The Pixel 3a XL kills the notch and offers affordable OLED viewing
- Unlike the Pixel 3 XL, the 3a XL does suffer from a huge notch.
- It’s one of the few phones at its price point that uses an OLED display.
- Colour gamut coverage surpassed expectations for a phone at this price point.
The Google Pixel 3 XL is known for sporting what is arguably the most invasive notch of any smartphone display, cutting in deep from the top edge of the frame in an effort to grant you a bigger screen overall – in my opinion it was the wrong call and it looks like Google thought the same when it came time to assemble the Pixel 3a XL.
The phone’s body is similar in size to the standard 3 XL but features a smaller 6-inch (compared to the 3 XL’s 6.3-inch) display. This comes at the price of a more noticeable forehead but in exchange, there’s no notch to speak of and the phone sports a more balanced appearance as a result.
Along with the standard Pixel 3a, the 3a XL is also one of only a handful of phones to boast an OLED display below the £500 price barrier. This is reason enough for media fans and photographers to appreciate what the 3a XL has to offer but the fact that it’s the larger of the two Pixel 3as also means it’s better-suited to enjoying videos.
Nits, being a measure of intensity divided by area is the best metric when assessing screen brightness. The use of an OLED panel means that, when showing black, the Pixel 3a XL’s screen emits no light at all, while LCD-based competitors, like the Moto G7 Plus, still produce a reading – LCDs can’t show true blacks. It’s also why the phone’s contrast ratio registers as infinite, as a ratio that includes zero has no inherent value in this context.
As for the other end of the spectrum, the Pixel 3a XL boasts impressive maximum brightness, especially for what could be considered an affordable OLED phone. This is surprising as, with adaptive brightness enabled, the phone usually appears too dim, especially when viewed outside – a quick push of the brightness should rectify things, however.
LCD panels typically shine brighter, which is true here too – based on similarly priced competitors. Breaking past 400 nits should be good enough for most situations though, and better yet, the 3a XL surpassed both the Pixel 3 XL and Pixel 3a in this department. It’s worth noting that unlike the standard Pixel 3 series, the 3a series doesn’t support HDR viewing.
- Related: What is HDR?
Beyond good blacks and overall brightness, the Pixel 3a XL also boasts excellent colour gamut coverage for a phone of its standing. The most common sRGB standard is fully covered, while the DCI-P3 space, which is used by the digital film industry, is almost completely covered; something that flagship Pixel 3s are known to support in full.
The lower Adobe RGB gamut score holds less weight where the Pixel 3a XL is concerned but the phone’s score and subsequent adherence is still decent, especially for a sub-£500 handset.
OLED panels used to have an overtly cool inherent base colour temperature. With a reading of 6532K, the smaller Pixel 3a does a better job of meeting that ideal 6500K value, while the 3a XL reads surprisingly warm out-the-box, at 6354K.
Even so, the phone’s display looks great in real-world usage and there are three different colour modes to switch through, with ‘Adaptive’ being the default mode that the phone was tested in, as well as ‘Boosted’ and ‘Natural’.