The Google Pixel 6 is a pretty impressive device on paper. When we compare it to the Pixel 5, which is the same price, this is a huge upgrade. Last year when the Pixel 5 was released and we reviewed it, we thought it was an insanely good value. Even with a somewhat mid-range processor inside. But this year, the Pixel 6 has all of the high-end features, and it’s still $599 (or $699 if you get a mmWave model). So there’s gotta be some kind of catch right? Well let’s find out in our Pixel 6 review.
Let’s start with the 5G situation
Once again, the 5G situation is weird on the Pixel 6 series. Like last year, Google is selling the Sub-6 model for $100 less than the mmWave model. So what does this mean? Well, if you buy the Verizon model from Google, it’ll cost you $100 more, since it has mmWave. Even at $699, this is not a bad price for the Pixel 6. But $599 is definitely better.
As you can see above, the unlocked and Google Fi models are $599, while Verizon is charging $699. Sure you can get up to $700 off here, but that’s with the right trade-in and unlimited plan.
If you’re unaware of what mmWave and Sub-6 5G is, actually. Check out our explainer on what 5G is and the different flavors of 5G.
Flat displays are the way to go
When you put the Pixel 6 next to the Pixel 6 Pro, it looks like the bezels are enormous. They really aren’t. It’s just because the Pixel 6 is a flat display, while the Pro has a curved display, making the bezels look smaller. But to be honest, the bezels on the Pixel 6 are not that big. And I much prefer the feel of a flat display over a curved display. Of course, your opinion may differ (and that’s okay).
The display itself, is really good actually. It’s a 6.4-inch FHD+ 90Hz display, which is not the highest-end display out there. But it still looks great. FHD+ resolution is still plenty for phones at this size, as long as it is calibrated correctly. And this one is. The refresh rate is kind of slow compared to other flagships out there. However, 90Hz is still nice. And it’s tough to tell the difference between 90Hz and 120Hz, actually.
Brightness is not a problem here on the Pixel 6. It gets nice and bright when outdoors and in direct sunlight. But it can also get very dim for when you’re using it in bed.
Overall, it’s a slightly lower-end display from the Pro. But don’t let that deter you from buying the Pixel 6.
The design is more muted, compared to Pixel 6 Pro
When compared to the Pixel 6 Pro, the Pixel 6 design is a bit more muted. And I’m starting to like it actually. The biggest difference, besides the curved display not being here, is the painted frame. The Pixel 6 frame is painted black, instead of being silver like the Pixel 6 Pro. The frame around the camera bar is also black. Which makes it blend in a bit more.
At first, I did not like that look, but over the week that I’ve spent with both phones, I feel like this is the better look. Especially if you went with the Stormy Black color, over the Sorta Seafoam (which is what I have here).
Otherwise the design is mostly the same here. With the Pixel 6 having that same camera bar, but it does not seem to stick out as much as on the Pro. That could be due to the fact that it does not have that telephoto sensor on the back. Instead, it has just the main and and the ultra-wide sensors there.
The Sorta Seafoam color that I have here is actually really nice in person. It looks much better than it does in renders that we’ve seen on the internet. If you ordered this Sorta Seafoam color, you’ll be happy with it, once you unbox it in a few days.
Just like with the Pixel 6 Pro, the only real complaint I have on the Pixel 6 design is the glass. It will attract fingerprints pretty easily. Which is why I requested lighter colors like the Sorta Seafoam and the Cloudy White colors from Google for our review units. Though, most of you will put a case on your Pixel 6, so that’s not an issue for most people.
But, how’s the performance with Tensor?
The big question about the Pixel 6 series is, Tensor. That’s Google’s new chipset that it developed specifically for Pixel. And it’s Google’s first smartphone chip, which could possibly cause some issues. But it doesn’t appear too. In our time with both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, we noticed zero issues with the chipset. It performed really well, and the phone never got hot, except when playing games.
For games, it is also really good. That’s partly because of the 20 GPU cores that are included in Tensor. Of course, a lot of that is meant for AI and machine learning, which Google relies on a lot with its software.
In our Pixel 6 Pro review, we did do some benchmarks, to compare it to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, and they were pretty similar. In fact, very similar. So don’t expect the Tensor chip to slow you down. Since it was able to stand toe-to-toe with the Snapdragon 888 and latest Exynos chipsets.
Battery life is actually impressive
The battery on the Pixel 6 is about 13% larger than on the Pixel 5. But the display is also almost an inch larger, with a more powerful processor. So to see the battery life be better than it was on the Pixel 5, is actually a bit surprising. But in a good way. We were able to hit close to 9 hours of screen time, within a 24 hour period without charging. Which is a good 2-3 hours more than we hit with the Pixel 5 last year.
