Google Pixel 3a Review
In October of 2018, we took the Google Pixel 3 XL for a test run, and loved our experiences with the phone, especially when it came to the camera. Even today, almost a year later, I still consider the Google Pixel 3 camera to be one of the best – if not the best – phone camera on the market. In step with out cell phone manufactures, Google has decided to launch a paired down version of the Google Pixel 3, and released the Google Pixel 3a. While most people expect all parts of the phone to be downgraded to achieve that roughly 600.00 price point, I found the changes made to the device incredibly interesting.
So what is missing? The build quality is a bit less impressive, and a cheaper and less powerful chip set is being used. That means for the most usage intensive apps – thinking games like Asphalt on full settings – things will not be as smooth as you might like them to be. There is also minor issues with multitasking different applications. On the Google Pixel 3 XL, I could run dozens of applications in the background and quickly jump between them with ease. On the Google Pixel 3a, I can get 4 or 5 applications going at once before others begin to shut down.
Here is a anecdotal story to drive this point home. I’ve been playing a fair amount of Stardew Valley on my Google Pixel 3a, and will jump between some applications while playing, most notably my Gmail application, Facebook Messenger, and of course, my text messages. Doing that is perfectly fine, and unless I’m trying to access data and system intensive emails – lots of pictures, attachments trying to download, etc. – things work perfectly. If I introduce one or two more apps to my multitasking list – let’s say Twitter and Safari – Stardew Valley is more than likely going to shut down, requiring a reboot of the game.
Google was able to cut costs on this phone by downgrading the processor within the phone, and this is the very real reality of that. For those that don’t do a lot of multitasking, this won’t become a negative factor – if you are hopping between applications constantly, the Google Pixel 3a isn’t likely the phone for you.
On top of the cheaper processor, the plastic case is also saving Google some money on production costs, as are the less impressive screens being used. While still an OLED – and that should still be considered a plus on this cheaper device – it won’t be what you would typically find in a top of the line phone in 2019; mind you, Google is not marketing this as top of the line.
All of the above being said, there was one place that Google did not skimp, and that is in the camera. This 500-600 device produces better photos than the top-of-the-line devices from other manufacturers, and this is where this device will sell. From moms and dads looking to get stuff done and still capture those precious moments perfectly, to professional photographers looking for another quick option on shoots, there is a lot to love when it comes to the Google Pixel 3a camera. Here is what we have said in the past about the camera (update for the 3a):
The camera on the Google Pixel 3a is fantastic, and although it might rely on some gimmicky features to maximize the potential, I’ve still found many of the added features helpful, including the new Group Selfie option – which utilizes both cameras on the front of the phone to allow users to zoom out and capture a larger group photo, and the jaw dropping Night Sight mode!
One of the better camera feature, however, has to be the Top Shot feature. Top Shot is what Google is calling this little feature, and although they aren’t the first to leverage this type of technology in their smart phones, they are doing it better than the rest, in my opinion. Top Shot will shoot many frames in succession, and then grab a few that the phone things are optimal, and highlight those for you. The bursts of shots will quickly add 15-20 pictures to your library, but a quick scroll after the shot allows you to chose your favorite (or favorites) of the bunch, discarding the rest.
Top Shot, as good as it is, doesn’t hold a candle to Google’s Night Sight mode. With Night Sight, Google will take the images you’ve shot and pull out all the vibrant colours giving you a natural looking shot not marred by the ‘flash effect’ as I like to call it. When using our Google Pixel 3a to snap pictures of our kids playing outside after the sun had set was phenomenal; when using the feature on the Google Pixel 3 XL in December, we took fabulous shots of Universal Orlando and Magic Kingdom, during some special Christmas events!
To get the Night Sight feature in a 500-600 dollar phone is phenomenal, and if you are an influencer or regularly post on Instagram, this is the phone to own. Even my wife, who has been a dedicated user of another popular brand, couldn’t go back after using a Google Pixel phone for a few weeks. The quality of the picture was enough to forget about other, less appealing aspects of the phone.
There are other major bonuses to picking up the Pixel 3a, including one that makes it better – in my opinion – than the regular Pixel 3: a headphone jack! Google listened to the complaints of many Google Pixel owners after the launch of the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, and has brought back the jack, which I’m a huge fan of!
The bottom line is simply this: if you are a hardcore phone user, love to multitask, and do a lot of video watching and game playing, the Google Pixel 3a likely isn’t going to get the job done. As a gaming reviews website primarily, we do a lot of Android gaming, and I had numerous issues trying to get some of the more demanding games to play on the Pixel 3a without any hiccups. But for those looking for a phone that lets them browse the Internet, browse social media, and snap those cute family photos or capture those funny moments, the Google Pixel 3a is the perfect phone.
This is the BEST mid tiered phone on the market right now, and the competition isn’t even close.