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The Google Pixel 7 Pro shows how good Android software can be, and does so at a lower price than its competitors.
Standing out amongst today’s army of Android smartphones is hard. But in a world of high-powered devices focusing on long lists of impressive hardware stats and figures, Google is going a slightly different direction.
More like the mammoth Apple, Google’s new Pixel 7 Pro leans into the world of software, implementing clever new tricks to improve your photos, call experiences, battery life and a number of other phone-related tasks you didn’t know could be better.
But does this bet pay off? We spent a week with the new Google Pixel 7 Pro to find out.Stylish design at a surprising price
Costing £849, the Google Pixel 7 Pro is more affordable than its flagship competitors like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and iPhone 14 Pro Max. However, it is also a big jump up in cost compared to the cheaper £599 Google Pixel 7.
The phone is made using 100 per cent recycled aluminium, so it feels great in your hand, but does have some serious weight to it. Not only that, but the camera bump pulls the weight abnormally to the top of the device.
But while the design is a minimalist aesthetic that we can get onboard with, a case is a good idea; luckily Google includes one in the box. The same can be said for most modern smartphones, but that massive camera bump makes the phone feel precarious and exposed when placed on a surface.
This combined with the fact that the smartphone is wider than your average device and the Google Pixel 7 Pro does feel somewhat unwieldy in your hand. In other words, this is not going to be a device for those with small hands, with the smaller Google Pixel 7 being a better fit.
This is very much design over usability. Yes, it looks and feels great, but I was living in constant fear of dropping the phone, smashing that beautiful design.Camera excellence
Google is known for its camera abilities, in fact, it has been the company’s big selling point since the very first Pixel smartphone. Luckily, the camera is once again the device’s leading feature.
This is another area where Google’s focus on software over hardware pays off. The phone features a 50MP main camera, 48MP 5x zoom and a 12MP ultra-wide lens. These are similar features to most flagship smartphones.
The best compliment I can give the Google camera is that it is a Jack of all trades. Samsung can zoom for miles, Apple can take stunning up close photos and draw in colour accuracy, Google can do it all, offering a camera for all situations.
Where Google really thrives is with its added features. The brand has made a big deal of its ‘real tone’ feature where the device can analyse skin tones to achieve more accuracy. There is even a feature that will keep track of faces that appear a lot in your photos, making sure those people are more in focus in groups.
The Pixel’s photo-editing software is also interesting. There is an ability to remove blur from photos, whether it’s a new photo or one you took years ago on another device that was never worth using.
However, the feature I got the most use out of is the magic eraser. This allows you to cut things out of an image. You can completely cut out your friend trying to photobomb you, strangers ruining your perfect shot or a random item that doesn’t fit the photo. In most cases this works great, with the occasional moment of making a complete mess.The spec sheet
For the Google Pixel 7 Pro, Google implanted a new chipset, the Tensor G2. While this means a more powerful smartphone, capable of dealing with more intensive tasks, it also means better machine learning capabilities.
It improves the phone’s ability to take photos, how it can handle speech recognition, its understanding of you as a user and generally makes the phone more capable of doing what the Google Pixel does best – impressive software.
The other factor the new chip informs is battery life. Google has struggled with battery life in the past, but with the 5000mAh battery, it is rivalling Apple and Samsung’s largest devices. I frequently got through a full day of medium to heavy usage with some charge left.
The display is also a nice experience on this device. It features a 6.7-inch OLED display which is consistently bright and colourful. The screen can refresh at up to 120Hz which simply means your scrolls, jumps and swipes around the phone will stay looking smooth without any jittery lag.Verdict
Google has been struggling to find its feet with smartphones for a while, never quite managing to get it all right. The Google Pixel 7 Pro feels like the first time the brand has nailed the whole package, producing a well-rounded flagship phone.
Of course, it is not perfect. The charging is slow, and it lacks some of the high-end specs Samsung, Apple and OnePlus have achieved, but these factors really don’t matter.
The Google Pixel 7 Pro is snappy and responsive, has a capable battery, the camera is one of the best you’ll get in a smartphone, and it is full to the brim with clever software. It feels like the best of both Apple and Samsung… albeit, with a few small sacrifices.Alternatives iPhone 14 Pro
The iPhone 14 Pro is going to be the closest competitor Apple has to Google’s Pixel 7 Pro. It is immensely powerful, has a great battery life and display and most importantly, is the perfect rival for the Google Pixel 7 Pro in terms of camera ability.
The noticeable downside is the higher price, taking you over the £1,000 mark.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is the definition of over-powered. Samsung has crammed everything into this design, including a stylus pen fitted inside the phone, a 100x zoom camera and a burly battery and processor to power it through the day.
All of this does come at a cost similar to that of the iPhone above, but you won’t get much more power in a phone than this.
Google Pixel 7
Like everything about the Google Pixel 7 Pro, except for the price? The smaller Pixel 7 will be the obvious choice. It brings the price shooting down to just £599 but keeps all of the most important specs.
The phone does get smaller, as does the battery. Plus, you do lose out on a camera lens and a few key functions, but for the huge drop in price that is a worthy sacrifice.
