Google Pixel 3a XL vs Pixel 3 XL: What's the difference?

The deep-notched Pixel gets a non-notched, half-price alternative

Google's Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL differed in more than just size and some specs – the larger model had a deep, easily-distinguishable notch on the screen that was very hard to miss. And not great, either.

But with the new budget-friendlier Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL, Google has a chance to correct that misstep, as the larger model looks like a blown-up standard Pixel 3 – with no notch in sight. Does that end up making for a better overall phone? Did we mention that it's also £400 less?

Here's how these handsets compare, now that we've reviewed both of them.

Design: Farewell, notch

While the Pixel 3a is essentially an identical-looking copy of the Pixel 3 design, changed materials aside, the Pixel 3a XL doesn't do the same with the Pixel 3 XL's look. Instead, it just delivers a larger rendition of the core Pixel 3a look.

That means no notch atop the screen, but the downside is big, big bezels above and below the screen. It's not the most alluring design we've seen on a new smartphone in 2019, but at least the two-tone finish on the back is still distinctive. Here, however, Google has opted for plastic to help cut down on costs. It doesn't feel too cheap, thankfully… but it's also obviously not glass and aluminium like the pricier Pixel 3 XL.

Both come in Just Black and Clearly White varieties, while the Pixel 3 XL is offered in Not Pink and the Pixel 3a XL is available in Purple-ish.

Screen: Clear differences

Here's where you'll see a larger difference between the Pixel 3a XL and Pixel 3 XL over the standard-sized versions of each. See, while both of the standard versions have 1080p screens, the Pixel 3 XL shipped with a higher-resolution Quad HD screen. And on the Pixel 3a XL? Yeah, it's also a 1080p screen.

There's a size difference, too, with the Pixel 3 XL at 6.3in and the Pixel 3a XL a bit smaller at 6.0in. At least both are OLED displays, so they're both punchy and beautiful-looking panels, even if the Pixel 3 XL is a bit crisper at Quad HD.

Camera: About the same

Despite the £400 price cut, you still get the same excellent 12.2-megapixel f/1.8 aperture single back camera. It's lacking the benefit of the Pixel Visual Core image signal processor from the Pixel 3 XL, but shots still looked nearly as strong in our testing.

As our Pixel 3a XL review mentioned, we spotted a little bit less detail than with the Pixel 3 XL, but they're still close given the immense price difference. Google's algorithms do the heavy lifting here, whether it's everyday shots, amazing low-light results via the Night Sight function, or bringing out shadow detail in scenes with significant light variance.

On the front, you lose the second wider-angle group selfie camera, but that's no enormous loss. The single cam does just fine at shooting normal selfies.

Performance: Pie still delights

Along with the other component downgrades, the chip powering the Pixel 3a XL is a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 chip, rather than last year's flagship Snapdragon 845 chip in the original Pixel 3 XL. Both have 4GB RAM onboard.

You'll see the processor difference in benchmark tests, of course, but in everyday use? Not so much. The Pixel 3a XL still feels super speedy, thanks to near-stock Android 9.0 Pie, and everyday activities don't seem hobbled by the lesser chip. It's only really noticeable when gaming, as 3D action game Ark: Survival Evolved chugs with graphics at max settings. Surprisingly, though, PUBG Mobile still runs well at high settings.

Battery and perks: More... or less

Smaller screen, beefier battery? Surprisingly, it's true. Where the Pixel 3 XL ships with a 3,430mAh battery pack, the Pixel 3a XL bumps up to 3,700mAh. That's not a huge difference, but paired with a smaller, lower-resolution screen, you should see a bit more life per charge.

With plastic instead of glass on the back, however, the Pixel 3a XL no longer features wireless charging. It tops up rather quickly from a cable, however.

As for storage, you can only get the Pixel 3a XL with 64GB storage, while the Pixel 3 XL offers 64GB and 128GB versions. The 3a XL certainly isn't the phone to get if you need ample local storage, thanks also to the lack of microSD expandable storage support.

The Pixel 3a XL won't work with Google's Daydream VR platform, however, given the weaker processor onboard.

Verdict: Save the cash!

Notch annoyance aside, the Pixel 3 XL is undoubtedly the more premium and feature-packed device. But at the end of the day, both phones give you a great Pixel experience, snapping strong photos and delivering a speedy slice Android Pie.

Here's the difference: the Pixel 3a XL does it for £400 less. The £469 phone comes in much cheaper than the £869 Pixel 3 XL, although you can find the latter for a bit less than list price these days. Even so, we'd say the Pixel 3a XL is the much better choice for the average buyer if you're in the mood for a Pixel and don't want to spend a huge amount of cash.