Google Pixel 3a XL hands-on review

Introduction

The Pixel 3a is Google’s attempt to return to the affordable premium smartphone category. After sunsetting the Nexus program, Google moved on to the ultra-high-end segment with the launch of the original Pixel back in 2018.

Google Pixel 3a Xl review

Since then, the company has only received a lukewarm response from the audience, many of whom were miffed that Google moved on from something that was accessible to something that mostly served as a marketing vehicle.

The Pixel 3a, however, is not a Nexus. The lack of obvious naming difference aside, what we have here is not a premium smartphone at an affordable price, which is what the Nexus brand signified. Instead, what we are getting is a pared-down version of the Pixel 3 that was launched last year at a correspondingly lower price.

Google Pixel 3a XL specs

  • Body: Unibody polycarbonate, Asahi Dragontrail glass, Black, White, Purple colors
  • Display: 6.0-inch, 2160 x 1080 resolution, 402PPI, 18:9, OLED, always-on display
  • Rear Camera: Sony IMX363, 12.2MP f1.8, dual-pixel autofocus, OIS, dual LED flash, 4K 30 video
  • Front Camera: 8MP f2.0, fixed focus, 1080p 30 video
  • Software: Android 9 Pie
  • Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 670, 2.0GHz + 1.7GHz, Adreno 615, Titan M Security module, Pixel Visual Core co-processor
  • Memory: 64GB UFS 2.1 storage, 4GB LPDDR4X RAM
  • Battery: 3700mAh, 18W USB-PD fast charging
  • Connectivity: Single SIM/eSIM, LTE-A, 3xCA, DL 4×2/2×2 MIMO, CAT 11 600Mbps download, CAT 5 75MBps upload, Wi-Fi 2.4 + 5GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0 + LE, NFC, GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, USB-C 2.0, 3.5mm audio
  • Misc: Stereo speakers, capacitive fingerprint sensor, Active Edge pressure sensing, 3-month YouTube Music Premium subscription bundled

The price in question is $400 for the Pixel 3a and $480 for the Pixel 3a XL, half of what the Pixel 3/3 XL normally cost ($800/$900). So, what do we lose in return for that price? There are design compromises, the processor is slower and one of the front cameras is missing along with a few other things. On paper, that doesn’t seem all that bad, especially since Google has carried over the main rear camera of the Pixel 3 to the Pixel 3a. The software experience is identical too, with almost every feature announced for the Pixel 3 present here.

Seems like a fair trade-off, then. But how is the phone like to actually use on a day to day basis? And how does it compete in the even more crowded premium mid-range smartphone market, especially on the eve of OnePlus’ upcoming smartphone, which will likely have similar pricing and pack in more hardware as usual? We decided to find out.

Unboxing

The packaging of our Pixel 3a XL was mostly similar to the more expensive Pixel 3 XL. Both come with an 18W USB-Power Delivery fast charger with a USB-C 2.0 cable, a USB-C to USB-A adapter and earphones. While the Pixel 3 XL came with the Pixel USB-C Earbuds, the Pixel 3a XL comes with standard in-ear style earphones with a 3.5mm connector.

Google Pixel 3a Xl review

Neither phone comes with any kind of case in the box. Google will be selling fabric cases for the Pixel 3a devices.

Design

The Pixel 3a XL has the same design language as the Pixel 3 series of devices. Along the back, we see the two-tone finish and the lighter colored models also come with a colored power button on the side.

The Pixel 3a XL also has nearly the same dimensions as the Pixel 3 XL, although the latter is slightly shorter and thinner. The Pixel 3a XL is lighter by nearly 20g, and the reason for that is the polycarbonate body.

Google Pixel 3a Xl review

While all the previous Pixel smartphones used varying combinations of metal and glass for the body, the Pixel 3a phones are the first to be made out of polycarbonate. The entire back and side portion are one unibody shell but with the two-tone finish to give it the familiar Pixel look. At first glance, it was hard to tell any difference, and it’s only upon closer inspection could we tell that the back was plastic.

While it is certainly effective in fooling you into thinking it is metal or glass, we were disappointed to see polycarbonate being used in this price range. Almost all phones in this price range today use either aluminum or glass for their body; in fact, several phones in much lower prices ranges are already using metal and glass, too.

