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Google is officially back. The Google Pixel 6 Pro is leagues ahead of its predecessors in hardware, software, and design with a brand-new set of camera sensors, a new and unique design, and plenty of new software features that leverage Google’s custom-made Tensor chip. All packaged in stylish new hardware, the Pixel 6 Pro is what Google believes is the “best expression of Android”.
The Pixel 6 Pro has been totally redesigned and features dual-tone glass finishes, along with a camera array that sits in a bar all the way across the rear of the phone. There’s now an in-display scanner (as is the trend across Android flagships), and the 120Hz LTPO AMOLED is the largest (and smoothest) of any Pixel smartphone.
Google believed that conventional chipsets weren’t enough for what it wanted to be possible on a smartphone, and the Google Pixel 6 Pro is a culmination of years of research and development that led to Google’s first customized Tensor chipset (produced by Samsung), along with the integration of that chipset with advanced software features and improving camera performance all around. The new chipset enables quicker and more efficient on-device language processing, and it allows for Google’s computational photography to work faster than before.
The Google Pixel 6 Pro has new camera sensors all around, all of which are larger than previous Pixel phones. The main camera is a 50MP Samsung ISOCELL GN1 that Google says can capture 2.5X more light than the Pixel 5’s 12.2MP main sensor. There’s a 48MP periscope telephoto camera capable of 4X optical zoom, and an updated ultrawide camera with a new 12MP sensor. The front camera is now 11.MP and capable of recording 4K video. Google also improved the camera’s facial recognition and introduced Real Tone: a series of tweaks and improvements to the camera to accurately capture people of all skin tones.
Google Pixel 6 Pro specs at a glance:
- Body: 163.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm, 210g; Glass front (Gorilla Glass Victus), glass back (Gorilla Glass Victus), stainless steel frame; IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins).
- Display: 6.71″ LTPO AMOLED, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1440×3120 px resolution, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 512ppi;
- Chipset: Google Tensor (5 nm): Octa-core (2×2.80 GHz Cortex-X1 & 2×2.25 GHz Cortex-A76 & 4×1.80 GHz Cortex-A55); Mali G78 MP20 GPU.
- Memory: 12GB of RAM and 128GB/256GB/512GB of UFS 3.1 storage (non-expandable).
- OS/Software: Android 12 with 3 years of OS updates and 5 years of security updates.
- Rear camera: Wide (main): 50 MP, f/1.9, 25mm, 1.2µm, dual pixel PDAF, laser AF, OIS; telephoto: 48 MP, f/3.5, 106mm, 1/2″, 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS, 4x optical zoom; Ultrawide: 12 MP, f/2.2, 114˚, 1.25µm
- Front camera: Wide (main):11.1 MP, f/2.2, 20mm, 1.22µm
- Video capture: Rear camera: 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/120/240fps, HDR, Dolby Vision HDR (up to 60fps), stereo sound rec; Front camera: 4K@24/25/30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/120/240fps, EIS.
- Battery: 5003mAh; Fast charging 30W, 50% in 30 min (advertised), USB Power Delivery 3.0, fast wireless charging up to 23W, reverse wireless charging
- Misc: Titan M2 security coprocessor, In-display fingerprint scanner, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer; NFC; Google Pay; Google Assistant
You can expect 80% faster CPU performance and 370% faster GPU performance compared to the Snapdragon 765G that ran in the Pixel 5. Tensor will enable new language processing features that Google touted during its presentation. It also integrated the ISP and Context Core within Tensor to make image processing and background tasks more power-efficient.
We’re excited to dive into the Google Pixel 6 Pro and check out the improvements in photography and videography, as well as expected improvements to battery life given the huge 5,003 mAh power cell. There are also some huge changes in Android 12, which coincide nicely with Google‘s new design identity. Let’s start with the phone’s packaging, which comes in a slimmer box.
The Pixel 6 Pro comes in a more compact box, now that a charger is no longer included. Underneath the handset in the box, you’ll find a USB-C to USB-C charging cable, SIM-eject tool, documentation, and a ‘Quick Transfer Adapter’. This lets you connect a USB-A cable into the Pixel to transfer data from another Android or iOS device.
The Pixel 6 Pro competes directly with higher-end smartphones but slightly undercuts them in price with its $899 starting price. The Pixel 6 Pro is only available in select markets, including the US, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, UK, and Ireland.
The Pixel 6 (non-Pro) is naturally the first alternative that comes to mind. Though we haven’t reviewed it yet, this Pixel comes at a significantly cheaper price point than the Pro for $599. The Pixel 6 Pro brings a smaller 6.4-inch flat display with a 90Hz refresh rate, there are 8GB of RAM (versus 12GB on the Pro), and there’s no periscope telephoto camera here. Although it has a smaller battery (4614 mAh), we’d have to run tests to tell you which one gets better battery life.
