OnePlus is best known for providing smartphones with comparable specs to top-rate flagships, but for hundreds of dollars less. While the price has crept up over the years, the OnePlus 7 Pro sticks to that philosophy, providing the latest and most powerful hardware available, and a stunning redesign that puts most flagship phones to shame. But OnePlus isn’t alone in making supremely affordable phones, and the Google Pixel 3a XL is an extremely capable midrange phone with a lot to recommend it. When you’re looking to spend a little less for a capable phone, which of these two is better for you? We found out.
|OnePlus 7 Pro||Google Pixel 3a XL XL
|Size||162.6 × 75.9 × 8.8 mm (6.4 × 2.98 × 0.34 inches)||160.1 × 76.1 × 8.2 mm (6.3 × 3.0 × 0.3 inches)|
|Weight||206 grams (7.26 ounces)||167 grams (5.89 ounces)|
|Screen size||6.67-inch Fluid AMOLED||6.0-inch gOLED|
|Screen resolution||3120 x 1440 pixels (516 pixels per inch)||2160 × 1080 pixels (402 pixels-per-inch)|
|Operating system||Android 9.0 Pie (under OxygenOS)||Android 9.0 Pie|
|MicroSD card slot||No||No|
|Tap-to-pay services||Google Pay||Google Pay|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 855||Qualcomm Snapdragon 670|
|RAM||6GB, 8GB, 12GB||4GB|
|Camera||Triple-lens 48-megapixel, 16MP ultra-wide angle, and 8MP telephoto rear, 16MP front||Single 12.2MP rear, 8MP front camera|
|Video||2160p at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 480 fps||2160p at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 120 fps, 720p at 240 fps|
|Bluetooth version||Bluetooth 5.0||Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||USB-C||3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C|
|Fingerprint sensor||Yes (in-display)||Yes (rear-mounted)|
Warp Charge 30
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||Mirror Gray, Nebula Blue, Almond||Just Black, Clearly White, Purple-ish|
|Buy from||OnePlus||Google, T-Mobile|
|Review score||4 out of 5 stars||4.5 out of 5 stars|
Performance, battery life, and charging
The Snapdragon 670 processor in the Pixel 3a XL is no sluggard, but it simply can’t compare to the Snapdragon 855 in the OnePlus 7 Pro. That story is repeated when we look at RAM and storage, and the OnePlus 7 Pro massively outguns the Pixel 3a XL on paper. However, the real-life performance of the Pixel 3a XL is still solid, thanks in large part to the close relationship between Google’s hardware and Android.
The OnePlus has a lot more raw power, but what about the battery and charging? The OnePlus 7 Pro has a 300mAh advantage over the Pixel, but it’s the Pixel that wins out in battery performance. We saw a solid day out of the Pixel 3a XL, while the OnePlus 7 Pro would often struggle more than expected considering the battery capacity. It’s likely the massive display plays a big part in this disparity. There’s no wireless charging on either phone, but they have strong fast charging and managed similar feats in our tests, with both taking 20 minutes to charge the battery from 15 percent to 53 percent.
While the Pixel 3a XL offers slightly better battery life and similarly strong charging, the OnePlus 7 Pro’s processing power is far beyond anything the Pixel 3a XL can offer.
Winner: OnePlus 7 Pro
Design and durability
The OnePlus 7 Pro is one of the most beautiful phones released so far in 2019. A pop-up selfie camera means there’s no notch and barely any bezel. The 6.67-inch display dominates the front panel, and it’s a gorgeous sight. That minimalism extends to the back of the phone, with Gorilla Glass 5 and the vertically stacked triple-lens camera. The Pixel 3a XL isn’t ugly, but the comparatively large bezels really stand out next to the OnePlus 7 Pro.
Neither phone has an IP rating water-resistance — which is arguably more of a sin for the $670 OnePlus 7 Pro than it is for the $480 Pixel — and it’s probable that the Pixel 3a XL’s polycarbonate body will hold up better against abuse than the OnePlus phone’s glass. But a case is a good idea regardless of your choice.
The OnePlus 7 Pro is absolutely the winner here.
