It’s nearing 8 months since Google released the Pixel 3 and we extensively reviewed the phone. It also has been several years now since Google abandoned the Nexus line of devices; one of the most attractive aspects during the early days of Google’s own phones was their incredible value proposition and very competitive pricing. As Google evolved the Pixel line of smartphones, it was clear that we’d no longer see quite as attractive price-tags, with the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL nearing the $1000/€ mark.

Google apparently did see the higher price points as a hurdle for some consumers, and decided to expand its product line-up by introducing new mid-range devices at much more reasonable price-points, all while maintaining the key features that make the Pixel phones worth their namesake.

The new Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL, the latter which we’re reviewing today, are very much derived from the same DNA that was established in the Pixel 2 and further iterated upon in the Pixel 3 range. The Pixel 3a’s still come with the similar industrial design, feature an OLED display, and most importantly feature the very same full-fledged camera as their flagship siblings, at essentially half the cost. Of course, the lower price point comes with changes – a plastic body and a lower tiered SoC are among some of the compromises that have been made, along with a few other features that hit the chopping block.

Google Pixel 3a's
  Pixel 3a
Pixel 3a XL
SoC Snapdragon 670

2x Kryo 360 (CA75)
@ 2.0GHz 
6x Kryo 360 (CA55)
@ 1.7GHz

Adreno 615
Display 5.6" OLED
2220 x 1080 (18:9)
6.0" OLED
2220 x 1080 (18:9)
Size Height 151.3 mm 160.1 mm
Width 70.1 mm 76.1 mm
Depth 8.2 mm 8.2 mm
Weight 147 grams 167 grams
Battery Capacity 3000mAh (Rated) 3700mAh (Rated)
Wireless Charging -
Rear Cameras
Main 12.2MP 1.4µm Dual Pixel PDAF
f/1.8 76° lens with OIS
Telephoto -
Wide -
Extra -
Front Camera 8MP 1.12µm
f/2.2 84° lens; fixed focus
Storage 64GB eMMC
3.5mm headphone jack
Wireless (local) 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 5.0 LE + NFC
Cellular UE Category 11 (DL) / Category 5 (UL)
600Mbit/s DL (3xCA 2x2 MIMO)
75Mbit/s UL
Other Features Dual Speakers, 18W Fast Charging
Dual-SIM 1x nanoSIM
Launch Price $399 / £399 / €399 $479 / £469 / €479

Starting off with the internal hardware of the Pixel 3a’s, we see the devices powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 SoC. Qualcomm had launched the SoC in August of 2018, so it’s not quite the newest unit on the market, but given the price sensitivity of the product category, that’s to be expected.

The Snapdragon 670 on paper looks very similar to the slightly higher-end Snapdragon 710: The SoC features 2x Cortex A75 derived cores at 2.0GHz and are paired with 6x Cortex A55 derived cores at 1.7GHz. In terms of computational power, it’s clear that we should be expecting the CPUs to perform quite a lot less than the Snapdragon 855 as well as last year’s Snapdragon 845. In terms of single-threaded performance at least, however theoretically the S670 would be able to compete with the S835, which was Qualcomm’s flagship for 2017. In fact, we’ll see some large performance similarities between the Pixel 3a and the Pixel 2, which is going to play a big part in terms of properly evaluating the end value of the Pixel 3a.

The GPU is an Adreno 615. Unfortunately we don’t tend to review mid-range SoC phones as much as we’d like to, so at first glance without testing there’s not too much context on exactly where this GPU lands in terms of performance. While I don’t want to spoil too much, don’t expect too much performance from the smaller IP block, although we’ll see some surprising power characteristics.

The phone comes with 4GB of LPDDR4X sourced by Micron – which is standard for the course and in my opinion still sufficient for today’s workloads – although it’s now on the lower threshold of what phones should be equipped with.

Arguably the phone’s biggest component compromise comes in the form of eMMC storage of which the devices only come with 64GB of, also made by Micron. While the typical NAND speed benchmarks aren’t too terrible, the different storage standard does struggle under heavy parallel workloads.

The display on the Pixel 3a XL is an OLED panel with a diameter of 6.0” with a resolution of 2220 x 1080 and a resulting aspect ratio of 18:9. The phone’s width is very similar to the Pixel 2 XL and Pixel 3 XL, so it’s still very much a big phone.

While the back of the phone very much looks nearly identical to the Pixel 2 XL or Pixel 3 XL, there’s one very major difference: Instead of being a metal or glass back body, the Pixel 3a’s come with a full plastic unibody shell.

