About 6 years ago, the Google Nexus 5 launched. This handset was seen as the very best of Google’s smartphone software in hardware form. Not only that, it was very well priced too and delivered a pure Android experience that so many people at the time were looking for.
Unfortunately, it was only a few years later that the Nexus line was killed off and replaced with the new Pixel range of devices and, with this transition, the affordable price tag of old was replaced with a much higher, more flagship-level approach to handset costs.
Fast forward to the launch of the new Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL and things have gotten interesting. With Google learning from the last 3 iterations of their handset range and creating a truly spectacular camera offering, powered by their deep learning algorithms, the time was right for a cheaper Pixel handset to enter the market. Does it live up to the impressive Pixel credentials? Is the camera as good as its older siblings? Read on to find out in our review of the Google Pixel 3a XL.
When it comes to build quality, the Pixel 3a XL is practical and functional but not much more than that. In terms of design, the handset is very similar to its more expensive brother, minus the large notch but is constructed using ‘polycarbonte’ (plastic to you and me) instead of the polished metal body of the 3 and 3 XL. One other point to note is that there’s no water or dust resistance but there is a 3.5mm headphone jack which is nice.
The Pixel 3a XL’s OLED display is vibrant and punchy and a seriously impressive offering given the handset’s cost. It’s a 6 inch 1080 x 2160 display with a PPI of 402 which is more than enough for most users but won’t be as eye-popping as the likes of Samsung and Apple’s offerings. Again, this isn’t to be expected given its price point of just €479 which is over half the price of these flagship devices.
Under the hood, both the Pixel 3a and 3a XL are powered by Qualcomm’s new mid range processor, the Snapdragon 670 with 4GB RAM. Like the screen, this is more than enough for most users but if you’re a heavy duty mobile gamer, you might find the device struggle a little with more graphically intensive games.
Also, given just how much image processing trickery the camera likes to do, you might be waiting that small bit longer for this device to process HDR images for example compared to its older brother. There’s also 64GB of non-expandable storage but, thankfully, you can upload all of your photos in high quality to Google Photos for free.
Unfortunately, presumably to keep costs down on their end, Google doesn’t allow 3a and 3a XL owners to upload photos and videos in their original, uncompressed file sizes to their Photos platform for free like Pixel 3 and 3 XL owners can.
Now it’s the camera that will persuade most people to pick up the Pixel 3a or 3a XL. It’s easily the device’s biggest talking point. The 12.2MP rear camera on this device is the exact same as the one found on the Pixel 3 and 3 XL and, if you’re even slightly aware of what this means, you’ll know how impressive that is for a phone at this price point.
The 3 and 3 XL’s camera is seen as one of, if not, the best smartphone camera available right now. Not only that, both of these new handsets can also support Google’s Night Sight mode which lets you take spectacular low light photos. Simply put, there isn’t another smartphone at this price point that can photos as well as the Pixel 3a XL (and the same goes for the even cheaper Pixel 3a).
Around the front, there’s a single selfie camera so Google has removed the second wide-angle selfie lens found exclusively on the Pixel 3 XL. That being said, the selfies from this device are clean, well balanced and impressively punchy.
Below are some sample images we captured with the device to show off how impressive the camera really is.
The Pixel 3a XL is powered by an impressively large 3700mAh battery. We managed to get through the guts of an entire day of medium to heavy use before having to reach for the charger and thankfully, Google has included the same 18W fast charger in the box. Given that it’s an OLED screen, this too helps keep the battery usage down and Google’s own Adaptive Battery feature helps limit battery usage for infrequently used apps.
Android now has a new mid-range smartphone king. The Pixel 3a and 3a XL are incredibly well priced handsets given what you’re actually getting for your money. Google’s decision to cut corners on everything but the camera was the best one they’ve made in a while. If you like to capture impressive smartphone photos and videos but don’t want to spend €1000+, the Pixel 3a or 3a XL are your obvious answers.
The devices are available in three colours, Just Black, Clearly White and Purple-ish with the purple version available exclusively on the the Irish Google Store with prices starting at €399 for the Pixel 3a and €479 for the Pixel 3a XL.
The handsets will also be making their way exclusively to Vodafone Ireland, both online and in-store, later this month with their even more impressive price points below: