Google Pixel 3a Review: I Love You, Little Plastic Phone


1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
2 – Warm rubbish
3 – Highly imperfect design
4 – Some advantages, many disadvantages
5 – Acceptably flawed
6 – Enough to buy for sale
7 – Excellent, but not the best in its category
8 – Fantastic, with some footnotes
9 – Shut up and take my money
10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $ 399

This is what we like

Incomparable value
Excellent camera
Great battery life

And what we do not do

No watertightness
Navigation by gesture is bad

After months of rumors, the Google Pixel 3a is finally available. It's a more affordable approach to the company's flagship phone, with cut angles in the right places. That's 90% of the Pixel 3 at half the price.

It still offers most of the elements that make the Pixel 3 special: an excellent camera, a pixel-specific Android with direct updates from Google, a fast and convenient back fingerprint sensor, and useful software features , starting at $ 399 for the 3a pixel ($ 479 for the 3a XL).

Of course, at half price, it also lacks a few elements: wireless charging, waterproofing, "high-end" materials and high-end processor. But what is lacking in so-called "high-end" features, is what is catching up in … well, everything else.

The most exciting part of the 3a is that it still offers the best feature of Pixel 3: this revolutionary camera. Since the essence of the magic lies in the post-processing on Pixel phones, Google was still able to offer features such as Portrait mode, Night Sight and other great features from the camera in the 3a.

Before going into the thick of it, it is worth mentioning that this review is about the smaller of the two phones 3a. Since the 3a XL is basically the same phone with a larger screen, you should also be able to apply whatever it says.

Quality of manufacture, material and specifications: Oh plastic, how I missed you

As manufacturers use more and more "high-end" materials like aluminum and glass in phones, handsets have become more slippery, more fragile and more expensive. I do not know about you guys, but I'm not in any of those things. Despite the direction taken by the phone industry, I want a plastic phone that is worth using. Pixel 3a is the answer to this desire.

So, why plastic? Because it is light, it is almost indestructible, it does not scratch easily and it is not slippery. What more do you want from the body of a phone? I can not think of anything better – the "high-end" materials are damned. And the 3a is made of plastic well done. Some plastic phones may seem cheap, but this little guy feels great. It's a small device well done. The plastic on the 3a is excellent (although it is a fingerprint magnet).

As for the rest of the design, it's about what I would expect from a phone called Pixel. It's great and well done. Despite its lightness, it still looks like a small, strong phone. If the Pixel 1 XL and 3 had a plastic baby, it would be the 3a, because it has the characteristics of each.

If you are interested in the general layout of the phone, here is your recap: the right side houses the power button and the volume rocker; the bottom is the location where you will find the USB-C port and the bottom speakers (more details a little further); the SIM card tray is on the right and the 3.5mm headphone jack on the top. Oh yes, he has a headphone jack. Cool, no?

Let's talk about this controversial issue, will we? Many people were confused about the inclusion of the headphone jack on the 3a, especially since Google had removed it on the Pixel 3. According to the company, however, they had "the feeling that consumers at this level of price, at this level need flexibility. It's … very interesting. Because customers who buy at higher prices do not need flexibility? Such a fascinating statement. But I keep it off topic: it has a headphone jack, which should make most people happy.

Oh, and if you've already invested in USB-C headphones, these will still work on the Pixel 3a. Flexibility! He h.

The fingerprint sensor is on the back of the phone. I am a big fan of fingerprint sensors mounted on the back, and this one is no exception. In fact, the Pixel line is why I love rear-mounted fingerprint sensors. And the one on the 3a is ultra-fast, still works and is refreshing to use after dealing with the OnePlus 6T's in-display sensor, which is my daily driver for six months. Some things just should not be bothered, and the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor on Pixel phones is one of them.

Let's go back to the front of the phone and take a minute to talk about the screen. Like many other aspects of the phone, that's fine. It's not a first-rate sign, but it's a very useful one. Although it does not have the qualities you'll find in a much more expensive phone – high-resolution color, super-accurate, and usually just beautiful – it's probably the best screen you'll find on a cell phone. this price level. And the more you use it, the more you will find that it does not bother you that its "okayness" bothers you. I certainly have not done it – I'm delighted with the 3a's display, because it's a small compromise that's being made in other areas (software and cameras, for example) .

If I had a complaint about the design of the 3a from the point of view of usability, it's with the speakers: not because they sound bad; because the low shooting speakers are void. Always. No matter what. They are so easy to hide in the worst moments and to sound in a way that makes no sense in the best of circumstances. I understand, it's a $ 400 phone. It is a compromise and in no way a business. And in the end, they sound pretty good – you know, when you do not accidentally cover them.

Update: After the publication of the review, I realized that the listener is also a speaker. It did not work properly when I wrote the review (I do not know why), but it had to be fixed by a reboot. After further tests, however, I can confirm that the earpiece is a speaker, which greatly reduces the inconvenience caused by the bottom-triggered speakers.

For other specifications, here are:

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 670
Storage: 64 GB
Display: 2220 × 1080 5.6 inches (pixel 3a); 6 inches 2160 × 1080 (3a XL)
Cameras: 12.2MP rear, before 8MP
Ports: USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack
Headphone jack: yes!
Battery: 3000 mAh (pixel 3a); 3700 mAh (3a XL)
Fingerprint sensor: mounted at the back
Compatibility of operators: all major operators
Colors: just black, clearly white, purple-ish
Price: $ 399 (pixel 3a); $ 479 (3a XL)

Of course, these are not the hottest specifications on the market right now. But it's not supposed to be: it's a $ 400 phone for the mid-frequency market. It is a cheaper competitor than the iPhone XR and the Galaxy S10e.

