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Everything You Need to Know About the Google Pixel 6

11 minute read

By Andrew Silver

Since bursting onto the smartphone scene in 2016 with the first Pixel smartphone, Google has established itself as a legitimate rival to giants like Apple and Samsung. Now, a new era for Google’s flagship phone dawns with the release of the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.

Compared to their predecessors, the two Pixel 6 models have been heavily redesigned inside and out. The Pixel 6 is the first smartphone to run the Android 12 OS. Plus, Google has pushed the phone’s technical boundaries by crafting their own chipset. Moreover, the camera system has received a quantum leap in performance.

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To help you understand everything that has changed, here’s everything you need to know about the Google Pixel 6.

Models and Prices

There are two models in the Pixel 6 range – the standard Google Pixel 6 and the larger Google Pixel 6 Pro. While it is fairly similar to the regular model, the Pro offers an extra telephoto lens and more RAM.

Prices for the Google Pixel 6 can be a bit confusing. Google prices the base 128GB Google Pixel 6 at $599, which is considerably cheaper than rival phones with similar capabilities. The 256GB model costs $699. However, buying the phone directly from Google limits your 5G coverage to sub-6GHz.

For faster 5G coverage, you need to buy handsets designed for specific networks like Verizon. This costs $699 for the 128GB model and $799 for the 256GB version. Despite the higher price, you do get full mmWave 5G coverage.

Google offers three striking two-tone color options for the Pixel 6:

  1. Kinda Coral;
  2. Sorta Seafoam, and;
  3. Stormy Black.

However, even this gets confusing, as the Kinda Coral can only be purchased as a 128GB device. The other two colors are available for both the 128GB and 256GB handsets.

The standard 128GB Google Pixel 6 Pro starts from $899 when buying it from Google. The Pro model comes with mmWave 5G as standard, although prices may still differ when buying through mobile carriers. The 256GB model costs $999, while the 512GB version will set you back $1,099.

The Pro also has three two-tone body colors. Sorta Sunny is available for the 128GB model, while Cloudy White can be picked for both 128GB and 256GB models. Only Stormy Black is available for all three memory size options.

There’s also the option to purchase the Google Pixel 6 through Pixel Pass. For $45 a month, this subscription covers the cost of your phone, along with access to services like YouTube Premium and Google One for cloud storage.

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Design

The design of the Google Pixel 6 breaks new ground for Google, creating a unique-looking smartphone that gets plenty of style points.

The biggest change is the imposing black camera bar stretching straight across the rear of each Pixel 6. This houses the camera lenses while creating a clear contrast with the two-tone body for a sharp, stylish look. Because the camera bar is level all the way across, it acts as the perfect stabilizer when you put the Pixel 6 on a flat surface.

The Pixel 6 feels fairly heavy compared to other phones, weighing in at 207g for the regular model and 210g for the Pro. The positioning of the rear camera bar also makes the phone feel top-heavy. As a result, holding the device in one hand may be tricky for some users.

Compared to other top-of-the-range smartphones, the Google Pixel 6 lacks an “infinity” display. There are noticeable bezels at the edges of the screen, which may be a step back for some users. However, the Google Pixel 6 Pro has a curved display for edge-to-edge viewing.

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Build Quality

The build quality of the Google Pixel 6 is a noticeable step up from previous Pixel phones. The aluminum frames of older models have been replaced with premium glass.

The Pixel 6 is protected by Gorilla Glass Victus on the front touchscreen and Gorilla Glass 6 on the rear panel. Furthermore, IP68 dust and water protection help fortify the phone against rain showers and other weather conditions.

While the lateral camera bar looks cool, it can be a bit impractical. The raised unit can get caught when you’re taking the Pixel 6 out of your pocket or a bag, which could lead to some horrifying drops. Google includes a basic silicon case in the box. However, a stronger case is recommended to protect your Pixel 6 from nasty accidents.

Google has also incorporated a fingerprint sensor underneath the bottom section of the touchscreen. However, early impressions show that its response times can be extremely inconsistent.

