Google Pixel 3a & 3a XL Review

Google Pixel 3a & 3a XL Review
Google Pixel 3a & 3a XL Review
Pixel 3a - Google Pixel 3a & 3a XL Review

Pixel 3a

Pixel 3a XL - Google Pixel 3a & 3a XL Review

Pixel 3a XL


There was a time when Google challenged the status quo and defied it, ushering in a short renaissance in the mobile space that eventually made us rethink what it is that makes up a flagship smartphone. The days of the low-cost Google Nexus 4 and 5 are long behind us, and rather than that trend continuing, we’ve seen nothing but the opposite with manufacturers pushing out more and more expensive smartphones.

This applies to Google as well, whose line of Pixel phones has always been sold at premium prices. With the smartphone space being so busy with $1000 phones these days, it finally seems like it's time for the mid-range category to receive some much-needed love. And guess what, it's Google again that is doing that with the new Pixel 3a and 3a XL phones – for the first time, the Pixel brand is expanding to a more affordable market segment!

The Pixel 3a and 3a XL are an off-shoot of the company’s flagship smartphones (3 and 3 XL) that are touted to deliver similar experiences at the fraction of the cost. Their prices are without question astounding (starting at $399 for the 3a and $479 for the 3a XL), which makes them far more obtainable by more people. By going with this strategy, Google is looking to get the Pixel brand more exposure – and potentially prove that we can, indeed, have a great phone experience at an affordable price.


In the box:


Design

The plastic body doesn't take away from the look and feel

Toning it down in all the appropriate areas, the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL for the most part embody the design language we’ve seen previously with the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. Obviously, the most apparent change with this new line is the plastic bodies they boast, which makes perfect sense in classifying them as mid-rangers. The two-toned finishes continue to make them distinctly Pixels, but even with their polycarbonate builds, they still look and feel solidly constructed! Between them, the smaller size of the Pixel 3a makes it so much easier to handle.

Sure, we’ve seen other phones in this price range sporting designs that are arguably more premium, but Google’s intent here instead is to maintain an identity. And you know what? It works out because you can easily tell it’s a Pixel! From the camera lenses protruding out to the fingerprint sensors on the back, the button placements, and Google logos, these new Pixels could easily be mistaken for their flagship counterparts – and that’s not a bad thing!

Google Pixel 3a

Google Pixel 3a

Dimensions

5.96 x 2.76 x 0.32 inches

151.3 x 70.1 x 8.2 mm

Weight

5.19 oz (147 g)

Google Pixel 3

Google Pixel 3

Dimensions

5.73 x 2.69 x 0.31 inches

145.6 x 68.2 x 7.9 mm

Weight

5.22 oz (148 g)

Google Pixel 3a XL

Google Pixel 3a XL

Dimensions

6.3 x 3 x 0.32 inches

160.1 x 76.1 x 8.2 mm

Weight

5.89 oz (167 g)

Google Pixel 3 XL

Google Pixel 3 XL

Dimensions

6.22 x 3.02 x 0.31 inches

158 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm

Weight

6.49 oz (184 g)

Google Pixel 3a

Google Pixel 3a

Dimensions

5.96 x 2.76 x 0.32 inches

151.3 x 70.1 x 8.2 mm

Weight

5.19 oz (147 g)

Google Pixel 3

Google Pixel 3

Dimensions

5.73 x 2.69 x 0.31 inches

145.6 x 68.2 x 7.9 mm

Weight

5.22 oz (148 g)

Google Pixel 3a XL

Google Pixel 3a XL

Dimensions

6.3 x 3 x 0.32 inches

160.1 x 76.1 x 8.2 mm

Weight

5.89 oz (167 g)

Google Pixel 3 XL

Google Pixel 3 XL

Dimensions

6.22 x 3.02 x 0.31 inches

158 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm

Weight

6.49 oz (184 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page



What’s rather odd, though, is that Google opted to bring back the headphone jack with these phones. This addition should please many people, offering the convenience of being able to enjoy their favorite pair of headphones without the need of an adapter or dongle. They also feature a dual speaker system, as the one on the bottom edge combines with the one from the earpiece to deliver a stereo output. And lastly, it’s worth pointing out that neither phone offers any sort of water resistance or wireless charging, which shouldn’t come as a shock because these features are still typically reserved for higher-end devices.