Google Pixel 3a Xl review

Plastic is certainly more durable in some cases compared to both metal and glass. For one, it won’t shatter when you drop the phone like glass nor would it dent or bend like metal. However, plastic is a soft material, so it does pick up scuffs and scratches more readily than either metal or glass.

Moreover, the Pixel 3a XL is also not water or dust resistant compared to its more expensive sibling, so that’s another knock against it in terms of durability. At least some form of splash resistance would have been welcome.

But by far the biggest issue with the design is right at the front. While it lacks the comically sized notch of its elder sibling, the Pixel 3a XL has massive bezels that are straight out of 2018. They are also mismatched, so the bottom bezel is thicker than the top one, and when you add the black navigation bar on top of that, it looks like the display starts almost a fifth of the way from the bottom of the phone.

Google Pixel 3a Xl review

This makes the design look extremely dated. While the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL didn’t quite look fresh in 2018 either, for a phone in 2019 to have such large bezels when most of the competition has been raging war against bezels for the past two years makes it look completely out of place. At first glance, this phone looks like you have a three-year-old device in your hand and not something which was just released.

In other design changes, the loudspeaker has now been moved to the bottom of the phone. This doesn’t affect the performance all that much, but it does make it easier to cover up the speaker.

Google Pixel 3a Xl review

One thing we wish Google would change is the layout of the power and volume buttons. Google stubbornly chooses to keep the power button above the volume buttons, which makes the power button hard to reach for your right thumb when you’re holding the phone in portrait and the volume buttons hard to reach for your left index finger when you’re holding the phone in landscape. This awkward layout also makes it hard to take screenshots with one hand. Every other OEM either places the buttons the right way up or on the side of the phone altogether.

Overall, the design does take a big step back compared to the more expensive Pixel 3 phones, which weren’t exactly cutting-edge in their own right. Google has seemingly not taken note of the time that has passed since their last Nexus release and the advancements that have happened since then but the competition certainly has, and no one is more aware of this than the consumer.

Display

The Pixel 3a XL has a 6.0-inch, 2160x1080px resolution OLED display. The display is protected by the Asahi Dragontrail glass rather than Corning Gorilla Glass used on the more expensive Pixels.

Google Pixel 3a Xl review

Compared to the Pixel 3 XL display, the display on the Pixel 3a XL is a bit shorter but it also has a much lower resolution. It also lacks HDR10 video support and is suited only for regular videos.

Despite that, the display on the Pixel 3a XL is excellent. It gets reasonably bright outdoors and also sufficiently dim indoors. It has good viewing angles and does not exhibit any banding, black crush or dirty screen effect. The color accuracy in the standard sRGB mode is also right up there with the best in the industry, and there’s also support for DCI-P3 content due to the wide color support and OS-wide color management.

The lack of HDR is a minor complaint but there isn’t a ton of HDR content right now to take advantage of it, anyway. The YouTube app can emulate it in software but it looks no different than the SDR version.

Google Pixel 3a XL display options - Google Pixel 3a Xl review Google Pixel 3a XL display options - Google Pixel 3a XL review ^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#)
Google Pixel 3a XL display options

The display on the Pixel 3a XL also fixes one majorly annoying issue with the Pixel 3 XL display, which was accidental touches. The Pixel 3 XL display is sensitive right to the edge of the glass, which makes it easy to trigger accidental touches all the time, making it frustrating to use. The Pixel 3a XL has no such issues, and we had no problems handling the phone without triggering the display with the palm.

Overall, the display on the Pixel 3a XL is one of the best you can find on any phone today. Unfortunately, while the lack of any notch or cutout is appealing, the massive bezels are far more distracting than any notch we have ever seen.

Software

The Pixel 3a XL runs on Android 9.0. Our review unit is still on the March security update as of this writing, while the Pixel 3 XL has the April patch. It’s likely that Google will patch the phone directly with the May update in a few days.

Google Pixel 3a Xl review

Speaking about the software experience, the Pixel 3a XL is close to being identical to the more expensive Pixel 3 XL. First of all, you get the same stock Android experience with a few of Google’s services and features added on top.