That is also the best battery life we have seen on a flagship smartphone in 2021. Beating out the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which we got to around seven hours of screen on time.
Of course, the battery life screen in Android 12 is just terrible. It’s a rolling 24-hour period, and does not reset when you charge to 100%. But we did our best to get screenshots that only show a full battery cycle. So you can see how good (or bad) battery life is.
Now, let’s talk about charging. Google finally updated the Pixel 6 to support faster charging. Now it’s still not quite as fast as some competitors. We’re looking at 30W on wired and 23W on wireless. However, there’s no charger in the box. That’s not a surprise. Really no flagships have launched with a charger in the box. The good thing though, you can get any USB-C PD charger that supports PPS and have it work with the Pixel 6, offering up to 30W speeds with ease.
But, the new Pixel Stand has been delayed, which sucks, since it’s the only one that can charge the Pixel 6 at 23W.
Android 12 is Google’s best release yet
Android 12 isn’t really new to us here at AndroidHeadlines, as we have been covering it since the first developer preview launched back in February. But it is nice to be able to use it on a device that was designed for Android 12. And being able to use it with many more apps supporting Material You.
The Material You design changes are pretty impressive in Android 12. I tweeted earlier this week that I’ve never changed my wallpaper as much as I have on the Pixel 6. And that’s because of Material You. Seeing the different color palettes that Google brings out from each wallpaper, is pretty interesting.
I do hope that more apps will update their icons to be Material You. For now, it’s really just Google apps. And I’d be surprised if apps like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter add Material You support.
Google has also added a few Pixel exclusives (for now) with Android 12. Mostly having to do with Google Assistant. Which can now wait on hold for you, or direct your call through those automated systems. Google also added Assistant Voice Typing, and you can do this by saying “Hey Google, type” and it’ll start typing for you. Which is a neat addition as well.
Android 12 is one of the bigger Android upgrades in quite some time. But that’s to be expected with a mature operating system like Android. On the Pixel 6, it runs very well, even with 8GB of RAM.
These are the camera sensors you’re looking for
Pixel fans have been asking Google to upgrade its camera sensors for quite some time now. As they have stuck with the same 12-megapixel sensor since the Pixel 2. Which is kind of insane. This year, we got that. A new 50-megapixel main sensor, and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide on the Pixel 6. The Pixel 6 Pro added a 48-megapixel telephoto too.
On the surface, I didn’t think it was a big upgrade. But when you zoom into photos or crop them, you can really tell the difference compared to the Pixel 5. Part of this is due to the fact that the Pixel 6 is actually using pixel binning on that 50-megapixel camera. So it is basically taking four 12.5-megapixel pixels from that 50-megapixel sensor. And overlaying them. Which keeps the file size small, but it also gives you a lot more detail in that image. So you’re getting much sharper images on the Pixel 6, which is why when you crop those images, they don’t fall apart.
Google did add a few pretty nice features to the Pixel 6 this year. But there’s really only a couple that are going to be useful. There’s actually a couple that I see more as a gimmick. First there is magic eraser. This will allow you to take things out of your photo after you’ve taken it. This works pretty well, but not perfectly. And that seems to depend on how much light is in the photo, and how far away the subject you are removing, is from the sensor. Most of the time, it was pretty impressive, but there were a couple of images where it didn’t come out as great.
Face Unblur was also added. This is going to allow you to adjust the blur and the depth of the image, after you’ve taken it. We’ve all been there, taking a group shot and because someone is further away from the sensor, their face is blurred. But luckily, with the Pixel 6, that can be fixed very easily.
Now let’s talk about this gimmicks. That would be Action Pan and Long Exposure. Now don’t get me wrong, both of these are cool effects, but I am fairly certain I’ll never use them again after I finish this review. Action Pan will focus on a moving subject and add a creative blur to the background. While Long Exposure does the opposite. It creates a blur effect on a moving object behind you. This is done in just a second or two, instead of having to hold your phone still for nearly a minute to take the photo. Like you would need to do with a DSLR for Long Exposure.
Video got some upgrades, but not many. 4K60 is here, but not on the front camera. It is on the front camera on the Pixel 6 Pro though, so if you do need selfie video at 4K60, then you may want to spend the extra money for the Pro. And still no 8K video, which to be honest, that’s fine. 8K video sucks on smartphones right now, and probably will continue to be terrible for a while still.
Here are some other pictures that we took with the Pixel 6.
Should I buy the Pixel 6?
If you are in need of a new phone, and don’t need or want a curved display, then the Pixel 6 is the better deal for you. It’s $300 less, and still has all of the same features as the Pixel 6 Pro. There are a few small differences between the two, but we feel that the Pixel 6 is the better deal for most people.