Display

Three color modes to find the right tone for you

The Pixel 3a comes with a 5.6-inch 1080 x 2220 AMOLED display, while the Pixel 3a XL maximizes things with a 6-inch 1080 x 2160 AMOLED panel. Both displays have almost identical resolution, meaning that the XL model has a slightly lower pixel density (because of the larger diagonal), but that's not a big deal in our opinion, as it still has more than enough resolution to make things look great on screen. In all honesty, both screens look really good, coughing up all the lovable aspects of any good OLED panel – like their wide viewing angles, deep blacks, and punchy colors. Even though they’re not as iridescent as the Super AMOLEDs in Samsung’s flagships, they still deliver some appealing qualities!

Google Pixel 3a & 3a XL Review
Looking at some of their benchmark results, the color temperatures are pretty good at ~6800K – so they’re very close to that ideal value of 6500K (meaning the color balance is quite natural). Peak brightness output for the Pixel 3a XL reaches 416 nits, which is lower than the majority of phones put out in the last few months, so it can be problematic trying to use outdoors in the gaze of the sun. And lastly, we’re not too perturbed by the bezels around the displays, seeing that it’s kind of what we expect out of mid-range devices.


Interface and functionality

Just Android 9 Pie, hopefully to soon be replaced by Android 10 Q

Uniformity, that’s the fundamental strategy at the heart of the experience with Google’s Pixel line. There’s no difference in what we see and get with the new Pixel 3a/3a XL and with the Pixel 3/3 XL. Running stock Android 9 Pie, they feature all the trimmings we’ve come to expect and love about the platform. From its gesture-based interface to the clean looks of the UI and the power of Google Assistant driving the experiences, it’s absolutely wonderful that the experiences here don’t differ at all!

In fact, we even get other features like Google Assistant’s Call Screen feature, as well as Active Edge that summons up Google Assistant in an instance when we squeeze on the sides of the phone. But above all, it’s the fact that these mid-rangers, much like their flagship counterparts, will be among the first phones to get the next, iterative update for Android. And there’s not going to be a long wait for that either, which is something that many phones can’t claim.

Android 9 Pie running on Pixel 3a - Google Pixel 3a & 3a XL Review
Android 9 Pie running on Pixel 3a - Google Pixel 3a & 3a XL Review
Android 9 Pie running on Pixel 3a - Google Pixel 3a & 3a XL Review
Android 9 Pie running on Pixel 3a - Google Pixel 3a & 3a XL Review
Android 9 Pie running on Pixel 3a - Google Pixel 3a & 3a XL Review
Android 9 Pie running on Pixel 3a - Google Pixel 3a & 3a XL Review

Android 9 Pie running on Pixel 3a


Processor and performance

System navigation is fine, but the Snapdragon 670 is no number-cruncher

On the outside, it’s quickly perceptible that these are low-tier devices due to their polycarbonate frames, but it’s also evident when looking at what’s on the inside. These new Pixels are powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 670 SoC and coupled with 4GB of RAM. Superficially, this package delivers the tight responsiveness we’ve come to expect from any Pixel-branded device – evident in how they’re very fluid looking when navigating around the interface or switching between apps. However, the most apparent difference is going to be experienced when playing games. Frame rates aren’t as smooth, so hardcore gamers may not find them suitable. For the casual gamer, however, they should more than suffice!

AnTuTu is a multi-layered, comprehensive mobile benchmark app that assesses various aspects of a device, including CPU, GPU, RAM, I/O, and UX performance. A higher score means an overall faster device.

Higher is better
Google Pixel 3a
130209
Google Pixel 3a XL
158800
Google Pixel 3
213926
Samsung Galaxy S10e
324967

Another major thing worth mulling over when making a buying decision is that these new Pixels are offered in one single storage capacity, 64GB. With no expansion at your disposal, it means that you’re really going to need to rely on Google’s cloud services to ensure unnecessary content isn’t taking up space locally. We’re talking about things like leveraging unlimited storage with Google Photos or saving your documents in Google Drive. It’s a shame that there are no other storage options available, which means that you’ll need to monitor your usage – so you may want to refrain from shooting video in 4K resolution religiously!

Camera

The critically acclaimed Pixel 3 camera at half the price

Pixel 3a - Google Pixel 3a & 3a XL Review

Pixel 3a


You’d think that a mid-range phone would be given a less formidable camera, but if you’re to look at the specs of both phones, you may be intrigued by the reality that they’re identical to the flagship Pixels! We’re talking about a SINGLE 12.2MP camera paired with an f/1.8 lens. Around the front of both phones, however, we have an 8MP selfie camera with an f/2.0 lens, not the dual cameras of the Pixel 3 series.