You're reading Google Pixel 7 Pro Review: It’s All About The Software
Let’s jump right into some key differences. Throughout our shootout, you’ll notice a much cooler white balance from the iPhone. While this sometimes looks more realistic, particularly in overcast conditions, it’s also often too extreme and ends up reducing the phone’s otherwise excellent color realism.
The iPhone also offers more extreme exposure, risking highlight clipping to make the subject stand out. While this is a fair trade-off for portraits and macro with a clear subject, it’s far less ideal for landscape shots. In addition, this produces a higher contrast look to Apple’s pictures that adds pop at the expense of crushed blacks and clipped highlights.
The Pixel 7 Pro is a little more muted but more realistic, by comparison, but it tends to push its white balance too warm. Slightly purple tints to the sky are all too common, unfortunately. Ultimately, it comes down to whether you like a bit more pop to your images. That said, the phones aren’t always miles apart in their presentation, with both offering similar exposure and color science in a number of our shots too.
Cropping in on detail from the main camera, we can spot a few more key differences.
While there’s a similar level of detail on offer, the two phones process it very differently. Apple takes a more natural, softer approach that aims for realism over making details pop, though we can still see telltale signs of a sharpening pass on straight lines in the snaps below. Even so, the toned-down processing leaves far less color and shadow detail on the table. Google’s algorithm is heavier on the sharpening pass, giving the appearance of more color detail and contrast at the expense of some more noticeable sharpening artifacts.
The bigger drawback of the Pixel approach is the occasional mushy texture artifact. We can see this more clearly in scenes with varied textures, like foliage in the shot above. Apple’s shot is again very soft by comparison but more realistic, even if it loses some of the finer details in the process. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of either approach; something in between would be ideal.
Apple prefers color pop, while Google makes its details pop.
The two brands clearly have very different takes on default image processing. Overall, I’ve found the Pixel 7 Pro to be more consistent in its delivery, but, when it gets it right, the iPhone 14 Pro Max can hand in more artistically pleasing results.
Camera shootout: Google Pixel 7 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S22 UltraPixel 7 Pro vs iPhone 14 Pro Max camera: HDR and low light
Let’s try our hand at some tougher lighting conditions. Historically, Google has excelled at HDR processing while Apple’s handsets have struggled. Let’s see if things have changed this generation.
Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro Max does a decent but certainly not perfect job with difficult HDR scenarios. The handset balances highlight exposure well but struggles with shadow detail and color extraction. The first shot is pretty close, but the second example really showcases the strengths of Google’s multi-frame algorithm when it comes to shadow and color capture in downright tricky HDR situations. That said, some may find Google’s approach too strong, verging on a little unrealistic.
Apple has closed the gap in low light, but still struggles with extreme HDR.
In low light using night mode, things are a little different. The iPhone generally does a better job at brightly exposing its subject, although there’s an element of vignetting in the second image. I’d give the nudge to the Pixel 7 Pro here for white balance, but its colors are a tad more washed out.
The second image is a bit of an oddity for the Pixel. Its denoise algorithm completely smudges and removes all the detail from the snap. This happened on multiple takes. The iPhone 14 Pro Max captures far more detail, albeit with a heavy dose of sharpening and noise that’s not exactly pretty. Overall, both phones have you very well covered for low-light photography, but tricky lighting can throw up some issues, and the results definitely don’t look as polished as daylight snaps.
Google’s Pixel 7 Pro is more flexible in the dark, though, offering long exposure and astrophotography modes that let you snap images the iPhone simply can’t capture with anywhere near the same fidelity. See the level of detail in the astrophotography shot above. It’s a shame the Pixel’s color balance is often thrown off in these scenarios.
Going back to ultrawide versions of our initial snaps, we see the same general trends in image quality. The iPhone’s ultrawide lens offers a brighter exposure but darker shadows, a cooler white balance, and an additional color pump. The Pixel is flatter but ensures more balance to its dynamic range. Both results are pretty good and offer very similar levels of detail, any preferences will once again boil down to your love or hate of saturation.
In terms of field of view, there’s not a huge amount in it, just a few degrees. Both fit plenty into the frame. Let’s take a look at the frame edges to see which offers superior distortion characteristics.
You’ll often spot purple halos and smudged details at the edge of ultrawide lenses, but there are minimal signs here. While frame edges aren’t as detailed as the center, there’s minimal chromatic aberration and no glaring drop-off in quality. I’d give the nudge to the Pixel, very marginally, for lens correction and focus clarity, as there’s slightly less blurring at the very edges. With macro capabilities in tow, too, there’s very little to pick between these ultrawide cameras — aside from your preference for color processing.
With different optical zoom lenses onboard, we expect even bigger differences in zoom capabilities. Let’s dive right in, starting with the Pixel 7 Pro.
The iPhone is surprisingly competitive out to 5x, which is a testament to Apple’s own computational photography capabilities. Again, Apple opts for a much brighter exposure than Google. The handset also does a better job at ensuring consistent color and exposure as you move between the zoom levels, at least in this scenario. However, fine details succumb to the small sensor’s higher noise levels, so don’t plan on blowing these up for a large print.
