Test Google Pixel 3a XL: finally a mid-range excellent in photo

Presentation

Avec its Pixel 3a and 3a XL, Google is venturing into a field where it was no longer expected, the mid-range. And it comes with a surprising proposal. Where the most ambitious in the industry boast the most powerful Snapdragon 855 SoC on the market, these new Pixel 3a's take a step back and settle for a mid-range chip, the Snapdragon 670. Google is banking on its famous know-how in photography to win over customers. In fact, the American firm boasts a Pixel 3a as good as the Pixel 3 in photography. And this, despite a weakened computing power and the absence of theVisual Core, the processor dedicated to photography developed by Google. The promise of a real exploit.

Pixel 3a and its wide borders.

Proposé at 479 €, the Pixel 3a XL plays in the court of the killers of jewels, such as theMi 9de Xiaomi, theView 20de Honor and of course theOnePlus 6T.

Ergonomics and design

For its new terminal, Google has remained true to its controversial design. The American company seems to have taken the community's criticisms into account and abandoned the imposing notch of the Pixel 3 XL. Instead, the two wide borders (1.2 cm) of the Pixel 3 are found on the upper and lower edges. This reduces the screen occupancy rate of the façade to 78%. The Pixel 3a XL remains an impressive phone. Difficult to handle with one hand, it offers true XL dimensions (160.1 x 76.1 x 8.2 mm).

La plastic shell of the Pixel 3a XL.

Mais if it looks like its big brothers, this Pixel 3a XL offers a much less premium finish. Google has chosen to swap the glass shell for a plastic back. This makes it a lighter phone (167 g against 184 g for the 3 XL), but much less pleasant to hold. Admittedly, the Pixel 3a XL is still a bit of a knockout. Fortunately, the side buttons are still as well placed as the fingerprint sensor on the back. The latter is efficient and rather reactive.

À Like the Pixel 3, it is only able to hold one nanoSIM card and has no microSD port. You will have to make do with the 128 GB of internal memory. Unfortunately, the Pixel 3a XL is not waterproof.

Pixel 3a XL on the left and Pixel 3 XL on the right.

Au In the midst of all these concessions, Google chose to keep its HTC-inspired function, with pressure-sensitive edges. Here, by pressing the smartphone, it is possible to launch Google Assistant. A feature we would have gladly sacrificed.

Screen

Si Google was forced to make many compromises in terms of ergonomics, the screen of the Pixel 3a XL has nothing to reproach itself for. The 6-inch Oled panel in 18:9 format displays in 1,080 x 2,160 px for a resolution of 402 dpi and is well calibrated. Via its interface, Google offers 3 screen profiles: adaptive, contrasted and natural. You will have to opt for the latter to get the best out of the screen. The tile has an exemplary delta E (1.9) and a color temperature of 6,956 K, close to the video standard (6,500 K). In addition to this faithful colorimetric reproduction, the screen guarantees a contrast ratio close to infinity, Oled oblige.

Du On the performance side, the panel is able to increase its maximum brightness up to 438 cd/m², enough to remain readable even in direct sunlight. All the more readable as the reflectance is here rather contained (13%). Conversely, the brightness can drop to 2.6 cd/m², a value slightly too high to be pleasant in total darkness. Finally, the tactile delay of the slab is average (74 ms), while the remanence is imperceptible thanks to the Oled.

Performances

After ergonomics, the main sacrifice of the Pixel 3a XL is in the performance department. Instead of a high-end SoC, the 3a XL features a Snapdragon 670 chip and 4GB of RAM. This is more than good enough to keep Android 9 running smoothly and juggle applications with ease. The smartphone also has the advantage of not heating up at all. We're not dealing with a lightning strike, however, this SoC has the advantage of being economical. It should therefore allow the Pixel 3a XL to shine on the autonomy side, a sector that didn't smile at its big brothers, the Pixel 3 and 3 XL.

Pixel 3a XL after filming 10 minutes in Full HD.

Au When it's time to launch a game, the Adreno 615 chip takes over. This chip allows the most demanding 3D games to run, despite some concessions in fluidity and graphics.

Audio

Google chose to integrate a 3.5 mm minijack connector on the top edge of its Pixel 3a XL. A welcome presence, as this kind of plug is so rare. And it proves to be of good quality. Its distortion is contained, its dynamic range is quite wide, and crosstalk remains minimal. Its only weak point is on the power side, too low. This makes the plug vulnerable to headphones that use a little bit of energy.

