Midrange to price range telephones have come a great distance in only a few years. We’ve seen main efficiency boosts, batteries that may outlast those in flagships, and simplified software program experiences. While there have been large enhancements to the digicam, telephones beneath $500 usually nonetheless fall wanting satisfying on this division, particularly in low-light environments. It’s a flaw we’ve introduced up in nearly each price range to midrange cellphone assessment we’ve performed.
Enter the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL from Google. Pixel telephones are famend for his or her wonderful cameras, and now you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get one. You get the identical rear digicam because the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, to not point out the identical software program expertise, for simply $399 and $479, respectively. The digicam places the Pixel 3a’s competitors to disgrace, however it’s not the one purpose to purchase it. With nice efficiency and lengthy battery life, this cellphone is near pixel good.
Same design, totally different supplies
The Pixel line’s design has usually break up opinion. Some recommend it’s too uninteresting — even ugly — and it’s not possible to disclaim that Google doesn’t provide probably the most contemporary-looking telephones. When everybody else within the trade continues to shave bezels across the display screen and introduce hole-punch digicam shows, Google sticks to dated and thick edges across the show. When it does attempt to modernize, you find yourself with one thing just like the Pixel 3 XL, with its controversial and ugly notch.
Pixel 3a XL
Pixel 3a XL
Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL
You don’t want to fret about notches on the Pixel 3a or 3a XL, however thick bezels are nonetheless current. It’s paying homage to the Pixel 2 collection, although the physique of the telephones are nearly the identical dimension because the Pixel 3 and 3 XL. The entrance of the Pixel 3a doesn’t spark any surprise, in contrast to after I have a look at telephones just like the Samsung Galaxy S10e or the OnePlus 6T, which have futuristic screens.
It’s a distinct story on the again. It’s nearly a duplicate of the Pixel 3, however whereas the dearer telephones use glass, the Pixel 3a line employs a mixture of glass and polycarbonate. The rear doesn’t appeal to fingerprints, however the light-weight nature of the supplies makes the cellphone really feel a bit low cost. Nevertheless, I just like the rear design of Google’s Pixel telephones, although I could also be within the minority; it seems minimal and clear.
With nice efficiency and lengthy battery life, it’s near pixel good.
The Pixel 3a is my decide between the 2, because it’s so compact and straightforward to carry. I’ve no issues reaching all elements of the display screen with one hand. The Pixel 3a XL is manageable, although I’ve massive fingers. While I like the additional display screen actual property, I do want the cellphone was slightly narrower to make it extra comfy to carry.
What else is totally different? There’s a brand new coloration possibility — “purple-ish.” It replaces the “not pink” coloration of the Pixel 3 collection, although I do suppose Google may have added only a bit extra purple right here, because it usually simply seems white (the cellphone additionally is available in black and white). The energy button sports activities a neon yellow coloration paired with purple-ish, which is neat.
Gone is the second front-facing speaker. You nonetheless get two stereo audio system — the one which was once on the underside bezel is now a bottom-firing speaker. Audio nonetheless sounds good, however it simply doesn’t sound as loud since one speaker is blasting music away from you. Just be sure you don’t cowl the underside speaker and also you’ll get an satisfying expertise.
Julian Chokkattu/Digital TrendsSurprisingly, the headphone jack makes a return after vanishing beginning with the Pixel 2. I’m not complaining, however it’s odd to see the cheaper Pixel providing extra choices for individuals than its dearer counterparts. Unlike the Pixel 3 or 3 XL, you don’t get any earbuds within the field.
Cheaper construct supplies imply a light-weight cellphone, one which doesn’t really feel as substantial as another telephones which are priced equally, just like the Nokia 7.1. This is the Pixel 3a’s greatest flaw, however for me it’s one which’s very simple to disregard when you see every part else the cellphone gives for its worth.
