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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  • RSAUser - Thursday, June 27, 2019 - link

    /looks at phone without a screen protector that's over 2 years old without any scratches
    What are you talking about? Depends on the person.
  • Oyeve - Thursday, June 27, 2019 - link

    And most people are idiots who don't care about sound quality. Thats why there are so many bitch-buds on the market. For those of us who actually own very good headphones we all know blue headphones are garbage. We want loud high quality sound and BT does not come even close. I use a Fiio amp and good wired headphone on all of my phone because BT sucks.
  • grant3 - Thursday, June 27, 2019 - link

    The idea that plastic is "more prone to dents & scratches" than aluminum is laughable.
    The idea that plastic is "less durable" than glass is laughble.
    Yet this author is happy to make such a claim with literally no experience let alone proof to support his assertion.
  • fred666 - Friday, June 28, 2019 - link

    plastic is the superior choice because it is light, lets the magnetic waves through and absorbs (some of) the shock instead of breaking like glass or transmitting it to the components like metal.
  • MadManMark - Monday, July 1, 2019 - link

    I know, I consider the plastic a feature, not a compromise!
  • deskjob - Thursday, June 27, 2019 - link

    I must be an unicorn. I stopped using a case with the OG pixel. Haven't looked back. Maybe I am more careful or less clumsy when it comes to gadgets. I've dropped it once from about 4ft onto sidewalk, fortunately only got minor chip around one corner. Otherwise the no scratches anywhere. So yeah that info matters to me.

    Also headphone jack is one of the main reasons I am even considering the 3a XL. True, most people don't care because they don't care about sound quality in general. That's cool. There are still some people out there who do care about sound quality. I use a bluetooth speaker for podcasts, but wired for anything else.
  • nucc1 - Sunday, June 30, 2019 - link

    You get the case for that once or twice a year drop just like you. This way, you're far less likely to need repairs and it's more freedom from worrying about your phone.

    Without a case, the phone can start looking really worn out after a year and it might make you replace it sooner than you have to.
  • MadManMark - Monday, July 1, 2019 - link

    You're not alone. If people like to spend $1000 on a phone and then wrap it up in quasi-bubble wrap to make it chunky, that's fine. I like to buy phones for just a few hundred (due to their trade-in program this one cost me $210 net, after I bought an iPhone 6 to trade in) and then just USE it. I put on a screen protector, but as far as a case: if there is a scratch on the plastic back, there is a scratch. It doesn't affecgt anything, and I'll be upgrading in a few years again anway. Who is always looking at the BACK of their phones in the first place?
  • grant3 - Friday, July 5, 2019 - link

    I think the screen on the 3a xl is probably stronger than the body.

    I bought a case for mine because i drop it a lot, but for the last few years people have been starting to convince me the screen protector is not really needed.
  • melgross - Thursday, June 27, 2019 - link

    Very high quality polycarbonate? I’ve done extensive work in materials; wood, metal and plastic. I’ve used numerous brands of polycarbonate. They are all the same.

    The differences between utilization is what you’re noticing. Differing thicknesses, differing tapering of the thickness over the sheet used in the body. Differing curves, giving different impressions as to strength and resistance to indentation from pressure, etc.

    The different textures also leave thoughts as to quality. But the plastic is all the same. Pretty much exactly so.

    One of the benefits is that there should be no dents due to banging the device, which is the opposite to what you have with the necessarily thin metal used, which is strong, but a dent magnet, in many designs, particularly in cheaper devices. Polycarbonate, while like every other plastic, is soft, in fact, it’s noticeably softer than the otherwise much more easily broken acrylic. Both can have anti scratch coating applied, but that substantially increases the cost, and isn’t used with textured finishes. Besides, it wears off on devices that are constantly being fondled by their owners.

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