The compromises made in Pixel hardware to reach the lowest price make perfect sense. The display is not better in class, but it's still good; the processor is not the fastest, but it does the work; it has a plastic shell instead of several "premium" materials. And while most decisions are good, the lack of waterproofing is a huge disappointment. At this point, it's not a high-quality feature, it's a necessary feature. That's probably the only thing I would change about 3a.

Before moving on to performance, let's talk about the size of the second. The 3a is a phone of such size. The 18.5: 9 5.6-inch display provides an easy-to-carry, one-hand experience. Although I realize and respect that some people prefer larger phones, I think Pixel 3a is the most perfect size phone I've used in a long time. So good.

Software and performance: Pixel Android is the best Android

If you know something about Android, you know there is a universal truth: it's the purest version of Android you can get. It's Android without the kitchen sink that you will find at manufacturers such as Samsung. It's Android as expected.

And although Android is available as a free download for all manufacturers, there are some things that Google does to make the Pixel special. Other Android phones do not have access, such as call screening, a feature that lets you hear what a caller wants without answering, and camera enhancements, for example.

But that's what makes Pixel phones worth buying, because once you've used something like call screening, it's hard to do without it. Hell, this feature makes almost all the phone is worth it. It's a game changer. Same thing with spam filtering call.

Pixel Android – not available on Android – concerns these little things. The little touches that make life easier. Refinements in the appeal process, ability to take a great picture without having to know how to take a great photo. Pixel Android is largely integrated with the software. Despite a slight change in the Android stock, the Pixels operating system is the most personal version of Android. It is designed to make life easier.

But since I'm a long time Pixel user, I knew what to expect from this experience. What I did not know with the 3a was the performance. It is a mid-range handset, which means that it has a midrange processor. Android has notoriously worked like a shit on mid-range and low-end hardware, so I have to admit that I had reservations about the 3a's performance.

The good news is that at least by the time I had the phone, the performances were good! It's not at all a demon of speed – I can feel the difference when switching between the OnePlus 6T and 3a, but that's not enough to avoid using the 3a. And after a short time (a few hours at most), I stopped completely to notice the difference.

It's really because the nuances of performance are not even easy to pin down – there is no way to quantify the difference when it comes to feeling. Of course, there are landmarks, but it's just a number that does not translate directly into any use in the real world. This is simply not the case.

But I'm misleading. The fact is that I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the 3a, especially from a beast like 6T. The transition was simple and I would have no reservations recommending the 3a to anyone (and everyone!), Regardless of the phone they are currently using.

The only part of the switch that hurts, however, is the adjustment to the gestural navigation of the 3a. Just like the Pixel 3, Android Pie on the 3a uses the annoying and irritating new gesture system that is clearly half-assed and poorly executed – and there is no built-in way to change it. (There is however a Workaround for slanted users who use ADB.)

The good news is that it seems that Google is tearing up the iOS gesture system – which is arguably the best I've ever used – under Android Q, which should fix the damage to navigation by the pixels of the current generation.

Battery life: it will allow you to cross a day

I've been talking about Android devices for a long time and I'm commenting on them, and I remember very well when battery life was a difficult topic to tackle because it was miserable. Android has come a long way since these days, and battery life on most phones is now pretty good.

The Pixel 3a does not escape this rule: the battery life is solid. I would not say it's exceptional, but it will easily make you spend a day (and even more!). I am a big phone user, especially when reviewing a device and battery life, and I was able to benefit from about five hours of screen time. with the battery in reserve. There have been some "charges" that were thrown when I was in the car and connected to Android Auto, but if not, it was just a direct use.

In simple terms: you should not have much trouble spending a day with Pixel 3a, even with a fairly intensive use.

Camera: Wine on a beer budget

Let's be realistic here: if there is a reason to buy a Pixel 3a, that's it. The pixels are famous for their excellent cameras and the 3a wears them as a badge of honor. To say it as clearly as possible: you will have to spend at least double the cost of Pixel 3a to find a comparable camera … which is essentially the Pixel 3. But at this price level, the camera is without question.

The Pixel 3a does not have the best camera equipment available, which makes all the beauty of it. Google can take mediocre hardware and make it great with its amazing post-processing software. As I said earlier, the software is what makes the experience of a pixel phone, and the camera software is an important part of what makes this true .

Portrait mode. This is a $ 400 phone.

Left: without night view; Right: with Night Sight

Some additional samples:

Conclusion: a fantastic camera attached to a good phone

You may already have understood that, but the Pixel 3a (and by extension, the 3a XL) is the best midrange handset you can buy – nothing else is getting closer. There may be phones close to this price range with better screens or even better hardware. But none of these can approach the pixel experience. If you've already owned a pixel, you already know what I'm talking about – between the little touches in the software and the insane camera adjustments, it just provides an unprecedented thoughtful experience.

And if you have never owned a pixel, the 3a is a great way to soak your feet in the water. This is not a flagship product that revolutionizes the portfolio, but rather a mid-range phone with the flagship features that matter. It's a win-win (and a better value than the Pixel 3 in general).

If you are the fence, do not be. If you are looking for your next phone and want to get it on a reduced budget, this is it.

This is what we like

Incomparable value
Excellent camera
Great battery life

And what we do not do

No watertightness
Navigation by gesture is bad

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