Pixel 3a vs. TCL 10 Pro: Which should you buy?

TCL 10 Pro
TCL 10 Pro (Image credit: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

Google Pixel 3a

Google Pixel 3a

The Pixel 3a brings outstanding value with all-day battery life and one of the best cameras you'll find on a phone. Being a Pixel, it's also first in line for updates to the latest version of Android.

Google Pixel 3a

Best overall

Outstanding camera
Regular updates
More affordable
Great battery life
Only one camera
Plastic build
New model incoming

TCL 10 Pro

TCL 10 Pro

The TCL 10 Pro has a gorgeous matte glass and metal design, with four rear cameras and a stunning HDR display. Its cameras aren't the greatest, but its snappy performance and long battery life are enticing.

TCL 10 Pro

Premium design

Premium build quality
Beautiful display
Smooth performance
Great battery life
More expensive
Weak cameras

The Pixel 3a helped reshape our expectations for affordable phones when it dropped last year. For around half the price of its flagship counterpart, the 3a carries over the same outstanding camera as the Pixel 3, with relatively minor tradeoffs like a plastic build and a slower processor. However, TCL recently entered the scene with an affordable phone of its own. The 10 Pro comes in a stunning glass and metal design that feels as great as it looks, and touts smooth performance and a gorgeous curved HDR display.

Camera versus display

Google Pixel 3a XL

Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)
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CategoryGoogle Pixel 3aTCL 10 Pro
Operating SystemAndroid 10Android 10
Display5.6 inches, 18.5:9 aspect ratio, 2220x1080 (441 ppi) resolution, OLED6.47 inches, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 2340 x 1080 (398 ppi) resolution, AMOLED
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 670Qualcomm Snapdragon 675
GraphicsAdreno 615Adreno 612
Expandable StorageNomicroSD
Rear Camera12.2MP, ƒ/1.864MP, ƒ/1.8 (wide)16MP, ƒ/2.4 (ultra-wide)5MP, ƒ/2.2 (macro)2MP, ƒ/2.4 (super low light)
Front Camera8MP, ƒ/2.024MP, ƒ/2.0
Securityfingerprint sensor (rear-mounted)fingerprint sensor (in-display)
Headphone jackYesYes
Dimensions151.3 x 70.1 x 8.2mm158.5 x 72.4 x 9.2mm

From a hardware standpoint, both phones are great, but the TCL 10 Pro feels much more high-end and modern. Its glass and aluminum unibody design feels like a phone that costs twice as much, with nice touches like a sleek matte finish and curved edges. The Pixel 3a's plastic build is comparitively unremarkable, though it comes with the practical advantage of being less fragile than glass should you happen to drop your phone.

The TCL 10 Pro's design feels like a phone that costs twice as much.

On the back of the Pixel 3a, you'll find a capacitive fingerprint sensor, which doubles as a gesture pad that you can swipe up or down on to access your notification shade without touching the screen. The TCL 10 Pro opts instead for an in-display fingerprint sensor, which makes for a cleaner look but doesn't pull double duty in terms of functionality. In my review of the 10 Pro, I ran into some inconsistencies with the in-display sensor; I personally prefer the 3a's rear fingerprint sensor, but both work reasonably well.

If you prefer smaller phones, you'll like the Pixel 3a, which features a relatively compact (at least by today's standards) 5.6-inch display. However, the TCL 10 Pro's 6.47-inch AMOLED panel is really remarkable for the money. Regardless of how you feel about curved displays, the 10 Pro's panel is vibrant, yet color accurate, and comes in a modern 19.5:9 aspect ratio.

The 10 Pro features TCL UI, which is a relatively light interface on top of Android 10, while the Pixel 3a runs a more "pure" or "stock" build of Android 10. There's something to be admired about having Android exactly as Google intended it, but TCL UI does add some nice perks, particularly with its NXTVISION display software that converts SDR video content to HDR for the 10 Pro's gorgeous display. There's also an additional hardware key on the 10 Pro that you can customize to launch various apps and tasks.

The Pixel 3a's main software advantage is that it's one of the first phones in line to get updates to the latest versions of Android. TCL has committed to updating the 10 Pro to Android 11 shortly after it's made available, but eager Pixel users can already install the Android 11 Beta on the 3a.

Perhaps the biggest difference between these two phones is the cameras. The Pixel 3a relies on a single camera, while the 10 Pro features four: wide, ultra-wide, macro, and super low light. Of course, quality takes priority over quantity, and the Pixel 3a's solo camera takes incredible photos with the help of tools like portrait mode and Night Sight. It isn't just one of the best cameras in the budget space, it goes head-to-head with some of the highest-end phones on the market.

Perhaps the biggest difference between these two phones is the cameras.

The TCL 10 Pro certainly has a more versatile arrangement, with the ability to capture different perspectives through its multiple lenses, but the quality leaves a lot to be desired. The main sensor is serviceable, but the ultra-wide lens is very rough, and the macro lens is relatively low-res at just 5MP.

So what's the bottom line? The TCL 10 Pro has a terrific design and an equally great display, and manages to run more smoothly than the Pixel 3a thanks to its newer, faster processor. It's a terrific phone for the money, but its cameras are a huge pain point. The Pixel 3a takes dramatically better photos, and while its build quality and performance aren't up to snuff with the 10 Pro, the 3a is considerably cheaper — especially now that it's available at a discount on Amazon.

If you really value a premium design and a great display, the 10 Pro could be worth the extra money. But for most people, and especially if photography is at all a priority for you, you're probably better off saving some money and buying the Pixel 3a. Maybe pick up a case with some of your leftover cash.

Hayato Huseman

Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.