Google Pixel 6a
“While it might not be the knockout value that its predecessors were famous for, the Pixel 6a still delivers a variety of phone for not much money.”
- Compact, lightweight design
- IP67 water resistance
- Flagship-grade performance
- Excellent cameras
- Clean software
- Years of guaranteed updates
- Display is simply 60Hz
- Tensor chip runs hot
- Lacking battery life
Last 12 months’s Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro signaled a significant shift for Google’s smartphone strategy. With original designs, Google’s first in-house chipset, latest cameras, and a daring software update with Android 12, the Pixel 6 duo marked a major step forward for flagship Pixel phones. Fast-forward to mid-2022, and Google desires to do the identical thing for its mid-tier lineup with the Pixel 6a.
The marketing pitch behind the Pixel 6a is a sound one. Take the design and Google Tensor chipset from the Pixel 6, the tried-and-true 12MP camera from older Pixels, and bundle all of it together in a lighter, smaller body that costs just $449. It’s a formula that’s not without its faults, but after living with and using the Pixel 6a for just below two weeks, I can’t help but come away (mostly) impressed with what Google’s pulled off.
Should you’ve seen the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, the Pixel 6a’s aesthetics might be immediately familiar. The front of the phone has a big display with a centered hole-punch cutout for the selfie camera. The back sports a two-tone design separated by Google’s iconic camera bar toward the highest.
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Even though it’s nothing revolutionary in comparison with its older Pixel 6 siblings, the Pixel 6a is a big visual upgrade over last 12 months’s Pixel 5a. It’s distinct, eye-catching, and put together quite nicely. The aluminum frame is durable and funky to the touch, while the “3D thermoformed composite” (aka plastic) back is surprisingly grippy and keeps fingerprints to a minimum. There’s also no creaking in any respect while attempting to bend the phone, and the physical buttons press down with a satisfying click.
But those aren’t my favorite things concerning the Pixel 6a’s design. As much as I appreciate the unique style and trusty construct quality, what stands out probably the most is how comfortable the 6a is to make use of.
Following the sunshine and compact Pixel 5 from 2020, Google went big with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. That meant big displays, taller dimensions, and heavier builds. It was a high quality shift for folk preferring larger smartphones, but as someone who really adored the small nature of the Pixel 5, it’s a shift I still haven’t come to terms with. Thankfully, the Pixel 6a addresses that.
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The Pixel 6a measures 152.5mm tall and weighs 178 grams. For context, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are 158.6mm and 163.9mm tall and weigh 207g and 210g, respectively. Those may not sound like significant differences on paper, but in actual use, the Pixel 6a is remarkably easier to administer. I can reach more of the screen with one finger, it’s easier to slide into a good pocket, and it’s way more comfortable to make use of one-handed. It’s not quite as compact because the Pixel 5 was, nevertheless it is the smallest Pixel Google’s released since then. And that makes me incredibly blissful.
If I even have one design grievance, it’s that I wish Google had more colours to select from. The Sage color of my review unit has been a joy to have a look at, however the Chalk and Charcoal styles are quite bland.
Screen and performance
A part of what contributes to the Pixel 6a’s petite form factor is its screen. Google equipped the Pixel 6a with a 6.1-inch OLED panel — a decrease from the 6.4 and 6.7-inch screens on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, respectively. That OLED screen has a Full HD+ 1080 x 2400 resolution, 60Hz refresh rate, and is roofed with Corning Gorilla Glass 3.
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Overall, it’s a superbly high quality screen for the $449 asking price. Colours are nice and punchy, it gets vibrant enough for comfortable outdoor use, and text is perfectly crisp in all use cases. There’s some slight discoloration at certain viewing angles, but that’s par for the course with smartphones on this price bracket.
What’s particularly annoying is being stuck at a 60Hz refresh rate. On the one hand, I understand Google’s reasoning here. The Pixel 6a already shares the identical design and chipset as the usual Pixel 6, so finding other corners to chop — just like the faster display — make sense. But loads of other firms have shown that it’s possible to sell a $500 smartphone with a 90Hz or 120Hz screen. The $399 Moto G 5G and the $440 OnePlus Nord 2T 5G have 90Hz screens, the $449 Galaxy A53 5G has a 120Hz screen, etc.
To be clear, the 60Hz panel on the Pixel 6a isn’t a deal-breaker. It was a jarring shift at first coming from the 120Hz panel on my iPhone 13 Pro, but after a couple of hours, my eyes adjusted and got used to it. But when other similarly priced phones are clearly beating Google here — and have been for a while — being stuck at 60Hz is disappointing.
