promise of a superior pocket-sized camera that doubles as
an AI-equipped smartphone? Your priorities (as well as your location) will
dictate which of these excellent mid-rangers is right for you.
Performance, battery life, and charging
The Pixel 4a is powered by the Snapdragon 730, while the OnePlus Nord
comes with the Snapdragon 765G under its bonnet. The difference
between the two processors is slight, with the 765G having improved GPU
performance, meaning graphics and visuals will be rendered more quickly
by the Nord.
Both phones come with 6GB of RAM as standard, which should be enough
to handle the vast majority of games and apps likely to come your way.
That said, you can buy the OnePlus with either 8GB of RAM or 12GB of
RAM, making it noticeably more powerful than the Pixel 4a if you have the
extra cash to spare. The 12GB version of the OnePlus Nord also provides
256GB of internal storage, whereas the 8GB and 6GB versions come with
128GB and 64GB, respectively. The Pixel 4a gives you a generous 128GB as
One area where the Pixel 4a isn’t that generous is the battery. It falls far
short of the OnePlus Nord in this respect, offering a 3,140mAh cell, while
OnePlus’ phone offers 4,115mAh. The Nord can last comfortably for more
than a day without needing a recharge, while the 4a may need recharging
within a single day, particularly if you’re a heavier user.
Then there’s the fact that the Pixel 4a supports fast charging at 18W, while
the OnePlus Nord goes up to 30W. This enables OnePlus’ device to charge
to 70% in around 30 minutes, which is great for anyone in a rush.
Combined with the superior processor, this battery advantage provides the
OnePlus Nord with a clear win in this round.
Winner: OnePlus Nord
The Pixel 4a and OnePlus Nord have one headline special feature each, and
which one is more special will depend on your priorities as a phone user.
The Pixel comes with the aforementioned flagship-level camera, which
basically lets even inexperienced photographers point their phone at a
person or scene and capture a quality photo. Meanwhile, the Nord comes
with support for 5G, which will let you surf the web and download media at
a much higher speed.
There’s not much else to write home about other than that, although the
Pixel 4a provides a few Google-exclusive features you don’t normally have
on other Android devices. Its Google Maps augmented reality directions
mode comes in handy if you find yourself lost in an unfamiliar location,
while AI-based features such as Call Screen can help you save time.
This round could go either way, though the Pixel 4a’s Google-only extras
may swing it for some. Then again, 5G brings a level of future-proofing that
others may value more than anything else, so we’re going to declare
Overall winner: Google Pixel 4a
It’s a close call, but the Google Pixel 4a does trump the OnePlus Nord as a
budget smartphone. It doesn’t quite look as good, and it’s slightly less
powerful, but its camera produces noticeably better pictures in most
environments. It also has better software and will receive more regular
updates, something which will keep it running securely for longer. Its
display is at least as sharp as the OnePlus Nord’s, while it’s also the cheaper
and more available (at least in the U.S.) smartphone.
The OnePlus Nord will be more attractive to anyone who wants 5G, of
course. It’s a great budget smartphone in its own right, but in the end, the
Pixel 4a gets the win for making premium features available at such a low
What do you think? Who in your opinion is the winner? Do let us know,
post your views and comments as we would love to hear from you