One of these features is Active Edge, which lets you squeeze the phone to activate Google Assistant. You also get Call Screen, the revolutionary new feature that can answer calls on your behalf (only available in the US and Canada). Digital Wellbeing keeps track of your phone usage and helps you bring it down. Wind Down will automatically enable Do Not Disturb mode at night and turn the screen grayscale so you don’t overuse your phone before bed. Lastly, there’s the remarkably named Flip to Shhh, which lets you enable DND mode by simply turning the phone over and keeping it face down.

Pixel launcher and Settings - Google Pixel 3a Xl review ^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#) Pixel launcher and Settings - Google Pixel 3a Xl review Pixel launcher and Settings - Google Pixel 3a Xl review ^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#)
Pixel launcher and Settings

While Google does have several clever features in the OS, it prevents overwhelming the user by cramming dozens upon dozens of gimmicks into every nook and cranny of the settings app. The basics are all here, along with a few extras, and if you want more, there’s always an app for that. This lets you have more control of the apps and features that are on your device and only have things that you actually want or need.

Needless to say, this wouldn’t appeal to everyone but it does result in clean, clutter-free user experience and it’s always easier to add more stuff than to remove it.

Gestures - Google Pixel 3a Xl review ^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#) Gestures - Google Pixel 3a Xl review
Gestures

Google has made some minor cutbacks with the Pixel 3a XL. For one, you no longer get the unlimited, uncompressed backup of photos and videos on Google Photos. It’s still unlimited, but it’s no longer uncompressed. Secondly, the Pixel 3a XL also does not support Duplex, the Google Assistant feature that can make voice calls on your behalf to make appointments or reservations.

Also, and this is more of a hardware issue, the excellent haptic feedback that was introduced with the Pixel 3 devices has also been downgraded a bit. It works similarly to that on the Pixel 3 devices but the feedback itself is no longer the gentle tap but more of a crude jolt every time you press a button. It’s obvious the vibration motor on the Pixel 3a XL isn’t as sophisticated as on the Pixel 3 XL.

All things considered, however, the software experience on the Pixel 3a XL is still one of the best on any Android smartphone.

Performance

The Pixel 3a XL runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 with only 64GB storage and 4GB of memory. This is the first time we have seen a mid-range chipset on a Google smartphone, as the company has always used the best that was available at the time for all its previous Pixel as well as the Nexus phones.

When it comes to synthetic benchmarks, the Pixel 3a XL performs predictably for a phone with a mid-range chipset. They are mediocre numbers, but we didn’t expect any better from a 600-series chipset.

However, if ever there was a prime example of how misleading benchmark figures can be, the Google Pixel 3a XL is it. We have known for many years for now that when it comes to software optimization, Google’s engineers are possibly second to none in the world of Android smartphones. However, we never really had an opportunity to truly appreciate it due to the phones always running flagship processors.

With the Pixel 3a XL, the software optimization really gets to shine with the engineers working with decidedly mid-range hardware. We weren’t sure what to expect when we first got the phone but now, after several days of using it, we can confidently say that in day to day use, the Pixel 3a XL feels indistinguishable from the more expensive Pixel 3 XL running a significantly more powerful processor.

Google Pixel 3a Xl review

The level of optimization here is tremendous; it seems Google’s engineers have managed to eke out every last bit of power that the Snapdragon 670 is capable of and delivered an experience that at times even outstrips some of the more powerful Android phones out there. Launching apps, scrolling, and multitasking are practically flawless, with the phone flying through every task with ease. There were several times where we totally forgot about the fact that we were using the Pixel 3a XL and not the more powerful Pixel 3 XL.

Even in the Camera app – and we will discuss the image quality later – the Pixel 3a XL is snapping at the heels of the more powerful Pixel 3 XL. The Pixel 3a XL took about half a second longer to process and save the final HDR+ image compared to our Pixel 3 XL. The Pixel 3a XL has the Pixel Visual Core co-processor, which no doubt helps the phone keep up with its more expensive sibling.

Gaming performance was good too. We tried a few popular titles and the Pixel 3a XL worked as good as any flagship. Most Android games are optimized for mid to low-end devices and as such don’t really benefit from additional GPU horsepower as the frame rate is usually capped. The Pixel 3a XL had no problem with these games and the large display and stereo speakers meant it was quite fun to play on.

The only real bottleneck with the performance is the memory. As with the more expensive model, Google has once again outfitted the Pixel 3a XL with 4GB of RAM. With a handful of apps, the phone manages just fine but when you start opening a few more then you’ll notice the phone struggling to keep the previously opened apps in memory.