Turning back to the intriguing nature of Google’s image fusion technology, which blends detail from the 1x and 5x sensors at intermittent zoom levels. The trade-off is that central subjects look brilliant, but details at the edges of the snap much less so, as these are upscaled from the primary sensor. Looking at the frame edges in the 3x cropped shot below, you’ll spot a noticeable drop-off in image quality.
The left side of the Pixel snap is clearly inferior to the detail level of the iPhone. However, the right side, which comprises data from the 5x zoom lens, is actually superior to the iPhone’s native 3x zoom, providing sharper details free from signs of denoise and sharpening. Pixel 7 Pro sub-5x zoom snaps are a mixed bag then, handing in solid details for the center subject but clearly inferior image quality at the edges of the pictures. You probably wouldn’t notice without really looking, but it’s worth highlighting the trade-offs with Google’s technology.Selfies and portraits
Both phones take decent but not brilliant portraits and selfies. The two offer solid bokeh blur. I prefer the iPhone’s application of light circles, but the Pixel does marginally better at fine hair detection.
Indoors, both phones struggle to pick the perfect skin tone due to the lack of natural light. The Pixel 7 Pro is slightly worse here, with a warm skin tone but a cool overall white balance. Both phones are also overly sharp with their skin textures, but the iPhone is noisier in this environment.
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Internally, the four-generation-old chipset and the now puny amount of RAM don’t hold up in benchmarks, which is to be expected. However, in general web-browsing, social media scrolling, and even light gaming, the phone performs way better than anticipated. I was assuming there would be hiccup after hiccup, but I was pleasantly surprised. I was especially impressed in gaming — even high-end 3D racing titles stayed above 60fps in my testing.
It’s no surprise that the software is to thank for this still-great user experience. It’s currently running Android 10, which it received on October 3rd, 2023 along with all other Pixel phones. That puts it ahead of a bunch of current devices from other brands.
This 2023 phone is running Android 10 before many phones released in the past 12 months.What about the camera?
The Pixel’s camera system has been updated over the years in an attempt to keep up with the latest and greatest. Whilst it isn’t too close to the best cameras that 2023 can offer, it’s not half bad for a phone that’s over three years old. Granted, there’s only one camera on each face of the Pixel, but the quality is still impressive from both shooters. In fact, the original Pixel fared remarkably well in our shootout between all four generations of flagship Pixel phones.
The above test images were shot on an overcast afternoon in slightly low light. This is where you’d expect the Pixel’s small sensor, closed-down aperture, and lack of optical stabilization to hinder performance. There’s a significant but not overbearing level of contrast which is evident in the cars in the left image and the bushes in the right image. However, a good level of dynamic range and detail is also present in both images. The mood of the afternoon is definitely reflected in the images, which is to say stormy and gloomy. It’s definitely not 2023 flagship-class quality, but it’s surprisingly good given the age of the device. This surprising usability is a testament to Google’s updates to the device’s image processing.
Next up, I wanted to test some different strengths of the Pixel’s camera. The dynamic range test image of the supermarket car park is superb, capturing a lot of highlights in the sunny sky and shadows from the trolley-port. All while still managing to recreate accurate and true-to-life colors. I was fully expecting the trolley-port to be a crushed, shadowy mess, but there is still a lot of visible detail in that area. I then took a selfie in front of a bright softbox light to help evaluate the skin-tones and highlight roll-off where the shadows start to creep in on the right of the image. The Pixel really surprised me here. The soft roll-off is clean without any harsh contrast, and the representation of my complexion is pretty much spot on, too.
In the final tests, I looked at color-accuracy and natural bokeh. To get a shallow depth-of-field, and therefore a blurry background, a large image sensor is going to achieve batter results. This is why the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s bokeh is so satisfying without the need for portrait mode. The Pixel’s image sensor is 1/2.3-inches vs the S20 Ultra‘s 1/1.33-inches, making the Pixel’s heaps smaller and much harder to be able to capture that silky-smooth natural bokeh and achieve subject-separation.
The Pixel proves how long a phone can last with the proper support.
This software-focus is something that we should expect Google to lean into more heavily going forward. Based on the success that the Pixel 3a saw, all eyes are on Google to make the Pixel 4a a true successor in every right. And if the Pixel 5 is really going to be a flagship phone with a mid-range SoC, as has been rumored, we should remember that even a phone with 2023 hardware can impress when the software is this good.
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
Google and Sony take dramatically different approaches to their smartphone cameras, and nothing showcases that more distinctly than pitting the Google Pixel 6 Pro vs Sony Xperia Pro-I. Where Google relies on artificial intelligence to produce the best possible images with a simple press of the button, Sony is more interested in delivering accurate results that leave room for subtle enhancements in post-production. Neither approach is necessarily better than the other; they’re simply different.
Even though they share “pro” monikers, Google and Sony are pitching the Pixel 6 Pro and Xperia Pro-I to entirely divergent segments of potential users. The Pixel 6 Pro is an affordable flagship meant to appeal to the masses. At the same time, the Xperia Pro-I is a pricey professional-grade smartphone/camera-replacement combo intended for serious creators.
