Pixel 3a + 3a XL Impressions: A Nexus for 2019, or Google’s $399 iPhone XR killer?

by birtanpublished on October 2, 2020

my initial plan for this review was to hold up a pixel three and say something like this is the pixel 3a and then look down on my desk and pick up the actual pixel 3a and be like oh no wait this is it and then I would laugh and you would laugh and everything would be hilarious because they basically look the same but that's not true of the pixel 3a XL which is what the pixel 3 XL would look like in a just universe where deep V notches just weren't a thing here it is but the pixel 3 and 3a Excel are odd ducks they're basically pixel trees with all

The fundamentals and a few compromises at much cheaper prices I mean the 3a starts at 399 dollars in the US and the 3 Axl is only four hundred and seventy nine dollars they're basically half the price of their pixel three counterparts so why why would Google release two new phones halfway through its flagships product cycle and why these phones why these phones with these compromises well to answer that we have to actually look at the phones themselves so let's dive in my name is Daniel Bader this is Android Central and these are the pixel 3a and 3a XL

both the 3a and 3xl would be consider mid-range phones if that term meant anything anymore the 3a has a 5.6 inch 1080p OLED display with kind of weird 18 point 5 by 9 aspect ratio I say weird because it's taller than the 3 the phones also larger in every dimension it's taller thicker wider and it has a larger 3000 milliamp hour battery which is again something like Google one is to solve for these newer phones the 3a Excel is even weirder it's got no knotch and it's got a smaller 6 inch 1080p OLED display so

It's perfectly symmetrical 18 by 9 and it's also OLED so the quality of the screens on these phones pretty good I mean you won't notice much of a difference but the three axl it looks a lot like the pixel to excel which i think is on purpose because google is acknowledging here that the notch on the three excel was not that popular it was one of the most criticized aspects of that phone the 3a excel also has a larger 3700 milliamp hour battery which along with the Snapdragon 670 platform should ensure the longest screen on time of any pixel phone to date as I said the

Screen on the pixel 3 Axl is really good but it's got that lower resolution and it doesn't take holding the phone for very long to understand where Google made cuts in other areas the phone is plastic there is no metal on here at all the the buttons are clicky and everything feels basically the same as a pixel 3 but it's just not metal as a result the back is plastic and there's no wireless charging but you would be forgiven for mistaking the back for glass meaning looks basically like the same frosted glass as on the pixel 3 I mean you don't see a lot of plastic

Phones anymore but I'm gonna give Google a lot of credit here they've done it right if you're gonna make a plastic phone this is how you're gonna do it but what you lose in materials you make up for in another way the three a and three excel have headphone jacks which is kind of weird because there seems to be this trend where the lower-priced version of a phone in a series has a headphone jack and the flagship doesn't just look at the Mait 20 and May 20 Pro or the P 30 and P 30 Pro from Huawei along with some other Xiaomi phones the screens are covered with dragon trail glass on the

3a Series as opposed to Gorilla Glass 5 which is also another place that Google saves some money okay so what else is sacrificed here well given the lower price you'd expect that the internals would not be quite as powerful and that is for the most part true the platform here is the snapdragon 670 which is a really interesting hybrid chip it has Qualcomm's cryo cores and there's eight of them but only two of them are considered performance cores the rest are clocked at 1.7 gigahertz the two performance ones at 2 gigahertz and the performance overall is more akin to

Between a Snapdragon 820 and an 835 from a few years ago than the latest generation Snapdragon a 45 or 55 but the 670 is actually built using the newer capabilities from the 800 series in terms of AI and imaging so you're getting a lot of the same features from the hexagon DSP and Spectre ISP as you'd find in today's flagships which brings us to the camera the 3a and 3a Excel share the identical camera hardware to the pixel 3 down to the image sensor and lens aperture I mean this is basically the same camera and what's even more interesting

Is that even though these phones don't have the Google pixel visual core the photos that I've taken are identical I mean these it's the same camera down to the pixel it's amazing you get the same features you get nitesite you get great portrait photos you get top shot you get motion photos you get everything that you get on those phones at half the price there is one sacrifice with the camera and it's not on the back it's actually on the front Google issues the secondary wide-angle camera lens on the front of the pixel 3 & 3 excel for a single 8

