Google Pixel 3a Review Roundup: Lower Price, Same Stunning Camera

Fresh off of the big reveal at Google I/O 2019, the new Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL phones are now on sale, and they're already wowing critics. Early reviews are in for these newly announced phones, and if camera quality is a driving factor, it looks like you've got serious reasons to spend $399, and not twice as much, for your next phone.

Credit: Google

(Image credit: Google)

Of course, critics aren't all positive, noting that the Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL feel a little cheaper on the outside and that they're not as speedy as the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. Tom's Guide will have an official Pixel 3a review soon, but in the meantime, here's what the critics have to say about the latest Google Pixel phones.

Tom's Guide

Our Google Pixel 3a review from Adam Ismail reveals how good the phone's photos look when compared to flagship handsets and even other budget phones.

The Good

"It’s only when you see what the Pixel 3a can do compared to a phone roughly the same price that you really begin to appreciate how special its camera is. The shot from the edge of Bryant Park as captured by the $349 Nokia 7.1 isn’t bad at all, but it falls short in ways even the best midrange phones for photography do. "

"the Pixel 3a avoids nearly all of the frustrations that ordinarily befall other cheap handsets — and that includes good ones like the $349 Nokia 7.1 and $299 Moto G7. The build quality is excellent, the display is a cut above any run-of-the-mill LCD screen, the battery lasts very long on a charge, and the software consists of Google’s latest and greatest services, with the promise of quick updates for three years. Most budget devices are lucky to see one update in their entire lifetime."

The Bad

"Where you're likely start to notice lag is when playing demanding games, or using the camera a lot. Although the Pixel 3a can pull off many of the same computational photography tricks that Google’s more expensive models can, all that image crunching is happening on less-capable silicon, and without Google’s Pixel Visual Core to speed things along. That means sometimes you’ll have to wait a hair longer for HDR+ photos or bokeh-effect portraits to finish processing after the fact. It’s not deal-breaking lag by any stretch, but it can happen."

"As for gaming, the Pixel 3a fares better than most phones at its price range, though it handles some titles better than others. PUBG Mobile wasn’t much of a sweat for the baby Pixel, though Asphalt 9: Legends was a choppier, blurrier experience."

The Verge

At The Verge, Dieter Bohn's review raves about the Pixel 3a as a phone that breaks the rules about budget phones.

The Good

"If you want to buy a new smartphone that costs between $300 and $500, you should buy a Pixel 3A or Pixel 3A XL. It is the best phone in that price range, and it’s actually competitive with more expensive phones in one very important way: the Pixel 3A has a great camera."

"In 15 years of reviewing phones, I am not sure if I’ve ever been able to write the following sentence: a $400 phone has a camera that’s among the best you can get on any smartphone."

"if you want to buy a new smartphone that costs between $300 and $500, you should buy a Pixel 3A or Pixel 3A XL." — Dieter Bohn, The Verge

The Bad

"The Pixel 3A uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 processor … It’s not as fast as a Snapdragon 845 (Pixel 3) or 855 (Galaxy S10 and lots of other 2019 phones). It’s nowhere near as fast as the processor in the iPhone XR or XS."

"There is one build quality trade-off that I wish Google hadn’t made: the Pixel 3A isn’t water resistant."

Android Central

Daniel Bader's hands-on review at Android Central, based on a week with the phone, calls these more affordable phones "cheaper, not worse" than the original Pixel 3 phones.

The Good

"So here's the tl;dr on the camera: it's spectacular. You're getting the same quality of photos that you get on the Pixel 3 but for half the price. And it's not just the photo quality — Google's brought over every major feature from its more expensive phones, too, including Night Sight, Top Shot, Super Res Zoom, Motion Autofocus, and insanely good video stabilization."

"While less dense, this is otherwise a fantastic screen and you'll likely never notice a difference in resolution unless you have a QHD phone next to it. Warm, vibrant, and with surprisingly good viewing angles and touch response, this is one of the better 1080p OLED displays I've used."

