The Good The Pixel 3A XL packs a large screen, a fantastic camera, a long-lasting battery and a headphone jack — all at a more affordable price than the Pixel 3 and 3 XL.

The Bad The phone doesn’t have water resistance, wireless charging or expandable memory. As a Pixel 3A XL owner, you have unlimited uploads to Google Photos only at high quality, not original.

The Bottom Line The Pixel 3A XL has the best camera for its price and a generously-sized screen. But if having a fast processor and more memory is a priority, get the OnePlus 6T instead.

Google is pivoting to a whole new pricing bracket. At its annual Google I/O conference Tuesday, the tech giant announced the Pixel 3A and Pixel 3A XL. Though they have last year’s name, they’re indeed new phones that serve as a more budget-friendly variant of the company’s main flagships, the Pixel 3($813 at Walmart) and 3 XL.

Starting at $399 and $479 (£399 and £469 in the UK, AU$649 and AU$799 in Australia), the phones continue to represent Google’s ultimate expression of its mobile operating system, Android, which is the most popular OS in the world. Though Google’s latest flagships are struggling to sell against its Apple and Samsungcompetitors, which dominate the industry, Google hopes to shake up its pricing model and put more Pixels in people’s hands. After all, now that the Pixel 3A phones are nearly 50% cheaper than past generations, the company can now attract a new set of customers and ultimately increase sales.

Compare

Google Pixel 3A XL (just black)

Google Pixel 3A XL

Google Pixel 3A (just black)

Google Pixel 3A

Samsung Galaxy S10E (128GB, prism white)

Samsung Galaxy S10E

Apple iPhone XR (64GB, black)

Apple iPhone XR

Motorola Moto G7 (ceramic black)

Motorola Moto G7

DESIGN
7
7
9
9
8
FEATURES
7
7
8
9
8
PERFORMANCE
9
9
9
10
8
CAMERA
9
9
8
8
7
BATTERY
10
10
10
10
8
OVERALL
8.2
8.2
8.9
8.9
8.0
PRICE $479 Sprint $399 Sprint $650 Amazon $750 Amazon $300 Amazon

The Pixel 3A XL has the same camera as the Pixel 3 phones, but Google stripped down a few of its key hardware specs. (For a more in-depth look at the camera, check out CNET’s Pixel 3 review.) The Pixel 3A XL is also essentially a larger version of the Pixel 3A, so if you want more detail on what’s new with both phones, head to CNET’s Pixel 3A review too.

In general, the Pixel 3A XL doesn’t have as much of the high-end hardware the original Pixel 3s have, but Google still whipped up a great phone. Compared to the “budget” options of its competitors like the iPhone XR ($750 at Amazon) and the Galaxy S10E, the Pixel 3A XL doesn’t have features such as water resistance or wireless charging. But if you want a big screen, the latest software from Google and you want to take fantastic photos — all at a few hundreds of dollars less than the other phones — the Pixel 3A XL is the phone to get.

Otherwise, read on for the TL;DR main takeaways.

Pixel 3A and Pixel 3: Main differences

  • The Pixel 3A comes in a new color, “Purple-ish” (in addition to black and white)
  • It has a 3.5mm headphone jack
  • The Pixel 3A XL has a 3,700-mAh battery compared to the Pixel 3 XL’s 3,430 mAh
  • It’s available through Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular. It works on AT&T too, but you can’t buy it directly from the carrier. Here’s more info on how to get the Pixel 3A
  • It does not have wireless charging
  • It’s not water resistant
  • It doesn’t have a second wide-angle front-facing camera
  • It doesn’t come bundled with PixelBuds earbuds
  • It has the less powerful Snapdragon 670 chipset
pixel-3a-xl-13

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The Pixel 3 XL (left) and the new Pixel 3A XL.Angela Lang/CNET

Pixel 3A XL has a familiar design

Apart from the Pixel 3A XL’s polycarbonate body (instead of the original glass design) and lack of an on-screen notch, both phones look and feel nearly identical. But the Pixel 3A XL has a lower, 1080p resolution. I didn’t see a difference though with my naked eye when watching YouTube videos or reading news articles. You’ll have to view both displays under a magnifying glass if you really want to hunt for, say, aliasing with text on the Pixel 3A XL.

The Pixel 3A XL’s screen also uses a different type of OLED display that features glass as its base layer instead of plastic. At times, the Pixel 3A XL looks punchier. Reds, yellows and oranges are warmer and whites look brighter. In contrast, the Pixel 3 XL’s screen is bluer and despite being the more high-end device, it has much more obvious color shift.