That aside, we were genuinely impressed with how good the Pixel 3a XL felt to use during everyday tasks. We just hope the device will be able to maintain this performance for at least a couple of years from now.

GeekBench 4.1 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Google Pixel 3 XL
    8088
  • vivo V15 Pro
    6527
  • Google Pixel 2 XL (Android 9)
    6055
  • Oppo RX17 Pro
    5944
  • Huawei P30 Lite (perf. mode)
    5549
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
    5411
  • Google Pixel 3a XL
    5176
  • Motorola Moto G7 Plus
    4927
  • Sony Xperia 10 Plus
    4780

GeekBench 4.1 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • vivo V15 Pro
    2386
  • Google Pixel 3 XL
    2363
  • Oppo RX17 Pro
    1835
  • Google Pixel 2 XL (Android 9)
    1807
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
    1650
  • Google Pixel 3a XL
    1615
  • Huawei P30 Lite (perf. mode)
    1576
  • Sony Xperia 10 Plus
    1340
  • Motorola Moto G7 Plus
    1334

AnTuTu 7

Higher is better

  • Google Pixel 3 XL
    258244
  • Google Pixel 2 XL (Android 9)
    206711
  • vivo V15 Pro
    180774
  • Google Pixel 3a XL
    159110
  • Oppo RX17 Pro
    154861
  • Huawei P30 Lite (perf. mode)
    141600
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
    139075
  • Sony Xperia 10 Plus
    120573
  • Motorola Moto G7 Plus
    117829

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Google Pixel 3 XL
    44
  • Google Pixel 2 XL (Android 9)
    30
  • Oppo RX17 Pro
    23
  • Google Pixel 3a XL
    20
  • vivo V15 Pro
    17
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
    15
  • Huawei P30 Lite (perf. mode)
    14
  • Motorola Moto G7 Plus
    10
  • Sony Xperia 10 Plus
    10

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Google Pixel 3 XL
    24
  • Google Pixel 3a XL
    19
  • Oppo RX17 Pro
    19
  • Google Pixel 2 XL (Android 9)
    15
  • vivo V15 Pro
    14
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
    13
  • Huawei P30 Lite (perf. mode)
    13
  • Motorola Moto G7 Plus
    9.7
  • Sony Xperia 10 Plus
    8.4

GFX 3.1 Car scene (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Google Pixel 3 XL
    28
  • Google Pixel 2 XL (Android 9)
    24
  • Oppo RX17 Pro
    13
  • Google Pixel 3a XL
    11
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
    9
  • vivo V15 Pro
    8.8
  • Huawei P30 Lite (perf. mode)
    7.7
  • Motorola Moto G7 Plus
    6.3
  • Sony Xperia 10 Plus
    6.3

GFX 3.1 Car scene (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Google Pixel 2 XL (Android 9)
    13
  • Google Pixel 3 XL
    12
  • Google Pixel 3a XL
    11
  • Oppo RX17 Pro
    11
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
    7.7
  • vivo V15 Pro
    7.1
  • Huawei P30 Lite (perf. mode)
    6.9
  • Motorola Moto G7 Plus
    5.9
  • Sony Xperia 10 Plus
    5

3DMark SSE 3.1 Unlimited

Higher is better

  • Google Pixel 2 XL (Android 9)
    3237
  • Oppo RX17 Pro
    1976
  • Google Pixel 3a XL
    1748
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7
    1409
  • vivo V15 Pro
    1206
  • Sony Xperia 10 Plus
    1002
  • Huawei P30 Lite (perf. mode)
    988

Audio

With the Pixel 3a XL, Google has resurrected the headphone jack that was sacrificed on the Pixel 3 devices. The upside to this is obvious; you can always use Bluetooth or USB-C headphones but now all of your existing analog headphones will also work just fine.

Google Pixel 3a Xl review

As mentioned before, Google also bundles a pair of wired earphones. These are completely different from the USB-C Earbuds that come with the Pixel 3 phones. For one, the earbuds with the Pixel 3a XL has a standard 3.5mm headphone plug but the speakers themselves have an in-ear design.

