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The question isn’t really should you buy the Google Pixel 3a XL but can you buy the Google Pixel 3a XL. While a great handset when it was initially released in 2019, it has since been superseded by the Google Pixel 4a 5G, a big-screened variant of the Google Pixel 4.
If you can find it, then you will have a handset that has a great rear camera array (complete with Google’s excellent image processing), a brilliant battery that boasts a better lifespan than most on the market. The design is slick and modern, and it’s an extremely user-friendly phone, benefiting from Google’s brilliant range of apps and services, most notably Google Assistant, which is arguably the best virtual assistant available on a smartphone.
If you’re a heavy mobile gamer, or if you need a lot of storage space on your phone, then you may find the Pixel 3a XL to be quite limiting. No recent Google phones offer expandable storage, and even the Pixel 5 maxes out at 128GB, so if storage and processing power is most important to you, a Pixel may not be a top choice.
FHD+ OLED always-on display
3700 mAh battery
64GB internal storage
Unlimited high-quality cloud storage with Google Photos
Google Virtual Assistant
12.2MP dual-pixel rear camera
8MP front camera
The Pixel 3a XL uses the Snapdragon 670 processor. This is a mid-range alternative to the Snapdragon 845 used on the Pixel 3 XL. The Snapdragon 670 is a reliable processor and, coupled with 4GB of RAM, the average user shouldn’t have any speed or performance issues with the Pixel 3a XL. The only time this processor feels more middle-of-the-road is if you’re playing more data-heavy games, in which case you can expect to experience a bit of lag. It’s worth noting that better processors have been released in the market since the Pixel 3a XL was launched so while it’s a good processor for this handset, it’s lagging behind newer phones available right now.
There are a lot of similarities between the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a families, and while it’d be easy to assume the original Pixel 3 offers more than the budget-friendly version, the 3a XL actually has some advantages over the flagship, aside from price. Most notably, the Pixel 3a XL has a significantly better battery.
Another noticeable difference between the Pixel 3a XL and the original Pixel 3 XL is that the 3a features a 3.5mm headphone jack, something that’s been sorely missed on other Google flagships. The design of the Pixel 3a XL is almost identical to its pricier counterpart, but the 3a XL uses polycarbonate instead of glass, which may not feel as slick but could very well be more durable, and is, of course, cheaper to manufacture.
The Pixel 3a XL offers only one option for storage – 64GB – with no microSD slot for expandable storage. 64GB is low for modern smartphones, which tend to average at 128GB. This is unsurprising, as the 3a XL is designed as a budget option.
64GB is okay for light users, but others may struggle with this allowance. If you record a lot of video or download a lot of Spotify or Netflix content for offline use, for example, you’ll find that you run through that 64GB pretty quickly.
Of course, Pixel users benefit from easy syncing to Google Drive, and are also afforded unlimited photo and video cloud storage with Google Photos - this is currently a free option but as of June 2021, a charge will be incurred. 3a XL users can save all of their photos and videos to Google Photos for free (as of December 2020) and in turn, save a bunch of space on their phone. It’s worth noting, however, that these unlimited uploads won’t be at full, original quality, but rather ‘High Quality’, meaning they may be compressed or resized. Photos are uploaded at a maximum of 16MP, and videos at a maximum of 1080p.
If you want to back up your photos and videos to Google Photos at original quality, you’ll have limited free storage from your Google Account, and you’ll have to purchase any extra storage you may need.
The Pixel 3a XL houses a 3,700mAh battery, larger than both the standard Pixel 3a (3,000mAh) and the original Pixel 3 (2,915mAh) batteries. In comparison, the latest Pixels have the following: Pixel 4a 5G 3,855 mAh, Pixel 4a (3,140 mAh) and the Pixel 5 (4,080 mAh).
This is a reliable battery that can easily see you through the day, even with heavy use. In fact, the Pixel 3a XL is known to last up to two entire days without needing a charge, even when streaming videos or music, browsing online, and playing games. This is quite a huge leap from the Pixel 3, and a very solid option given its price point.
When it comes time to charge, its 18W fast charger will get you back up and running in no time – going from zero to a hundred percent in just over an hour.
The Pixel 3a XL is available in three colours:
The Purple-ish colourway is unique to the Pixel 3a range, and reminiscent of the stylish muted tones of Pixel 2’s Kinda Blue and Pixel 3’s Not Pink. The Pixel 4’s Oh So Orange is a boisterous shift towards bright, vivid colour, so perhaps Purple-ish is the last of the modern and modest colour options for the Pixel family, for now at least.
While other parts of the phone’s hardware may have been downgraded to reduce costs, the rear camera of the Pixel 3a XL is identical to that of the Pixel 3 XL, and that’s a great thing considering this is one of the best smartphone cameras on the market.
Some of the key specs of the Pixel 3a XL camera are:
12.2 MP dual-pixel rear camera
Auto-focus and dual-pixel phase detection
Optical and electronic image stabilisation
8 MP wide-angle and normal front cameras
Pixel Visual Core chip with machine-learning software
Top Shot to choose the best photos from a set
Night Sight for assistance in dim lighting
Super Res Zoom
4K video with optical image stabilisation
Beyond the hardware of the camera itself, your photos are enhanced by Google’s incredible AI software, which boasts some of the most impressive image processing for any smartphone. This AI can enhance lighting, focus, sharpness and more to help bring your photography to a professional level.
Night Sight is one of the most acclaimed features of the Pixel range, and the Pixel 3a XL is no exception. Again using AI, the Pixel 3a XL can produce stunningly vivid, clear photos even when dim lighting poses a threat. Similarly, AI is used to demonstrate outstanding edge detection and bokeh effects when it comes to the Pixel 3a XL’s Portrait Mode.
While the rear cameras of the Pixel 3a XL and Pixel 3 XL match, the front camera of the 3a XL is not quite as impressive as the 3 XL’s. It has just one 8MP sensor with a narrower field of view than the 3 XL’s dual-sensor selfie camera.
The 3a XL offers Pixel Imprint, a fingerprint scanner at the rear of the phone. This is an intuitive sensor that continues to improve security and detection rate the more you use it. Furthermore, the Pixel 3a XL also uses the Titan M security module to protect your data and passwords.
The Pixel 3a XL is currently not available as part of pay monthly deals. Its absence is because network providers have shifted their focus towards the newer Pixel 4 and Pixel 5 family. It’s likely you can get the phone as a SIM-free option or as a ‘like new’ refurbished phone.
The Pixel 3a XL isn’t currently part of any monthly contract deals so it is likely that you will have to buy the handset from elsewhere then look at a PAYG plan or SIM-only deal.
If you’re buying the phone on its own without a SIM card, you should shop around to make sure you’re getting the best value. At the moment, the Google Pixel 3a XL is offered at anything from £200 to £400.
No, if you are looking for a 5G Pixel, then head to the Google Pixel 5 or the Google Pixel 4a 5G.
No, it has been superseded by the Google Pixel 4a 5G. The XL part of the name has been dropped and, somewhat confusingly, the Google Pixel 4a 5G has more in common with the Google Pixel 5 than the Google Pixel 4a.
Last updated: 9 December 2020