Google Unveils Affordable Pixel 3a & Pixel 3a XL – What You Need to Know
May 8, 2019 Andrew Cheng

Google I/O keynotes are mostly all about software, but surprise surprise, Google unveiled two new phones at this year’s event. Enter the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL, which are Google’s latest mid-range smartphones with a modest set of hardware.

But don’t let that deter you from getting either one of these two smartphones: they have some of the best cameras in the business. So much so, in fact, that the camera performance of these two phones is in the same league as more expensive flagship smartphones. Without further ado, let’s get to know the new Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL.

First, hardware. Both phones are powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 chipset; a decidedly mid-range SoC. In terms of performance, the Snapdragon 670 should be able to deliver enough processing power for a relatively good user experience. It wouldn’t be amazing, but hey, some things have to give to lower the price point of the phones.

Besides that, these phones also come with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage (non-expandable, unfortunately), and get this: a 3.5mm headphone jack. Even the higher-end Pixel 3 doesn’t have such a port.

What differentiate the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are two things: display size and battery capacity. The standard Pixel 3a comes with a 5.6-inch 1080p display and a 3,000mAh battery, while the XL model sports a bigger 6-inch 1080p screen and 3,700mAh cell. Thankfully, both phones don’t have any display notch or hole-punch cutout.

Surprisingly enough, despite the fact that these are affordable smartphones, both variants of the Pixel 3a come with OLED displays. Basically, you will get punchy colours and very deep blacks with these panels. At this price point, not many smartphones come with OLED screens, except for a number of exceptions like the Samsung Galaxy A30 and A50.

However, what sets the Pixel 3a smartphones apart from other mid-range devices is their camera performance. Both models feature the very same 12.2MP f/1.8 rear camera and 8MP f/2.0 selfie shooter found on the higher-end Pixel 3, Based on user reviews so far, they can capture really good-looking shots.

In theory, the Pixel 3a would be able to take the exact same pictures as the Pixel 3, but there is one catch: the former lacks Google’s custom Pixel Visual Core processor, so the image processing is done with the CPU and GPU instead.

This results in a slight difference in image processing, but unless you’re a professional photographer, you probably won’t notice the difference. But what you will notice is image quality that is on par with other flagship smartphones at a fraction of the price; that’s one of the main appeals of the Pixel 3a.

Despite the impressive camera performance, there is no escaping the fact that the Pixel 3a smartphones are mid-range devices. This is made very clear when it comes to design and build material. There are rather thick bezels at the top and bottom of the display, and you don’t get any fancy in-screen fingerprint sensor. Instead, you get a conventional sensor on the back of the phones.

On top of that, both variants of the Pixel 3a also sport polycarbonate chassis. Chances are, they will not feel quite as premium as other smartphones made out of glass and metal; some of which occupy the same price point as these two phones.

Personally, however, I think it’s a worthwhile trade-off. If living with a plastic phone means I can get flagship-tier camera performance at a lower price point, I would take it in a heartbeat. Plus, build material may not matter all that much, especially if you’re just gonna slap on a casing anyway.

The Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL present a compelling case. Even though they feel and look like standard mid-range smartphones, they feature flagship-tier camera performance, not to mention the fact that they run on Google’s minimalist version of Android. Thanks to that, you will get the latest Android updates very quickly for three years from the time the phones are introduced.

Collectively, these make the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL very interesting mid-range smartphones. Unfortunately, it remains to be seen if they will be made available in Malaysia. After all, previous Pixel smartphones were never sold on our shores.

Nonetheless, the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are now available for purchase in the US, and they retail at $399 (about RM1,655) and $479 (around RM1,985) respectively.