This gave us some hope for audio quality, as the USB-C Earbuds that come with the Pixel 3 phones are patently rubbish. Unfortunately, the earbuds that come with the Pixel 3a XL are only a small improvement. The mid-range is fine but the bass is bloated and overpowering. Meanwhile, on the other end of the audio spectrum, there seems to be no high-end to speak of. This gives the earbuds a muffled, boomy sound that can easily be surpassed by even inexpensive aftermarket earphones.

Google Pixel 3a Xl review

The Pixel 3a XL also includes stereo speakers. They fire in different directions but most of the time that doesn’t affect the audio. For watching videos that are mostly voices or for games, the speakers sound fine. They sound best when kept under 80% volume, as beyond that the sound gets a bit thin and unpleasant.

Camera

The Pixel 3a XL has the same camera on the back as the more expensive Pixel 3 XL. It’s a 12.2MP sensor with f1.8 aperture, dual pixel phase detection autofocus and optical stabilization.

Google Pixel 3a Xl review

The front camera is different, though. For one, there’s only one of them now; the ultra-wide-angle camera has been done away with. Instead, there’s just a single camera now with 84° field of view that sits between the 75° main camera and 107° ultra-wide-angle on the Pixel 3 XL in terms of field of view. The sensor behind the lens is also different.

The camera app on the Pixel 3a XL is identical to that of the Pixel 3 XL. The app is generally well laid out and easy to operate while shooting. There are various modes at the bottom which you can tap or swipe through. A menu on the right hides more modes, including the popular Night Sight. Personally, we would have preferred the Night Sight option was placed outside of this menu so it was easier to access but on occasions when it’s too dark the phone will automatically present a direct shortcut to the feature from the main Camera mode.

^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#) Camera app - Google Pixel 3a Xl review ^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#) Camera app - Google Pixel 3a Xl review
Camera app

The camera app offers a very basic level of image quality adjustment, mostly through white balance adjustment. Unfortunately, that’s the extent of manual control on offer here, as the app has no Pro mode feature. With the level of computational photography Google does on every photo, a full manual mode will likely result in worse images than leaving it up for the software to decide, so we aren’t really complaining much. There is a RAW capture option for those who need it but even these images are composite and not a single data dump from the sensor, as is usually the case for RAW files.

One excellent feature of the camera app is focus tracking. While it does the basic face detection, you can also tap on a subject and the camera will track it even if it moves around, and the focus and exposure will adjust accordingly. This is great for composition as you can just tap first on a subject and then recompose and the focus will follow the subject rather than remain where you tapped on the screen. The fast and accurate dual-pixel autofocus also helps tremendously to keep the focus locked.

The app also supports some gestures, so you can double tap from anywhere on the power button and it will start the Camera app. You can also double tap on the viewfinder and it will immediately zoom in. Lastly, you can also twist the phone in your hand while the Camera app is open and it will switch between the back and the front camera.

Now, coming to the image quality, it is what we expected from the phone, that is to say, identical to the Pixel 3 XL. Of course, since that is the main feature of this phone, we aren’t really complaining as the Pixel 3 XL does have one of the best cameras on the market.

^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#) Daylight camera samples - f/1.8, ISO 78, 1/4695s - Google Pixel 3a Xl review ^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#)
Daylight camera samples - f/1.8, ISO 57, 1/2347s - Google Pixel 3a Xl review ^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#) Daylight camera samples - f/1.8, ISO 80, 1/120s - Google Pixel 3a Xl review
^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#) Daylight camera samples - f/1.8, ISO 61, 1/572s - Google Pixel 3a Xl review ^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#)
Daylight camera samples - f/1.8, ISO 48, 1/489s - Google Pixel 3a Xl review ^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#) Daylight camera samples - f/1.8, ISO 64, 1/100s - Google Pixel 3a Xl review
Daylight camera samples

The Pixel 3a XL camera has all the trappings of its bigger brother; images are detailed with a good balance of sharpness and detail. They are generally a bit underexposed with darker shadows but have excellent highlight retention.

They also generally have good color reproduction. However, the camera has a tendency to go cooler, which gives the images a slightly bluer look that may appeal to some people but isn’t true to the original scene. This has always been true of the Pixel cameras which, unlike the iPhone cameras, are tuned for a punchy look rather than accuracy.

This can also be seen in the aforementioned shadow detail. The Pixel camera doesn’t bring up shadow detail as much as the iPhone and it captures darker images. This gives the images the characteristic contrasty look, which, again, is made to look better than the original scene.

