Google Pixel 3a Review

June 7, 2019 | Amy Davies | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


Google has made a great impression with photographers for its existing range of Pixel phones, often being cited as some of the best available for those looking for a fantastic on-board camera.

The latest flagship model, the Pixel 3, was launched in 2018, but in 2019, Google revealed a cheaper version, named the Pixel 3a. As with the standard Pixel, it comes in two sizes - with a larger version being named the Pixel 3a XL (which is the one we have been using for the purposes of this review).

Perhaps the best news for photographers is that while a range of cost-cutting measures have been implemented to bring the price down, the very same 12.2 megapixel camera has been brought across from the Pixel 3 into the Google Pixel 3a. That means you get features such as the fantastic Night Sight mode, and an impressive “Portrait” mode for creating shallow depth of field effects.

The Google Pixel 3a (like other Pixel phones) is relatively unusual in the current smartphone market in that it features just one lens - there’s no telephoto, and no ultra wide-angle.

At the time of writing, the Google Pixel 3a can be bought for around £399, making it a great value “mid-range” option, while the larger Google Pixel 3a XL will set you back £469. The price of a standard Pixel 3 is £589, or £719 for the Pixel 3 XL, so it represents a good price saving.

Ease of Use

Google Pixel 3a
Front of the Google Pixel 3a

In terms of the build quality, this is where you’ll find the biggest differences between the Pixel 3 and the Pixel 3a. Construction is not as high quality, with the Pixel 3a having a lighter plastic feel to it - if you’re using the phone in a case, this is something you may not notice too much anyway though. The biggest downside here is that the Pixel 3a loses the water resistance of the Pixel 3 - no more taking selfies in the bath.

The Google Pixel 3auses a 5.6-inch OLED display, while the larger Pixel 3a XL has a 6.0-inch display. The standard Pixel 3 has a similar sized display (5.5-inch) but it is housed in a smaller phone for a sleeker overall appearance. Whichever one you go for, the Pixel phones are generally noted for their simple and almost utilitarian appearance, which may or may not appeal to you depending on your own personal preferences.

Notches can be a divisive subject. If you hate notches, you’re in luck here because unlike the standard Pixel 3 XL, the Pixel 3a XL does not have one. You might argue that it means that you don’t get maximum use of the screen space, but for those who find notches unattractive this won’t be a problem. Full HD+ resolution is included though, as well as the “Always On” display which shows the time and notifications even when the phone is locked, which is great for a mid-range phone.

Google Pixel 3a
Rear of the Google Pixel 3a

From the home screen, the Google Pixel 3a’s native app can be found in the bottom left hand corner. Unlike many other Android phones, the Google Pixel uses a much simpler native app, which is perhaps more closely similar to the iOS native camera app for iPhones.

As the camera has been brought over from the Pixel 3, the very same app is found in the 3a. Although it is simple, that’s not necessarily a criticism for most people who want to use their phone as a point and shoot type device. There are some options for making changes to various settings, and there are a couple of different shooting modes for those that want to experiment.

By default, the app launches in the standard “Camera” mode. You can tap around the screen to select a focus point. When you do this, you’ll also be able to change the brightness by using a slider which appears on the screen. At the top of the screen (or to the left if holding the phone in landscape orientation) you’ll find some options which you can use.

There’s a timer icon, giving you ability to switch the timer to 3 or 10 seconds (and off again). “Motion”, which records a short video clip with each photo can be switched on or off, and you can also adjust white balance with a range of different presets including sunny, tungsten and cloudy.

Google Pixel 3a
The Google Pixel 3a 's Camera Mode

Finally, there’s a flash on, off and auto option to choose from. An icon which allows you to switch HDR+ on or off will appear in this section if you choose to activate manual control over it from the main settings menu, too.

Similarly, a RAW icon can also be activated from the settings menu, giving you the option to shoot in both RAW and JPEG if you so desire. It’s great to be able to quickly tap it on or off, for example if you’re trying to save space.

At the bottom of the screen, you’ll see the different shooting modes you can swipe between. To the left of “Camera” mode, you’ll find Portrait which is used for creating shallow depth of field effects. Despite its name, you can use it for other subjects, and not just people. Another swipe left will bring you into Panorama mode, which is pretty self explanatory.

To the right of the camera mode, you’ll see the Video option. Up to 4K video recording is available, at 30fps. If you switch to either Full HD or 720p video recording, you’ll be able to shoot in either 30 or 60fps. When in video recording, you’ll see options at the top of the screen to change the frame rate (not in 4K), and to change the white balance.

Google Pixel 3a
The Google Pixel 3a In-hand

Another right swipe brings you to the “More” tab, which contains a few extra shooting modes. Most interesting is the Night Sight mode, which we’ve already seen in the Pixel 3/XL. This works by shooting a series of short exposures then merging them together for the effect of a long exposure and is designed for those situations where light is extremely low.

It’s also in this tab that you’ll find the Settings menu. From here you’ve got the option to change a number of different options, including changing photo resolution, adding HDR+ manual and RAW/JPEG control to the top bar of the main screen, and switching video stabilisation on or off. One thing you won’t find with the Pixel 3a phone - just like the standard Pixel 3 - is any kind of manual mode. Settings such as shutter speed and ISO cannot be controlled via the native app, but there are third-party apps which you can download to give you this control if you need it.

As there is just one lens with the Google Pixel 3a, you’ll have to rely on digital zoom if you need to get closer to the subject (and can’t physically move). To do that you simply pinch in and out on the phone screen to go from wide to zoom (and back again).

Google Pixel 3a
The Google Pixel 3a's Gallery

You can switch to the front-facing camera with a tap of an icon at the bottom of the main camera screen. When shooting with this, a range of options appear at the top bar, including face retouching (with natural, soft and off options), a timer, HDR+, raw format shooting, white balance and motion control.

One area where cost savings have been made is to the processor found in the Pixel 3a, which uses a mid-range Snapdragon 670 processor, combined with 4GB of RAM. That’s likely to be more than enough for most kinds of user, but if you’re someone who likes to use power-intensive apps, such as gaming, then it’s worth thinking about.

The Google Pixel 3a only comes in one capacity size - 64GB - with no option to expand storage, then you might want to think carefully about shooting lots of raw files, or 4K movies, if you want to keep them on the phone.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4Mb.

Since the Google Pixel 3a’s camera has been brought over from the standard Pixel 3, we had every confidence that the camera performance would be on par with its more expensive sibling. Having a slightly slower processor has the potential to have an impact on some areas of performance, but it’s not something we have particularly noticed during the course of this test.

Images are very impressive directly from the camera, and it’s easy to see why this is a phone which is consistently recommended for photographers - and indeed why Google gives it the Pixel moniker in the first place.

Colours in JPEG images are nice and vibrant, while there’s a good amount of detail. Shooting in low light in the standard photo mode is OK, but you get much more impressive results if you switch to the Night Sight mode. In the latter mode, you can essentially be sitting in almost complete darkness and the phone will still manage to capture something.

Although the Google Pixel 3a only has one lens, thanks to machine learning, Portrait mode does well to produce good shallow depth of field effects. Human subjects tend to better than non-human subjects, while those with very complex outlines may not be rendered perfectly.

Being a phone which doesn’t give you a great degree of control over shooting settings, you have to rely on it getting things right without intervention. Happily, in the majority of circumstances, things such as metering and white balance are pretty accurate and result in pleasing, well-balanced images.

On occasion, HDR+ control goes a little overboard and can leave you with slightly unrealistic images. It’s worth keeping an eye on this, and switching it off if you see it happening - or shooting in raw format as well as JPEG so you have something to work with should the finished JPEG be a little over the top.

Focal Range

The Google Pixel 3a's fixed lens provides the focal length demonstrated below.

Standard Lens


Digital Zoom



This macro shot shows how close you can get to the subject.




The flash settings on the Google Pixel 3a are Off, On and Auto. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Wide-angle Lens - Flash Off


Wide-angle Lens - Flash On


Selfie - Flash Off


Selfie - Flash On


Night Sight Mode

The Night Sight mode is always available in the More menu, and the camera also prompts you to use it when it detects low-light levels. You can hand-hold the Pixel 3a for up to 6 seconds and still get sharp, well-exposed photos, as shown below.

Long Exposure


Portrait Mode

The Google Pixel 3a's portrait mode intelligently blurs the background whilst keeping the main subject sharp.



The Google Pixel 3a has a simple-to-use panorama mode that provides good results, as shown below.


Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Google Pixel 3a camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample RAW Images

The Google Pixel 3a enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files. We've provided some Google RAW (DNG) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative).

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 3840x2160 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 18 second movie is 104Mb in size.

Product Images

Google Pixel 3a

Google Pixel 3a

Google Pixel 3a

Google Pixel 3a

Google Pixel 3a

Google Pixel 3a

Google Pixel 3a

Google Pixel 3a


We’ve long been fans of the Pixel range of phones. They may be fairly simple in operation and design, but you’re rewarded with excellent photos in a range of different conditions.

Since it’s a Google phone, you’re also running a “clean” version of Android, which looks and feels sleek and runs quickly. This is even more important for the Pixel 3a, which has a mid-range processor and might struggle if it was running a more complex “skin” over the top of standard Android.

We had no doubt that the image quality from the Pixel 3a would be excellent, as Google has brought over the same camera despite a range of other cost-cutting exercises to bring the price of the phone down.

Images directly from the Google Pixel 3a's camera are great, with vibrant colours and nice levels of sharpness. The Portrait mode creates good shallow depth of field effects, while we continue to be impressed by just how well the Night Sight option performs.

One criticism to lay at the feet of Google Pixel phones is the simplicity of the native camera app. You can shoot in raw format, but it’d be good to have a bit more manual control - even if it was hidden away in a “Pro” type mode, such as we see on other Android phones like the Samsung S10+ and the Huawei P30 Pro.

On the other hand, being straightforward to use is appealing to those who don’t want to bother with anything more complicated and just want a simple point and shoot.

Another issue is only having one lens. That feels unusual in the modern smartphone market, but it is comparable with many other mid-range phones.

If your main concern is the quality of the onboard camera - and you can live with a slightly less refined build quality - then this is a good opportunity to get your hands on a Pixel phone with a fantastic saving. For that reason, the new Google Pixel 3a comes highly recommended.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4
Ease-of-use 5
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 5

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Google Pixel 3a.

Apple iPhone Xs

The Apple iPhone XS is the 2018 update of Apple's best ever selling phone, last year's iPhone X. Read our Apple iPhone XS review to find out what this latest version offers and if it's the right smartphone for keen photographers...

Google Pixel 3

The brand new Google Pixel 3 smartphone offers photographers a 12 megapixel sensor, 5.5-inch FHD+ screen, wide-angle selfies, Portrait Mode, and the clever Night Sight mode for low-light hand-held shooting. Read our in-depth Google Pixel 3 review to find out just what it's capable of...

Honor 20 Pro

The Honor 20 Pro is a mid-range smartphone with flagship pretensions, aiming to take on £$1000 devices at a much lower-price point whilst delivering similar levels of performance, specification and quality. Does it succeed? Find out now by reading our in-depth Honor 20 Pro review, complete with full-size sample images and videos.

Honor View 20

The Honor View 20 is a mid-range smartphone with flagship specs and performance, with a 48 megapixel sensor, a “hole punch” to house the front-facing camera, and dedicated Night, Portrait and Pro shooting modes aimed at photographers. Is this all the smartphone that you really need? Find out now by reading our in-depth Honor View 20 review, complete with full-size sample images and videos.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is simply the best smartphone for photographers that we've ever reviewed - find out why by reading our in-depth Huawei Mate 20 Pro review, complete with full-size sample images and videos...

Huawei P30 Lite

The Huawei P30 Lite is a new mid-range smartphone that offers a lot of features for keen photographers. It has a triple camera setup with a 48 megapixel wide-angle lens, an 8 megapixel ultra-wide-angle lens, and a 2 megapixel bokeh lens. Find out if this is all the smartphone camera that you need by reading our in-depth Huawei P30 Lite review, complete with full-size sample images and videos...

OnePlus 6

The OnePlus 6 is the latest flagship smartphone on the block, but this one doesn't cost the earth, retailing for about half the price of the big players. Can it really take on Apple, Samsung and the rest though? Find out now by reading our in-depth OnePlus 6 review...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Google Pixel 3a from around the web. »

The Google Pixel 3a is less than half the price of most flagship smartphones, and yet it doesn’t look or feel cheap. That’s because Google delivers the features most users really care about, including a vivid 5.6-inch OLED display, a fantastic camera and all of the company’s clever software, for just $399.
Read the full review » »

Google is trying its hand at something new. Its signature phone, the Pixel, is jumping into the midrange market with the Pixel 3A and 3A XL. At $399 and $479 (£399 and £469 in the UK, and AU$649 and AU$799 in Australia), the handsets are essentially reworked Pixel 3 ($459 at Walmart) phones. They have the same rear camera and overall look, but there are a few hardware downgrades that contribute to the lower price.
Read the full review » »