Despite the unique paths set by these phones, they both still want to sell you on the idea of having a powerful photography partner in your pocket. Naturally, we saw fit to compare the end results.
Google Pixel 6 Pro vs Sony Xperia Pro-I: Camera specs
Related: Google Tensor vs Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Given the vast disparity between these approaches, is there any chance the photos will look similar at all?The samples
A lot is going on in this image. The surrounding buildings shaded everything you see, but there’s still plenty of light to pull details from the shadows. The exposures are evenly matched, and clarity is about the same. Noise is nearly nonexistent. Google’s picture has a slightly bluer tint, while the Sony leans more toward yellow. The result is a more pleasing sky in the background of the image taken by the Pixel 6 Pro, but that could boil down to personal preference.
This comparison sees nearly the same results as the preceding photo. Yet, some interesting things are going on with exposure here. The Xperia Pro-I generated a cleaner look of the Oculus (the white building in the foreground), but it managed to overexpose and underexpose some background elements at the same time. Look at the painted murals and the yellowish building above them. The murals are a bit too dark, while the building is a bit too bright. The Pixel 6 Pro balanced the exposure out better and delivered more detail.
See also: How to use manual mode on your smartphone camera
There’s no real debate about which of these samples is superior looking. The Pixel 6 Pro produced a far livelier image with richer, brighter colors. By way of comparison, the Xperia Pro-I’s image is darker with more muted colors. However, the Pro-I’s sample is more representative of what my eyes saw that day while taking photos in New York City. Whether you prefer the quick win from the Pixel or the attention-needing accuracy of the Pro-I depends on what you want from your smartphone’s camera.
These two are night and day. Google’s photo comes across as cool, and Sony’s is over-warm. The Pro-I lost its way in calculating the white balance here, and it’s obvious when you weigh the photos against one another. Moreover, there’s far better detail in the Google photo, particularly in the dark tree branches. I have to give this one to the Pixel.
More reading: The best triple camera phones available
Shooting red hues is always a great way to test cameras. In this sample, the Pixel overexposed the entire frame by just a bit, which washes out the flower’s bright red color to a small degree. It also washes out the background a bit. Furthermore, the photo from the Pixel isn’t as sharp as it could be, and there’s more noise than I care to see. The flower captured by the Pro-I is richer, and the background looks deeper and cleaner.
Here’s a shot I captured with the phones’ wide-angle cameras. Google’s image is sharper and delivers far more detail, particularly in the background. For example, you can clearly make out the support cables of the Brooklyn Bridge to the right of the underpass in the Pixel photo. These same details are obscured in the Sony sample. While the Sony photo underexposed the areas under the bridge just a bit, it managed to deliver much richer colors and even kept some blue hue in the sky rather than washing it out.
This was a fun shot, as there is plenty to put under the microscope. The photo from the Pixel looks a bit more balanced overall, thanks to the bluer sky, sharper focus, and starker detail in the shadows along the dock and tug boat. However, the photo from the Pro-I is a more accurate depiction of what I saw in real life and produces a nicer red along the boat’s waterline.
More reading: What is HDR photography?
The Pixel produced a crazy amount of contrast for this photo of a seagull and the Brooklyn Bridge. You can tell the software algorithms worked overtime to generate the range visible here. It makes the Pro-I’s sample look a little washed out in comparison. As much as I like the clarity and detail of the Pixel’s photo, there’s something pleasingly film-like about the Pro-I photo’s warmth that gives it a vintage overtone.
Related: 10 best photography apps for Android
Shooting directly at the sun is not easy for any camera. The Pixel did an incredible job delivering detail in the pylons in the foreground, which were heavily shaded. It also added lots of contrast to the water and kept the background details, such as the Statue of Liberty, in sharp focus. The Pro-I almost appears to have given up in comparison. While the warmer tone is more accurate to the real-world environment, there’s almost no detail at all in the pylons or the clouds, and the statue is not much more than an upright smudge.
Taking photos in Times Square is a rite of passage for tourists. Thanks to the constantly changing billboards, no two shots are ever quite the same. The Pixel photo here looks washed out. The pink overtone to the image is thanks to a brilliant ad for Coke that flashed to my left as I took the shot. What the Pixel image does do, however, is showcase some details in the background, such as the tall buildings and the not-quite-blackened evening sky. The Pro-I’s photo is more accurate in terms of color, but I wish there was more detail in the people who make up the foreground. Overall, the Pro-I’s shot wins for not being totally pink.
Then there are the concert photos. Everyone loves to take pictures when they’re at a show. Here, the Pixel delivers sharper focus, more detail in the dark regions (in this case, the guitar player), and more accurate colors throughout. Due to the changing background light, it may not be a strictly apples-to-apples comparison, but it still gives you an idea of the differences these cameras deliver. Again, there’s plenty to like in the Pro-I shot, but you might have to spend some time adjusting it.
The selfies above showcase the simple differences in how Google and Sony are processing their photos. Looking at my face, there’s plainly more detail in the images from the Pixel, in addition to a little more color. That’s not to say they are perfect. There’s lots of noise from the Pixel, which I don’t like. On the other hand, I come across as a little washed out in the images from the Sony, with less detail visible in my skin. The photos from Sony also have an old-time feel to them that makes them look as though they were taken decades ago. One isn’t necessarily better than the other; they’re just different.
