Google Pixel 3a review: Similar to Pixel 3 in many ways, but affordable

Topics Google

Around six years ago, when I used the Nexus 4 smartphone, manufactured by South Korean electronics major LG in partnership with search engine and software giant Google, my experience was generally good. The phone had a stock Android operating system, no bloatware, capable hardware, and a refreshing design. Importantly, it was an inexpensive device — one of the reasons why I chose it over Samsung or HTC smartphones.

In 2016, the Nexus programme was discontinued and replaced by Google’s flagship Pixel series. The Pixel-branded smartphones boast the best of hardware and software, but with a premium price tag. So, after the LG Nexus 4, I did not go for the Pixel and instead chose the OnePlus 3T. The latter seemed more viable — it filled the gap that Google had left in the mid-range segment.

Now, as I learnt Google was launching affordable-premium smartphones, the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL, I wondered if these would offer the Nexus experience again? We will find out.

The Google Pixel 3a (read 3 affordable) is priced at Rs 39,999, against a Rs 71,000 price tag of elder sibling Pixel 3.

Put the Pixel 3a next to the Pixel 3 and it will not be easy for you to say one from another. Though a tad bigger, the 3a’s 5.6-inch OLED screen on the front has a similar 18:9 aspect ratio leaving huge bezels on the top and bottom. Due to its conventional screen type, the phone looks a generation old. However, people with small hands will like the phone for its compact design which makes it easy to hold and operate.

On the back, the phone has a glossy profile on the top and a matte film covering the plastic body at the bottom. The matte film protects the body from fingerprint marks, giving it a clean and tidy look all the time. However, the phone’s plastic body is susceptible to scratches.

The phone boasts a 12-megapixel primary camera sensor on the back taken directly from the Pixel 3. From portrait shots with enhanced background blur effect to well-lit shots in lowlight conditions, the camera in the Pixel 3a is as good as that in the Pixel 3. The 8MP selfie camera is a decent performer, too. However, the absence of a secondary lens, unlike in the Pixel 3, the field of view in the 3a is limited to single or self-portraits, and not group shots.

Powering the phone is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 SoC, mated with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage. The light-weight stock Android Pie operating system that the phone boots is optimised to run without hiccups. Opening apps, multitasking, switching windows, etc, happen almost instantly. Interestingly, the phone also handles graphic-intensive workload like games with ease. Playing gaming titles like the PUBG or Asphalt 9 do not deteriorate performance, and the phone handles these titles just like any other premium smartphones.

The processor’s limitations come to notice when you click a picture and move to the gallery and view the shot. It seems that the phone lacks the dedicated image processing unit that the premium Pixel 3-series boasts. Therefore, the image takes some time to process and show the final outcome. Similarly, editing a video using an app is not very smooth. The phone sometimes slows down abruptly and force-closes app to free up resources for the phone to resume operating freely.

Powered by a 3,000 mAh battery, the phone supports 18W fast-charging. Thanks to a power-efficient 10nm processor and lightweight OS, the battery returns a decent on-battery time of around 14 hours and a screen-on time of 6-7 hours.

Verdict

Not everyone likes a big phone, and the Google Pixel 3a is the only premium smartphone with a compact design fitting all. If you liked the Pixel 3, there is no reason for you to dislike the Pixel 3a. From OLED screen to dual speakers and potent single-lens camera shooter on the back, the phone inherits most of the features of the Pixel 3. It has, however, traded off some premium features like IP68 rating for water and dust resistance, Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 system-on-chip (SoC), glass body, wireless charging, etc, to keep the price low. These trade-offs do affect the phone’s overall performance and utility to a limited extent, but these are in no way noticeable in day-to-day usage.


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