System Performance

System performance of the Pixel 3a XL is an interesting topic given its mid-range SoC. Here as aforementioned in the introduction, the CPU power of the SoC should match up with that of the Snapdragon 835 from 2 years ago. The Snapdragon 670 in the Pixel 3a has two Cortex A75 derived CPU cores running at 2.0GHz, while the Snapdragon 835 had four Cortex-A73 derived cores at 2.45GHz. In general, the 22% clock frequency disadvantage should be compensated by the ~25% higher IPC of the newer core microarchitecture. It should be noted that the Snapdragon 670’s CPU cores aren’t expected to perform quite as high in IPC as the Snapdragon 845’s as it employs smaller cache configurations to reduce die size and cost. Thus it should be pretty much a toss-up between the S670 and the S835.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Web Browsing 2.0

Starting off with the web-browsing workload in PCMark, the newer Pixel 3a does manage to stay ahead of the Pixel 2 XL, while as expected lagging behind the 2018 and newer devices.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Video Editing

The video editing workloads has hardly any significant performance differences on devices of the last few years, and the Pixel 3a performs well here although it’s to be expected.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Writing 2.0

The Writing 2.0 sub-test is the most important of PCMark. The Pixel 3a still manages to hold up well with some Snapdragon 835 devices and even some S845 phones such as the Galaxy S9 and Note9.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Photo Editing 2.0

The photo editing score is competitive, again in line with the Snapdragon 835 generation.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Data Manipulation

The data manipulation framerate performance is in line with the Pixel 2 XL.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Performance

Overall in PCMark, the Pixel 3a performed surprisingly well. It was able to keep up with the Pixel 2 XL whilst even competing some of the worse Snapdragon 845 flagships from last year. There’s still evidently quite a larger gap to the more recent Pixel 3, but again that’s to be expected.

Speedometer 2.0 - OS WebView WebXPRT 3 - OS WebView

The web-browsing JS tests is where we’ll see more major differences to the Snapdragon 845 and newer devices, again, whilst the Snapdragon 670 performs well against the 835, it does have a significant lag behind newer generation SoCs.

Overall Performance – Very Good For Mid-Range

Overall I was very satisfied with the performance of the Pixel 3a XL. It was extremely snappy in everyday usage, and if all you do on a smartphone is social media-like activity, then you’d be hard to press to find any differences between the 3a and other flagship devices.

Where the Pixel 3a more notably fell behind in was web browsing and loading of heavier pages. Here it was evident that there is indeed quite a generational performance gap and the mid-range SoC isn’t quite able to give the same experience.

One thing to note and again we can’t accurately measure with existing tools is the storage performance of the eMMC module of the phone. I did notice quite significantly slower installation speeds compared to newer phones. It’s not a total deal-breaker as some eMMC implementations of years past, but again it’s a compromise Google had to make to reduce the costs of the phone.

Overall, system and application performance of the Pixel 3a XL is very good for a mid-range device.

Introduction & Design GPU Performance - Cold Stuff
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  • zodiacfml - Thursday, June 27, 2019 - link

    Poor value as the Pixel 3. At $400, one can get a Samsung S8 with a Snapdragon 835 so it also fails in North America.
  • nathanddrews - Thursday, June 27, 2019 - link

    ... but you don't get a very good camera.
  • shabby - Thursday, June 27, 2019 - link

    But you get a slow soc with the pixel, two can play this game. I think the s8 is a more balanced solution than a midrange phone with a great camera.
  • Samus - Thursday, June 27, 2019 - link

    The S8 has a pretty good camera...I mean, we're comparing Oranges to Oranges here - with the exception of low-light, I don't think people shopping for $400 phones are going to notice a difference between the Pixel 3 and S8 cameras...

    And the S8 is waterproof. And it has Qi wireless charging. And a faster SoC.

    I don't see how the Pixel 3 is going to be a hit using its slightly superior camera as a crutch.
  • phoenix_rizzen - Thursday, June 27, 2019 - link

    But it has stupid rounded edges to the screen, making the S8, S9, S10 non-options for a lot of people. It's nice they went back to flat screen edges with the S10e, but they just had to add the hole-punch screen.

    The last great phone from Samsung was the S7. The only decent replacements from Samsung are in the A-series of phones.
  • Cellar Door - Thursday, June 27, 2019 - link

    S7 battery life is poor compared to what is on the market today, the camera has great auto-focus but produces worst pictures then the s6 did. I've owned both, upclose s7 is good but any landscape or long distance and its blurry.
  • MadManMark - Monday, July 1, 2019 - link

    You lost me as to why it's "people shopping for $400 phones" that aren't going to notice difference between two cameras. Implying that anyone who is looking to spend more money somehow becomes magically more discerning of differences?
  • Quantify - Thursday, June 27, 2019 - link

    It doesn't really fail; it's a different option. I went with the 3a over a 2 year old flagship for a few reasons:

    1) Size. The 3a is a great size for one-handed use, to fit in a pocket, etc.
    2) Camera. Night sight and other features. Nuff said in this article.
    3) Updates. Not just security updates, but entry into beta program, and newest features (like call screening)
    4) Bands: has Band 66 and Band 71 for T-Mobile. Older flagships (including S8) often don't.
  • Samus - Thursday, June 27, 2019 - link

    That's an interesting point. I didn't think of the superior LTE modem.
  • haukionkannel - Thursday, June 27, 2019 - link

    Very True. S7 did just drop out of upgrades. S8 will be in same situation next year. So yep you get Phone for longer time buying Pixel 3a compared To old flagship.

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