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Hands on with the Google Pixel 4a and Google Nest Audio

By Rory Cashin

October 5, 2020 at 1:32pm

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Our reviews for some of Google's newest additions.

Google recently launched their 2020 slate of potential Christmas presents (or immediate gifts-to-self), including the Google Pixel 4a and the Google Nest Audio.

We've been playing with them both for the last few days, so if you're in the market for a new phone, or a new home assistant/speaker, then read on to find out if they're worth your investment.

Google Pixel 4a

  • Small and affordable

The first thing you'll notice is that you can hold and use the Pixel 4a in one hand, as opposed to some of the bigger, more tech-heavy phones that essentially demand two-handed use. This design does mean you're also getting less power, smaller memory, and a smaller screen, but also a smaller price tag. The Google Pixel 4a is available exclusive to Vodafone,  free on bill pay and €399 on PAYG.

  • The camera is pretty fantastic

It is rare these days to see a phone with so few cameras - just one on the front and one of the back. But don't let that deter you, as the photography on this phone is actually great, from the options available while taking the picture, to the in-phone editing you can do once the photo is already taken.

  • A headphone jack!

We thought we'd moved on from the phase in our lives when we missed headphone jacks, but no, apparently we hadn't! We cracked out our old wired headphones and were no longer concerned with having to charge the wireless ones or worried about the bluetooth connection dropping out. The in-phone speakers are actually pretty great, too.

  • The battery life is only okay

Perhaps to be expected with a smaller phone (and smaller battery), but one good charge is likely to only last you one day, or if you're a heavy user of your phone, even less than that.

  • Recognition software is spot-on

Google Assistant is heavily integrated in this phone, making it a totally hands-free experience if you need it to be. The voice recognition was flawless, never mishearing a request once during use. Same goes for the fingerprint access on the back of the phone, which reads your index finger to activate (replacing the facial recognition of some more advanced phones). The placement of the reader was perfect, and again, never once failed to react to the correct user.

Google Nest Audio

  • The sound is incredibly powerful

Whenever someone tells us that a speaker is powerful, the first thing we want to do is ramp it up as high as it will go, with the bass as strong as it will go, and test it out to see for ourselves. Google have said it is 75% louder and has 50% stronger bass than the original Google Home, and after trying it out on our favourite Spotify playlist, we have to say that sounds about right to us.

  • The design is minimalist, in a good way

From the outside, it doesn't look like the Nest Audio is anything more than a sexy looking speaker, but there are interactive buttons in the design, hidden from plain-sight. The top corners of the curves, when touched, adjust the volume or play/pause whatever is on at the moment. At the back, there is the microphone toggle switch, in case you just want to use it as a speaker via the Google Home app, or leave it on and ask it pretty much anything you want.

  • "Hey Google!"

On top of being a decent speaker to play tunes out of, it also comes equipped with Google Assistant, which has been honed to respond to more and more requests over the years. Setting alarms or asking about the weather or whatever you need it to do is still highly responsive, although sometimes requesting specific songs via your music streaming service can result in either the wrong song being played, or just not being found at all.

  • To get the most, you need more

While on its own, the Nest Audio is a great smart speaker for your home, it does need more to achieve more. Having two of the speakers would lead to some great surround sound in your living room, or connecting it to Smart Lights in your home will lead to a more fully-integrated home. But having all of these things isn't a viable option for everyone.

  • Great for the price

For how aesthetically pleasing it is, and how good the sound is, and how much can be accomplished with it, if you're looking for a smart speaker, it is tough not to fully recommend this one, which will be available for €99 when it goes on sale from Thursday, October 15.

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