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- The Pixel 6 is the biggest and boldest Pixel yet, thanks to a fresh design, upgraded camera, and new processor.
- At $600, the Pixel 6 is one of the best premium phones you can buy on a budget.
- But, if you need a 120Hz screen and a telephoto lens, you're better off with Samsung's $700 Galaxy S21 FE.
After a stint of Pixel phones that felt stale and uninspired, the Pixel 6 is a breath of fresh air.
With a bold design, updated camera hardware, and Google's new Tensor processor, the Pixel 6 stands out among common Android phones. The advanced processor is especially useful for enabling new and upgraded features, like incredibly accurate voice recognition and a Magic Eraser option for photos.
The Pixel 6 isn't perfect, but it delivers an excellent Android experience for $600, especially compared to $800-plus premium competitors. Read on for more specific details on the Pixel 6's performance, battery life, screen, and camera.
Google Pixel 6 specifications
|Google Pixel 6||Specifications|
|Display||6.4-inch OLED FHD+ (2,400 x 1,080 resolution), up to 90Hz refresh rate|
|Cameras||50-megapixel main camera, 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera (114-degree FoV), laser autofocus, OIS|
|Estimated battery life||A full day's use|
|Storage||128GB, or 256GB|
|Biometric authentication||In-display fingerprint sensor|
|Network support||5G (sub-6GHz and mmWave), mmWave model only available from Google Store, Verizon, and AT&T|
|Durability||IP68, scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass Victus screen glass|
The standard Pixel 6 is the smallest of Google's latest lineup, but it's still huge — it's nearly as large as the iPhone 13 Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus. That's great for fans of large phones, but not so much for those who prefer mid-sized models that can be more comfortable for one-handed use. I know someone personally who was hoping to upgrade to the Pixel 6, but its large size puts them off.
In terms of looks and feel, the Pixel 6 has a unique appearance with its large camera bar on the back. It has the same overall look and feel of the Pixel 6 Pro, but instead of a shiny metal frame around the edges, the Pixel 6 has a frosted matte finish. It's subjective, but I think the matte black edges look and feel better.
The Pixel 6 also has larger bezels than the Pixel 6 Pro, but they're pretty similar in size to the iPhone 13 series. You'll also find slightly curved screen edges on the Pixel 6 Pro compared to the flat screen on the Pixel 6. Curved screen edges serve little purpose and actually negatively affect the way things look on the very edges of the screen, so I prefer the Pixel 6 in this regard.
There are two things that a potential buyer might deem questionable on a premium device like the Pixel 6: the 1080p resolution and the 90Hz refresh rate. On premium phones, especially Android devices, many would expect a higher 1440p resolution and a smoother 120Hz refresh rate. However, the Pixel 6's 1080p screen and 90Hz refresh rate don't degrade the experience whatsoever.
Instead, the 1080p/90Hz display delivers a crisp and smooth experience, even on a screen as large as 6.4 inches. The 120Hz refresh rate on the more expensive Pixel 6 Pro and other high-end phones is somewhat smoother, but that benefit is hardly perceptible.
What is perceptible is the Pixel 6's 90Hz refresh rate compared to the standard 60Hz refresh rate from a couple years ago. If you're upgrading from an older phone with a 60Hz screen, the Pixel 6 will look buttery smooth, even if it doesn't run at the full 120Hz that some other options offer.
Contrary to some reviews, I've been happy with the speed of the in-display fingerprint sensor used to unlock the phone. It's also been fairly accurate, too. This may vary from person to person, though, as I've always had trouble with the accuracy of Samsung's in-display fingerprint sensors while they work fine for others.
Android fans have been very curious to see how this new Pixel performs, as Google switched from traditional processors made by Qualcomm to its own processor called "Tensor."
In real-life usage, Google's Tensor processor is quick to open and run apps — things happen quickly on the Pixel 6 when you tap and navigate around. However, I got some jarring stuttery performance while scrolling on certain apps, namely Reddit and Twitter, but not Instagram, Amazon, or Chrome.
To compare, I didn't experience stuttery scrolling on any apps on Samsung's Galaxy S21 running on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 888.
On paper with our usual Geekbench 5 benchmark tests, Google's Tensor scored slightly lower than Qualcomm's Snapdragon 888. The Tensor scored an average of 1,025 for single-core performance, and an average of 2,850 for multi-core, compared to the Galaxy S21's 1,098 / 3,259 score. The difference is so negligible that it doesn't explain the stuttery performance, which leads me to believe it's something else that's causing those stutters, but it's not clear what.
Instead of striving for raw power, Google focused on optimizing Tensor for machine learning functions, like voice recognition and camera features
The phone's voice recognition is stunningly effective. It's incredibly accurate, and it can punctuate itself with me having to say "full stop" or "comma." It's so good and seamless that you might actually find voice dictation useful for a change.
As for camera features, machine learning on the Tensor processor allows for impressive options like Magic Eraser that lets you remove undesirable objects or people from your photos. This feature even works with pictures in Google Photos that you took with other phones. It's not perfect, however, as Magic Eraser can leave obvious editing traces. Still, an odd-looking blurry spot can be better than a stranger or an unwanted object.
How many Android updates will the Pixel 6 get?
As far as future versions of Android, Google says it'll support the Pixel 6 until October 2024. In theory, this means the Pixel 6 should get Android 13 and 14. And regarding security updates, Google will support the Pixel 6 until October 2026.
The Pixel 6 has run-of-the-mill battery life — it'll last a day just fine and it might carry over into a second day for a few hours. That's all to say that you shouldn't expect to get high battery mileage with the Pixel 6. The iPhone 13 Pro Max and Galaxy S21 Plus — phones with similar screen sizes — both last longer.
While the Pixel 6's battery life is fine, expectations were higher considering the phone is running a Google processor. Apple can squeeze long life from a similar battery due to optimization between iOS and Apple's own A-series processors. That said, the Tensor processor is Google's first, so we wouldn't be surprised to see major improvements in future Pixels.
The Pixel 6 comes with a standard wide camera and an ultra-wide angle camera, both of which are brand new compared to previous Pixel phones that used existing hardware year after year.
Pixel phones have always been among the best — if not, the best — phone cameras, and the Pixel 6's cameras are excellent. That said, other premium phones like the iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy S phones have also improved over the last few years, and the camera quality gap between the Pixel 6 and its competitors has narrowed considerably.
It can still take beautiful photos, though, like the ones below:
And low-light photos with bright objects look stunning, like this Christmas tree:
There's some inconsistency at times, like the lighting and colors of this tree. Here's a photo taken by the Pixel 6 of a Japanese Maple, which gets incredibly vibrant red leaves in the fall season:
The photo looks fine until you see the same tree taken with the iPhone 13, below. Some may say that the iPhone 13's camera overly processed or boosted the photo, but that's really how vibrant the tree looks:
The bottom line
The Pixel 6 is an excellent Android phone in part for its cameras, unique design, and interesting set of features. Throw the $600 price into the mix, and the Pixel 6 is easily the best phone bargain of 2022. It may not offer the exact same performance you'd get on phones that demand $800 or more, but it delivers impressive value.
Its primary rival is the $700 Samsung Galaxy S21 FE, which has a slightly more powerful processor and an extra telephoto camera lens. Ultimately, you can boil your decision between the two down to whether you want the extra telephoto lens or not. You can read more about the Galaxy S21 FE here.
Pros: Great price for such a big, premium phone, bold design, good performance, excellent cameras, 90Hz screen is still smooth
Cons: Middling battery life, stuttery on some apps, camera can be inconsistent, large size isn't for everyone