Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Pixel 3a After Three Weeks

I’ve been using the Pixel 3a for over three weeks now. All this while, it didn’t feel to me like I was using a cheap, budget, smartphone. Google has done a remarkable job making Pixel 3a almost as good as their Pixel 3 premium flagships from last year, but at only almost just half the price.

Google’s strategy with their Pixel 3a’s more budget-friendly price point hits the mark for many users. All the recent flagship smartphones are getting far too pricey. Many users who are upgrading from their then flagship smartphones may want to explore more budget-friendly options, but not downgrade their experience too much.

The problem with most smartphone manufacturers is that their “budget” offering usually means “cheap and basic” smartphone. What you want is something not so expensive, yet have all the most important features that you care about.

It’s not hard to tell that the Pixel 3a is a “lite” version of the Pixel 3, especially if you can put them side by side to compare. However, the Pixel 3a isn’t a phone you pick up and get the vibe that it’s a cheap budget device. It actually looks and feels very good, and works very well.

When I compare and list out where the Pixel 3a is inferior to the Pixel 3, I realise that those things were nice to have, they were expected in a premium flagship, but weren’t really very important to. For example, I can live without wireless charging or QHD display resolution. The processor isn’t very important either, just as long as the smartphone can keep up with my casual use.

The Pixel 3a has got all the important things I need:

  • That same awesome camera from the Pixel 3
  • Excellent battery life (more so than the Pixel 3)
  • Great build quality

There are some things I wished Google had included with the Pixel 3a: unlimited photo backup at original quality. This, to me, is one of the highlights of getting a Pixel smartphone. I know, cloud storage costs money, but this is Google’s baby, and after trimming the costs on hardware, they should leave the cloud services as is. (You still get unlimited photo storage at high quality, which is the same as what anyone can get with any smartphone.)

I also hoped for multi-SIM support. Many smartphones have multi-SIM, even the cheaper ones. Unfortunately, it seems like multi-SIM just isn’t a thing to Google.

I previously posted a Pixel 3a Hands-On Review, so I won’t repeat the review here. I do have some benchmark scores to share now. On Geekbench 4, the Pixel 3a scored:

  • Single-core: 1628
  • Multi-core: 5192
  • Compute: 6318
  • Battery: 5430

The processor scores are consistent with what you’d expect from a Qualcomm Snapdragon 670. The battery score is quite impressive, and it is among the best of all the smartphones I’ve tested. In real-world use, the Pixel 3a will last well into the 2nd day with casual, moderate, use.

The Pixel 3a’s PCMark scores are:

  • Work: 7322
  • Battery: 720 minutes (awesome!)

The battery longevity on the Pixel 3a is particularly impressive, even though it is only nominally larger than that on the Pixel 3 (3000 mAh vs 2915 mAh). I like to be able to enjoy using my smartphone without having to constantly keep an eye on the amount of remaining battery. I know many people have resigned to the idea of having to take a power bank everywhere they go. The Pixel 3a doesn’t need you to do that. The mid-tier processor and lower resolution must have helped a lot with reduced battery demands.

If camera is your thing, and it is for many people, it’s also really awesome that Google put back the same exact Pixel 3 rear camera setup on the Pixel 3a. You may be paying less for the hardware, but you’re still getting the same rear camera. I should have been super-excited about the Pixel 3a’s camera, except that I already have a Pixel 3 XL, so I’m only just impressed that the Pixel 3a produces the exact same quality output.

On the front, though, the wide-angle wefie camera has been sacrificed. Instead, the Pixel 3a offers a single 24 mm lens that sits between the 19 mm and 28 mm on the Pixel 3.

Finally, let me just touch on price. In the United States, the Pixel 3a retails at US$399. It’s a very attractive price there. There is no other phone in that price category that matches the Pixel 3a’s capabilities. The Pixel 3a’s retail price in Singapore is S$659. This is also a pretty good price, but when we have an abundance of budget Chinese smartphones priced in the S$200 region easily available locally, the Pixel 3a’s price here is less extraordinary.

Still, the Pixel 3a is an awesome smartphone to get in the S$600 price category. If you are looking for a “cheaper” Android flagship smartphone, this is it. Or the Pixel 3a XL. You get a pure Android experience directly supported by Google.

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