You’ve got a strict $500 to spend and you’re looking for the best Android smartphone you can get. Two phones that simply must be on your radar are the Moto Z4 and the Google Pixel 3a XL, but which one should you buy? Let’s take a look at what makes these phones special, where they falter, and how they differ, so you can select the right one for you.
|Moto Z4||Google Pixel 3a XL
|Size||158 × 75 × 7.35 mm (6.22 × 2.95 × 0.29 inches)||160.1 × 76.1 × 8.2 mm (6.3 × 3.0 × 0.3 inches)|
|Weight||165 grams (5.82 ounces)||167 grams (5.89 ounces)|
|Screen size||6.39-inch OLED||6.0-inch gOLED|
|Screen resolution||2340 x 1080 pixels (403 pixels per inch)||2160 × 1080 pixels (402 pixels per inch)|
|Operating system||Android 9.0 Pie||Android 9.0 Pie|
|MicroSD card slot||Yes||No|
|Tap-to-pay services||Google Pay||Google Pay|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 675||Qualcomm Snapdragon 670|
|Camera||Single 48-megapixel rear, 25MP front||Single 12.2MP rear, 8MP front camera|
|Video||Up to 2160p at 30 fps||2160p at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 120 fps, 720p at 240 fps|
|Bluetooth version||Bluetooth 5.0||Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C||3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C|
|Fingerprint sensor||Yes (in-display)||Yes (back)|
|Water resistance||Splash-proof coating||No|
18W 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||Flash Grey, Frost White||Just Black, Clearly White, Purple-ish|
|Buy from||Motorola||Google, T-Mobile|
|Review score||Hands-on review||4.5 out of 5 stars|
Performance, battery life, and charging
With the slightly newer Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 processor inside, the
The battery in the Pixel 3a XL is a touch bigger at 3,700mAh and wired charging is a touch faster at 18W. Google improved battery life in the 3a series over the original Pixel 3 and 3 XL and so you can expect the 3a XL to comfortably last you a day. With a slightly larger screen and a smaller battery, the
Design and durability
The Pixel 3a XL has a fairly dated design that combines a plastic body with a fingerprint sensor on the back and a standard screen with big bezels top and bottom on the front. The
Neither has an IP rating, but the
We’re delighted to see OLED screens filter down to midrange phones, as they offer superior contrast and wonderfully deep blacks. The
Google offers the best camera phone around in the shape of the Pixel 3 and the Pixel 3a and 3a XL benefit from the same hardware and software smarts. Though they lack the Pixel Visual Core chip that’s in Google’s flagships and they have a lesser processor, the only real difference is that image processing is slower. You’ll still enjoy wonderful photos in all kinds of conditions and portrait shots that you’ll want to share with the Pixel 3a XL. There is no better camera anywhere near this price.
On paper, the
The selfie camera in the Pixel 3a XL is rated at 8 megapixels, while the
Winner: Pixel 3a XL
Software and updates
Google offers some tempting extras in the Pixel 3a XL. You can have Google Assistant screen your calls, Now Playing will show what music is playing nearby, and there’s a new AR mode in Google Maps. Add to that the fact that Google will update Android immediately when a new version comes out and that security patches will be regular and swift, and there can be only one winner here.
Winner: Pixel 3a XL
Both phones have some interesting camera modes and software options, but only the
The Google Pixel 3a XL costs $479, and you can buy it directly from Google or through Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular. It also works on AT&T. If you like the sound of the Pixel 3a XL and don’t mind a smaller, 5.6-inch screen, then the Pixel 3a is just $400 and it’s identical in every other respect.
Overall winner: Google Pixel 3a XL
If you want the best camera and software experience, then the Pixel 3a XL cannot be beaten in this price range. There are pros and cons on both sides in terms of performance and design, so your preference there will depend on your needs. If the Moto Mods appeal that might tip it in the Z4’s favor, but the special software features of the Pixel 3a XL will prove more useful for many. Given the choice between these two phones, we would always pick the Pixel.
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