The Pixel 3a has a 5.6-inch display screen, which is only a hair greater than the 5.5-inch display screen on the Pixel 3. The Pixel 3a XL’s 6-inch display screen, nonetheless, is slightly smaller than the 6.3-inch Pixel 3 XL’s. The screens are protected by Asahi’s Dragontrail glass, as an alternative of Corning’s Gorilla Glass. It’s unclear if the standard isn’t pretty much as good, however it could have simply been a less expensive different.
Pixel 3 XL, left. Pixel 3a XL, proper.The underlying display screen expertise can also be totally different. Samsung’s Super AMOLED screens are now not in use — Google is as an alternative utilizing a “gOLED” panel. The Pixel 3a has a 2,220 x 1,080 decision, and the Pixel 3a XL has the same 2,160 x 1,080 decision. Both screens look sharp, are simple to see in broad daylight, and provide deep blacks, however I did discover colours are extra saturated than the Pixel 3’s display screen. There’s additionally no help for HDR10.
Watching Netflix’s Our Planet, which helps HDR, the Pixel 3 gives extra true-to-life colours. The Pixel 3a’s display screen was unnaturally saturated however altering the show settings from the default “Adaptive” to “Natural” mounted this for me (although it’s possible you’ll favor the extra saturated look). Either approach, the display screen right here doesn’t disappoint.
When I heard the processor contained in the Pixel 3a and 3a XL is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 670, I used to be slightly cautious. My expertise with Qualcomm’s 600-series chipsets have largely been optimistic — the BlackBerry Key2’s Snapdragon 660 and the Moto G7’s Snapdragon 632 all carried out admirably — however extra strenuous duties and high-end gaming usually noticed just a few stutters.
I’m constantly impressed at how nicely the Pixel 3a and 3a XL carry out.
This just isn’t the case with the Pixel 3a and 3a XL. I’ve solely seen just a few stutters when scrolling shortly on Twitter, however which will merely be right down to posts loading slowly because of the web connection. App load instances are maybe a tad longer, as are picture processing instances, however efficiency has in any other case been fluid and implausible.
Upon launching PUBG: Mobile, the sport recommended I take advantage of the “High” graphical settings possibility — normally it defaults to “Medium” or “Low” for 600-series or decrease chipsets. Gameplay is clean and the graphics appeared nice. I’m constantly impressed at how nicely the Pixel 3a and 3a XL carry out and had zero worries about utilizing it on days after I knew I might job the cellphone with loads of work.
Here are just a few benchmark outcomes:
AnTuTu 3DBench: 157,902
Geekbench 4 CPU: 1,598 single-core; 5,150 multicore
3DMark Sling Shot Extreme: 1,543 (Vulkan)
These scores are a very good deal decrease than telephones utilizing the most recent Snapdragon 855 processor, such because the Galaxy S10, in addition to the Snapdragon 845 chipset within the Pixel 3 collection. However, it surprisingly beat out the Google Pixel 2 and a pair of XL, which scored 146,876 and 110,949 on AnTuTu, respectively.
There could also be just a few graphically-intensive video games that might give the Pixel 3a and 3a XL pause, however to this point, my expertise has been pleasantly clean.
Smart software program, and promised updates
Pixel telephones imply quick updates; Google manages the Android working system, and so Android updates arrive instantly on the Pixel collection. The firm guarantees at the very least three years of safety and software program updates, which imply there’s a very good size of help for the cellphone.
The Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL run Android 9 Pie, however they’ll get the Android Q replace when it releases in August. It’s necessary to keep in mind that most telephones beneath $500 merely don’t obtain multiple Android model replace, wanting Android One telephones such because the Nokia 7.1.
The software program interface is in any other case easy, simple to make use of, and uncluttered. It’s sensible, too. My favourite characteristic is Now Playing — it’s the place the cellphone makes use of on-device machine studying to detect what music is taking part in in your environment, and gently lets you understand what’s on the Always-on Display. Then there’s Flip to Shhh, which helps you to flip the cellphone the wrong way up on a desk to mute it. You may also squeeze the cellphone to activate Google Assistant.
There’s additionally Call Screen, which is one other considered one of my favourite Pixel options. It permits you to display screen a name with the assistance of Google Assistant, so that you don’t have to waste time answering pesky robocalls.
