Pixel 3A Review: The Pixel Experience for Everyone

The Pixel line’s greatest strength has always been its software experience. With its unaltered version of Android, users experience Android as Google intended. The new Pixel 3A is no different. What is different is the price. Starting at $399, the Pixel 3A is affordable and brings the features that are most important to the average user.

After using this device for more than a week, it clear that Google deliberately and carefully chose features from the Pixel 3 to bring to the Pixel 3A. I am left wondering, do I really need these extra features that the Pixel 3 brings? Are they really worth $150 more or even $600 dollars more compared to other flagships?

The Pixel 3A is a great phone not only for its price. This is the Pixel for everyone and I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone.

The Basics

  • Display: 5.6 inches 1080 x 2220 pixel OLED (Asahi Dragontrail Glass)
  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 670
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 64/128GB
  • Primary Camera: 12.2 MP, f/1.8, 28mm, 1.4µm, OIS, dual pixel PDAF
  • Secondary Camera: 8 MP, f/2.0, 24mm (wide), 1.12µm
  • Battery: 3000 mAh
  • Dimensions: 151.3 x 70.1 x 8.2 mm
  • Colors: Just Black, Clearly White, Purple-ish
  • Extras: 3.5mm Headphone Jack

For more information on the Pixel 3A, check out this page.

What sets this device apart?

Amazing Camera

By now we all know that the Pixel 3 has an amazing camera. The Pixel 3A contains the same industry-leading rear-facing camera. To reduce cost, Google did take out a couple of things. One is the lack of the Visual Core. What this means is the image processing is done on the CPU rather than the dedicated core. Expect processing times to take slightly longer, but you really won’t notice it much since it does it in the background. In my experience, it takes an extra 15 seconds or so for HDR pictures.

The same software features you find on the Pixel 3 are also available on the Pixel 3A. Night sight is still just as impressive on the Pixel 3A as it is on the Pixel 3. Overall you won’t be disappointed with this camera. It just works.

Instead of the two cameras on the front, the Pixel 3A only rocks a single selfie camera. The selfie camera on the Pixel 3A is slightly wider than the Pixel 3’s non-ultra wide camera. It sits squarely between the Pixel 3’s ultra wide and regular selfie camera. This does result in wider selfie photos. From my testing the selfie camera quality is about the same as the Pixel 3 as well.

Google’s Software & Security Update Support

As a member of the Pixel family, the Pixel 3A will be first in line for any security and major OS upgrades. Google also released Android Q Beta for the Pixel 3A this month, allowing users to try out the latest version of Android.

Just like the Pixel 3, the Pixel 3A will be getting 3 years of major OS and security updates. This is quite a bit longer than a lot of other Android phones get on the market. If security and updates are important to you, you will find it very hard to stray from the Pixel line.

Headphone Jack is Back

Unlike the Pixel 3, Google brought back the headphone jack on the Pixel 3A. One of the rationals was that in the mid-range market the headphone jack is still an important feature. The nice thing about this is that you won’t need to buy additional wireless headphones or use an adapter to use your existing headphones.

Spectacular Value

You won’t find another phone with this quality of the camera for the price of $399. $399 is a great value for this phone. Coupled with Google’s guarantee of 3 years of major OS and security updates, this is one of those phones that should last you a while.

What are the drawbacks of this device?

Slower Processor

The Pixel 3A rocks a Snapdragon 670 instead of the latest flagship CPU from Qualcomm. Day to day you won’t notice the difference much unless you put it side by side flagship device. Apps may take a second to open, but I have yet to find anything that would cause the phone to slow to a crawl. My only concern here is how well the processor will age over time, especially over the course of 3 years given that is how long Google will be supporting it.

No Qi Wireless charging

If you already have a wireless charger, you will probably feel pretty bummed out by the lack of wireless charging. But if you don’t own a wireless charger, you probably couldn’t care less. Getting a wireless charger is an extra expense. Out of all the thing Google could have taken out, this is an okay omission in my book.

No IP Waterproof rating

The Google Pixel 3A does not include any IP ratings for waterproof or dust proof. But if you’ve researched how IP ratings are given and how smartphones are water sealed, you will know phones are not as waterproof as you may think. The fact that most manufacturers do not cover water damage in their warranties should give you a good indication that the IP waterproof rating doesn’t matter that much.

Other things to know

No dual front facing speakers

Instead of the dual front-facing speakers that you would get on the Pixel 3, the Pixel 3A rocks a front-facing earpiece speaker and a down firing speaker. The speakers are still decently loud and clear. You probably won’t notice this much day to day.

Asahi Dragontrail Glass instead of Gorilla Glass

Google opted to use Asahi Dragontrail Glass instead of Gorilla Glass for the Pixel 3A. Asahi Dragontrail Glass isn’t some cheap brand though, they have been around for quite some time. Based on my experience, I was able to scratch the screen on the first day of owning it. Though based on my research Gorilla Glass should be at the same hardness as the Asahi Dragontrail Glass. I suspect my experience is just purely due to bad luck and having sand scratch the screen. Regardless, I would recommend getting a screen protector just in case.

Decent Battery Life

With the slower Snapdragon 670 and larger battery, you will see a decent bump in battery life compared to the Pixel 3. I was consistently getting 4 to 5 hours of screen on time while using the device on a daily basis.

No live wallpaper

By default, the wallpaper app does not have any of the live wallpaper choices you get from the Pixel 3 line. Kind of an odd omission if you ask me. The CPU should be able to handle the live wallpaper no problem.

Screen is still an OLED

Most phones in this price range will use an LCD screen. The Pixel 3A’s screen, on the other hand, is an OLED. The colors are still bright and vibrant. Compared to the Pixel 3, the Pixel 3A’s screen is on the warmer side.

The plastic build is durable

I had the unfortunate chance of dropping this phone outdoors. The plastic build on the back surprisingly did not scuff, but I did get scuffing on the sides of the screen. I would fully expect the Pixel 3A to be more durable than the Pixel 3.

Would I recommend it?

After using the Pixel 3A, I started questioning whether I needed all the bells and whistles of the Pixel 3. If the Pixel 3A was an option when the Pixel 3 launched, I might have picked up the 3A instead of the 3. You really don’t lose much by opting for the Pixel 3A. During my time using the device, I got by just fine with the Pixel 3A. Never did I feel like I missed my Pixel 3, which says a lot. The Pixel 3A is the best value in the smartphone market right now and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone.

Leave a Reply