Most of today’s phones, mid-range devices included, tend to offer at least dual cameras – with flagships getting treated to triple camera systems! Google’s confidence in its image processing and AI enhancements is apparent with this gesture, trying to show the masses that the single camera setup in these phones are equally capable! Best of all, the same features in the flagship Pixel line are here as well – consisting of portrait effects, HDR+, Night Sight for superior low-light performance, and Google Lens integration.

Image Quality


The only qualm we have with the experience of taking snapshots with these new Pixels is the image processing delay you get when you start shooting photos in succession. That’s a compromise one has to live with, of course, but we’ll gladly accept it given the excellent overall performance out of their cameras! There’s no shortage of details or punchy-looking colors under ideal lighting. Saturation may be a bit more aggressive under artificial lighting, but the end result still reels us in. Whatever magic is happening behind the scenes, we can’t complain because the results are pretty strong.

Even low-lit situations don’t faze these cameras, as they conjure up nicely lit compositions in an otherwise dark scene. Night Sight brings out some of the details that are sometimes lost in low-light scenes. Shadows are boosted to draw those details out, but it’s nice to see that the details in the shots aren’t softened to a larger degree. We’re even impressed by how Night Sight can bring out the colors too! Take for instance the red-colored bench and green grass behind it in one of the photos we snapped at night. In the standard shot, you can barely see the colors, but Night Sight bumps up the exposure – while also adding in a bit of saturation to enhance the overall look!



Selfies


We’re fans of the front-facing cameras, seeing that they deliver top-notch results as well! When the lighting is good, the selfies come out amazing. They’re accompanied by good details with a little bit of sharpening applied. Add to that some punchy-looking color tones, and what we get here with these new Pixels are selfies worth taking over and over again. In low-light situations, they’re underexposed to the point that details are lost. Thankfully, Night Sight comes to the rescue once again by increasing the exposure and adding some much-needed color tones to the composition.



Video Quality


Equally impressive is the video recording performance! Topping out at 4K 3840 x 2160 pixels, these new Pixels continue to show us that they’re full of surprises. Similar to their still-shot performance, videos are presented in glory with their rich details and accurate colors. More importantly, though, there’s an option in the settings for video stabilization that smoothens out the footage to give it that ‘walking on air’ look.

If there’s one sore spot in their performance, the only area of opportunity that we can see is with video recording under low light. In extreme conditions, videos appear very noisy and soft. Fine details are almost non-existent, appearing more like gobs than anything else – while noise becomes a nagging factor in the shadows.



The time needed to start the camera app, focus, take a pic and save it.

sec Lower is better
Google Pixel 3a
1.6
Google Pixel 3a XL
1.6
Google Pixel 3
1.1
Samsung Galaxy S10e
1.6


Call Quality


Being mid-rangers, it’s comforting to know that these Pixels don’t have too many compromises when it comes to making phone calls. For the most part, voices sound fine through the earpiece, while the speakerphone is pretty clear and strong. Our callers were also able to discern our voices on their end, with minimal distortion too.

Battery life

Respectable longevity

As long as its larger size isn't an issue, if you’re out for the longer battery life, it’s a logical decision to pick up the Pixel 3a XL. That’s because its 3700 mAh battery is simply a beast, lasting well over a day of normal usage. By the end of the night, we’re typically around the 35% to 40% range. The Pixel 3a XL is a top contender in our battery benchmark test too, nearly lasting 11 hours of continuous on-screen time. In comparison, the Galaxy S10+ tapped out at 8 hours.

Additionally, these Pixels have some fast times clocked in for recharging. With the Pixel 3a XL, it’s able to get back to full capacity after 99 minutes of charging. That’s super-fast and it all happens using the included charger, so we’re not too bummed by the fact that wireless charging isn’t here.

We measure battery life by running a custom web-script, designed to replicate the power consumption of typical real-life usage. All devices that go through the test have their displays set at 200-nit brightness.

hours Higher is better
Google Pixel 3a
9h 55 min (Excellent)
Google Pixel 3a XL
10h 47 min (Excellent)
Google Pixel 3
8h 22 min (Excellent)
Samsung Galaxy S10e
7h (Good)

Conclusion


Pixel 3a XL - Google Pixel 3a & 3a XL Review

Pixel 3a XL


Google has delivered superb mid-range phones! Looking at the overall picture, we can adamantly say that the only area where they scaled back is in their performance, as the Snapdragon 670 is a notable step down from the Snapdragon 845. Other than that, we don't think the plastic designs are bad; the phones may not feature wireless charging, but in terms of look and feel, there doesn't seem to be that much of a difference compared with the Pixel 3 and 3 XL.