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Screen and Display

Both Pixel 6 models have great screens that vividly capture colors and perform well when watching Netflix or YouTube. The Pixel 6’s OLED display measures 6.4 inches with a Full HD Plus resolution of 2400 x 1080 and 441 ppi. On paper, the Pixel 6 Pro’s 6.7-inch seems like a step up, with a QHD display, 3120 x 1440 resolution, and 512 ppi. But when you look at the handsets side-by-side, you’d be hard-pressed to find any significant difference.

One area where the screens differ is the refresh rate. The standard Pixel 6 has an adaptive refresh rate. When you’re playing a game or browsing the web, the phone automatically switches to a 90Hz refresh rate. But when you’re doing something less demanding, it changes to 60Hz to conserve power. If that’s a dealbreaker for you, the Pixel 6 Pro does boast a 120Hz refresh rate.

However, some users may find that the Pixel 6 struggles in full daylight. According to figures from GSMArena, the Pixel 6 phones have 846-nits, similar to rivals like the iPhone 13 or Galaxy S21. However, higher-end handsets, such as the iPhone 13 Pro, still outperform the Pixel 6 Pro.

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Performance

Although Google’s Tensor chipset sounds like a radical new overhaul, it’s worth digging a little deeper. Tensor mainly focuses on the Pixel 6’s AI and machine learning systems, helping to optimize camera performance and usability rather than outright performance.

As such, Tensor doesn’t significantly outperform other chipsets like the Snapdragon 888 that’s used in other high-end Android phones. Tensor also lags far behind the pure processing power of Apple’s new A15 Bionic chipsets in the iPhone 13.

Performance tests from Tom’s Guide show that the Pixel 6 line-up had a lower multicore score than Samsung’s smartphones that use Snapdragon 888. Despite that, the Pixel 6 Pro outperforms them in graphics tests. However, the Pro doesn’t hold a candle to the iPhone 13 range in any test.

That said, the Pixel 6 provides more than enough power for everyday tasks. The standard Pixel 6 has 8GB of RAM, while the Pro model boasts 12GB. Both phones run games seamlessly, even when running more demanding applications. Moreover, tasks like video editing and photography run extremely well due to the Tensor chip.

Google’s new flagships stumble when it comes to 5G though. By providing two 5G performance options depending on where you buy your Pixel 6, Google has made things very confusing. That’s bad enough, but the signal speeds are also extremely inconsistent, even from the likes of Verizon.

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Operating System

The Google Pixel 6 is the first smartphone to utilize the new Android 12 OS. The new interface comes with some excellent features. However, some feel a little gimmicky, such as Material You. This automatically matches the wallpaper and keyboard colors to the two-tone back panel of your handset. That said, the UI has also been comprehensively overhauled for a more seamless experience.

Despite the gimmicky features, others could quickly become indispensable. Google Assistant has been radically revamped with better voice recognition. Thanks to Recorder and Live Translate, it can now listen to other languages like Spanish or French and translate in real-time. This also works for text, pictures, and other media.

Google’s new Tensor chip takes the AI capabilities of the Pixel 6 to the next level. When dictating a text message, the software actually learns where to insert punctuation based on listening to your voice. Moreover, Google has simplified many of the verbal controls for the Assistant, which means that you don’t need to say “Hey Google” all the time.

Thanks to the union between Google’s Tensor and Titan M2 chip, security has been bolstered too. You now get a dedicated security hub for easy access to your protection and permission settings. Furthermore, Google has promised at least five years of security updates, helping to keep you safer for longer.

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Camera

This is where the Pixel 6 really sets itself apart from rival smartphones. Overall, the cameras on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are excellent, delivering fantastic photos with astonishing levels of detail.

The standard Pixel 6 has a dual-camera system, with a powerful 50-megapixel f/1.85 aperture wide-angle lens and a 12-megapixel ultrawide 114-degree FOV camera that has an f/2.2 aperture. The ultrawide lens holds the phone back a little bit, but the main camera more than makes up for it.

With the Tensor chipset working behind the scenes, the camera takes fast photos with incredibly realistic color temperatures and more detailed shadows. This puts the Pixel 6 on par with the far more expensive iPhone 13. Thanks to its powerful software, the Pixel 6 also saves your snaps in 12-megapixel quality.

