This year, Google did something it had never done before and launched the Pixel 3a and 3a XL (watered down versions of the previous editions). The smartphone comes with the same camera as Pixel 3 on its back panel and since it is a Made by Google handset, it obviously has a number of software tweaks. Google Pixel 3a is priced at Rs 39,000 in India. At this price, is it really worth the buy? Read the rest of our review to find out:
Google Pixel 3a Design and Display
Google Pixel 3a is the first Pixel smartphone by the technology giant in the mid-range smartphone segment. Google has made sure that the smartphone does look like it is from the Pixel family by keeping the design in line with other handsets within the range, particularly the Pixel 3. So much so, if you see the rear panels of the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3, it would be hard to tell them apart. But then, there are certain differences too. For instance, the Pixel 3a comes with a polycarbonate body instead of the glass one that we saw on the flagship device.
We should mention that some may feel that this does not justify the cost of the smartphone, as there are several devices like OnePlus 7 that are priced more affordable and come with glass and metal bodies. For us, it wasn’t too big a problem as there are a number of other aspects of the handset that make up for this.
Google Pixel 3a sports a 5.6-inch Full HD+ OLED display that has an aspect ratio of 18.5:9. The smartphone comes with broad bezels on top and bottom, sticking to the design that existed before notches became popular. While a few may like the traditional design of the handset, there will be those who would prefer to go in for a full-screen or an almost full-screen (edge to edge) experience instead.
One thing that we really liked about the mobile is its one-handed usage. We have used a smartphone after really long that was so easy to operate with one hand. We could reach all the keys and even the top of the display with no problem at all (with just one hand).
The Pixel 3a smartphone also comes with stereo speakers. While the earpiece of the device sits on the top bezel along with the selfie camera, another speaker is placed right next to the UBS Type C port at the bottom.
Another thing that a number of people would like is the fact that a 3.5mm headphone jack is included in the handset.
Flip over, and you will see a single camera sensor placed on the handset’s back panel along with an LED flash. There is also a fingerprint scanner and ‘Made by Google’ branding on it. The rear panel of the smartphone, like all other Pixel devices, comes with a dual tone design.
The right edge of the Pixel 3a smartphone has the power and volume rocker keys while the left has the SIM tray. The power button is Orange in colour and it really stands out from the rest of the body. But we liked it.
In a nutshell, we would say that even though there are smartphones in the same range that come with more premium design aspects, Google Pixel 3a still comes with a good look and feel.
Coming to the display of the Google Pixel 3a, it has an OLED screen that comes with a full HD+ resolution and an aspect ratio of 18:9. You will be able to choose from Adaptive colour mode, Natural colour mode and Boosted mode, based on what exactly you like. The screen of the Google Pixel 3a has support for Always On Display feature as well and shows all incoming notifications.
The display shows rich colours and deep blacks that remain consistent at any viewing angles. The sunlight readability of the device is also good. In our experience, we really enjoyed watching videos and playing games on the smartphone because the display experience was a really good one. While the experience isn’t a full-screen one, you also don’t have to deal with a portion of the content being blocked because of the notch.
Personally, we considered the display to be another very good aspect of the smartphone. You would not be disappointed if you can look beyond the fact that it comes with thick bezels on top and bottom.
Google Pixel 3a performance and cameras
First, let’s talk about the specifications of the smartphone. Powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 670 SoC, Pixel 3a comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. On the photography front, Google Pixel 3a sports a 12.2MP Dual-Pixel rear camera that has a Sony IMX363 sensor and has support for OIS and EIS. The primary camera comes with an f/1.8 aperture, 76-degree field of view and 1.4-micron pixels. The Pixel 3a comes with Night Sight feature that enhances low-light photography, HDR+, Portrait Mode, Super Res Zoom and Top Shot.
For selfies and video calls, there is an 8MP camera that has an 84-degree field of view, 1.12-micron pixels, and an f/2.0 aperture. The back panel of the smartphone houses a Pixel Imprint fingerprint sensor. The device houses a 3,000mah battery and for connectivity, it has 4G VoLTE, Wi-FI 802.11ac, Bluetooth v5.0, GPS, and thankfully, a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Coming to the software of the smartphone, it runs the latest version of Android 9.0 Pie. Google has promised to roll out Android and security updates for the next three years to the Pixel 3a. Made by Google smartphones are known for their software, and Pixel 3a does not disappoint. You can summon the Google Assistant just by squeezing the side edges of the handset. The smartphone comes with the Digital Wellbeing feature that can be useful in tracking the time that you spend on the device. Other than this, it also has Pixel 3-like gesture navigation available on it. There are actually scores of software features that make the device stand apart. We personally really liked them and would certainly call them to be one of the key highlights of the Google Pixel 3a.