Like the Pixel 3 XL, you can still launch Google Assistant or silence an incoming call by squeezing the phone’s sides. Note that you can’t reprogram the squeeze to do anything else. In addition, the phone has stereo speakers, and the bottom audio speaker moved from the chin to the bottom edge of the phone.

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The Pixel 3A XL (top) technically has a smaller display due to its lack of a notch.Angela Lang/CNET

Pixel 3A XL camera: Same killer low-light photos

Because the Pixel 3A XL has the same camera the Pixel 3, photo quality is still excellent. (In fact, the Pixel 3 was our top Android phone of 2018 based on its camera prowess, though it’s facing stiff competition now from the Huawei P30 Pro, which is top so far this year.) Images are clear, bright and vibrant, and you can still adjust the focus and blur of your bokeh portraits. The camera also has the dedicated low-light mode Night Sight, as well as Super High Res for zooming into objects and Top Shot, which suggests the best image out of a series.

One new feature is time-lapse video. You can set your frames to record at various time intervals and there’s a useful indicator that denotes how long your video will be in real time. To save battery, the viewfinder will also dim after some time, while the phone is still recording. In general, time-lapse videos were clear and steady, but the quality isn’t as good as the iPhone XR. In one video I shot in a darkened cocktail party, footage on the Pixel 3A was muddier and grainier compared to the iPhone XR. The time-lapse also looked jerkier or more “pulsating” than on the iPhone ($1,000 at Amazon).

Google also changed its Google Photos storage policy with the Pixel 3A and Pixel 3A XL. Unlike PixelPixel 2 ($460 at Walmart) and Pixel 3 users who can save pictures to the cloud at original resolution, Pixel 3A owners have unlimited storage only at high quality. This should be enough to satisfy most people, but if you take image quality seriously or want to backup all your 4K videos, the Pixel 3A only has 64GB of onboard memory with no option to expand.

Super High Res enables me to zoom in and see more detail on the snow lantern on the right.Lynn La/CNET

Comparing portrait images across three different phones. The colors in the Pixel 3A are more accurate, but I don’t prefer its colder, bluer tones here. You can also see the patchy bokeh effect around my hair.Lynn La/CNET

Though you can’t tell from this picture, this was taken inside a very dark bar with Night Sight turned on.Lynn La/CNET

For more about the phone’s camera, check out the slideshow below, as well as CNET’s numerous deep-dive camera comparisons.

Pixel 3A XL’s software learns a couple of new tricks

Running Android Pie(with an upcoming update to Android Qcoming this summer), the Pixel 3A XL has a nifty AR walking navigation tool in Google Maps right out of the box, which will come to other Android phones at a later date. I was able to test an early version of the feature, and I found it especially useful when I first started navigating and had to orient myself. After getting confirmation from Maps that I was indeed going the right way, I put the phone down until I got a buzz for the next step. The phone would also remind me to put it down if I held it up for too long.

The Pixel 3A XL has Call Screen, which screens calls from telemarketers and robocallers, as well as Digital Wellbeing. Digital Wellbeing helps limit phone usage and enables you to set timers on your app and you’ll also get free YouTube Music subscription for three months.

Finally, since Google built this phone, expect it to be one of the first to receive software updates as they roll out from the company. If you bought your phone through a carrier though, you may experience some delay seeing the newest features.

Pixel 3A XL performance and battery

The Pixel 3A XL has a Snapdragon 670 processor, and Google reoptimized the software to work with this chipset. I didn’t feel any slowdown with speed or performance and day-to-day usage appeared similar between the Pixel 3A XL and Pixel 3 XL. Photos that required extra processing time, like HDR Plus Enhanced, Night Sight or making the screen flash for the front-facing camera, all felt like it took the same amount of time on both phones.

On paper though, the Pixel 3A XL did score lower on benchmarks than the Pixel 3, as well as other “budget option” handsets from Google’s competitors. During our testing, the only phone it consistently beat was the Moto G7, which has a Snapdragon 632 processor and costs $299.

3DMark Slingshot Unlimited

NOTE:

Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

NOTE:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.4.0 single-core

NOTE:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.4.0 multicore

NOTE:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Google bumped up the capacity in the new Pixels. Preliminary testing so far showed that the Pixel 3A XL had a slightly longer battery life than the Pixel 3 XL. With continuous video playback on airplane mode, the Pixel 3A XL lasted 17 hours, 14 minutes while the Pixel 3 XL clocked in at 16 hours, 49 minutes. Seventeen hours does put it at about the same as the Galaxy S10E and OnePlus 6T($669 at Amazon). But it doesn’t beat out the iPhone XR, which clocked in about 20 hours.

