Google Pixel 3a vs Pixel 3a XL: What’s the difference and which best suits you?

Google Pixel 3a vs Pixel 3a XL
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Google Pixel 3 was our favorite smartphone of 2018, and we liked the Pixel 3 XL too, but they were a little expensive. Luckily, Google has decided to launch a similar, but much more affordable duo: The Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL. If you’ve been hankering for a Pixel, now’s the time to pounce, but which Pixel 3a is right for you? Let’s take a closer look at the specs and dig into the differences.

Specs

Google Pixel 3a Google Pixel 3a XL
Size 151.3 × 70.1 × 8.2 mm (6.0 × 2.8 × 0.3 inches) 160.1 × 76.1 × 8.2 mm (6.3 × 3.0 × 0.3 inches)
Weight 147 grams (5.18 ounces) 167 grams (5.89 ounces)
Screen size 5.6-inch OLED display 6.0-inch OLED
Screen resolution 2,220 × 1,080 pixels (441 pixels-per-inch) 2,160 × 1,080 pixels (402 pixels-per-inch)
Operating system Android 9.0 Pie Android 9.0 Pie
Storage space 64GB 64GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay Google Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 Qualcomm Snapdragon 670
RAM 4GB 4GB
Camera Single-lens 12.2-megapixel rear, 8-megapixel front Single-lens 12.2-megapixel rear, 8-megapixel front
Video 2,160p at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 120 fps, 720p at 240 fps 2,160p at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 120 fps, 720p at 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C, 3.5 mm audio jack USB-C, 3.5 mm audio jack
Fingerprint sensor Yes (back) Yes (back)
Water resistance Splash and dust resistant Splash and dust resistant
Battery 3,000mAh

Fast charging 18W

3,700mAh

Fast charging 18W

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint
Colors Just Black, Clearly White, Purple-ish Just Black, Clearly White, Purple-ish
Price $399 $479
Buy from Google, Best Buy, Sprint, Verizon, U.S. Cellular, T-Mobile, Visible Google, Best Buy, Sprint, Verizon, U.S. Cellular, T-Mobile, Visible
Review score 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

Google Pixel 3a USB-C
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Because the Google Pixel 3a and the 3a XL both have the same processor, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 670, backed by 4GB of RAM, you’re unlikely to see any difference in how they perform. So far, we’ve found them surprisingly smooth considering the lack of a flagship processor, but Android as Google intended has always been impressively slick.

There is a difference in battery capacity. The Pixel 3a has a 3,000mAh battery and the Pixel 3a XL has a 3,700mAh battery. In everyday use, you may not see much of a difference because the 3a XL has a bigger screen to power, but we can confirm it does last a little longer. It lasted 10 hours and 45 minutes in our battery test, as opposed to 9 hours and 12 minutes for the Pixel 3a. We found that battery life was a real Achilles’ heel for the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3XL, so we’re glad to see Google expanding the capacities in the 3a range.

You won’t find wireless charging support, but both the 3a and 3a XL support the Power Delivery 2.0 standard, which can deliver 18W via the USB-C cable and adapter that are provided. Google suggests that will give you up to 7 hours of mixed use from a 15-minute charge. A 20-minute charge took our Pixel 3a review unit from 15 percent to 53 percent.

The Pixel 3a XL’s beefier battery gives it the win here, but otherwise the two phones are equal.

Winner: Google Pixel 3a XL

Design and durability

Google Pixel 3a vs Pixel 3a XL
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Google has made the screen just a touch taller in the Pixel 3a than it was in the Pixel 3, but it looks very similar. The Pixel 3a XL screen has gone the other way because the 3 XL’s divisive notch is gone. Both the 3a and 3a XL have dual stereo speakers, but only one is front facing. The bezels above and below the screen are quite big by modern standards. Google has also switched from glass to polycarbonate for the bodies of these phones.

Some people will be pleased to hear that the 3.5 mm audio jack is back. Beyond size, there’s very little to separate the 3a and the 3a XL — they even come in the same three colors: Clearly White, Purple-ish, and Just Black.

There’s no IP rating, so the new Pixels probably won’t survive a dunk, but both are splash- and dust-resistant. We expect the polycarbonate bodies will be a bit more durable than glass.

Winner: Tie

Display

Google Pixel 3a vs Pixel 3a XL
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Pixel 3a has a 5.6-inch display with a resolution of 2,220 x 1,080 pixels, which translates to 441 pixels-per-inch (ppi). The Pixel 3a XL has a 6-inch screen with a 2,160 x 1,080-pixel resolution, which translates to 402 ppi. The Pixel 3a display is slightly sharper and sports a slightly taller 18.5:9 aspect ratio, compared to the 18:9 aspect ratio of the Pixel 3a XL. They’re both g-OLED, so you’ll enjoy deep blacks, vibrant colors, and an excellent contrast ratio with either phone.

Winner: Google Pixel 3a

Camera

Google Pixel 3a camera
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Google continues to work wonders with a single-lens main camera, even when up against triple-lens competition. We’re delighted to see that the same 12.2-megapixel main camera that you’ll find in the regular Pixel 3 and 3 XL is also in the 3a and 3a XL, though the new phones may lack the Pixel Visual Core that handles some of the clever image processing. The Pixel 3 is our favorite camera phone and we think the Pixel 3a and 3a XL will be sure to delight as well. Around front, there’s a single 8-megapixel lens. The same Night Sight, Portrait Mode, Super Res Zoom, and other photography features are available with either 3a model you choose.

Winner: Tie

Software and updates

Google Pixel 3a XL quick settings
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Both these phones come with the latest Android 9.0 Pie, and they’ll no doubt be updated swiftly to Android Q when it lands. You’ll enjoy regular security updates and swift Android version updates with the 3a and 3a XL — at least for three years — so there’s no separating them here.

Winner: Tie

Special features

Google Pixel 3a XL screen call
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

There’s support for AR Core, as well as Active Edge, which allows you to squeeze your phone to launch Google Assistant. Now Playing, which displays the name of any song playing in your vicinity on screen, and a few other special features can also be found in the 3a and 3a XL. If you activate your 3a or 3a XL before September 30, you’ll also get three free months of YouTube Music Premium. Since they both offer an identical set of options, there’s no winner here.

Winner: Tie

Price and availability

The Pixel 3a costs $399, while the 3a XL is $479. Both will be sold in Sprint, Verizon, US Cellular, and T-Mobile stores. The new Pixels will work with any major network, including AT&T, even though they won’t be sold in AT&T stores. You’ll also be able to pick them up directly from Google and from retailers like Best Buy.

Overall winner: Google Pixel 3a

We don’t like to fence sit, so we’re giving the smaller, sharper-screened Pixel 3a the nod here. The only real difference is the size, so if you prefer a bit more screen real estate, then the Pixel 3a XL may justify the extra $80. You do get a slightly better battery too. Beyond that, you’ll enjoy the same experience with the Pixel 3a or the 3a XL. They both look like tempting bargains.

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