System Performance

System performance of the Pixel 3a XL is an interesting topic given its mid-range SoC. Here as aforementioned in the introduction, the CPU power of the SoC should match up with that of the Snapdragon 835 from 2 years ago. The Snapdragon 670 in the Pixel 3a has two Cortex A75 derived CPU cores running at 2.0GHz, while the Snapdragon 835 had four Cortex-A73 derived cores at 2.45GHz. In general, the 22% clock frequency disadvantage should be compensated by the ~25% higher IPC of the newer core microarchitecture. It should be noted that the Snapdragon 670’s CPU cores aren’t expected to perform quite as high in IPC as the Snapdragon 845’s as it employs smaller cache configurations to reduce die size and cost. Thus it should be pretty much a toss-up between the S670 and the S835.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Web Browsing 2.0

Starting off with the web-browsing workload in PCMark, the newer Pixel 3a does manage to stay ahead of the Pixel 2 XL, while as expected lagging behind the 2018 and newer devices.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Video Editing

The video editing workloads has hardly any significant performance differences on devices of the last few years, and the Pixel 3a performs well here although it’s to be expected.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Writing 2.0

The Writing 2.0 sub-test is the most important of PCMark. The Pixel 3a still manages to hold up well with some Snapdragon 835 devices and even some S845 phones such as the Galaxy S9 and Note9.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Photo Editing 2.0

The photo editing score is competitive, again in line with the Snapdragon 835 generation.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Data Manipulation

The data manipulation framerate performance is in line with the Pixel 2 XL.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Performance

Overall in PCMark, the Pixel 3a performed surprisingly well. It was able to keep up with the Pixel 2 XL whilst even competing some of the worse Snapdragon 845 flagships from last year. There’s still evidently quite a larger gap to the more recent Pixel 3, but again that’s to be expected.

Speedometer 2.0 - OS WebView WebXPRT 3 - OS WebView

The web-browsing JS tests is where we’ll see more major differences to the Snapdragon 845 and newer devices, again, whilst the Snapdragon 670 performs well against the 835, it does have a significant lag behind newer generation SoCs.

Overall Performance – Very Good For Mid-Range

Overall I was very satisfied with the performance of the Pixel 3a XL. It was extremely snappy in everyday usage, and if all you do on a smartphone is social media-like activity, then you’d be hard to press to find any differences between the 3a and other flagship devices.

Where the Pixel 3a more notably fell behind in was web browsing and loading of heavier pages. Here it was evident that there is indeed quite a generational performance gap and the mid-range SoC isn’t quite able to give the same experience.

One thing to note and again we can’t accurately measure with existing tools is the storage performance of the eMMC module of the phone. I did notice quite significantly slower installation speeds compared to newer phones. It’s not a total deal-breaker as some eMMC implementations of years past, but again it’s a compromise Google had to make to reduce the costs of the phone.

Overall, system and application performance of the Pixel 3a XL is very good for a mid-range device.

Introduction & Design GPU Performance - Cold Stuff
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  • Death666Angel - Friday, June 28, 2019 - link

    The Pixel 2XL which is highlighted has the S835. Reply
  • Ashinjuka - Thursday, June 27, 2019 - link

    Thanks for doing this review! When the 3a was announced you guys said you had no plans to review it, so I was really glad to see you take a look at this phone and SoC. This is by far the most interesting phone of the year for me. I know I'm not everyone, but if a device is not getting regular OS updates, it's dead to me.

    I love the headphone jack, the camera, the battery life, and the updates. If I could change one thing about it, it would be an SD card slot or at least more on-board storage.
    Reply
  • LiverpoolFC5903 - Friday, June 28, 2019 - link

    Would have been a smashing buy if it had UFS storage instead of emmc. The importance of storage quality in overall usability and perceived smoothness of the phone is often understated. I have a 3 year old LG v20 that feels faster than my new Note 7 pro (SD 675), because of storage.

    The SOC is fine and the camera is very good. The only issue is the storage and unfortunately for me, I will only buy phones with UFS storage from now on, having experienced fast storage in my V20 and Galaxy S9..
    Reply
  • grant3 - Friday, July 5, 2019 - link

    As a typical phone user who has no clue about UFS vs. EMMC, I can assert: the smoothness of the 3a XL is just fine.
    Obviously some people want more storage, faster memory, etc. and for that, they can choose phones which either trade off other features or cost more.
    Reply
  • Jon Tseng - Friday, June 28, 2019 - link

    Spot on with the US vs. RoW conclusions.

    Outside of the US at that price this device is DOA - huge bezels, plastic casing, single cam. We can debate single-cam computational photography vs. brute forcing with triple cam but in the eyes of the average consumer more sensors = better.
    Reply
  • grant3 - Friday, July 5, 2019 - link

    "in the eyes of the average consumer" they care about image quality; they don't care how it happens.
    That's even if a purchaser is particularly concerned with taking high quality photos on their phone; a huge amount of people are not.
    Reply
  • psnosignaluk - Friday, June 28, 2019 - link

    I picked up a standard Pixel 3a because I needed a new phone, and frankly, didn't want to drop £1,000 or near enough on a flagship. I'm glad I saved the money. I use my phone for mail/Slack, on call tools, contactless payments, WhatsApp video calls with the wife overseas, uploading photos to Instagram, browsing the web and listening to music or catching up with YouTube channels on the go. It may not be the fastest or most powerful phone, but damn if you don't get everything you need for a pretty low price. I even like the plastic body. Makes my phone nice and light. Looking forward to the Pixel 4a :) Reply
  • Anirudh2FL - Friday, June 28, 2019 - link

    The base 3a costs $550 in India
    The regular one, not even the XL

    So, unfortunately not at all a good value here
    Reply
  • fred666 - Friday, June 28, 2019 - link

    Here in Canada I had the choice between the Pixel 3a or 3a XL, both at CAD $210, or the Galaxy S10e for CAD $310 (including galaxy buds).
    I chose the Samsung, but if I wanted a big screen I would have gotten the 3a XL.

    I think the prices listed in this review are too high.
    Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Saturday, June 29, 2019 - link

    We only list a device's full price, not carrier plan or financed deals. Reply

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