Pixel 3A XL vs. the competition

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The Google Pixel 3A XL.Angela Lang/CNET

  • Pixel 3 XL: While it doesn’t have a headphone jack, the Pixel 3 XL is water resistant, has wireless charging and a faster processor. Its current $899 retail price is steep though, so if you can live without those features I mentioned, get the Pixel 3A XL instead. Look out for good deals, however, because Google and other retailers discount the Pixel 3 XL often.
  • Moto G7: At $299, the water repellant Moto G7 is one of CNET’s favorite budget phones. But it doesn’t work as fast, or take nearly as great photos as the Pixel 3A XL. Unless you’re on a tight budget, I’d pay $180 more for the Pixel 3A XL.
  • OnePlus 6T: Starting at $549, the OnePlus 6T offers twice the amount of built-in memory and a faster processor. You’ll have to cough up $70 more and I still prefer the Pixel 3A XL’s camera, but it’s a great value. Keep in mind, however, that the next OnePlus 7 Pro will be revealed next week.
  • Galaxy S10E: As Samsung’s most affordable Galaxy phone, the Galaxy S10E is water resistant, has wireless charging (and can charge other devices too), has a headphone jack and more onboard storage, and looks beautiful. It also packs a camera that beats the Pixel 3A in some aspects. But at $750, it’s still notably pricer than the Pixel 3A.
  • iPhone XR: The iPhone XR shoots better video and like the Galaxy S10E, has water resistance and wireless charging. But it doesn’t have a headphone jack and you’ll need to consider a totally different OS. Its $750 price tag is also steep compared to the Pixel 3A.

Pixel 3A XL spec comparison

Google Pixel 3A XL Google Pixel 3 XL Samsung Galaxy S10E OnePlus 6T Apple iPhone XR
Display size, resolution 6.0-inch gOLED; 2,160×1,080 pixels 6.3-inch “flexible” OLED; 2,960×1,440 pixels 5.8-inch AMOLED; 2,280×1,080-pixels 6.41-inch AMOLED; 2,340×1,080 pixels 6.1-inch LCD Retina Display; 1,792×828 pixels
Pixel density 402 ppi 522 ppi 438 ppi 402 ppi 326 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.3×3.0x0.3 in 6.2x3x.03 in 5.6×2.8×0.27 in 6.20×2.94×0.32 in 5.9×3.0x0.33 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 160x76x8.2 mm 158x77x7.9 mm 142x70x7.9 mm 158x75x8.2 mm 151x76x8.3 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.89 oz; 167g 6.5 oz; 184g 5.3oz; 150g 6.5 oz; 185 g 6.8oz; 194g
Mobile software Android 9.0 Android 9.0 Pie Android 9.0 Pie with Samsung One UI Android 9.0 Pie iOS 12
Camera 12.2-megapixel 12.2-megapixel 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 16-megapixel (ultra wide-angle) 16-megapixel (standard), 20-megapixel (telephoto) 12-megapixel
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel Dual 8-megapixel 10-megapixel 16-megapixel 7-megapixel with Face ID
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K 4K
Processor 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 2.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Apple A12 Bionic
Storage 64GB 64GB, 128GB 128GB, 256GB 128GB, 256GB 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
RAM 4GB 4GB 6GB, 8GB 6GB, 8GB Not disclosed
Expandable storage None None Up to 512GB None None
Battery 3,700 mAh 3,430 mAh 3,100 mAh 3,700 mAh 2,942 mAh (not disclosed by Apple)
Fingerprint sensor Back Back Power button In-display None (Face ID)
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C USB-C Lightning
Headphone jack Yes No Yes No No
Special features AR in Google Maps, Timelapse video shooting Water resistant (IPX8), wireless charging support, Pixel Buds USB-C headphones in the box Wireless PowerShare, hole punch screen notch, water resistant (IP68), Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 In-display fingerprint sensor, dual-SIM, Dash Charging, notifications toggle Water resistant (IP67), dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM), wireless charging, Face ID, Memoji
Price off-contract (USD) $479 $899 (64GB), $999 (128GB) $750 $549 (6GB RAM/128GB), $579 (8GB RAM/128GB), $629 (8GB RAM/256GB) $749 (64GB), $799 (128GB), $899 (256GB)
Price (GBP) £469 £869 (64GB), £969 (128GB) £669 £499 (6GB RAM/128GB), £529 (8GB RAM/128GB), £579 (8GB RAM/256GB) £749 (64GB), £799 (128GB), £899 (256GB)
Price (AUD) AU$799 AU$1,349 (64GB), AU$1,499 (128GB) AU$1,199 Converted: AU$774 (6GB RAM/128GB), AU$817 (8GB RAM/128GB), AU$887 (8GB RAM/256GB) AU$1,229 (64GB), AU$1,299 (128GB), AU$1,479 (256GB)

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