For the past three years Google has attempted to repackage its flagships phones into A Series phones that capture the Pixel essence at a far more attractive price point. The Google Pixel 6a even got the same custom Tensor chipset as the more expensive Pixels, further sweetening the deal.
The Pixel 6a is notably compact with its 6.1-inch OLED screen and far lighter at 178g (vs 207g for the Pixel 6). It perfectly captures the design, look, and feel of the more expensive Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro while strategically shaving costs down in places that doesn’t have a big impact on usability.
Google Pixel 6a specs at a glance:
- Body: 152.2 x 71.8 x 8.9 mm, 178g; Glass front (Gorilla Glass 3), plastic dual-tone back with horizontal camera bar, aluminum frame; IP67 water and dust resistant.
- Display: 6.1″ OLED, 60Hz, HDR, 1080x2400px resolution, 20:9 aspect ratio, 429 ppi.
- 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.
- Memory: 128GB 6GB RAM; UFS 3.1.
- OS/Software: Android 12.
- Rear camera: Wide (main): 12.2 MP, f/1.7, 27mm, (wide), 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS; Ultra wide angle: 12 MP, f/2.2, 17mm, 114˚ (ultrawide), 1.25µm .
- Front camera: 8 MP, f/2.0, 24mm (wide), 1.12µm.
- Video capture: Rear camera: 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/120/240fps; gyro-EIS, OIS; Front camera: 1080p@30fps.
- Battery: 4410mAh; Fast charging 18W, 24 hour battery life (advertised), USB Power Delivery 3.0.
- Misc: Fingerprint reader (under display, optical); NFC; stereo speakers; nanoSIM + eSIM;
The Pixel 6a‘s camera is the tried-and-true Sony IMX 363 sensor, the same one that’s been used since the Google Pixel 2. Google only stopped using it on its premium Pixels this year, so we probably shouldn’t be surprised that the 6a didn’t get a different sensor. And we might still see the aging sensor up its performance when paired with the Google Tensor.
Pixel A Series have had excellent battery endurance historically. This time Google slightly reduced the battery size, but with a smaller screen and the Tensor chip we might be in for another solid run. We are also hoping that the 6a has addressed thermal performance weakness we saw with the 6 and 6 Pro. But let’s start with the unboxing.
Unboxing the Google Pixel 6a
The Google Pixel 6a comes in a slim package that we can’t really say covers even the essentials. You’ll no longer find a power adapter in the package, so the Pixel 6a comes with a SIM eject tool and 1-meter USB-C to C cable. We’re glad to also see the USB-C (male) to USB-C (female) “Quick Switch Adapter” for bringing data from another Android device or iPhone over a cable.
Now let’s dive into the testing, starting with the phone’s design, looks, and build. We’re excited for this one, so grab an icy beverage and enjoy the ride.
The Google Pixel 6a costs $449 in the US, £399 in the UK, and €459 across major EU markets. It is also available in India for Rs 43,999, where the markup caused by import costs is by far the highest.
There is plenty to choose from in this price range. One competitor selling for less is the Nothing phone (1), which is cheaper than the Pixel 6a. It has a higher refresh rate screen, respectable camera performance, and the unique Glyph design that is sure to stand out even amongst flagships.
If you’re after a small flagship device, the iPhone 12 mini is still available from Apple, though it is pricier than the 6a at $599. There’s also this year’s iPhone SE, which we’d avoid unless you really insist on getting an iPhone and it’s the only one you can afford (but then you probably wouldn’t be reading this).
Nothing Phone (1) • Apple iPhone 12 mini • Apple iPhone SE (2022)
The Samsung Galaxy A53 is a popular smartphone in the US for its lower price point. You get more features and a more impressive hardware sheet. There a high refresh rate display, large battery, IP67 rating, though the camera is not too stellar and the Exynos 1280 is not a great performer.
If you’re after a small Android flagship, the Zenfone 9 is at least worth mentioning. It’s priced out of competing with the Pixel 6a, but it’s a compact handset with a 5.9-inch AMOLED screen with 120Hz refresh rate and the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1.
The Realme GT Neo 3T is in the same price bracket as the Pixel 6a and it has great battery life, a bright AMOLED screen with 120Hz, and excellent charging speeds. Its main camera is solid and can stand up to the Pixel 6a, but its ultrawide shooter is inferior.
The Nord 2T has a reliable camera and great performance with the Dimensity 1300 5G chip. There’s also 80W fast charging, but there’s no ingress protection.
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G • Asus Zenfone 9 • Realme GT Neo 3T • OnePlus Nord 2T
Before continuing with the verdict, we need to address an issue revealed by early testers of the Pixel 6a. It was confirmed that some devices were able to authenticate the device’s biometrics by using a finger that was not even registered to the device. The instances seem isolated, but they pose a serious security flaw with the device. Google is yet to addressed the issue, so it’s worth keeping an eye on and withhold purchase until it’s cleared if you often find yourself in environements where sensitive info might be exposed.
That aside Google may have finally mastered the A Series formula with the Pixel 6a. It managed yet again to capture the essence of the Pixel flagships into a more affordable phone that does not water down the overall experience too much. The 60Hz display and leisurly charging speeds count against it, but the overall execution of the 6a is great for its price. The
Shipping the 6a with a Google Tensor versus last year’s Snapdragon 765G and keeping the same $449 price point makes it a great offer. Camera performance remains solid, software and performance are polished and battery life is respectable. Plus, Google addressed performance throttling issues with Google Tensor on the Pixel 6a.
It’s arguably Google‘s most competitively positioned smartphone in a good while and one we can wholeheartedly recommend. The obvious asterisk here is that things stand differently in India where consumers have a huge choice in this price segment and the Pixel 6a‘s higher price makes it far less tempting.
- Attractive, compact design that looks more expensive than it is.
- Bright and accurate AMOLED display.
- Good sustained performance from the Google Tensor this time.
- Extended firmware update support; Voice Typing and on-device language processing is excellent.
- Great all-around camera.
- Isolated instances of a fingerprint security flaw are not acceptable.
- 60Hz refresh rate is not competitive for this price range.
- Headphone jack is gone.
- No charger included in the box.