Its design may not be head-turning, but the Google Pixel 3a XL packs a punch internally and has a great camera for the price. It's some of the best of Google in a phone, at a lower price tag than previous Pixel handsets. You won’t get the best processing power or lots of storage, but when you’re paying a lot less that shouldn’t be so much of an issue.
Read the full review »


12.2 MP dual-pixel
  • Rear camera
  • 12.2 MP dual-pixel
  • 1.4 μm pixel width
  • Auto-focus with dual-pixel phase detection
  • Optical + electronic image stabilisation
  • ƒ/1.8 aperture
  • 76° field of view
  • Rear Camera Video
  • 1080p @ 30fps, 60fps, 120fps
  • 720p @ 30fps, 60fps, 240fps
  • 4K @ 30fps
  • Front camera
  • 8 MP
  • 1.12 μm pixel width
  • f/2.0 aperture
  • Fixed focus
  • 84° field of view
  • Front Camera Video
  • 1080p @ 30fps
  • 720p @ 30fps
  • 480p @ 30fps
Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 670
  • Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 670
  • 2.0 GHz + 1.7 GHz, 64-bit Octa-Core
  • Adreno 615
  • Titan M security module²
Memory and storage
  • 4 GB LPDDR4x RAM
  • 64 GB storage³
Dimensions & weight
Pixel 3a: 6.0" x 2.8" x 0.3" • Pixel 3a XL: 6.3" x 3.0" x 0.3"
  • Pixel 3a
  • 6.0 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches
  • 151.3 mm x 70.1 mm x 8.2 mm
  • Weight
  • 147 g
  • Pixel 3a XL
  • 6.3 x 3.0 x 0.3 inches
  • 160.1 mm x 76.1 mm x 8.2 mm
  • Weight
  • 167 g
Clearly White • Just Black • Purple-ish
  • Clearly White
  • Just Black
  • Purple-ish
Media & Audio
Stereo speakers
  • Stereo speakers
  • 2 microphones
  • Noise suppression
Pixel 3a: 3000 mAh battery • Pixel 3a XL: 3430 mAh battery + Qi wireless charging
  • Pixel 3a: 3000 mAh battery
  • Pixel 3a XL: 3700 mAh battery
  • USB-C™ 18 W adaptor with USB-PD 2.0
  • 18 W fast charging⁵
Wireless and location
Wi-Fi 2.4GHz + 5GHz • Bluetooth® 5.0
  • Wireless
  • Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz + 5 GHz 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2 x 2 MIMO
  • Bluetooth® 5.0 + LE (HD codecs: AptX, AptX HD)
  • NFC
  • Google Cast
  • Location
  • GPS
  • Galileo
  • QZSS
Network/operator compatibility
  • 3xCA, DL 4x2/2x2 MIMO
  • Supports up to CAT 11 (up to 600 Mbps DL, CAT 5 75 Mbps UL)
  • Models G020B/G020F
  • GSM/EDGE: Quad-band (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
  • UMTS/HSPA+/HSDPA: Bands 1/2/4/5/8
  • CDMA EVDO Rev A: BC0/BC1/BC10
  • LTE: Bands 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/20/25/26/28/32/38/40/41/66
  • eSIM⁷
Active Edge™ ⁸
  • Active Edge™ ⁸
  • Proximity/Ambient light sensor
  • Accelerometer/Gyrometer
  • Magnetometer
  • Pixel Imprint™ – back-mounted fingerprint sensor for fast unlocking
  • Barometer
  • Android Sensor Hub
  • Haptics
  • USB-C™ USB 2.0
  • Single nano SIM
  • 3.5 mm audio jack
  • ARCore

Preview Images

Ahead of our full review, here are some sample JPEG images and videos taken with the Google Pixel 3a smartphone.​ The Google Pixel 3a is a brand new mid-range smartphone which features exactly the same camera as the flagship Pixel 3, including the impressive Night Sight and Portrait modes.

A gallery of sample JPEG images and videos taken with the Google Pixel 3a smartphone.

Google Pixel 3a Sample Images

Sample RAW Images

The Google Pixel 3a enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files. We've provided some Google RAW (DNG) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative).

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 3840x2160 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 18 second movie is 104Mb in size.

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