With starting prices of $399 and $479 for the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL, respectively, they show to all of us that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a great phone experience. They excel in all the important areas like taking photos, offering long battery life, and fluid responses navigating around the software.

The Pixel 3a and 3a XL are not here to replace our beloved $800 – 1000 flagships; they are not even competitors to the OnePlus phones. But they are, indeed, great options if you're on the lookout for a more affordable smartphone with great camera performance and clean Android.


Pros

  • Great camera performance under ideal situations
  • Long lasting battery life (especially the Pixel 3a XL)
  • Fast recharge times
  • Responsive actions around the interface
  • All the trimmings of stock Android

Cons

  • Graphics processing can be challenging
  • Video performance under low light is underwhelming
  • No 60 fps video recording

PhoneArena Rating:

9.0

FEATURED VIDEO

31 Comments

1. Knownhost

Posts: 75; Member since: Nov 13, 2017

A score of 9.0 for a mid-range phone with an inferior processor, plastic back, outdated design, and the bare minimum of RAM? Seems legit.

5. ssallen

Posts: 128; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

Every modern iPhone only has 4gb of RAM. Were you whining on their 9.3 score? Didn't think so. Plastic, despite the naive drivel about being "cheap" is actually a superior casing for mobile devices, it is far more durable than glass, supports wireless charging unlike metal, and with the proper coating can feel fantastic in your hand. It also provides better grip. The outdated design is only bandied out by raging fanboys, amongs't mid tier phones this device looks pretty decent. ESPECIALLY for a phone that costs $400. Go get triggered about something else.

6. monkeyb

Posts: 378; Member since: Jan 17, 2018

Its very sad when people compare/link every comment to an iPhone. And no, its not okay for iPhone users to do the same about Android. I kinda agree with Knownhost on this one. Just to let readers know, India a country which imposes a lot of tax had same/similar specs phones for ~$200 or even less since a year back. Those phones deserve a 10 as far as value for money is concerned. I have read dozens of tech reviews in regards to the 3A and every one of them only talk about the camera. I get it that the camera is amazing but thats about the only thing exceptional about it.

7. Knownhost

Posts: 75; Member since: Nov 13, 2017

Take your assumptions elsewhere, little ssallen. I have never owned a fRuitphone, and the crippled operating system and mostly inferior specs make it likely that I ever will. If you want to attack people for their opinions, have at it, bud, but everything I posted has been criticized on phones from other manufacturers. Google and aPple are apparently exempt from those criticisms, at least as far as reviews go. Who is the fanboy here? The nitwit that brings up Tim cOok's gizmo in a Google article. Buy your overpriced toy, the Pixel 3a XL. Maybe you'll meet someone as impressed with an underwhelming product as you are and live happily ever after.

10. kiko007

Posts: 7469; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

How does the iPhone have inferior specs? The processor alone is years ahead of anything in the Android space at present.

11. Vancetastic

Posts: 751; Member since: May 17, 2017

That iPhone XR screen really upsets people who don’t own it for some reason. (That’s the only “inferior” spec I can think of...)

28. Reviewerofstuff

Posts: 87; Member since: Jun 02, 2018

Not years ahead. You won't notice a difference in real world use. And a 855 equipped android can run any game just as good as a12 bionic iphone.

15. Venom

Posts: 3017; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

The phone is running pure stock Android and the processor is on par with flagships from about two years ago which is more than good enough for this device. I don't think you're being reasonable.

23. mootu

Posts: 1378; Member since: Mar 16, 2017

The SoC is not more than good enough, it struggles with picture processing. Considering the vast majority who buy this phone will do so for the camera (everything else is $200 spec) means they should have used a faster SoC even if it meant charging a few dollars more.

2. blkkobra

Posts: 41; Member since: Jan 22, 2014

I'm going to have to challenge one of your cons. I have the Pixel 3a XL and it does, indeed, have 60fps video recording at 1080p resolution.

3. ssallen

Posts: 128; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

This review sponsored by Apple computers.

4. Seanetta unregistered

Images look dark and white balance, colours are off and cold. Are you blind Phone Arena??

8. PSAfromThisGuy

Posts: 142; Member since: Jan 16, 2017

I just worked with a 3a yesterday, switching someone from an iPhone to it... The previous variants of the Pixel lineup included transfer software which made it extremely easy to move content... The 3a does not include this software on it which was surprising to me. None the less, google drive came in handy to help.. i just thought it was odd that they removed this useful software...

