Ask the average consumer in India about deal breakers when it comes to smartphones and you’re most likely to hear three things – Camera, battery and a good display. The first of those variables is always a challenge with devices that cost under Rs 40,000. I can’t remember the last time I was blown away with a camera on a phone that wasn’t pricey. It’s why I think Google may well have a winner with the Pixel 3a and 3a XL. We put the larger 3a XL under the scanner and came away largely impressed.

We’ll say this, the Google Pixel 3 twins were among our favourite smartphones from 2018. Just like the iPhone, it’s always ideal when the same brand offers seamless integration of hardware and software. But the Pixel 3 flagships are pricey. It wasn’t always like this. You didn’t have to break the bank for Google’s Nexus devices (the brand partnered with device manufacturers for this line) like the Nexus 5. The Pixel 3a is a clear move to take on the likes of successful flagship killers like the OnePlus but is it a clever compromise?

First things first. The Pixel 3a XL looks and feels like a premium device. It may not be crafted in a glass like the Pixel 3 but the plastic body with its two-tone finish exudes a premium vibe. The plastic back means this device is not geared for wireless charging; the other thing missing is water and dust resistance. The Pixel 3a XL ticks the display box with a vibrant 6-inch OLED (1080 x 2160 pixels / 18:9 aspect ratio) display that packs 402 Pixels per inch (PPI). The device feels really good in your hands and is a tad lighter than the Pixel 3 XL.

One of the major differences between the 3 XL and this device is the processor. This one’s powered by a Qualcomm 670 Processor that teams up with 4GB of RAM. Heavy duty users might notice the difference especially with App load times and the occasional intensive game. There’s only one internal storage variant – 64GB; just like all Pixel devices, there’s unlimited storage on Google Photos. But there’s a catch – you don’t get to store the highest quality of your images for free on the Cloud. This is something we wish Google hadn’t skimped on.

The one thing Google hasn’t compromised on is the camera. You get the same 12.2MP rear camera that we love on the Pixel 3 including stellar results in low light thanks to Google’s proprietary Night Sight mode. During our tests, we noticed no visible difference between the Pixel 3 XL and the 3a XL. There’s simply no better smartphone shooter at this price point. The selfie camera opts for a single 8MP lens, there’s no wide-angle selfie.

Google gets the battery right with the 3a XL. We comfortably managed a day with the 3700 mAh battery with a camera and multimedia usage. There’s also fast changing with the same 18W charger that we saw on the Pixel 3 XL. Aside from the solid camera, the other reason you should consider this device is the user experience. Like all other Pixel devices, this runs the latest version of Android and its pure-play Android at its very best. For instance, the entire Pixel portfolio will get a sneak preview of AR in Google Maps. You are also covered with all the latest OS updates for at least three years.

The Google Pixel 3a XL covers the bases that matter for most average users at a compelling price point. There are exclusions like an all-glass build (a design element that has now trickled down to this segment) and water resistance but it’s not an entirely compromise at this price. Most of all, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL are a throwback to the glory days of the Nexus devices that delivered great bang for your buck. Except this one throws in a killer camera to sweeten the deal.

The Google Pixel 3a (5.6-inch display) costs Rs 39,999 while the 3a XL is priced at Rs 44,999. Both devices are available in Clearly White and Just Black.

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