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Interface and reliability
The Google Pixel 3a XL runs Android 9 Pie out of the box, so it’s running Google’s Android software as it’s intended to look, with most of the latest features ready and waiting to go – and more good news is that you’ll likely be one of the first to get future updates too.
For example, at the time of our review we were already able to install the Android Q beta on the device. That’s not something you’ll get on every Android phone, and it’s largely only the case with Google’s Pixel range.
It should also mean you’ll see consistent security upgrades, as well as the new features that Android iterations bring.
In addition to being one of the best-looking versions of Android, Android 9 Pie is also one of the easiest to navigate.
We found it to work smoothly, with all of the features easy to access. To head into the full list of apps on your device you’ll just want to swipe up from the bottom of the screen.
Squeeze the sides of the Pixel 3a XL and you’ll launch Google Assistant, allowing you to bark commands and questions at your phone – or, if your hands are busy, you can launch it with the “OK Google” prompt.
Active Edge, as Google calls it, only works on the bottom third of the phone, and we found it to work accurately.
It’s also surprisingly difficult to set off inadvertently when you’re using the phone at other angles – we found it was almost impossible to launch when watching a YouTube video in landscape, for example. When you want to use it though, it’s easy enough to launch.
And if you do find yourself launching Google Assistant when you don’t want to, you can increase the amount of pressure required when you squeeze the phone.
Movies, music and gaming
The great news for those who like to watch movies, listen to music and play games on their phone is that the Google Pixel 3a XL has a 3.5mm headphone jack, a feature that phone makers are increasingly choosing to omit. That means you can use wired headsets with the device, plus if you have Bluetooth headphones you can always use them too.
Google dropped the jack on other Pixel devices, including the Pixel 3 and 3 XL, so this is a major benefit for the Pixel 3A XL if you have wired headphones that you like to use with your phone.
We found the sound quality to be good when using both wired and wireless headphones. Bluetooth connectivity seemed to be reliable enough during our testing too, and we didn’t find the headphones would drop out until we were a good distance from the phone.
The large display on the Pixel 3A XL looks great for watching movies, TV shows and YouTube clips. It’s noticeably bright, and as sharp as any of the competition in this price bracket.
You don’t get a QHD display, which makes for even sharper images on devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S10, but that won’t be a problem for most people.
The Pixel 3a XL isn’t the greatest gaming device in the world, but it does have a couple of things going for it in this respect.
The display is large, which gives you a lot of space for the controls as well as for the gameplay itself.We also found the processing power here to be enough for most games, although it may take a little longer to load them than if you had a flagship phone powering things along.
Performance and benchmarks
Under the hood of the Pixel 3a XL is a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 chipset, alongside 4GB of RAM. You get 64GB of storage, which isn’t a great deal these days – and there’s no microSD slot to expand on this.
The good news here is that Google offers unlimited photo storage in the cloud via the Photos app, which means you don’t need to worry about all your photos taking up precious space on your phone.
However, 64GB still isn’t great for anyone who wants to fill their phone with a variety of apps, films and music – you could eat through it in next to no time, and it’s a real shame that Google didn’t see fit to squeeze 128GB in here, or include microSD support.
For the security-conscious, the Pixel 3a XL has the same Titan M security chip as the main Pixel 3 range, which keeps your login secure on the handset.
We ran benchmarks for Geekbench 4, and found the phone returned a respectable multi-core score of 5133, which is a touch higher than what we saw from the Pixel 3a, but far below the Google Pixel 3’s score of 8350.
That gives you an idea of the differences you can expect in terms of performance, although it’s worth noting that we found the Pixel 3a to be no slouch.
We were satisfied with what the Pixel 3a XL was able to deliver, and we believe you will be too, unless you need the top-end power of a flagship phone.
Image Credit: TechRadar
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James is Managing Editor for Android Police. Previously, he was Senior Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones and the mobile space for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones and other portable gadgets. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He once fell over.