Google Pixel 6 Pro vs Sony Xperia Pro-I: The verdict
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
Pitting the Google Pixel 6 Pro vs the Sony Xperia Pro-I isn’t necessarily a fair comparison in some respects, and it isn’t strictly to declare a winner in this head-to-head. Google and Sony have taken entirely different approaches to creating these cameras and target wholly different user types. Moreover, the phones don’t play in the same economic space, given the vast price delta. Even so, it’s undoubtedly a fascinating exercise to highlight what Google and Sony are up to.Which smartphone camera takes the better pictures?
It’s worth taking a moment to laud the Pixel 6 Pro. Though Google and Sony are coming at the cameras from wildly different directions, the Pixel 6 Pro proves that expensive hardware doesn’t always get you the best results. Google’s algorithmic approach does a great job of delivering hassle-free results that regular people can put to use right away.
Both of these phones take terrific pictures. Some may prefer the ready-to-consume results from the point-and-shoot Google Pixel 6 Pro, while others may need the accuracy and warmth of the more complicated Sony Xperia Pro-I. Whichever device you end up with depends entirely on what you need the phone — and its camera — to do.
If you want to see the Pixel 6 Pro camera battling it out with other high-end devices, we have a comparison against the iPhone 13 Pro Max and the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Also, don’t forget to take a look at our list of the very best camera phones, as well as the best budget camera phones.
Keep in mind that all this excellent camera hardware can help, but it’s not what photography is all about. Skill and knowledge are what really take your photos from average to outstanding, and we have some content to help you polish your photographic prowess. Let’s start with a look at the most important photography terms. Also, take a look at our tips for taking your images to the next level.
Top drawer performance
Solid battery life
Guaranteed software updatesCons
Rear plastic scratches easily
Charges slow and hot
Only 60Hz displayOur Verdict
A superlative mid-range phone and one of the best value Android phones you can buy, the Pixel 6a crams in the best bits from the more expensive Pixel 6 and 6 Pro at a very attractive price, but you might be tempted by the newer Pixel 7a.Best Prices Today: Google Pixel 6a
Updated on 17 May 2023: Google has lowered the price of the Pixel 6a to $349/£349/€409.
Phones aren’t as small as they used to be but the Google Pixel 6a is about as compact an Android phone as you can get these days. This is one of the best things about it, along with its excellent performance, camera, and its affordable price.
The Pixel 6a is Google’s cheaper version of its Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro phones. The 6a keeps some of those devices’ more expensive features but ditches others to drive the price right down to a very palatable $349/£349/€409 – a permanent price drop so it’s now cheaper than when it launched in 2023.
A few corners have been cut and there are other mid-range phones out there that offer higher specs, but having used the Pixel 6a daily as my main phone, I think it’s one of the best phones you can buy for the money – and the Pixel most people should buy instead of the Pixel 6 or 6 Pro.
As of May 2023, there is also now the newer Pixel 7a to consider. It has some neat upgrades, but it’s more expensive than the Pixel 6a, which is now sold for less than it launched at.Design & Build
Two-tone colour options
Plastic back easily scratches
Solid premium feel
If it’s the smallest phone available that you want, the 6a isn’t it. At 152.2mm (to be precise) it’s taller than the 138.4mm iPhone SE 2023 and the 131.5mm iPhone 13 mini.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
The 6a is still a large phone, it’s just not as large as most other slab smartphones out there, especially the gigantic Pixel 6 Pro. Its angular and boxy design still feels good to hold thanks to rounded aluminium edges, but I still can’t reach the top of the screen with a thumb when using one-handed (I do have quite small hands, but still).
The screen is flat rather than curve edged, and my black review unit is largely unremarkable save for that camera ‘bar’ design on the back just like the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. It protrudes much less than its bigger brothers, which is a relief.
The difference on the 6a is the two camera sensors are housed in a small pill-shaped blob on the left of the black bar that’s camouflaged by also being black, with a circular flash on the right. On the other Pixel 6 models, the lenses are spread out across the length of the bar.
You can pick from three colour options that have two-tone designs with the small strip above the camera a different colour to the larger section below. I reviewed the charcoal colour which is dark grey on the bottom and lighter grey on the top.
A big downside to the 6a is the durability of the rear panel, which is made of a composite plastic rather than durable glass. My charcoal unit picked up an enormous number of scratches after less than a week. Two weeks in and the thing looked more battered than phones I’ve had for over a year, and I am especially careful with my phones. I imagine the green (Google calls it sage) colour will also show scratches, but maybe the white (chalk) would hide them better. The white would also better hide fingerprints and smears, which the charcoal does not.
I wasn’t sent a case initially, so I used the phone without one in London and on holiday abroad. Google says there’s Gorilla Glass 3 on the display and this got no scratches, but the back looks a bit of a mess. It’s also very hard to photograph this to show you:
Henry Burrell / Foundry
The phone scratching easily is a minor niggle with what is otherwise a very well-built phone that feels more premium than it costs and packs in IP67 dust and water resistance.