The Google Pixel 5 and 5a come to mind as the only (older) alternatives from Google. The Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 5a are both very well-rounded smartphones with excellent battery life and great all-around Pixel cameras that still hold up today in their price range.
The iPhone 13 and 13 Pro are the closest to the Pixel 6 Pro in price, though the Pixel 6 Pro’s display more closely matches Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro Max. Google‘s Pixel is often considered “The iPhone of Android” due to the first-party support and software updates that come directly from Google. Google’s 5 years of Android updates also now more closely matches Apple’s five to six years. Cameras are both impressive, but the iPhone wins in consistency and battery life on the 13 Pro Max.
The Pixel 6 Pro‘s price point sits right between the Galaxy S21+ and the S21 Ultra, but these days – even as we approach the holiday season, it may be possible to snag an Ultra at a decent discount. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is regarded as one of the best smartphones of 2021 with its fully equipped cameras, bright and beautiful AMOLED screen and multi-day battery life. Though the Galaxy is a little behind on software updates, Samsung’s One UI is packed with many features and even brings versatile support for Samsung’s S Pen Pro.
The Oppo Find X3 Pro comes to mind with its large AMOLED screen and excellent cameras. As one of the earliest smartphones running the Snapdragon 888 chipset, its battery endurance is slightly behind the Pixel 6 Pro, albeit with a 4,500 mAh battery versus the Pixel 6 Pro’s larger 5,000 mAh one. The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra has a 50MP main camera and dual 48MP telephoto and ultrawide cameras, and a large display with a high refresh rate. The Xiaomi phone, however, does support 67W fast charging out of the box.
When Google launched the Pixel 5 last year, many (including we) were met with confusion when Google announced that the flagship Pixel phone for 2020 was reverting to a mid-range device with the same camera hardware. In our review of the Pixel 5, we were disappointed that Google would not release a true flagship, but now we realize that it could have been due to supply chain issues that dated back to early 2020.
Google has been overdue for a changeup with the Pixel line, and it has been satisfied with the Pixel 6 Pro. The phone looks beautiful, the cameras have finally been updated, and Android is as good as ever with Android 12. In addition, Google has promised up to 5 years of software support including three years of OS updates and 5 years of security patches.
The cameras are extremely capable with deep colors and well-defined details, even so, we still think it could use a couple of tweaks. HDR+ seems more aggressive than it needs to be, thus making images look slightly overprocessed and sharper than true life. There’s also some inconsistency in color between the main and ultrawide cameras. The resulting images, regardless, are indeed pleasing to look at. Video sees much improvement as well, with excellent dynamic range and great stabilization. We just wish there was a way to use the 4X zoom camera in lower resolution modes, but we think this may be a bug.
So the question that bears asking here: Is the Google Pixel 6 Pro worth it? It depends on where you are located and whether you are willing to wait a bit longer for a new phone. As of the first of November, the Pixel 6 family in the US is backordered through the end of December, and even going into January for some models. In addition, the Pixel 6 duo is only available in a handful of markets across North America, Europe, and Asia.
Although it doesn’t score high marks in battery life, the Pixel 6 Pro truly is a wonderful take on Android that many have been waiting for, and we’d recommend it to anyone who has been holding onto an older-generation Pixel smartphone in hopes that Google would eventually pull through. If you’ve a more recent Pixel smartphone like the Pixel 5 or 5a, we’d recommend waiting until another Pixel comes around with the second-generation Tensor chip – one that is better able to manage battery life and one that’s perhaps less prone to throttling.
If you manage to find availability for the Pixel 6 Pro, this is the best Google Pixel that money can buy today. Google has continued to innovate in software features and has even gone out of its way to customize the chipset to leverage more software features that are exclusive to the newest Pixels while pushing its limits with computational photography.
- Gorgeous hardware design with IP68 and durable Gorilla Glass Victus all over
- Excellent display with 120Hz and great sunlight legibility
- Beautiful UI with fun and colorful elements; extended firmware update support (3 years OS, 5 years security); newly enabled Voice Typing and on-device voice to text processing are excellent
- Google Tensor chip offers great all-around performance and excellent graphics performance
- Pixel camera sees much needed improvements in still images and video; excellent shots from 4X periscope camera
- Battery life misses expectations
- No charger included in the box
- 30W charging is not the quickest
- HDR+ is too aggressive in still images and could use some tweaks
- Color tuning inconsistent between main and ultrawide cameras
- Google Tensor chip throttles under sustained peak performance
- Limited availability