Now, let’s talk about the performance of the Google Pixel 3a. We have to say that during our time with the smartphone, we encountered no trouble whatsoever. The performance of the Google Pixel 3a is very smooth and the handset can handle multi-tasking very well. We used the smartphone all day long and threw a number of tasks like navigation and gaming at it together. However, we did not find it stutter even once. This is impressive considering the fact that the device does not come with a high-end processor and is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 670 SoC. If you compare it to other smartphones with similar SoCs, you realise it performs way better than them. But then, smartphones in the same range with higher processors offer smoother and faster performance. Having said that, you wouldn’t notice the difference until you deliberately compare Google Pixel 3a with a smartphone like OnePlus 7.
If you enjoy playing games on smartphones, you will definitely like the Google Pixel 3a. We played some very graphic-hungry games like Asphalt 9: Legends and PUBG Mobile, and they ran without any hiccups on the handset. While the smartphone does not heat up even if you play games for an hour at a stretch, you may notice that the battery does drop significantly.
Speaking of the battery, Pixel 3a smartphone houses a 3,000mAh cell. This may sound less on paper, but we should tell you that even when we used the smartphone for navigation, watching multiple videos and browsing social media for the entire day, we had at least half of it remaining till night. We sound this to be very impressive, since we weren’t expecting this much juice. The only time that the battery dropped quickly was when we used the handset for gaming.
Now, let’s talk about another the key highlight of the Google Pixel 3a, its cameras. The smartphone has the exact same rear camera as the Pixel 3 flagship handset, and we have to say, it lives up to the reputation. On the front, there is only one camera, instead of the dual camera setup of the Pixel 3. The device sports an 8MP selfie camera that has an 84-degree field of view, 1.12-micron pixels, and an f/2.0 aperture.
We should also mention that the camera software of the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3 are also identical. A number of features are also the same as Pixel 3 including the Night Sight, Super Res Zoom, Playground, Photobooth and Top Shot.
Coming to the images that we clicked, they really met our expectations. And we should mention that our expectations were really high considering the Pixel 3a has the same camera as Pixel 3. The shots taken in daylight were simply brilliant. The camera focussed almost instantly and the images that we took turned out to be so rich and full of details. Even the shots that we took after zooming in were excellent. One thing that we really liked was the fact that the subject and the background were distinguished very well in the image. The camera is intelligent enough to know what to focus on. HDR+ is on by default on the camera app of the handset. We should mention that the device does such a good job of managing the exposure, you would not even have to look for the settings unless you wish to take a shot with very specific requirements.
Coming to the images taken at night, they are very good too, thanks to the Night Sight mode on the Google Pixel 3a. However, we should point out that if you take pictures without Night Sight enabled, they may turn out to be slightly unclear. So, always keep it on to get the best quality images.
Moving to selfies, the 8MP sensor makes sure that the images have a good amount of details. You can also add the Bokeh mode to the selfies using the Portrait mode on Google Pixel 3a.
Last but not least, the call quality of the device was good too. We had no trouble making and receiving calls even from places like elevators and basements.
Google Pixel 3a costs Rs 39,999 in India. At this price, it competes with the likes of OnePlus 7 and Asus Zenfone 6Z. If your priority is the camera, no other smartphone in the same range would make you happier. The software enhancements are another very big plus for the Google Pixel 3a and we also really liked its compact form factor.
The OLED screen will please those who value quality displays. However, there are certain key features that the device miss out on too. For instance, it does not provide a full-screen experience and lacks an in-display fingerprint scanner – both of which have become rather common with handsets in the said range. For us, it wasn’t a big deal to live without them. If you can ignore these, you are in for a great experience with the Google Pixel 3a and we would totally recommend it. But then, if you value speed and fancy features more, we would tell you to pick up some other device like OnePlus 7.
- Excellent cameras
- OLED display
- Great software enhancements
- No fingerprint scanner
- No Notch/full-screen experience
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