I then used Google’s official case for a while, and while I like the feel of the surprisingly sturdy plastic design, it remains to be seen if it eventually discolours like the cases for the 6 and 6 pro reportedly have.Screen & Speakers
Only 60Hz refresh rate
Excellent colour and brightness
The screen is a 6.1in AMOLED, putting this phone in the ‘small’ phone camp – not actually small like phones used to be, but more compact than most modern Android slabs.
That screen unfortunately only has a 60Hz refresh rate. Other phones at this price have higher refresh rates that make content scroll smoother, such as the £399 Nothing Phone (1) with 120Hz and the £369 OnePlus Nord 2T with 90Hz. Google could surely have stretched to this but probably wants to upsell buyers after such a feature to its 90Hz-toting Pixel 6.
Thankfully the display of the 6a is excellent with very good brightness, with things only hard to see in the harshest direct sunlight. I missed a higher refresh rate at first, but I soon forgot that it was a 60Hz screen. It’s a very good panel with excellent colour reproduction and sharpness that’s miles better than the 720p display on the $429/£419/€529 iPhone SE 2023.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
There’s a black bezel all the way around the flat panel with a touch more to the chin than the top of the phone, and a selfie cut-out camera in the centre at the top of the screen.
The stereo speakers can play audio at a decent clarity and volume and are good enough for podcasts in the kitchen or making video calls.Specs & Performance
Same Tensor chip as Pixel 6
Where the Pixel 6a shine is in performance. That’s because Google decided to cram its Tensor processor into it, the same chip used in the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro.
Paired with 6GB RAM, the 6a absolutely flies through everything and is a mid-range phone with genuine flagship performance. It’s the first time Google has opted to put the chip from its main phones into its A series model the same generation, and it’s worth the trade-off in other places, such as in the 60Hz screen.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
There’s only one model available with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. This is plenty enough for my usage but there’s no microSD slot for expandable storage should you ever fill it up. As with every other Pixel, this is also only a single SIM phone, which is a downside – so many Android phones have dual SIM slots and so should Pixels. That said, there is an option to add a second line as an eSIM, which is halfway there if you do want or need two numbers.
We usually run benchmark tests on all phones we review at Tech Advisor using apps such as Geekbench 5, but the Pixel 6a unit I received would not download them. In the Play Store, they showed as not compatible.
Google told me it had blocked benchmarking apps on the review units ahead of launch “to avoid benchmark and device spec leaks”. A spokesperson said I was free to sideload the apps instead, which I did for Geekbench 5 and GFXBench, which measure CPU and general performance respectively. The below chart shows how the Pixel 6a stacks up against phones of a similar price.
A lovely upgrade from the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro is the in-screen fingerprint sensor, which I found to be far more responsive. It works every time without fail, and I didn’t have to retrain it with my thumbprint at all.Battery Life & Charging
Limited to 18W
No wireless charging
The Pixel 6a has excellent battery life but charges quite slowly at a maximum of 18W. I say maximum because there’s no charger in the box, only a USB-C to C cable, so you’ll have to buy a charging brick with a USB-C output, or use another charger (there’s no wireless charging). The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro also ship without chargers but have a maximum speed of 30W. From empty, the 6a charges to 22% in 15 minutes, 42% in 30 minutes, and to 100% in one hour and 50 minutes.
The OnePlus Nord 2T is cheaper than the Pixel 6a but comes with an 80W charger in the box that charges to 100% in 30 minutes, which makes Google look stingy on both included accessories and speed.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
I juiced the 6a with various chargers and found it consistently charges quite hot. I don’t know if this is because some of the chargers could output more than 18W, but when a phone ships without a charger and with no instruction in the box or in the phone’s software about what kind of cable or brick to use, this is the experience most people will get when they grab the nearest (or cheapest) charger.
A phone shouldn’t be this hot when charging. Over time such heat could lead to battery degradation, but this is impossible to tell right now. At the moment, the 6a has solid, all-day battery life. Even roaming abroad on 4G all day while taking tons of photos never saw me dip below 20%.Cameras & Video
12.2Mp main camera
Superb stills processing
While Google gave the Pixel 6a the Tensor chip from its premium phones, the same cannot be said of the camera. In fact, it’s the first time an A-series Pixel is not getting the same main sensor as the corresponding regular Pixels, and that is a shame – the 50Mp sensor on the Pixel 6 is outstanding.
Instead, the 6a has a 12.2Mp f/1.7 Sony IMX363 sensor with optical image stabilisation. This is the same sensor Google used from the Pixel 3 to Pixel 5 era.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
I personally would have rather had the newer 50Mp lens and a lower-powered processor, but Google has changed its approach. The good news is the main camera on the 6a is still phenomenally good – it just isn’t quite as good as the Pixel 6 or 6 Pro in the detail it can capture, but Google’s post-processing in software is so good, that differences are barely noticeable.
In even more good news, the ultrawide 12Mp f/2.2 Sony IMX386 lens is the same one used in the pricier 6 models.