Winner: OnePlus 7 Pro
You’ll find a 6-inch gOLED display running a crisp 2160 x 1080 resolution on the Pixel 3a XL. It’s sharp, and provides a particular emphasis on deep blacks and vivid colors. However, it’s not going to be as crisp as the 3120 x 1440 resolution on the OnePlus 7 Pro’s massive 6.67-inch Fluid AMOLED display. The OnePlus display also has a smooth 90Hz refresh rate, and thanks to Samsung’s involvement, it displays beautiful colors and deep blacks. It’s so good that DisplayMate has awarded the OnePlus 7 Pro with its highest A+ grade. It’s the superior display here.
Winner: OnePlus 7 Pro
Looking at the numbers, you’d expect the OnePlus 7 Pro to win this category. The triple-lens camera system is comprised of a 48-megapixel main lens, an 8-megapixel telephoto lens offering 3x zoom, and a 16-megapixel ultra wide-angle lens. It’s a good setup, but like previous OnePlus camera systems, it’s generally hit-and-miss and can struggle with shadows. The new Ultrashot software is essentially HDR+, and it works well, but it can’t compare with similar modes in more expensive phones, like the iPhone XS‘s Smart HDR.
The Pixel 3a XL only has a single 12.2-megapixel lens, but it’s an excellent lens. It’s the same lens as the Pixel 3, which has been our favorite camera phone since it was released. Even though the Pixel 3a XL lacks the Visual Core that helps make the Pixel 3 so special, it still takes exceptional pictures. It’s bolstered by Google’s amazing camera software, including Super Res Zoom, Night Sight, and a great Portrait Mode.
In terms of selfies, the OnePlus 7 Pro’s 16-megapixel lens probably has a slight edge over the 8-megapixel lens on the Pixel 3a XL, but it’s a slim difference, if any. The OnePlus 7 Pro has a stronger video repertoire though, being capable of recording at 4K at 60 frames per second.
It’s a hard category to judge for sure, but for us, the Pixel 3a XL’s stronger main camera takes the day.
Winner: Pixel 3a XL
Software and updates
The OnePlus 7 Pro runs Android 9.0 Pie underneath OnePlus’ custom Oxygen OS skin. It’s a good skin, similar in style to stock Android and crammed with plenty of useful features. Flaws are minimal and mostly cosmetic. The Pixel 3a XL naturally runs Android 9.0 Pie. It’s not technically stock Android — instead, it’s the special Pixel version that includes some extra features. But it’s as close to stock Android as to make no difference, and fans of pure Android will love it.
The choice between skins is mostly personal, but update speed isn’t. OnePlus isn’t slow with updates, but Google’s phones will always receive new Android updates first since, well, Google makes the darned things. Both phones will get Android Q and Android R, and will receive regular security patches — but the Pixel 3a XL will always get them first.
Winner: Pixel 3a XL
The majority of the stand-out features on the OnePlus 7 Pro concern hardware. There’s the improved in-display fingerprint scanner, the pop-up selfie camera, and the super-smooth 90Hz refresh rate. Curiously, the majority of the Pixel 3a XL’s special features are software-based. Most are tied into the Google Assistant, and owners will have access to appointment-booking Duplex, spam call-dodging Call Screen, AR mode on Google Maps, and more.
It’s hard to call this category. The Pixel 3a XL’s special features can be niche, but are extremely useful — but they also lack the “wow” factor the OnePlus 7 Pro’s features have. This is a tie.
The OnePlus 7 Pro is available from OnePlus and T-Mobile from May 17. Prices start at $669. The Pixel 3a XL is currently available from Google’s website, T-Mobile, Sprint, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon, and prices start at $479.
Overall winner: OnePlus 7 Pro
With a pricing gap of several hundred dollars, it’s only right that the OnePlus 7 Pro comes out on top here. With powerful flagship specs, a jaw-droppingly beautiful, bezel-free redesign, and one of the best displays in the business, the OnePlus 7 Pro is the stronger phone of the two.
But that doesn’t mean it’s the best phone for you. While it’s not as stylish or as powerful as OnePlus’ latest, the Google Pixel 3a XL delivers an exceptional camera, smooth performance, Android updates as they’re released, and some amazing A.I.-powered special features. If design isn’t as important to you as those elements, you should definitely consider buying the Pixel 3a XL and saving yourself a decent chunk of change.
However, if you’ve fallen for the OnePlus 7 Pro’s eye-catching design and impressive new features — and we don’t blame you if you have — you should absolutely buy the OnePlus 7 Pro and feel no guilt for doing so. It’s a phenomenal phone.
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