The new hardware from Google, the Pixel 3a XL, is a toned down version of its flagship Pixel 3 but comes with the same good camera. Still, does it justify the high price tag in India? One will find some excellent features, though.
For instance, unlike most of the premium smartphones with a glass rear, the 3a XL has a 6-inch full HD+OLED display in a polycarbonate unibody and the Pixel's signature dual-tone finish at the back. I was able to choose the display colour from natural, boosted and adaptive modes, and became a big fan of Active Edge, which means squeezing the sides to activate Google Assistant.
There is a SIM tray on the left panel, but one can also configure eSIM (works with Airtel and Reliance Jio) in India. However, this one is not an IP-certified water-resistant phone.
The phone runs on stock Android 9.0 (will be the first to receive Android Q when released) and offers a clean UI sans third-party apps and bloatware. Powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 processor and paired with 4 GB RAM, it managed to handle multiple apps and browsing interfaces as well as extensive camera usage without slowing down.
This one is a camera beast in spite of a single camera set-up on each side. The 3a XL uses AI for depth-blurring or bokeh effects (identifies subjects and blurs backgrounds) and captures stunning images in the portrait mode. Using the default photo edit option, I was able to adjust the background blur as well.
Whether it is the normal photo mode, portrait or panorama, all my snapshots looked sharp with natural-looking colours. Night Sight also got impressive images in low light. Using the new time lapse mode, I was able to capture a 20-minute sunrise and view it as a sped-up video in 10 seconds.
Plus, there is an option to choose between six frames per second and one frame every four seconds. The Google Lens mode within the camera app is ideal for a quick photo search for scanning codes, identifying plants, searching similar products and even copy-pasting numbers, dates and addresses.
I was able to save images in JPEG and RAW formats by using advanced settings on the camera app. As the size of the JPEG image was 3.6 MB and the RAW image file was 13 MB, the onboard storage of 64 GB felt a little less.
The 3,700 mAh battery supported quick charging and lasted a day in spite of heavy camera and Assistant usage. Google could have made it more affordable, especially as it costs $479 (around Rs 33,500+taxes) in the US. Given the price tag, this one will face tough competition from OnePlus 7, which is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor.
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