Google’s Pixel smartphone line-up has been a mainstay of the industry for a few years now. We’re all familiar with devices such as the latest Pixel 3 which is Google’s latest entry in the high-end flagship market. In particular Google puts a lot of emphasis on the cameras of the Pixel devices, and last year in particular, Google, along with Huawei, have raised the bar in terms of what is possible to achieve thanks to computational photography.

While the Pixel devices definitely have their strengths, one inarguable competitive weakness of the phones is their pricing. At an official MSRP and current Google store price of $799 for the Pixel 3 and $899 for the 3 XL, Google demands quite a lot, especially in view of other newer possibly more attractive options from the competition.

In an attempt to widen its product range and adhere to a more price-sensitive audience, today we see the introduction of the new Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL. The two new phones are very much placed at more mid-range price-points, yet without compromising much on what Google sees as the keystone of the Pixel phones: the camera.

Going over the specifications of the two new phones:

Google Pixel 3a's
  Pixel 3a Pixel 3a XL
SoC Snapdragon 670

2x Kryo 360 (CA75)
@ 2.0GHz 
6x Kryo 360 (CA55)
@ 1.7GHz

Adreno 615
DRAM 4GB LPDDR4X
Display 5.6" OLED
2220 x 1080 (18:9)
6.0" OLED
2220 x 1080 (18:9)
Size Height 151.3 mm 160.1 mm
Width 70.1 mm 76.1 mm
Depth 8.2 mm 8.2 mm
Weight 147 grams 167 grams
Battery Capacity 3000mAh 3700mAh
Wireless Charging -
Rear Cameras
Main 12.2MP 1.4µm Dual Pixel PDAF
f/1.8 76° lens with OIS
Telephoto -
Wide -
Extra -
Front Camera 8MP 1.12µm
f/2.2 84° lens; fixed focus
Storage 64GB eMMC
I/O USB-C
3.5mm headphone jack
Wireless (local) 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 5.0 LE + NFC
Cellular UE Category 11 (DL) / Category 5 (UL)
600Mbit/s DL (3xCA 2x2 MIMO)
75Mbit/s UL
Other Features Dual Speakers, 18W Fast Charging
Dual-SIM 1x nanoSIM
Launch Price $399 / £399 / €399 $479 / £469 / €479

At the heart of both phones we find a new Snapdragon 670 SoC from Qualcomm. The chip was announced last August and comes with a 2+6 CPU core configuration consisting of 2 Cortex A75 cores at 2GHz and 6 Cortex A55 cores at 1.7GHz, accompanied by an Adreno 615 GPU. The chip is manufactured on Samsung’s 10LPP process node.

It’s actually quite odd to see Google go with the Snapdragon 670, given that Qualcomm offers a slew of other newer options such as the Snapdragon 675. Here it’s possible that the Pixel 3a phones just come at an odd timing between generations and weren’t able to employ the newer SoC.

Google fits the Pixel 3a’s with 4GB of LPDDR4X, which is a fair for mid-range devices. In terms of storage, the devices comes with a single 64GB option, without expandable storage. Don't expect the phones' storage performance to be especially high either, as Google is using legacy eMMC here instead of UFS.

Design-wise, both phones looks night identical to the smaller Pixel 3, using the same design language and characteristic features. It’s interesting that for the bigger Pixel 3a XL, Google also opted to use the notch-less design, avoiding this much critiqued aspect of the Pixel 3 XL.

Both phones continue to employ OLED panels. The smaller Pixel 3a comes with a 5.6” 18:9 screen with a resolution of 2220 x 1080. The larger 3a XL has a 6.0” screen with the same resolution.

Instead of using a glass back like on the Pixel 3 series, the new Pixel 3a’s come with unibody polycarbonate designs. On one hand, this reduces the weight of the phones, with the Pixel 3a coming in at 147g and the XL at 167g, but also should result in a more scratch prone phone.