Pixel 3a XL Julian Chokkattu/Digital DevelopmentsThe Pixel 3a and 3a XL add a brand new characteristic to the record — Google Maps AR mode — which is now additionally accessible on different Pixel telephones. It’s a technique to discover which course you should head towards when utilizing augmented actuality, by means of a particular mode within the Google Maps app. It works fairly nicely and is ideal for individuals who discover themselves getting circled in huge cities.
If every part sounds good to this point, then the digicam will seal the deal. The Pixel 3a and 3a XL have the identical precise rear digicam because the Pixel 3. That means it’s a 12.2-megapixel lens with an f/1.8 aperture – it additionally boasts the identical Sony IMX363 picture sensor. There’s optical picture stabilization and digital picture stabilization, in addition to fused video stabilization to make sure movies are clean.
What’s lacking? The Pixel Visual Core chip. It helps with picture processing and dealing with many camera-related machine studying duties on the Pixel 3, however Google engineers have labored laborious to reengineer many of those capabilities to work with the Snapdragon 670. It’s spectacular, although it does imply picture processing instances are slightly slower on the Pixel 3a.
Pixel 3a XL
Pixel 3 XL
There’s a purpose why the Pixel 3 is our favourite smartphone digicam. It snaps photographs shortly, the pictures it captures are extremely well-detailed with principally correct colours, and there’s sturdy HDR. All of this is applicable to the Pixel 3a telephones — the pictures are very related throughout the board, if not nearly the identical. For beneath $500, you can’t get a greater digicam expertise than this.
While the Pixel 3a additionally holds its personal in low gentle, Google’s Night Sight characteristic is out there for ultra-dark conditions. It captures a number of frames and combines them collectively for a extra detailed picture, and likewise makes use of synthetic intelligence so as to add acceptable colours. Then there’s Super Res Zoom, which suggests you may zoom in and nonetheless get a decent-quality picture because of the A.I. digitally enhancing it. Optical zoom would have been nicer, however the Pixel 3a fares nicely sufficient with out it.
Super Res ZoomThe characteristic I take advantage of probably the most on Google’s Pixel telephones is Portrait Mode. No matter what lighting you’re in, the digicam will do a strong, if not distinctive, job at precisely outlining the topic and including a blur impact to the background. I’ve seen, nonetheless, that Portrait Mode on the Pixel 3a crops in additional than the Pixel 3, leading to a tad extra of a pixelated picture, which is extra seen in low gentle. It’s not good, however when it really works, photographs look good.
The front-facing digicam is the place issues diverge. It’s nonetheless an 8-megapixel lens, however it has an f/2.0 aperture with a set focus. The discipline of view, nonetheless, is 84 levels; it sits in between the sphere of view you get between the 2 entrance cameras on the dearer Pixel 3 (75 and 97-degree discipline of view). Selfies are equally detailed, however photographs can look slightly muddy in low gentle because of the f/2.0 aperture.
Pixel 3a XL
Pixel 3 XL
Pixel 3 XL wide-angle
Videos I captured are actually clean, and the digicam can seize 4K content material as much as 30 frames per second. It would have been good to see 60fps, like OnePlus telephones can do, however now we’re simply nitpicking.
There is one new video characteristic that can even make its technique to different Pixel telephones: Time lapse. You have a number of speeds to select from, and it delivers a cool video impact, although it really works finest with a tripod. It’s a staple characteristic on most smartphones, so it’s complicated as to why it took Google so lengthy so as to add it.
If the digicam is crucial characteristic of a cellphone for you, however you additionally wish to hold your price range low, then the Pixel 3a is the right cellphone for you.
Good battery life
Perhaps what confused me probably the most as I used the Pixel 3a and 3a XL is why Google packed in greater batteries than its flagship mannequin. The Pixel 3a has a 3,000mAh battery, whereas the Pixel 3 has a 2,915mAh capability. The Pixel 3a XL has a 3,700mAh battery, however the Pixel 3 solely packs 3,430mAh. The newer telephones are barely thicker, and whereas the variations could sound small, it makes an influence. In our Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL critiques, we complained concerning the mediocre battery life on the 2 flagship telephones. With the Pixel 3a collection, battery life is hardly a priority.
