Feature Pixel Review

The MacBook Air of Smartphones – BirchTree

Most telephones are judged on 4 things:

  1. Construct Quality
  2. Performance
  3. Digital camera
  4. Software

When you purchase an $800+ telephone then you possibly can often get all of those however spend any much less and you’re going to need to compromise. The $400-$700 telephone market is fascinating because it’s full of phones which might be making compromises to attraction to the most individuals whereas sacrificing enough to show a profit. Normally, telephone makes will stuff the guess sounding chips into their telephones and can skimp on build quality, software, and the digital camera. This will get headlines like “a top-of-the-line processor in a mid-range phone!” headlines and certainly moves some units from tech fanatics.

Google selected to go a unique route as I feel they are the one major telephone maker who has leaned 100% into the digital camera and skimped on uncooked efficiency. In consequence, they have created a midrange telephone that’s onerous to match to anything.

I feel that the Pixel 3a has instantly made it arduous for me to advocate anybody in search of a midrange telephone take a look at anything proper now. If your price range is $400 then this can be a no-brainer, and even in the event you’re prepared to spend somewhat extra and also you deliver the OnePlus 7 Professional into play, I feel this telephone will hold its personal very properly for lots of individuals.

That stated, this isn’t the telephone for me personally, neither is is a “flagship killer.” Let’s check out why that’s and if the compromises it makes are the correct ones for you.

Digital camera

We now have to start out with the digital camera because that’s the simgular thing that makes this telephone probably the most fascinating. There’s actually no compromise right here as Google put in the same again digital camera that they’ve on their $1,000 flagship. Principally, in case you assume the Pixel three takes one of the best pictures of any smartphone, then the Pixel 3a takes precisely those same pictures, so that you’re going to like them.

I’ve in contrast this digital camera to the iPhone XS and regardless of liking the pictures from the iPhone more, the very fact I’m evaluating the cameras on a $400 telephone to a $1,000 telephone they usually’re principally neck-and-neck is a large compliment to the Pixel 3a.

This evaluate goes to be learn principally by iPhone customers, so here’s how I’d say the cameras stack as much as Apple’s newest iPhones (which once more, value 2-3x more):

Identical to the iPhone, you’ll be able to principally belief this digital camera to get a minimum of a very good photograph every time you snap an image. I miss the telephoto lens from my iPhone, however I also respect having Night time Sight, which provides an entire new sort of photograph I can take.

If I had to simplify it approach down, I’d say I’d want to make use of the iPhone through the day and the Pixel at night time. The iPhone gets unimaginable photographs in the course of the day, and I feel its HDR seize is method ahead of Google right here. As I’ve stated many occasions now, Google’s digital camera algorithm “optimizes for drama” which may be good, however may also result in pictures that look artificial or lose knowledge because of the additional contrast applied to every photograph. Right here’s an instance:

Which of those photographs do you favor? Individuals will differ on this, however I enormously want the underside photograph, which was taken on the iPhone XS. The Pixel 3a image is crushing the shadows to create a picture that appears respectable, however (a) removes particulars that I can’t get back in modifying, (b) doesn’t mirror what this truly seemed like in actual life, and (c) is less saturated than what made the scene look so good in real life.

There was additionally a time I switched my profile photograph in Slack at work to a selfie taken on the Pixel 3a and other people got here out of the woodwork to ask me how many Photoshop effects I applied to that photograph because it seemed super pretend. I needed to tell them that none have been applied and that’s just how selfies on the Pixel look. I ended up changing the image.

At night time time though, I’ll take the Pixel 3a each time. In the standard digital camera mode it does pretty just like the iPhone, though the iPhone often has higher white stability at night time. However the Pixel separates itself by having a strong flash mode as well as Night time Sight, which provides you another choice to get a photograph if the primary capturing mode isn’t slicing it.

Shifting previous stills on the back digital camera, we get to places where I feel the Pixel 3a falls properly behind the iPhone. The selfie shooter is ok and has a wider angle lens than the iPhone, however I feel this wider lens produces less-flattering selfies as individuals’s faces are shaped weird. This is the character of vast angle lenses, however that vast angle lens additionally makes it easier to get selfies with extra of the background in them or to cram extra individuals right into a shot.

Video on the Pixel 3a is sort of good, although I’d say it falls properly brief of the iPhone XS and even the Galaxy S10e I used before this telephone. That stated, the 4k 30fps footage appears excellent and Google’s stabilization is absolutely strong. I don’t assume it’s greatest in school, nevertheless it’s rattling good video that you simply’ll take pleasure in watching.

That is what I remind you that this telephone prices lower than half of the iPhone XS, barely over a 3rd of the XS Max, and principally exactly half of the XR. The undeniable fact that I’m splitting hairs right here with $1,000+ telephones is a victory in and of itself for the Pixel 3a. This is really a no compromises digital camera for a telephone on this worth vary and it’s what sets this telephone aside from the remaining of the mid-range market. Frankly, this is the only mid-range telephone I might ever use as my day by day driver for any extended period of time because the digital camera is so necessary to me. Kudos, Google.

