Google Pixel 3a review: Top-notch camera phone

Google launched the company’s most affordable of phones– Pixel 3a and the Pixel 3a XL– at the I/O 2019 event in California in May. 

The new Google Android mobiles- 5.7-inch Pixel 3a and the 6.0-inch Pixel 3a XL– made their way to India in mid-May for Rs 39,999 and Rs 44,999 respectively. I had an opportunity to test the new Pixel 3a and have been using it for a little over a week and here’s what I feel about on the phone.

Design, display and build quality:
If you place a Pixel 3a and the original Pixel 3 series, you will have a hard time differentiating them and more so, If looked from the rear-side. The former comes with dual-tone finish with glass enclosure housing single-lens primary camera with LED flash on the top, and the rest of the body has frosted matte finish, which also houses a fingerprint sensor and ‘G’ brand engraving.

But, once you hold them in the hand, you will notice the difference. Google, for obvious reasons (to cut the costs), has used polycarbonate-based material for the Pixel 3a’s shell. It’s light and the compact structure offers a good grip to hold on to the phone. And, yes, it is sturdy too.

Pixel 3a back panel; picture credit: KVN Rohot/DH Photo

On the front, Pixel 3a comes thick bezels on the top and the base. It has one front camera in the top left corner and a speaker in the middle. In the upper edge, it houses a 3.5mm audio jack, which is sorely missed in the original flagship phone.

At the bottom, it comes with two stereo speakers at opposite ends with Type-C port in the middle.

On the left side, it comes with single physical SIM slot, but it can be noted that the device supports eSIM similar to Pixel 3, 3 XL, Apple iPhone XS, XR, and XS Max. So, you can still get the option to add the second SIM. 

On the right side, it houses a power button and volume rocker. Like the original Pixel 3 series, the mid-range model also supports Active Edge feature, which the user can make use to trigger the Google Assistant. To avoid accidental activation, there is an option to adjust the squeeze sensitivity of the frame.

As far as the display is concerned, it comes with 5.7-inch full HD+ screen with 18:9 aspect ratio. Despite the thick bezels, you will have a good time watching videos thanks to OLED-based screen, which not only offers true black colour tone in the videos and images but also is power efficient. Even if you play HD content, it doesn’t drain faster compared to LCD-based phones.

Performance:

Pixel 3a is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 and is backed by 4GB RAM and 64GB storage. For a phone priced around Rs 40,000, its quite a let down to have a mid-range chipset.

Having said that, Pixel 3a (or 3a XL) will perform smoothly under normal day-to-day chores like app launching, web browsing, multi-media texting on WhatsApp or any messenger apps.
However, you cannot count on Pixel 3a with graphics-rich games, as it begins to show lag-ness. And if you happen to start video recording or taking images in dark with Night Sight mode on, the phone tends to get little warmed up.

Truth to be told, the heating wasn’t that overwhelming to suggest Pixel 3a gets ‘over-heated’ when put through its paces.

Pixel 3a scored 1,59,761 on AnTuTu and on Geekbench 4, it managed to get 1616 and 5174 points on single-core and multi-core tests, respectively.

One of the perks of being the Google phone is that Pixel 3a is assured to get three major software updates and get four years of monthly security patches. Except for OnePlus and HMD Global Oy (Nokia), other third-party OEMs do not even properly offer two years of software support.

So, Pixel 3a owners can feel safe from future malware threats and also enjoy dessert-flavored software updates longer than other branded phones. 
Another notable aspect of the Pixel 3a is the Titan M security chip, where it holds all the sensitive data such as the passwords and the operating system and protect them from spyware.

Also, Google offers unlimited cloud storage for photos taken on the Pixel 3a, so you never have to worry about a shortage of space for installing new apps in the future. The only qualm is that the picture stored is not the original taken by Pixel 3a, but a compressed high-resolution image. 

For now, only marquee Pixel 3 series owners have the privilege of storing original quality images in the Google cloud storage. 

Camera:
Google’s Pixel 3 is one of the best camera phones in the market and the same amazing hardware is incorporated in the lower-priced Pixel 3a. Needless to say, it has no competition in the sub-Rs 50,000 price category. 

Google Pixel 3a primary camera sample images; Picture credit: KVN Rohit/DH Photo

The Pixel 3a houses 12.2MP primary sensor on the back with LED flash and it takes stunning pictures in all light conditions period. What I loved the most were the images taken via Portrait and Night Sight modes. As you can see the picture below, the camera has been able to blur the background flawlessly, while retaining minute…

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