Pixel 3a XL offers two speakers. The first one is on the front above the screen and the second one on the lower edge around the USB-C connection.  This allows a stereo sound of rather good quality. The sound is powerful and quite clear.

Photo

S 'there is one point on which the Pixel 3a XL is expected at the turn, it's obviously the photo. Without a good APN, the Pixel 3a XL would just be a vulgar smartphone with performances far too limited to be sold for 479 €. But if it manages to impress, it will then position itself as the first real photophone under the €500 mark. A feat, since so many people have broken their teeth. And let's not spare the suspense any longer. With a 12.2MP sensor and a Snapdragon 670 chip as its only weapons, the Pixel 3a XL offers spectacular photo performance for its price range. And this despite the absence of the Visual Core, Google's ISP. It is therefore a true feat achieved by the engineers of the American firm. And it is perhaps this exploit that draws the price of Pixel 3a XL, beyond what its data sheet claims.

unique photo module on the back of the Pixel 3a XL.

S 'there was a reproach to make to Google on the photo of the Pixel 3a XL, it would be to regret the absence of very wide-angle module or optical zoom. For a few months now, all competitors have been betting on versatility in photography. Google has chosen to have only one string to its bow.

Module main: 12.2 Mpx, 27 mm, f/1.8

Comme at its big brothers, the main module of the Pixel 3a XL is all in sobriety. It features a 12.2 MP sensor supported by a lens opening at f/1.8. By day, the Pixel 3a XL offers very satisfactory performance. The shots are detailed and contrasted and suffer only a very slight loss of quality in periphery. There is also not much smoothing. This is enough to offer a much more realistic and clean rendering than theMi 9, equipped with a 48 MP sensor.

C 'is at night that the Pixel 3a XL is making its cards. Like its illustrious predecessors, Google's new smartphone manages to offer a very clean rendering. The terminal allows itself a slightly long pause (1/8), but compensates with a very controlled sensitivity (ISO 1,304). Without pushing the smoothing, the Pixel 3a XL manages to contain electronic noise to obtain a perfectly suitable level of detail. The terminal also has the luxury of maintaining fairly accurate colors.

Mode nuit

Malgré With its lower computing power, Pixel 3a XL offers a particularly efficient night mode that is very close to that of Pixel 3. It still corrects the white balance, so much so that the rendering is closer to a photo taken during the day. The colors are perfectly represented, and finally only the stitching decreases compared to a shot taken in full brightness. The performance is therefore still impressive. This puts the Pixel 3a XL light years away from a Mi 9 offered at the same price, but with a much lower performance night mode.

Par report to the Pixel 3

La The strength of the Pixel 3a XL lies in its photo quality. A quality never seen before in this price range and all the more interesting as this new model reacts exactly like the Pixel 3. By day, you will find exactly the same metadata. In the end, the only noticeable difference is a slightly more accentuated rendering on the 3a XL.

In low luminosity, the results are also very close. Except that the emphasis is on the side of the first Pixel 3 of the name.

Enfin, the freehand night mode is very close to the Pixel 3 mode. There is a less efficient white balance, but this is the only thing we can reproach the high quality software processing offered here by Google.

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Mode portrait, front module and vidéo

À the front is a unique module that will act as a selfies machine. It features an 8MP sensor and an f/2.0 lens. We regret the very wide-angle module present on the Pixel 3 and 3 XL. However, the module produces quality self-portraits. Once the smoothing is disabled, the rendering offered is realistic with a good management of backlighting and lighting. Entirely software, the bokeh of the portrait mode is rather successful. And this, whether on the front or rear module. Finally, the Pixel 3a XL offers sharp and usable videos.

Autonomy

Véritable Achilles' heel of Pixel 3 and 3 XL, autonomy is nevertheless one of the key points in defining a good smartphone. And Google seems to have understood this, by choosing a Snapdragon 670 chip, very economical and optimized. With its 3,700 mAh battery, the Pixel 3a XL lasted for 19 hours and 20 minutes during our SmartViser battery life test. A particularly satisfying result, allowing it, in real conditions, to last more than two days away from a plug. Provided that the terminal is used as standard, of course. The most addicted to their phone will still find it difficult to wear it out in less than a day.

À Note that with the charger provided by Google, the terminal recharges in 1 hour and 30 minutes.