14. Venom

Posts: 3017; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

That's probably Apple's doing knowing them. Moving from Apple to Android isn't as seemless as moving from Android to Android but it can be done to some extent.

9. japkoslav

Posts: 1376; Member since: Feb 19, 2017

9/10, superb midrange phone ... ahahahahahaha ... NO.

12. Whitedot

Posts: 706; Member since: Sep 26, 2017

I specifically looked for Iphone Xr night video recording in PA review . Nothing at all mentioned. How skilfully it is hidden, not even a word. Here you played weird card "extreme light" video is poor. Extreme light, really a con? Even a 740 dollars Xr struggles, I mean very badly in this light conditions. You have to give due respect where it has to be given. The fact that $399 dollar phone f**ks every and each Iphone from any angle and especially in low light is the biggest Pro and Con that miraculously disappeares every time you guys touch a keyboard when you right about Iphone. Biggest Con is your pockets are directly wired to an apple tap.

13. japkoslav

Posts: 1376; Member since: Feb 19, 2017

iPhones records stereo sound that you can actualy listen to without your ear bleeding, for the first gen. they are not a trash as Pixel phones still remains.

16. Whitedot

Posts: 706; Member since: Sep 26, 2017

Stereo low light pank.

22. japkoslav

Posts: 1376; Member since: Feb 19, 2017

And what about regular light and Pixel? Is it any better? Nope!

24. Whitedot

Posts: 706; Member since: Sep 26, 2017

Yes it is. Don't look for answers here on PA. General consensus among majority of reviewers around the world Pixel 3 is the best shooter. No matter A or full blown 3.

25. japkoslav

Posts: 1376; Member since: Feb 19, 2017

I mean the audio. Pixel can't record audio no mater what you do. Sure image quality for iPhone sucks at night, but audio quality of Pixels sucks every time. You can't fix it, not on Android, there is no Sennheiser Ambeo for Android, not yet.

26. Whitedot

Posts: 706; Member since: Sep 26, 2017

Audio recording feature is less important to me. Let's just stay on the subject.

27. japkoslav

Posts: 1376; Member since: Feb 19, 2017

I am staying on the subject, I started this argument Google Pixel sucks when it come to audio quality so much it renders video unsuable and I am fairly sure I am staying on the subject. Audio is 50% of the video, image + audio makes the clip. So on the one hand we have some stupid iPhone with image quality lets say 80% and audio quality 80%, on the other hand we have a Pixel with 90% image quality and 20% audio quality. I don't know about you, but I sure as hell would like to hear and understand what I am recording.

29. Whitedot

Posts: 706; Member since: Sep 26, 2017

I don't need you to invent another subject for discussion or shift the subject because the premise of the argument was camera and camera alone. If I want to discuss audio I will find the way to let you know.

30. japkoslav

Posts: 1376; Member since: Feb 19, 2017

This is not a profesional DLSR, capturing image and sound is a basic and often used function for many users. Part of the camera is a mic.

17. Venom

Posts: 3017; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

What the what on those cons?

18. redmd

Posts: 1904; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

Why didn't they mention the price on the Pro. Another Con is limited storage and also limited availability.

19. magnaroader

Posts: 31; Member since: Feb 25, 2016

What the heck is up with all the exclamation marks in this review? Someone really likes to "yell" in his reviews it seems

20. yalokiy

Posts: 884; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

The design, materials, low RAM should also be listed as con. -0.5 point for each, then you get 7.5 which it deserves.

21. Picard4president

Posts: 6; Member since: Aug 16, 2017

*9 for being a budget phone. Not the same 9 given to flagship devices. Pros: Best camera and image processing at this price point period. Guaranteed swift software and security updates. No bloat. Long battery life. Stereo speakers. 3.5 jack. Cons: Lack of expandable memory. Lack of buying a higher internal memory. No ram options. No processor option. Terrible bezels. Cheap plastic. Ugly forehead and chin. Not true stereo setup. Price. Conclusion: Wait for the deals to start coming in, I could see this being a great budget at $299 for the 3a and $349 for the 3a xl. Anything more than that and I ask you why spend $479 on the 3a xl when you can get the Zenfone 6 at $499 with far superior everything.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

Pixel 3a XL
  • Display 6.0" 1080 x 2160 pixels
  • Camera 12.2 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 670, Octa-core, 2000 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB
  • Battery 3700 mAh

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.