The "1-Minute" Review
- No microSD support
- Hard to see in bright lighting
With guaranteed, fast updates and industry-leading cameras, the Pixel series is a great choice for anyone looking for the pure Android experience. With the Pixel 3a, Google looks to create a budget-friendly alternative to their popular top-tier phone lineup. But can they manage to duplicate their success at a lower price point? Reviewers have had time to use the Pixel 3a and are weighing in...
All plastic chassis which looks nearly identical to the pricier Google Pixel 3. Reviewers loved the look though noting it was comfortable to hold and looked far nicer than an all-plastic phone usually does.
You’ll find a fingerprint sensor in the middle of the rear shell which reviewers found responsive and accurate. They even kept the Active Edge feature allowing you to squeeze the phone to launch Google Assistant.
New Atlas notes, “They’re solidly put together, and feel well-built in the hand, but if you’re wondering where Google has made compromises to get to this price point, the design is one of those areas.”
Around front, you’ll find a 5.6-inch OLED display running at 2280-by-1080 pixels. Reviewers found it plenty crisp for reading text and enjoying movies and games. But some found the maximum brightness and color reproduction less than stellar. Still, most considered it more than acceptable for daily use.
What Hi-Fi notes, “In terms of pure detail, the Pixel 3a gives a crisp image at what is just beyond 1080p resolution. Faces are not as hair follicle-accurate as with 4K but there’s still plenty of texture.”
The 2Ghz Snapdragon 670 processor with 4GB of RAM provided respectable results -- especially considering the price of the phone. While launching apps might take a little longer than more powerful phones, reviews indicate things chug smoothly along once started. Many reviewers were surprised at how competent the phone was for gaming as well -- a fact that will only improve with the launch of Google Stadia -- Google’s cloud-based game streaming service -- in Fall 2019.
TechRadar summed up opinions well, saying, “... While we did notice a few issues with the performance in normal use, for example when navigating the user interface, as well as longer than expected waits for the camera post-processing software to work on pictures we took, it didn’t ruin our experience with the handset…”
The phone ships with the latest version of Android -- 9.0 Pie. In terms of the interface, you’ll get pure Android experience with zero bloat. As a Google phone, you can also count on fast updates for three years from the release date. The phone is already slated to be one of the first running Android Q.
The Pixel 3a includes 64GB of internal storage. However, with no microSD expansion support, you’ll need to uninstall a few apps or limit your downloads once things fill up. Still, for the price, the storage allotment is generous.
The Pixel 3a features the same outstanding camera which wowed reviewers with the higher-priced Pixel 3. The pair of 12MP front- and rear-facing cameras with optical image stabilization produced consistently detailed images in most cases.
However, the camera lacks the Pixel Visual Core of the pricier model so some effects, filters, and processing were weaker overall. Even when they worked, the phone was slower to process images. This made rapid-fire snapping a bit difficult.
Still, in terms of a phone with a camera that you can launch and shoot without worry, the Pixel 3a presents an excellent value in its price bracket.
TechRadar praised the camera, saying, “... the Pixel 3a’s camera isn’t bad – in fact, it’s pretty fantastic given the price you’re paying for this phone. It was a little slow to focus and the shutter speed wasn’t lightning-fast, but the pictures it took had great quality; they were bright, detailed, and depth effects were rendered well.”
Reviewers had nothing but praise for the Pixel 3a’s battery life. The 3,000mAh battery provides more than enough to get through the day -- especially if you let Google’s Adaptive Battery technology take control of your power management. With USB Type-C 18-watt fast charging, you’ll also find top-offs speedy should your power run low during the day.
The phone’s dual front-facing speakers were liked well enough by reviewers. The 3a also sees the reappearance of a 3.5mm headphone jack -- a feature many reviewers missed in the Pixel 3.
Most reviewers had no problem recommending the Pixel 3a. It’s small enough to slip in your pocket, offers excellent performance, and features a camera that punches way above its price bracket. Tack on guaranteed updates and a sleek design and it’s easy to see why the phone was so popular.
The Wirecutter awarded the Pixel 3a (and its larger sibling, the Pixel 3a XL) the title of “Best Android Phone for Most People.”
What Hi-Fi liked most aspects of the phone, saying, “[The Pixel 3a is] fine phone for video and photography, it’s just a pity that the audio doesn’t quite match.”
T3 said, “Sure, Google has cut some corners… the plastic body doesn’t feel as premium, the lack of water and dust resistance means you’ll have to be more careful out and about, and the ability to shoot ultra-wide selfie shots will be sorely missed. That said, we’re not sure these are worth paying twice as much as the Pixel 3a and getting the flagship Pixel handset instead.”
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