Google Pixel 3a XL vs. OnePlus 6T: The contest for midrange mastery

google-pixel-3a-xl-rear-lifestyle
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

With many of the same tempting features as the Pixel 3 XL, the more affordable Pixel 3a XL is an attractive midrange phone. Since it comes in a little under $500, the Google Pixel 3a XL goes head-to-head with one of our favorite affordable phones: The OnePlus 6T. But which is the better choice for you? Join us as we break down the differences and pick a winner in a series of categories, before crowning the midrange champion.

Specs

Google Pixel 3a XL OnePlus 6T
Size 160.1 × 76.1 × 8.2 mm (6.3 × 3.0 × 0.3 inches) 157.5 x 74.8 x 8.2 mm (6.20 x 2.94 x 0.32 inches)
Weight 167 grams (5.89 ounces) 185 grams (6.53 ounces)
Screen size 6.0-inch OLED 6.41-inch AMOLED display
Screen resolution 2,160 × 1,080 pixels (402 pixels per inch) 2,340 x 1,080 pixels (402 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 9.0 Pie Android 9.0 Pie
Storage space 64GB 128GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay Google Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
RAM 4GB 6GB, 8GB, 10GB
Camera Single-lens 12.2-megapixel rear, 8-megapixel front Dual 16MP (with OIS) and 20MP (with OIS) rear, 16MP front
Video 2,160p at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 120 fps, 720p at 240 fps Up to 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 480 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C, 3.5 mm audio jack USB-C
Fingerprint sensor Yes (back) Yes, in-display
Water resistance Splash and dust resistant No
Battery 3,700mAh

Fast charging 18W

3,700mAh

Warp or Dash fast charging

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint
Colors Just black, clearly white, purple-ish Mirror black, midnight black
Price $479 $549
Buy from Google, Best Buy, Sprint, Verizon, U.S. Cellular, T-Mobile, Visible OnePlus, Amazon, T-Mobile
Review score 4.5 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

OnePlus 6T review
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Google Pixel 3a XL has a midrange Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 processor, while the OnePlus 6T boasts last year’s top chip, the Snapdragon 845. As a result, the OnePlus 6T has considerably more muscle under the hood. There is 4GB of RAM in the Pixel 3a XL, which is ample for most people, but again the OnePlus 6T pulls ahead in the multitasking department with a choice of 6GB, 8GB, or even 10GB of RAM, though that is likely more RAM than anyone really needs. The Pixel 3a XL also makes do with 64GB of storage, while the OnePlus 6T comes in 128GB or 256GB varieties. Neither has a MicroSD card for expansion.

Both phones have 3,700mAh batteries with fast charging support, but Dash charge in the OnePlus 6T is slightly faster at 20W compared to 18W for the Pixel 3a XL. Neither has wireless charging support.

Winner: OnePlus 6T

Design and durability

Google dropped the dreaded notch from the Pixel 3 XL, so the Pixel 3a XL just has big bezels top and bottom of the screen. It also has a polycarbonate body instead of glass. There’s the same two-tone design on the back with a glossy top portion housing the camera lens at the top left and a larger matte section with the fingerprint sensor in the middle. It looks a little dated and dull compared to many of the smartphones on the market right now, including the sleek OnePlus 6T. It sports a small bezel and a teardrop notch at the front and a silky sheen on the glass back highlights an S in the right light. The central camera module is the only detail because the fingerprint sensor is housed in the display. Both have a USB-C port for charging, but only the Pixel has a headphone jack.

There’s no official IP rating for either phone, but the Pixel 3a XL is described as splash and dust resistant. We would also expect it to be slightly more durable in the event of a fall because of the plastic construction, but you will likely want a case anyway.

The OnePlus 6T definitely looks and feels more like a flagship phone so it takes this round.

Winner: OnePlus 6T

Display

google-pixel-3a-xl-display
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Both phones have OLED displays and it’s great to see the superior display tech in more affordable phones. The OnePlus 6T manages to squeeze a 6.41-inch display into a smaller body than the Pixel 3a XL which has a 6-inch display. However, there’s no notch in the Pixel’s screen. The 6T has a resolution of 2,340 x 1,080 pixels and the Pixel has a resolution of 2,160 x 1,080 pixels, which gives them both a sharpness of 402 pixels per inch.

Winner: Tie

Camera

google-pixel-3a-xl-camera-app
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Pixel 3 XL is our pick for the best camera phone right now and the Pixel 3a XL has the same single-lens 12.2-megapixel camera backed by the same A.I. processing smarts. The portrait mode is second to none, Night Sight squeezes the best from low light conditions, and it’s easy to take amazing photos with this phone. There’s also an 8-megapixel front-facing camera.

The OnePlus 6T is superior on paper with a dual-lens main camera, combining a 16-megapixel and a 20-megapixel sensor, and a 16-megapixel front-facing camera. It’s a solid performer and maybe the best OnePlus has produced, but it’s not as easy to use as the Pixel and, more importantly, it doesn’t get the same awesome results. If photography is important to you, then the Pixel is the phone to pick.

Winner: Google Pixel 3a XL

Software and updates

google-pixel-3a-xl-quick-settings
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The OnePlus 6T runs Android 9.0 Pie with Oxygen OS over the top and it’s fairly close to Google’s Android experience. Oxygen OS adds a handful of extras, including an encrypted locker for apps and lots of customization options. OnePlus also has a good record for updating its phones relatively swiftly, but it can’t compete with Google’s Pixel line which is first to get every new version of Android and receives a steady supply of security patches. There are also a few extras that you will only find on Google’s phone, such as the Now Playing feature which shows whatever music is playing in your vicinity on the lock screen and Active Edge which allows you to squeeze your phone to launch Google Assistant.

Winner: Google Pixel 3a XL

Special features

google-pixel-3a-XL-screen-calling
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

You could describe the in-display fingerprint sensor in the OnePlus 6T as a special feature, but unfortunately, we found it doesn’t work all that well. Aside from the camera and the aforementioned Active Edge and Now Playing, the Pixel 3a XL also offers AR navigation in Google Maps, Call Screen, which empowers Google Assistant to handle spam calls for you, and Flip to Shhh which allows you to flip your Pixel face down to mute it.

Winner: Google Pixel 3a XL

Price

The Google Pixel 3a XL costs $479 and it’s available in T-Mobile, Sprint, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon stores. It will also work on AT&T’s network. You can buy it from Google, Best Buy, or B&H, too.

The OnePlus 6T starts at $550 and you can buy it at T-Mobile. It will also work with AT&T or Verizon, but not Sprint. You can buy it directly from OnePlus, too.

Overall winner: Google Pixel 3a XL

This is a tight competition, but there can be only one winner and it’s the Google Pixel 3a XL. The superb camera, clever A.I. and special features, and the slick software with guaranteed updates are enough to carry the day and it’s a package that comes in $70 cheaper, too. If you demand a stylish phone, or you expect to need more processing power, perhaps for graphically demanding games, then the OnePlus 6T may be a better bet for you, but most people should pick up the Pixel 3a XL.

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