As expected, still photos are top drawer and easily compete with phones three or four times the price. I compared several similar shots I took on holiday with those taken on my wife’s iPhone 13, and I consistently preferred the daylight shots of the Pixel. They sport the contrasty processing Pixels are known for where the iPhone has leant more recently into natural shades, sometimes to a fault.
In low light, the iPhone was much better than the Pixel, better at handling difficult sunset scenes and rendering detail better. The Pixel’s Night Sight for pitch black photos is still good, but it’s a few generations behind the iPhone now, particularly on the 6a with the older main sensor.
But the iPhone 13 costs a lot more than the Pixel 6a. I would happily use the 6a as my only camera on a day-to-day basis – it’s that good. Add to that the very capable ultrawide that doesn’t fish-eye scenes like cheaper phones do, and it’s a very capable setup for a mid-range smartphone (miles better than the iPhone SE 2023).
There’s no zoom lens, so you have to rely on digital zoom from the main sensor but that’s standard for mid-range phones. Google’s Super Res Zoom feature can zoom in up to 7x, but results are quite blotchy and grainy on inspection as all digital zoom tends to be, but the 2x zoom is solid and passable for social media shots.
The 8Mp f/2.0 selfie camera has a decent 84 degree field of view and takes solid selfies, though the portrait mode struggles to pick up strands of hair and doesn’t seem to be as consistent with results as it is from the main rear camera.
Aside from basic still photo shooting (which, let’s face it, is 99% of all mobile photography for 99% of people) the 6a also has every single camera software feature from the Pixel 6 except for the long exposure motion mode.
Magic Eraser can cleverly erase people or things from photos even if it does require a little patience as sometimes it gets it wrong. It’s best to have a plain background or the smarts get confused and blur the wrong colours together, but it’s still impressive on the whole.
A new feature is Camouflage, which rather than deleting things from images instead changes their colour to better blend into a scene. Big orange beach ball distracting from smiling faces on the beach? Turn it the colour of sand. It’s a slightly weird feature but it does work well.
Built in too are very good features like Face Deblur, which does exactly what it says very well. The camera works by taking several shots either side of when you actually tap the shutter button. If your subject moves their head a little resulting in blur, the phone can tell this and automatically uses all the image data to correct it.
This is also part of the feature Top Shot, which records a short video to go along with your image if the phone reckons it’s worth it, autoplaying of which can be toggled off in the Photos app when looking through photos.
Real Tone is also a very good feature that better reproduces skin tones accurately thanks to Google’s work to tune its processing algorithms. Other phones overprocess some skin tones inaccurately, so the Pixel is a good choice in this regard.
Throw in 4K video recording at 60fps and it’s a well-featured camera app. There’s even a speech enhancement mode that isolates vocal audio and cuts out background noise, though only works on the selfie camera, so it’s a handy feature if you are recording a video message for someone at the side of a motorway. Or something.
Clean Android 12 (at launch)
Three years of Android updates
Five years of security updates
Google offers five years of security updates for the phone, so its final update will land in July 2027 in theory. There’s only three years of Android platform updates though, so the 6a will only get those until July 2025 – likely Android 15, as the 6a is launched with Android 12, not Android 13.
You will get new versions of Android before third-party manufacturers though.
Android 12 is a joy to use. It looks great and performs just as well as on a Pixel 6 Pro – no mean feat. The included new ‘Nature swept’ wallpapers are right up my street (see one in action below), and the colour picker that takes four colours from whatever wallpaper you have and lets you select it as the icon and accent colour for the whole OS is superb.
Henry Burrell / Foundry
It’s rolling out to more Google apps like Gmail too, so there’s a real unity to the whole aesthetic. I prefer running the phone in dark mode.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
The always on display is my favourite of any phone, with simplicity the best thing about it. It shows time, date, and weather, with full notification banners if you so choose too. There’s also the excellent Now Playing feature that cleverly listens to whatever music is playing and displays the track and artist, all from an offline database stored on the phone. You can tap the song and start streaming it from several streaming services, not just Google’s own YouTube Music.
Google’s voice-to-text smarts and the Live Transcribe feature in its Recorder app are present and excellent in an area Google trumps Apple, which is playing catch up with its dictation feature in iOS 16.
Dominik Tomaszewski / FoundryPrice & Availability
The Pixel 6a costs $349/£349/€409 and is available to buy from Google in the US, UK, and Europe.
It’s also on sale unlocked in the US now at Best Buy and Amazon.
In the UK you can pick it up from Amazon, Carphone Warehouse, chúng tôi EE, Vodafone, and John Lewis.
Check out our full where to buy the Pixel 6a article for the US and UK.
I recommend it over the $429/£419/€529 iPhone SE 2023, which trumps the 6a with wireless charging and software OS update support but that’s about it. Everything about the Pixel is better – screen, camera, design.
Samsung’s Galaxy A53 5G is £399/$449/€449 but has terrible performance, while the £399/€469 Nothing Phone (1) has outstanding design but display issues and an inferior camera to the Pixel. It’s a crowded price bracket, but the Pixel comes out on top.
You might be tempted by the newer Pixel 7a, which is more expensive than the 6a but adds a new camera sensor, 90Hz display, and wireless charging.