The design decision very likely saves a lot on the production cost of the phone, and in my opinion Google’s material choice on the 3a’s has been excellent. The polycarbonate used is of very high quality and definitely one of the best plastic phones I’ve encountered. The phone still features the characteristic glossy top part of the phone, while the bottom is a sanded off matte finish that is surprisingly close to the finish of the glass back on the regular Pixel 3’s, which is great.

The one biggest issue I feel is that the plastic design will be significantly more prone to scratches and dents, and I especially don’t expect the top glossy part of the phone to remain unblemished after a few months of use.

A big selling point for the Pixel 3a is that it sports the very same camera module as the flagship Pixel 3 units. We find the Sony IMX363 sensor which is a 12.2MP unit consisting of 1.4µm pixels with full-sensor dual-pixel PDAF ability. The module houses the same OIS and f/1.8 aperture lens.

On the front camera, Google has dropped the wide-angle module from the Pixel 3 and the 3a only houses the regular front-facing camera, which is an 8MP 1.12µm pixel f/2.2 lens with fixed focus.

It’s to be noted that while Google has dropped the 3.5mm headphone jack from the Pixel 2 and 3, it does make a comeback for the Pixel 3a. Google explains that this is meant to make the device accessible to more users. It’s a bit sad that nowadays you have to buy a lower-tier smartphone to regain a lost feature.

Among other dropped features on the Pixel 3a is the lack of wireless charging. The 3700mAh unit on the XL and 3000mAh should fare fairly fine, and it is an acceptable compromise given the device’s price ranges of $399 for the 3a and $479 for the 3a XL.

System Performance
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  • MadManMark - Monday, July 1, 2019 - link

    Andrei: I, you, and every person in North America could get the 3a for $210 right after it came out, no carrier or financing needed, just by buying directly from Google Store and signing up for a $250 trade-in for an iPhone 6. We just then bought a refurb iPhone 6 from another site for $60 and !voila! you have a Pixel 3a for $210, free and clear. That deal ran for a full month. ***and*** for part of that month, googel aslo threw in a $100 future store credit.
  • UtilityMax - Thursday, August 1, 2019 - link

    Why buy a new car at MSRP when you, and every person in America, could go to an Oprah show a couple years ago and get keys to a new VW car. Duh!
  • SonjaTWilliams - Sunday, June 30, 2019 - link

  • Rorqual - Monday, July 1, 2019 - link

    I bought a Pixel 3a a few days after its availability, in order to replace an aging Nexus 5X, and am very happy with it.
    - About pricing: there was a promotion and for €400 a Google Home Mini (60 € value) got bundled, so net price for the phone is €340 which is I think not a bad deal for what I get.
    - Plastic casing: for me it's a huge plus. I certainly don't want any glass backpanel, so slippery and fragile. And I'm one of those who don't use a protective case (a few scratches here and there aren't a problem to me).
    - Design: good enough, classic and functional. No notch is mandatory, I can't stand them.
    - Stock Adroid: again, mandatory. I can't stand the Samsung interface, for instance. Some others are more tolerable, but still I prefer stock Android.
    - SoC performance: good enough for my usage, that is browsing, GPS and some random apps (very few games). Way faster then the 5X, everything feels so fluid now.

    So with such specifications, the 3a is a godsend.
  • MadManMark - Monday, July 1, 2019 - link

    "So with such specifications, the 3a is a godsend."

    Frankly the main thing its missing is an SD slot. But I guess I've finally given up that fight ... I think this is the first phone I've ever had that doesn't have one.
  • InvidiousIgnoramus - Tuesday, July 2, 2019 - link

    "Mid range"
    I remember when this term still referred to $200-300 devices. I paid less than this for my last two flagship devices, and neither were even a year old.
  • grant3 - Friday, July 5, 2019 - link

    In those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. Give me five bees for a quarter, you'd say.
  • DontTreadOnMe - Friday, July 5, 2019 - link

    Xiaomi Mi9 may be more competetive on price in Europe, but at the time of writing people are complaining that they are still on the April 2019 security update. This is a consideration that severely restricts choices. The question is: what are the real costs of staying un-patched for longer?
  • pika2000 - Wednesday, July 10, 2019 - link

    In reality, does updates really mater? I mean in reality, how many Android phones without the most current updates get breached? Considering the marketshare, we would've heard plenty of news about phones on 2018/2017 security patches and/or on Oreo/Nougat and below being breached. But we don't.
  • gronetwork - Wednesday, July 10, 2019 - link

    This is a light version of the Google Pixel 3 XL, the processor has also 8 cores, with lower frequencies, it has the same quantity of RAM memory, the camera is similar, the battery capacity is larger, as well as the battery life. It is a good deal even if the performance is 35% less.

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