"HDR+ photos take about double the length to 'complete' as they do on Google's phones." — Daniel Bader, Android Central

The Bad

"The Snapdragon 670 is considerably slower than the S845 in the Pixel 3, and compounding the issue is the 3a's lack of Google's Pixel Visual Core, so HDR+ photos take about double the length to 'complete' as they do on Google's phones."

"I miss wireless charging, and the lack of waterproofing is a bit of a bummer."

Credit: Google

(Image credit: Google)

Cnet

At Cnet, Lynn La published separate reviews of the Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL phones, and each got the same 8.2 out of 10 score.

The Good

"Because the Pixel 3 and 3A have the same camera, photo quality is still excellent. Images are clear, bright and vibrant. You can still take portraits with that dramatic, depth-of-field effect and adjust the focus and blur of the picture after you take the shot."

"But I do like that the Pixel 3A has a headphone jack. Fellow wired headphone users rejoice!"

"Don't get me wrong, on paper the Pixel 3A XL had lower benchmark scores than the Pixel 3 of course, as well as other "budget option" handsets from Google's competitors. … But during my time with it so far, day-to-day usage didn't feel much different from the Pixel 3."

"Images are clear, bright and vibrant. You can still take portraits with that dramatic, depth-of-field effect and adjust the focus and blur of the picture after you take the shot." — Lynn La, Cnet

The Bad

"It's a drag that the Pixel 3A isn't water resistant, so I don't have that extra peace of mind when I have my phone around a pool or sink."

Credit: Google

(Image credit: Google)

Android Authority

In Dhruv Bhutani's review of the Pixel 3a XL at Android Authority, he admires the phone's screen, which looks to be better than what you expect for $400.

The Good

"For a phone that costs almost half the price of the full-fledged Pixel flagships, Google has done a remarkable job at achieving parity as far as experience is concerned. At no point in my week with the phone did I feel the Pixel 3a XL offered a significantly worse experience compared to the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL."

"The Google Pixel 3a XL is equipped with a 6-inch OLED display. The screen looks tack-sharp and has all the traits of a great OLED panel, including vibrant colors and fantastic viewing angles."

"At no point in my week with the phone did I feel the Pixel 3a XL offered a significantly worse experience compared to the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL." — Dhruv Bhutani, Android Authority

The Bad

"The front-facing camera can capture great-looking shots but there is a noticeable reduction in quality compared to the selfies shot on the flagship Pixels. There is a bit more noise, the frame of view is lower and images are just a bit softer on details."

"Back to the design, within a week of use, the white polycarbonate has already picked up a few scuffs and stains. It’ll be very hard to keep this phone looking pristine. I suspect the black variant might fare better."

Credit: Google

(Image credit: Google)

Digital Trends

Julian Chokkattu at Digital Trends talked up the surprisingly strong processor power of the Pixel 3a and 3a XL, which handled PUBG: Mobile well.

The Good

"Upon launching PUBG: Mobile, the game suggested I use the “High” graphical settings option — usually it defaults to “Medium” or “Low” for 600-series or lower chipsets. Gameplay is smooth and the graphics looked great. I am consistently impressed at how well the Pixel 3a and 3a XL perform and had zero worries about using it on days when I knew I would task the phone with a lot of work."

"There’s a reason why the Pixel 3 is our favorite smartphone camera. It snaps photos quickly, the images it captures are incredibly well-detailed with mostly accurate colors, and there’s strong HDR. All of this applies to the Pixel 3a phones — the images are very similar across the board, if not almost the same. For under $500, you cannot get a better camera experience than this."

"The rear doesn’t attract fingerprints, but the lightweight nature of the materials makes the phone feel a bit cheap." — Julian Chokkattu, Digital Trends

The Bad

"What’s missing? The Pixel Visual Core chip. It helps with image processing and handling many camera-related machine learning tasks on the Pixel 3, but Google engineers have worked hard to reengineer many of these capabilities to work with the Snapdragon 670. It’s impressive, though it does mean image processing times are a little slower on the Pixel 3a."

"It’s a different story on the back. It’s almost a replica of the Pixel 3, but while the more expensive phones use glass, the Pixel 3a line employs a mix of glass and polycarbonate. The rear doesn’t attract fingerprints, but the lightweight nature of the materials makes the phone feel a bit cheap."