The Construct

The Pixel 3a completely looks like a inexpensive telephone. The plastic body is mild in the hand and feels good, but you don’t assume of it as a “precious object” like you’ll be able to with some of these extra premium phones. This is totally high-quality, as telephones on this market don’t need that premium really feel to deliver value, nevertheless it’s value noting.

Regardless of the less luxurious feel of the telephone, it’s constructed nicely and feels fairly good within the hand. It’s a bit slippery and its prime and backside bezels make the 5.6” display a bit more durable to handle than on the bezel-less telephones on the market, however just about every part else is a win right here.

The colours are listed here are great. I received the “Purple-ish” model and the identify doesn’t lie, this is simply barely purple. Most individuals assume it’s a white telephone and it’s not till I inform them they usually look nearer that they say “oh yeah, I guess it’s a bit purple.” And then there’s the accented inexperienced power button that just seems great. It’s a slick and distinct look and I completely dig it.

The Show

The display is an additional tall 1080p display with rounded corners. It’s 5.6” and has a pixel density of 441 pixels per inch. That is principally the same as the iPhone XS and much larger res than the iPhone XR. The display simply seems positive general although. It’s a great display, however not an excellent one. Colours appear pretty accurate, but are boring when set side-by-side with greater end units. This isn’t something you’ll notice a lot when using the telephone like regular, but there are fewer “wow” moments here.

The largest drawback with the display is using it in daylight. It’s not terrible, nevertheless it doesn’t seem to get as vibrant because the iPhone or Galaxy telephones I’m used to and it becomes troublesome to see outdoors.

One final notice on the display, this telephone has what I contemplate the most effective always-on show performance within the recreation. It seems good, displays notifications properly, and has the flat-out sensible “now playing” function that tells you what music you’re listening to.

Fingerprint Reader

The fingerprint reader on the again of the telephone is prime notch. It’s quick and seems quite accurate. Within the spectrum of authentication strategies, I favor face unlocks over anything, but if I’ve to have a fingerprint reader, I want them on the front of the telephone, then on the again, and then on the aspect. The Pixel 3a has it on the back, so it’s not my favourite technique, however it’s nice. This is what I stated in my Pixel 2 assessment and it holds true for this telephone as nicely:

Individuals say this location is great because it’s have been your index finger naturally is whenever you’re holding the telephone, however my index finger merely does not relaxation there once I’m using the telephone. I can put my finger there simply sufficient once I pic up the telephone to unlock it, however my hand shimmies down the telephone to truly use it. I’m about an inch under it and have to stretch to succeed in it, which is not snug.

Battery Life

Full disclosure, I don’t have real battery life exams since I’ve not moved my SIM card over to the Pixel 3a, however I can say that it holds a cost higher than my Galaxy S10e which can also be in WiFi-only mode proper now. Right here’s what I stated about that telephone:

Coming from the iPhone XS, this is just about what I’m used to.

So yeah, when you have an iPhone XS then the Pixel 3a will in all probability get barely higher battery life.

Buttons and the Squeeze

I discussed the buttons in passing already, but they’re all on the appropriate aspect of the telephone which I fairly like and they’re good and clicky. The iPhone has one of the best buttons in the recreation, however the Pixel 3a has good buttons that hold with one of the best of them.

And then there’s Google’s “active edge” function which lets you set off Google Assistant by squeezing the telephone. I hate this function. Despite setting it to every sensitivity choice and making an attempt my greatest to work with it, I by accident trigger it about 10x more than I achieve this deliberately. It just makes me feel like I have to child my telephone and not seize it too onerous, lest I get Google Assistant asking me what I need to do when all I needed was to examine the time. Perhaps you’ll take pleasure in it, however for me it’s by no means handy sufficient to make up for the constant annoyance it causes for me.

I/O and Charging

There is a USB-C port on the underside of the telephone which does all the USB-C belongings you’d anticipate, but you’ll in all probability simply be used for charging, which is ok. I’ll additionally point out that this telephone does not have wireless charging and I miss that function greater than I noticed I might. My life is all in on wireless charging, with my iPhone (and Galaxy) sitting on a charging mat at night time and a charging stand in the course of the day. The Pixel 3a made me add wires to these setups and I personally hated it. Outdoors of reviewers like myself, I don’t know who else goes to go from a wireless-charging telephone to the Pixel 3a, nevertheless it’s onerous to do back.

And last however not least…properly, truly yeah, least…there’s a headphone jack on this telephone. Identical to wi-fi charing, my entire life has moved on from wired headphones, so this port was principally useless for me, but I’m positive a lot of individuals will take pleasure in having it. I do need to speak about its placement although, which is on the highest of the telephone and seems stupid.

Why, Google, why?


