Google Pixel 3a Review – The Best Camera Phone In Its Class

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Google’s top-of-the-line Pixel series just received two new smartphones, the Pixel 3a, and Pixel 3a XL aimed at the upper midrange segment. This is the Google Pixel 3a running the pure Android 9 Pie and equips a camera that performs very much like the more expensive Pixel 3. Here’s what you need to know about the new Pixel smartphone in our Pixel 3a review. Take a look.

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What’s In The Box

  • Google Pixel 3a with built-in battery
  • Fast Charger
  • USB Cable (Type-C To Type-C)
  • User Manuals & Warranty Card
  • SIM Tray Ejector Pin

Google Pixel 3a Specifications

  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 octa-core processor
  • GPU: Adreno 615 GPU
  • RAM: 4 GB LPDDR4X
  • Operating System: Android 9.0 Pie
  • Display: 5.6-inch Full HD+ OLED display with 2220 x 1080 pixels screen resolution and 18.5:9 aspect ratio
  • Rear Camera: 12.2 MP Dual-Pixel Sony IMX363 sensor with f/1.8 aperture, 76° FOV, Dual PDAF autofocus, OIS, EIS, 4K video recording at up to 30 fps, 720p at up to 240 fps
  • Front Camera: 8 MP sensor with f/2.0 aperture
  • Internal Storage: 64 GB
  • Connectivity: 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac dual-band (2.4GHz + 5GHz) 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0 LE, NFC, 3.5mm headphone jack, and Google Cast
  • Other: Pixel Imprint – a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor
  • Colors: Just Black, Clearly White, Purple-ish
  • Battery: 3,000 mAh with 18W fast charging

Design, Build, & Ergonomics

The Pixel 3a retains the styling of its more expensive sibling, the Pixel 3, the design resembles very much to the Pixel 3 series smartphones. The phone has a dual-tone back, glass finish on the upper side and the bottom has a matte finish look.

Looking at the front side, there you can see the thick bezels on the top and the bottom which looks old school. This is the age where you see phones with a full-screen design and pop-up cameras, take the Vivo V15 Pro and OnePlus 7 Pro for instance.

Google has opted for plastic and polycarbonate back rather than the glass and metal which we saw on the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. The plastic design allows the Pixel 3a to be lighter in weight. Nevertheless, the Pixel 3a is impressively well-built doesn’t feel cheaply made.

The front and the rear side offers single cameras, no dual or triple cameras. Alongside the rear camera is a fingerprint scanner while the competition offers on-screen fingerprint scanner.

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On the left side, you have a single SIM tray supporting 4G VoLTE and no microSD slot is provided. The right side has power and volume keys, USB Type-C port at the bottom, and the top has a 3.5mm jack which wasn’t available on the Pixel 3 as well as on the Pixel 3 XL.

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Display

The Pixel 3a is a smaller sized 5.6-inch with OLED screen, it’s more identical to the one found on the Pixel 3. The screen supports HDR, and a resolution of Full HD+. No, you don’t find a notch here at the top like the rest, the Pixel 3a comes with large screen bezels on the top and the bottom and is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass.

The display surprisingly bright, the colors are vivid and high in contrast. The content is crisp and the display offers great viewing angles. There’s nothing much Google has to offer in the display enhancements. You can change the color from the presets, enable the Ambient display, and Night Light.

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Software & User Interface

As expected, the Pixel 3a offers the pure Android version 9.0 Pie with the latest security patches dated 5th March 2019. Google Pixel lineup guarantees 3 years of security patches and two new versions of Android updates which are supposed to be released in the next 2 years, the Pixel 3a receives the same.

Since it’s directly coming from the Google Pixel series, you won’t find any pre-installed apps or bloatware, you get a bunch of Google apps, Pixel 3a comes with the stock interface. The overall software performance is very fast and fluidic.

The interface is likely to be the same we saw on the Google Pixel 3 XL, so there’s no new addition to the software. Active Edge feature triggers the Google Assistant by the squeezing the phone. Other features include Navigation gestures, DIgital Wellbeing, Adaptive Battery, App Slices, and so on.

To know more what’s new in the Android 9 Pie, here are the top 5 features of the Android 9.0 Pie.

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Hardware, Performance, & Gaming

While the latter came with the flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC, Google put an upper midrange chip, the Snapdragon 670 on the Pixel 3a. The chip further integrates an Adreno 616 GPU, 4 GB LPPDDR4X RAM, and a 64 GB internal storage. Unfortunately, there’s no microSD card slot, hence you are stuck with the 64 GB internal storage.

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Here are the benchmarks we recorded on the Google PIxel 3a.

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Even with the degraded hardware, the Pixel 3a still delivers smooth performance and can easily handle demanding applications and games including PUBG MOBILE, Real Racing 3, Asphalt 9: Legends, and Sky Force Reloaded. However, if you are into gaming and want a device with better performance, look something like the OnePlus 7, ASUS ZenFone 6 or the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom in the similar price range.

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Cameras

While we have seen the rise of triple and quad rear-facing cameras in midrange smartphones, Google manages to put its rivals to shame with its single 12.2 MP sensor. With just the single rear camera, the Google Pixel 3a manages to get to the top in the competition.