Check out all your options in our best mid-range phones chart.Verdict
Despite the higher price than previous A-series Pixels, you’re only paying slightly more for the Pixel 6a, a superb mid-range phone with a flagship-level processor, truly outstanding main camera, 5G, the latest version of Android, five years of security support, and a more pocket-friendly design.
Downsides are the slow charging speeds on a phone that charges hot, the easily scratched rear plastic material, and the 60Hz display lagging behind similarly priced phones. Yet, this is a Pixel, which means it has a superlative Android experience and camera with a software polish and premium hardware feel you won’t find on other brands in this price range.
If you want a newer (but more expensive) phone you might consider the Pixel 7a.Specs
6.1in 60Hz gOLED display
Google Tensor chip
12Mp IMX363 main lens with OIS
12Mp IMX386 ultrawide lens
8Mp IMX355 selfie camera
18W wired charging
Gorilla Glass 3 display
71.8 x 152.16 x 8.85mm
New CPU and GPU architectures roil the market pretty much every year—sometimes more than once a year. Yet in spite of the impact that system memory can have on a PC’s performance, the industry has relied on the same basic memory architecture for what seems like an eternity—in tech time, at least.
What took so long?
Part of the reason for the long gestation period is that memory manufacturers compete more on price than performance. And unlike the CPU and GPU markets, where just two companies dominate the market, memory standards are developed by a committee: The Joint Electron Devices Engineering Council (JEDEC). If you want a standard to develop slowly, do it by committee (consider how long the IEEE is taking to ratify the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard).
DDR4’s lower power requirements—and the corresponding reduction in waste heat—will be this technology’s real draw.
JEDEC, which consists of every memory maker in the world, started work on the DDR4 spec in 2005—two years before DDR3 even hit the market—but the first test samples didn’t appear until 2011. DDR4 memory finally hit the market last year in very limited supply, but the industry finally shifted into high gear around Computex 2014.
What’s so great about DDR4? Read on and the truth shall be revealed.What exactly is DDR4?
There are a lot of deeply technical aspects to DDR4, but we won’t dive that far. The two key improvements in DDR4 are power consumption and data transfer speed, thanks to the development of an all-new bus.
DDR4 memory will deliver significant benefits in terms of performance and power consumption.
Less power draw means less heat and longer battery life, so laptops and servers are expected to be the biggest beneficiaries of the jump to DDR4. Servers can be deployed with as much as a terabyte of memory and they routinely operate 24/7, so the power bills to keep them running—along with the onboard fans and outboard ventilation systems to keep them cool—can be enormous.
Smartphones and tablets will benefit from DDR4 memory, too. Because they typically come with only 1GB or 2GB of memory—and their displays consume much more power than their memory—they’ll benefit much like laptops will, from extended battery life rather than lower power bills.
Reducing power consumption will give desktop PC users a warm, green feeling, but they’ll probably appreciate DDR4’s speed bump a lot more. DDR4 memory kits shown off at Computex boasted speeds ranging from 2133MHz to 3200MHz, and DDR4 could eventually hit 4266 MHz. DDR3 memory topped out at 2133 MHz, so there’s no question memory will be a lot faster.
Finally, DDR4 uses much higher-density chips, so each memory stick (DIMM, technically) will pack a lot more memory. Where you might buy DDR3 memory in 1- or 2GB kits for desktops and notebooks, expect to see 4- and 8GB kits with DDR4. And for high-end servers, each DDR4 DIMM could deliver 64- or even 128GB of memory.Do you need DDR4 memory? Will you ever?
Before you get too excited about DDR4, note that it hasn’t even reached bleeding edge status. You can’t buy DDR4 memory today, and your existing hardware wouldn’t be able to use it if you could. But it’s a safe bet that it will be expensive when it does come to market. Mike Howard, memory analyst at the research firm IHS, said he expects DDR4 memory to launch later this year at prices 40- to 50 percent higher than DDR3 memory. So if you were to buy 16GB of DDR3 memory at the average price of $140, the same amount of DDR4 memory would set you back around $210.
Improvements in memory technology occur at a relatively stately pace.
Howard doesn’t consider DDR4 a must-have update for most people. “Users don’t need 2400MHz speeds,” he said. “In the PC world, except for the power-user segment, people aren’t screaming for more memory bandwidth.”
Kelt Reeves, president of boutique PC builder Falcon Northwest, echoed that sentiment. “On current-generation CPUs, we see almost no benefit in DDR3 speeds above 1866MHz,” he said. “For 2133MHz and higher, you have to specifically run memory bandwidth tests to see anything outside of margin-of-error in most benchmarks.”
According to Reeves, DDR4’s lower power requirements—and the corresponding reduction in waste heat—will be this technology’s real draw. “Memory has become so much more reliable in recent years with the voltage drops from 2.1- to 1.8- to now 1.5 volts,” he said.
If that doesn’t describe you, you don’t need to worry about jumping into a major upgrade anytime soon, or even postponing your next PC purchase until models with DDR4 come out.
That’s not to say DDR4 will be a waste of money. It’s just that in its early days, it won’t deliver significant benefits to anyone beyond the earliest of adopters.
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