Long-range shots on the standard Pixel 6 are still limited by the 7x digital zoom. But for the ultimate photography experience, the Pro adds a 48-megapixel telephoto lens with an f/3.5 aperture. This gives you 4x optical zoom and up to 20x digital zoom.

The Pixel 6 has an 8-megapixel front-facing camera with an f/2.0 aperture and 84-degree FOV. The Pro has an 11-megapixel unit with a 94-degree FOV and an f/2.2 aperture.

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Photo Modes

Thanks to the handset’s potent processing power and its Tensor chipset, Google has packed the Pixel 6 with some ridiculously impressive camera features and editing tools.

Night Sight has been upgraded, delivering brilliant low-light photos with much less noise than its rivals. Motion Mode comes with two specialized camera tools. Action Pan lets you add realistic motion blur when capturing moving objects – although this struggles with faster movements. There’s also a Long Exposure mode, but this can be a bit fiddly to use.

Google has added the Real Tone feature, which better captures the skin tones of people of color. This makes the Pixel 6 great for portrait or selfie photography, especially when combined with the quality of its front-facing lenses.

Ever take the perfect landscape shot, only to find that a jogger entered the shot right at the last minute? The new Magic Eraser feature allows you to remove them from the final photo. The phone’s AI will usually suggest people to remove automatically when editing, needing only a simple tap to remove them. You also have manual control – drawing around the intruding subject with your finger gets them out of the way.

Other clever features include the AI’s ability to automatically unblur any subject that moves suddenly while taking the photo.

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Video

While the Pixel 6 delivers vastly improved photography thanks to its bigger rear camera and fantastic AI improvements, the video shooting hasn’t improved nearly as much. That said, the Pixel 6 performs well enough for most uses.

The standard Pixel 6 and Pro model can both record 4K and 1080p footage using their rear cameras. You can get a frame rate of up to 60fps from both units. The front-facing camera on the regular Pixel 6 can also capture 1080p video, albeit at 30fps. On the Pro, the selfie lens is capable of shooting in 4K at 30fps and 1080p at 60fps.

The video quality is pretty similar to what you see from most high-end smartphones, lumping the Pixel 6 in with its competitors rather than setting it apart.

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Battery Life

Previous Google Pixel models have been hampered by undersized batteries and poor battery life. That’s something that Google has tried to remedy by giving the Pixel 6 lineup bigger power banks. The standard Pixel 6 model has a 4614 mAh battery, while the Pro packs a beefier 5003 mAh battery.

According to Google’s specs, the Pixel 6 can last approximately 24 hours without a charge, with 48 hours possible if you focus on saving battery life. However, real-world tests have disputed these figures. A comparison from Tom’s Guide shows that the Pixel 6 handsets had significantly less battery life than comparable rivals from Samsung and were soundly beaten by iPhone 13 models.

During the pre-release period, Google claimed that the Pixel 6 would be compatible with 30W fast charging. However, according to The Verge, some tests show that the Pixel 6 is only capable of 21W fast charging, which is disappointing. This puts the Pixel 6 on the back foot compared to its rivals.

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Pros

The Google Pixel 6 shows some real strengths compared to smartphones from Apple or Samsung. The pros of the Pixel 6 are:

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Cons

But despite some of the best photography and performance from a Pixel phone, the Pixel 6 range still has some issues. Here are the main problems:

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The Bottomline

The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are without a doubt the best Google smartphones to date. The camera has been drastically improved and furnished with some brilliant features. Thanks to Google’s first in-house Tensor chipset, the Pixel 6 has advanced AI learning capabilities.

However, unless you’re desperate for telephoto zoom for serious camera photography, there aren’t many reasons to pay an extra $300 for the Pro model. The Pixel 6 is on par with other top-of-the-range Android phones. However, it falls short of the iPhone 13 in crucial areas.

For a fantastic Android experience and excellent photos at an affordable cost, the Pixel 6 is one of the best Android handsets on the market.

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