In the camera department, the Pixel 3a uses the same 12.2 MP dual pixel Sony IMX363 sensor with f/1.8 aperture on the back. The camera is further aided by dual pixel PDAF as well as Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS). The front side carries an 8 MP camera with f/2.0 aperture.

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When it comes to the camera interface, the Google Pixel 3a shares the same features we saw on the Pixel 3 XL (Pixel 3 as well). There’s the Portrait mode for portrait photography, Playground that uses augmented reality, Night Sight for great low-light and night photography, and Photobooth mode.

Also, you will find the Top Shot that lets you select the best shot among the multiple clicked shots using the motion enabled. Other features include the Panorama mode, RAW photos, offers native Google Lens mode.

Google Pixel 3a Camera Specifications

  • Main Camera: 12.2 MP f/1.8 Dual Pixel
  • Camera Sensor: Sony IMX363
  • Optical Image Stabilization (OIS): Yes
  • Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS): Yes
  • Rear Flash: Dual LED flash
  • Features: Portrait Mode, Night Sight, Playground, Photobooth, Slow Motion, Time Lapse, Lens, Photosphere, Panorama, Motion Photos, HDR+, Scenes, RAW Photos, HEVC Video, Geo-tagging, Tap to focus
  • Video Recording: Up to 4K video @30fps, slow-motion 720p @240fps
  • Front Camera: 8 MP f/2.0
  • Video Recording: 1080p video @30fps
  • Front Flash: Screen flash

In terms of the camera quality, the Pixel 3a amazed us, we barely see any difference in the photos, the result is pretty much identical to the Pixel 3 camera. Only that the Pixel 3a lacks the Pixel Visual Core imaging chip found on the Pixel 3.

With the Pixel Visual Core imaging chip missing, the camera seems to rely on the CPU and GPU to apply various optimizations on the photos. In many scenarios, the Pixel 3a camera performs impressively well, there’s plenty amount of details in the images, the colors appear to be closely defined, thanks to the OLED display.

The playground mode is just as the one we saw on the Pixel 3, but with added few Playground stickers added from the latest releases such as the Avengers: End Game. Know that the images snapped in the Playground mode significantly degrade the overall image quality, the result is compressed into a 2.1 MP photo.

Here are some camera samples that you need to see, we took from the Google Pixel 3a camera.

Google Pixel 3a Camera Samples

Battery Life

The Pixel 3a packs a battery that’s worth 3,000 mAh, while the 3a XL has a bigger battery. Surprisingly, on average use, the battery last more than a day with only 3,000 mAh battery and lasts a day with moderate use. While it’s not a huge number and the battery life is just decent for its capacity. You will find larger battery capacity in the competition if you seek other phones.

For charging, the Pixel 3a ships with an 18W charger which is a fast charger rated 9V and 2A. Our charging test showed us a 2-hour charging time from 0% to 100%.

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Google Pixel 3a Battery Test Results

Apps/GamesBattery usedRuntimeBrightnessWireless
1080p Video2%20 minutesAutoOff (Wi-Fi, GPS, Data)
YouTube (1080p)2%20 minutesAutoOn (Wi-Fi)
PUBG MOBILE6%20 minutesAutoOff (Wi-Fi, GPS, Data)
Asphalt 9: Legends5%20 minutesAutoOff (Wi-Fi, GPS, Data)
Music (Offline)2%1 HourScreen OffOff (Wi-Fi, GPS, Data)
Music (Online) - SoundCloud2%30 minutesScreen OffOn (Wi-Fi)
Instagram4%20 minutesAutoOn (Wi-Fi)
Facebook3%20 minutesAutoOn (Wi-Fi)

Verdict

The Google Pixel 3a is a new midrange contender that excels in many areas. be it the pure Android experience, an excellent 12.2 MP camera that puts its triple-camera rivals to shame, and an impressive OLED display with support for HDR. In addition to that, you get the unlimited Google Photos storage, Google Playground AR, and stereo speakers.

Unfortunately, the Pixel 3a also receives some of the criticisms came from its bigger siblings, you don’t get a dual-SIM functionality, no microSD card support and no 3.5mm audio jack. Not only that, but the Pixel 3a also carries large display bezels and plastic casing design in a segment where you can easily get better-looking design and full-screen display options.

Other minor shortcomings are no option for 4K video recording at 60 frames per second, a water-resistant design, and the wireless charging option, but these do not prevent the phone from being fantastic. If you love taking portraits and still photos and want a cleaner Android experience, the Pixel 3a is the best you can get in this price bracket.

Rivals

  • OnePlus 7 (128 GB) – Rs 32,999
  • OPPO Reno (128 GB) – Rs 39,999

Strength

  • Compact & Light Weight Design | Resembles Pixel 3
  • Pure Android | Smooth UX | Faster Android Updates
  • Remarkable Camera Performance | Mind Boggling Portraits
  • Crisp & Bright OLED Display | HDR Support
  • Unlimited Google Photos Storage (~3 Years)
  • Google Playground Is Fun To Play
  • Decent Performance
  • Stereo Speakers

Weakness

  • Large Bezels On Top & Bottom
  • Lacks 4K Video Recording At 60FPS
  • No IP Ratings – Not Water Resistant
  • No Dual SIM Option
  • No microSD Support
  • Expensive