Megapixel selfie camera that has no autofocus so even though the quality is really good you're not getting that same experience and that's actually the one thing from the pixel 3 that I really really missed I love taking those wide-angle selfies they're just fun and really high quality but I cannot overstate just how big a deal the camera is on the pixel 3a Series I mean this is by far the best camera that you're gonna find on a sub $500 phone so much of the pixel 3 is down to software that Google was able to basically provide the same camera hardware without sacrificing

Anything because so much of it is done in post it proves that the pixel threes camera the hardware is nothing special it's the same that you'd find on a galaxy or any other flagship phone but Google has done such a great job with its hdr+ algorithms that you can just rely on it to get you the best photos in any situation now there's also a potential downside there because while the pixel 3 does offer some of the best photography in any phone it's also earned a really unfortunate reputation in reliability even six months later the pixel 3 suffers from reliability

Problems in the camera the camera app is slow to start and when I press the shutter button it just does not capture anything I have a daughter and I want to make sure that when I double press the power button to open the camera it actually opens and I can take a photo reliably which has meant that over the last few months I've been turning to my Galaxy S 10 and my Huawei P 30 Pro as my main phone cameras Google isn't doing itself any favors by putting only four gigabytes of RAM inside both the pixel 3a and 3a Excel and yeah I know it would have been

Strange to put six or eight gigs of RAM in a sub $500 phone but there are so many unknowns here in terms of reliability that I'm not willing to give them a pass yet that said so far the pixel 3a Excel has been really reliable when I open the camera app and I take a photo and I'm not going to condemn it yet because of the pixel threes problems I'm gonna have to wait to see whether it plays out the same way they've had six months to fix these problems I really hope that they don't crop up elsewhere on the other hand you're getting a really great software experience here

Google has one of the cleanest Android experiences on the market it's generally fast and reliable until it isn't and I really like the gesture system I'm actually kind of nervous about the changes coming in Android q but that's another video for another day so you get Android pi out of the box here it's been generally as performant as the pixel 3 has which is fantastic and you're getting three years of platform updates and security patches which you will not find on basically any other phone especially in this price range you're definitely going to see Android s

And you may even see Android t when it's released because this is being released right before Android Q comes out so that's awesome news on the other hand Google pixel phones are known to start bogging down after a few months and I'm really hoping that this isn't the case here so let's close this out by talking about a few other things of note the pixel 3/8 Series does not have waterproofing that's something else where Google if gets to save money and it doesn't have wireless charging but it does have that 18 what fast-charging that's found on

The pixel 3 so I'm happy there it also doesn't have the dual front-facing speakers that you can find on the pixel 3 but there are stereo speakers it's just that one is facing you from the earpiece and one's facing down from the bottom of the phone and the sound quality I found to be pretty good if not you know the same has the pixel trees so I'm pretty impressed there the phone also has some of the best haptics you'll find on any device in the world and it's definitely the best you'll find on any sub $500 phone so I'm again really happy there and there's the Titan M security

Chip inside the phone which means that the pixel 3a is among the most secure phones you'll buy so lots of really good features in here and the things that Google cut from the 3a series make sense so who is this phone for I'm sure a lot of previews are gonna say things like the 3a and 3 XL are the return of the Nexus it's the Google's taking low cost phones seriously again but I just don't think that's true because the Nexus line was renowned for having really good performance and pretty crummy cameras on the other hand 3a excel has among the best camera you can buy on a phone today

Especially in its price range but it's the software and longevity that's the unknown right now and it's also worth pointing out that the success of the 3a series hinges on Google's ability to market this phone in areas where the pixel 3 either isn't available or it's really expensive so the phone starts at 399 in the US but we'll have to see what it's priced at in other markets and whether it can compete with the Chinese OEMs that are having such success in India Brazil and in other developing markets with a huge audience I'll finish this video this way the

Biggest compliment that I can give to the pixel 3a and 3a Excel is that it's basically the same experience as using the pixel 3 at the same time that's also potentially the biggest curse whether Google can sell this in volume remains to be seen it's gonna be available at Verizon in the US and other carriers around the world but by and large this is going to be just a popular unlocked phone at the same time the problems that manifested on the pixel three maybe a bit more forgivable because this is sub $500 so we'll have to wait until the full review to see

Whether the problems that we've seen on the pixel three crop up here but so far I'm really impressed with this phone I mean it's got everything you need from a great big screen to a rear fingerprint sensor and everything in between we'll have a full pixel 3a review coming in the next few weeks so if you want to see that and all the other videos that we're producing hit subscribe like this video we really appreciate your support and it helps out the channel a lot my name is Daniel Bader thank you for watching and we'll see you next time

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