I steadily arrived residence with round 40 p.c left by 7 p.m., after medium use. On an evening the place I stayed out till 11:30 p.m., the Pixel 3a XL nonetheless had 25 p.c left by the point I arrived residence. The Pixel 3a, with its smaller battery, has much less to energy, however it manages to supply the same size of juice. The Pixel 3a XL fingers down lasts longer, although.
In our battery take a look at, the place we play a 1,080p YouTube video over Wi-Fi on most brightness, the Pixel 3a XL lasted a formidable 10 hours and 45 minutes. That comes very near the Samsung Galaxy S10, which lasted 10 hours and 50 minutes. The smaller Pixel 3a wasn’t far off, lasting 9 hours and 12 minutes. The batteries on these telephones will final you a full day. Hopefully, Google has realized its lesson and can embody equally massive batteries on the upcoming Pixel 4.
The one characteristic I miss from the Pixel 3 collection is wi-fi charging. Because the Pixel 3a and 3a XL have polycarbonate our bodies, they will’t be wirelessly charged. If you haven’t embraced the wi-fi charging way of life, then this gained’t actually be an issue for you, however I’ve wi-fi chargers throughout my home, and going again to plugging in isn’t enjoyable. Thankfully, the cellphone costs fairly shortly as Google has added an 18W USB-C to USB-C charger within the field. The Pixel 3a XL reached 53 p.c in simply 20 minutes (from 15 p.c), and in complete took an hour and a half to get to 100 p.c.
Price, availability, and guarantee data
The Google Pixel 3a prices $399, and the Pixel 3a XL is priced at $479. It’s accessible now from Google’s Store, however you’ll be pleased to know that Google is lastly ending its exclusivity with Verizon. The Pixel 3a collection is now bought by means of T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular, together with Verizon. It will work on AT&T’s community, however the provider isn’t promoting the telephones.
Google gives a typical one-year guarantee for its telephones, which protects from producer defects.
The Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are distinctive telephones with a comparatively inexpensive price ticket, and the digicam blows away the competitors. The promise of three years of software program updates are a cherry on high.
Between the Pixel 3a and the Pixel 3a XL, the cellphone you can purchase largely will depend on whether or not you desire a greater display screen or a smaller cellphone. Battery life is comparable, although the Pixel 3a XL will final barely longer. I just like the $399 worth level, which is why I believe the smaller Pixel 3a is healthier worth.
Is there a greater different?
For the value, there’s just one different cellphone it is best to contemplate: The OnePlus 6T. It prices $549, however that worth could drop because the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro arrive quickly (or possibly go for the newer OnePlus telephones). You will get even higher efficiency and extra sturdy construct supplies, however I’ve usually discovered the digicam missing in comparison with flagship telephones.
The Nokia 7.1 is price contemplating at $350, however the Pixel 3a’s digicam is superior, as is efficiency and battery life, so it’s possible you’ll as nicely spend $50 extra. If you don’t wish to spend as a lot, then go for the Moto G7, which prices $300, or the Moto G7 Power at $250. You’ll get good efficiency and distinctive battery life on the Power, although digicam high quality gained’t fulfill. Check out our greatest low cost telephones information for extra.
How lengthy will it final?
The Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL have polycarbonate backs, however there’s nonetheless loads of glass that may shatter. A case is really useful to maintain it protected. There’s additionally no IP ranking, however Google says the telephones are splash- and dust-resistant — you’ll nonetheless wish to hold them away from the pool, nonetheless.
You’ll get three years of software program and safety updates, so anticipate the cellphone to final simply as lengthy, if not 4 years at most. The battery will begin to degrade slightly earlier than then.
Should you purchase it?
Absolutely. For $400, there’s no higher cellphone than the Pixel 3a.