Battery capacity for the smaller 3a is 3000mAh while the XL gets a notably larger 3700mAh battery. The phone supports 18W charging, however one of the axed features looks to be wireless charging as the new phone are lacking it.

Even though Google removed the port 2 years ago in the Pixel 2, the new Pixel 3a sees the return of the 3.5mm headphone jack. We live in quite the weird world today where vendors decide that removing a feature on the more premium models is something the consumers should want, but at least it’s all good for the Pixel 3a’s.

Google continues to employ dual front facing speakers with stereo playback capability.

An important aspect of the Pixel 3a’s is their cameras: Inherently, the single rear module is exactly the same as found on the Pixel 3, meaning the Pixel 3a should have the same imagining capability as its higher end sibling. The 12.2MP sensor has 1.4µm pixel pitches and employs full sensor dual pixel PDAF, with the optics being an f/1.8 lens with a 76° viewing angle and keeps the OIS mechanism – something that is quite rare in mid-range devices.

One thing that isn’t clear is if the Pixel 3a’s employ Google Visual Core. Inherently there shouldn’t be need for it for the mid-range phone to have the same photography features as its higher end sibling as computation can be picked up by the Snapdragon’s DSP cores – although they might be slower at the task. Indeed Google continues to promise the same key features as on the high-end model, including Night Sight and Portrait Mode.

The Pixel 3a comes in “Just Black”, “Clearly White” and “Purple-ish” for $399, while the Pixel 3a XL comes in at $479. In the US, the device will premier not only on Verizon, but also T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular, alongside the Google Store in various other countries.

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  • not_anton - Wednesday, May 8, 2019 - link

    Is this a $500 plastic phone? Not even aluminium? Reply
  • leo_sk - Wednesday, May 8, 2019 - link

    Is it just me, or anandtech appears to favour huawei quite a lot? Reply
  • Speedfriend - Wednesday, May 8, 2019 - link

    Yeah, it is ridiculous that they spend any time on the world's second largest and soon to be largest smartphone manufacturer, who has some of the best hardware out there....

    Probably work for the Chinese government....
    Reply
  • porcupineLTD - Wednesday, May 8, 2019 - link

    Also they receive review units even thou they outed Huawei for cheating, while Samsung and (apparently) Google send them nothing. Reply
  • ksec - Wednesday, May 8, 2019 - link

    It would be interesting to see how this compare to iPhone 7. Reply
  • peevee - Wednesday, May 8, 2019 - link

    3a is slower where it matters (app launch and browsing, probably games too). Which is so pathetic. Pichai is incompetent and killing the former monster. Reply
  • s.yu - Wednesday, May 8, 2019 - link

    I can't help but wonder if Google's developing the imaging algorithms to try to make a profit out of selling smartphones or if the Pixels are just prototypes for something else. Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Wednesday, May 8, 2019 - link

    A camera-centric smartphone with comparably little on-board storage, no way to expand, and slow memory tech for the built-in storage to boot - fail! Typical Google phone: great potential, spoiled by contradictory bean-counter engineering, all for too high a price. Reply
  • etamin - Thursday, May 9, 2019 - link

    lost me at eMMC Reply
  • Dragonstongue - Friday, May 10, 2019 - link

    IMO all of these "top tier smartphone" makers should be getting minimum battery size to 4k or above at this point, especially when the top end chips are getting faster speeds (for the BIG) cores as well as higher clocks for the little and gpu and modems etc.

    so, basically everything faster, but battery have been sitting in the 2500-3500 range (max avg) for so called "premium" models and yet many "budget" offerings have pushed above 10k while offering nearly identical other specs.. so why go with the "big brand" and have to replace that much more often because of battery being burned out constantly.

    4k or better battery and not so much damn glass everywhere, and would it really truly "hurt" anything to always have a damn 3.5mm jack (include bluetooth etc as well) there are many many uses for the 3.5m jack beyond superior sound options it provides.
    Reply

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