In low light situations, the Pixel camera does hold its own rather well. The image stacking helps to naturally weed out the noise from the images and it is clever enough to not cause too much image blur.

^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#) Lowlight images - f/1.8, ISO 49, 1/25s - Google Pixel 3a Xl review
^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#) Lowlight images - f/1.8, ISO 356, 1/25s - Google Pixel 3a Xl review
Lowlight images

However, it’s when things get really dark does the Pixel camera really shine. The Night Sight mode pulls out light out of situations where it is hard to see with your naked eye. The mode works perfectly well handheld, as long as you remain still, but works the best when the phone is stabilized. This allows the camera to capture a longer exposure and produce a cleaner image.

The final output is remarkably clean with a fair bit of detail. It’s really the post-processing on the image here that’s impressive, as aligning the images, denoising them and adjusting the color and contrast of the image to generate the final output is extremely complicated engineering but Google developers have pulled it off and the results look amazing.

^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#) Night Sight: On - f/1.8, ISO 1833, 1/1s - Google Pixel 3a Xl review ^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#)
Night Sight: On - f/1.8, ISO 616, 1/1s - Google Pixel 3a Xl review ^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#) Night Sight: On - f/1.8, ISO 5012, 1/4s - Google Pixel 3a Xl review
^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#) Night Sight: On - f/1.8, ISO 196, 1/2s - Google Pixel 3a Xl review
Night Sight: Off • On

The only issue that frequently comes up when shooting in the dark is of focusing. While the camera can enhance the image after the shutter button is pressed, it can’t adjust or improve the focus. To help with this, the app lets you select whether the subject is ‘near’ or ‘far’ but these are very vague terms and it can be hard to nail the focus sometimes. And then there are situations where even your eyes can’t see the subject so it’s even hard to see before hitting the shutter button if anything is in focus at all.

The focusing makes the Night Sight feature a bit hit or miss at times. However, when it does work, and that’s more often than not, the results are astonishing.

The Pixel 3a XL also includes the Portrait mode feature, which, again, works just as well as on the Pixel 3 XL. The default background blur is just a tad bit strong but it can be adjusted after the picture is taken and the overall edge detection is very good.

^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#) Portrait mode samples - f/1.8, ISO 52, 1/3356s - Google Pixel 3a Xl review
^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#) Portrait mode samples - f/1.8, ISO 78, 1/7813s - Google Pixel 3a Xl review
Portrait mode samples

The phone also uses Google’s impressive Super Res Zoom feature. It’s definitely the best digital zoom solution out there and the results, at least on the phone’s screen or for casual sharing, are very nearly as good as telephoto zoom lens at 2x. However, beyond that, it’s hard to hide the fact that it’s digital zoom and is no match for a proper telephoto lens.

^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#) Super Res Zoom samples: 2x - f/1.8, ISO 90, 1/5882s - Google Pixel 3a Xl review ^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#)
Super Res Zoom samples: 5x - f/1.8, ISO 58, 1/3356s - Google Pixel 3a Xl review Super Res Zoom samples: 10x - f/1.8, ISO 67, 1/3906s - Google Pixel 3a Xl review ^(https://www.appmarsh.com/google_pixel_3a_xl-review-1928.php#)
Super Res Zoom samples: 1x • 2x • 3x • 5x • 10x

Talking briefly about the front camera on the Pixel 3a XL, it’s a noticeable downgrade from the Pixel 3 XL. The field of view is wider than the standard camera on the Pixel 3 XL but the image is softer, has worse dynamic range and noisier. It’s so soft it often looks like it’s out of focus. Both the lens and the sensor used here seem to be significantly worse quality than what we see even on mid-range phones these days and aren’t worthy of the Pixel brand.

Now, moving over to the video, the Pixel 3a XL can do 4K video in 30fps, 1080p video in 30, 60 and 120fps and 720p video in 30, 60 and 240fps. There’s no 4K 60 mode here, but we aren’t surprised by that; the more powerful Pixel 3 XL doesn’t have it either and the Snapdragon 670 on the Pixel 3a XL isn’t even capable of 4K 60 videos.

Image quality in the 4K mode is good and the combination of optical and electronic stabilization works great. The only issue with the latter is that it comes at the cost of a heavy crop.