This story is pretty easy because the 3a and 3a XL only are available one storage measurement: 64GB. I feel that is advantageous and makes good sense for the worth point they’re hitting. Would I really like more storage? Positive, but 64GB is going to get the job finished for most individuals and I feel the one actual drawback here is which you can’t throw another $100 at this telephone to upgrade to extra if you need it. There are not any greater storage options neither is there a micro-SD slot for extra storage.

Android does a reasonably good job of not absorbing all of your storage so this has been okay for me up to now. I’ve been utilizing this for my podcasts, music, audiobooks, and games, and I presently have 43GB free.


When you have been waiting for me to get to the MacBook Air comparability from the title, then wait not. This is the place Google saved some cash and you may tell it’s not a top-of-the-line telephone on the subject of velocity. That feels like a dig, however it’s not meant to be. Some individuals need/want a specced out MacBook Professional, but many people are completely positive with a MacBook Air. Totally different products, totally different classes, and totally different clients.

The Pixel 3a ships with a Snapdragon 670, which doesn’t imply an entire lot on its own, but the essential bit is that this benchmarks a tad slower than the 2017 Google Pixel 2. That is based on Geekbench and all the online benchmarks I might throw at it. In phrases of iPhone speeds, that’s someplace between an iPhone 6 and 6s for single core and and near the iPhone 7 for multicore. In the event you have been curious, the iPhone SE benchmarks 33% quicker than the 3a in single core, and is slightly slower in multi-core.

But benchmarks solely matter so much and actual world performance is what is definitely essential in a telephone. Sadly, the benchmarks inform the story pretty nicely here because the Pixel 3a feels very very similar to a slower telephone than the upper end choices on the market. This is one of these things that you need to let sink in for some time, as most telephones, together with this one, feel completely quick up entrance. Watch actually any evaluation of any telephone ever they usually’ll say something like “and it handled everything I threw at it without any trouble.” This line bugs me so much and is the type of factor you say after using a telephone for a number of hours.

After three weeks with the 3a I can confidently say that this can do anything you need it to, nevertheless it’s going to do all of it slower than you’ll get with a better end telephone, in addition to many of the similarly-priced finances phones on the market.

Apps often launch shortly…till they don’t, and animations are principally all the time a bit choppier than I’d personally like. None of this can be a disaster, and you may absolutely get your work accomplished on this telephone, but the distinction between a excessive finish Android telephone and this telephone is completely noticeable.

But right here’s the thing about this telephone’s performance: in case you are a more common customer and are getting your telephone from a service, then this telephone contends a lot better. Take a look at what Verizon, T-Cellular, and Sprint have within the $400 range and this is going to maintain up with or beat most of these choices. It’s solely when you get into some of the Huawais and Pocofones on Amazon that you simply get telephones that basically smoke this thing in terms of performance. In fact, getting these phones means a far worse digital camera and fairly darn objectionable software layers over Android. For those who care most about power, then the Pixel 3a isn’t for you, but when an awesome digital camera is value tolerating acceptable speeds, then the 3a is actually arduous to beat.

Software program

Mentioning the rear is software, not because it’s unimportant, but because it’s merely not going to be my favorite half of any Android telephone. Additionally, as a Pixel telephone, we don’t have a lot to speak about since it’s actually simply stock Android.

Finally I feel this can be a good version of Android nevertheless it lacks some things I’ve grown to like about, and I can’t fairly consider I’m saying this, Samsung telephones. I miss the lock display customizations Samsung provides, I feel the darkish mode is best, I miss the health monitoring features, I miss the UI tweaks of One UI, and I even miss Bixby routines.

But the Pixel line shouldn’t be all about having tons of features proper out of the field. You’ll be able to download apps to add quite a bit of energy to the gadget, so it’s not that huge of a deal. And Google would in all probability inform you that Google search and Assistant already offer you tons of power on their own.

One of the good things about Pixels is that they don’t seem to be overwhelming and I really like that about them. So far as Android telephones go, the Pixel 3a has an excellent stock expertise, not an enormous one.


If my telephone finances was sub-$500 then the Pixel 3a would absolutely be the telephone I might buy. I respect velocity and love having it in a telephone, but an important to thing to me is a digital camera, and it’s what has prevented me from using low cost phones as my “daily driver” for very long. I want my telephone to have a terrific digital camera and the 3a delivers here like no other telephone in the worth range. Despite my gripes about performance, I’d somewhat commerce that for a great digital camera any day of the week.

I’d additionally advocate the Pixel 3a to any iPhone consumer who’s Android-curious. I feel you will get a good suggestion about Android from this telephone with out breaking the financial institution on a flagship. I think this won’t convert you and make you need to sell your iPhone, however when you have the price range to have a second telephone, then this can be a excellent choice.

In case you should have extra velocity then something just like the OnePlus 6T is an effective choice and will value you $100-150 more. And if you want to spend what flagships used to value before they acquired insane, the iPhone XR and Galaxy S10e are great decisions within the $650-750 range. I’ve by no means used it personally, however if you wish to spend a little less than $400 and get better performance, then the Pocofone F1 seems to be the winner.