[embedded content]

The 1080p mode also has the same crop. The image quality is also very similar to the 4K mode, so if you aren’t looking for the highest resolution, the 1080p 30 mode should suffice.

[embedded content]

We also tested the 1080p 60 mode, which, interestingly, now has its own dedicated mode. If you remember back with the Pixel 3 devices, the camera app would offer you two choices for 1080p and 720p modes: 30fps and Auto. Auto would shoot in 60fps if there was sufficient light or switch to 30fps in low lighting conditions. To this day, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL still have these two options.

However, the Pixel 3a XL now lets you pick between 30fps and a clearly mentioned 60fps, which pulls no tricks on you and will always shoot in 60fps regardless of the amount of light.

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The quality of the 1080p 60 videos is mediocre. The video clearly looks like it was shot at a lower resolution and then upscaled to 1080p. The chipset likely does not have the horsepower to shoot natively in 1080p at 60fps.

There are also two slow motion modes. You can either shoot in 720p at 240fps or 1080p at 120fps, although the app doesn’t specify it as such. Instead it lets you choose between 1/4th and 1/8th speed for 1080p120 and 720p240, respectively. Both have good image quality and because the electronic stabilization isn’t enabled in these modes you also don’t get the severe crop from the other modes.

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Overall, the camera on the Pixel 3a XL is still very good and one of the best on the market. Having said that, we would like to see Google include an ultra-wide-angle lens camera on the back on future models. A proper telephoto zoom lens wouldn’t hurt, either.

Battery and charging

The Pixel 3a XL has a 3700mAh battery, a notable step-up from the 3430mAh on the Pixel 3 XL. The Pixel 3a XL also has a far more frugal processor, so we were expecting good things in terms of battery life from the device.

While we didn’t have time to run our entire suite of battery life tests, in the time that we had with the phone the battery life was excellent. We would routinely end our day with 20-30% battery life left spare in the tank, and this despite the testing that we were doing all day. A more judicious use would have returned even better results.

Google Pixel 3a Xl review

The Pixel 3a XL supports fast charging using the USB-Power Delivery protocol. The phone ships with the same 18W fast charger as the Pixel 3 XL. Unfortunately, this isn’t the fastest charging solution on the market. Still, it’s reasonably quick and in two hours you can charge the phone completely.

One thing missing from the Pixel 3a XL is wireless charging. The phone has no support for the Pixel Stand, nor any other type of wireless charger. It’s a bit of a bummer but in all likelihood, it won’t be an issue for most users.

Verdict

There is such a thing as judging a book by its cover and we are all guilty of doing it sometimes. When the Pixel 3a XL first arrived at our doorstep we weren’t immediately impressed. A plastic body? A mid-range chipset? Massive bezels? No water-proofing? No wireless charging? What was Google thinking?

However, having spent a few days with the phone made us realize that sometimes getting the basics right is far more important than implementing every bell and whistle and that’s exactly what Google has done with the Pixel 3a XL.

Google Pixel 3a Xl review

It’s a well-designed and well-built phone that, despite the polycarbonate body, feels reasonably good in the hand. The display is excellent and one of the best we have seen. The performance belies the chipset and feels every bit as good as any flagship phone on the market. The software is clean and user-friendly and you get assured updates for three years. And the battery life is superb.

More importantly, you still get that excellent rear camera from the more expensive Pixel 3 phones, something a lot of people have been coveting but was kept out of reach by the price.

Of course, we aren’t in the business of giving free passes and Google has gone a bit overboard with the cost cutting here. While it does look and feel good in the hand, we still think a plastic body in a price range filled with glass and metal phones is a step backward. The bezels on the display are outlandish for a phone in 2019. There’s also no water or dust resistance of any kind. The 4GB RAM is a bigger performance bottleneck than the processor. And finally, the front camera performance has taken a big step back from the more expensive Pixel 3 phones.

The Pixel 3a XL is not a phone that will win spec wars. It is not a phone that turns heads or starts conversations everywhere you go. But if you want a smartphone that will keep its head down and do its job, day in, day out, a phone that has the basics down pat and will get things done with minimum fuss without breaking the bank, this is it. It’s the Pixel camera and experience that you always wanted in a more sensible package. And for that, we like it more than the Pixel 3 XL.

Pros

Cons

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