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What’s not disappointing, though, is the Google Tensor chip powering the Pixel 6a. That is the very same silicon present in the flagship Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. And it shows! Whether browsing a couple of Chrome tabs, triaging emails, streaming 2160p YouTube videos, or performing other duties, Tensor keeps up with day-to-day tasks incredibly well. And although 6GB of RAM is a fraction of the memory present in dearer handsets, it’s greater than adequate for keeping a couple of apps open within the background for reliable multitasking.
Google’s Tensor chip can also be a solid performer for gaming. I played a variety of Call of Duty: Mobile, all within the name of labor and science. Playing the sport with Very High graphics and frame rate settings, multiplayer sessions ran and not using a hitch. Menus loaded quickly, touch input was responsive, and the sport looked great while making my way through countless Hardpoint matches. Google’s Pixel a-series phones have at all times been good performers, but Tensor really does take things up a notch.
But performance isn’t the one thing going up on the Pixel 6a. Google Tensor runs hot contained in the phone. And never just after playing a few rounds of Call of Duty. Even when just cycling through the Alexa and Goal apps, the Pixel 6a became noticeably warm to the touch — each the metal frame and plastic back. It’s an issue Tensor’s also shown on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, and unfortunately, it’s equally present on the Pixel 6a. It’s to not the purpose where the phone is painful to the touch or anything, nevertheless it is worrying that a pair of easy applications cause it to heat up as much because it does.
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Finally, a fast note on the Pixel 6a’s in-screen fingerprint sensor. It’s good! Google used a distinct sensor within the 6a than what it selected for the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. The Pixel 6a’s fingerprint sensor isn’t absolutely the fastest I’ve ever used, nevertheless it’s reliable, accurate, and gets the job done. In my experience, it’s about as fast because the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro sensors, but is way more consistent with its success rate.
It wouldn’t be a Google Pixel review without talking concerning the phone’s cameras, so let’s get right to it. The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro marked a monumental shift in Google’s camera strategy. After counting on its tried-and-true 12.2-megapixel primary camera starting with the Pixel 2 and going as much as the Pixel 5, the Pixel 6 series shifted to an all-new 50MP sensor.
But that 50MP sensor is nowhere to be found on the Pixel 6a. As an alternative, it gets the identical 12.2MP camera that Google’s been using since 2017 — featuring an f/1.7 aperture, optical image stabilization (OIS), and phase detection autofocus. It’s also joined by a 12MP ultrawide camera with a 114-degree field of view, plus an 8MP selfie camera.
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On paper, none of that sounds particularly impressive. But in point of fact, the Pixel 6a stands out as a particularly reliable camera phone. In indoor or outdoor settings with great or decent lighting, the Pixel 6a cranks out very pleasing photos. The Pixel 6a captures great detail and punchy colours that aren’t overly vibrant, and infrequently uses its HDR chops to expertly handle difficult skies or harsh lighting, from a morning sunrise toan evening sunset. Pair that with an easy to make use of camera app that’s very quick to snap a photograph if you want it to, and there’s little to complain about.
I’ve also been blissful with the 12MP ultrawide camera. The 114-degree field of view permits you to capture way more in a single photo while standing in the identical place. Details in these photos aren’t quite as strong, however the ultrawide camera does a superb job retaining an analogous color profile and doesn’t distort the sides an excessive amount of.
A photograph from the Pixel 6a’s primary camera
A photograph from the Pixel 6a’s ultrawide camera.
Where the Pixel 6a does struggle is with lowlight environments. Like other Pixels, the 6a features a dedicated Night Sight mode to show you how to capture extremely dim subjects. The leftmost photo below was taken without Night Sight, while the one on the proper did use it. Night Sight is effective at brightening your picture and essentially enables you to see at the hours of darkness, but photos taken on this mode are also accompanied by very soft details.
A Pixel 6a photo taken without Night Sight.
A Pixel 6a photo taken with Night Sight.
And identical to the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, the Pixel 6a gets all of Google’s other camera tricks — including Portrait mode, Photo Sphere, and Real Tone. Magic Eraser can also be present, as is a latest Camouflage tool that permits you to mute distracting colours that take away from the topic of your pictures.
Battery life and charging
If there’s one area where the Pixel 6a might be described as “mediocre,” it’s the phone’s battery situation. Keeping the Pixel 6a alive is a 4410mAh battery — a decrease from the 4614mAh battery within the regular Pixel 6 and 5003mAh cell within the Pixel 6 Pro. As expected, the Pixel with the tinniest battery also has the shortest endurance of the trio.
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Simply put, this might be a one-day smartphone for most individuals. On a typical Saturday consisting of an hour of Twitter use, 20 minutes on Reddit, 25 minutes of watching YouTube, and keeping the Dinnerly app open for half-hour while making dinner (amongst other things), the Pixel 6a ended the day with 11% battery remaining after 4 hours and 13 minutes of screen-on time. One other day saw me streaming Twitch for two-and-a-half hours, playing Call of Duty: Mobile for nearly an hour, and frequent use of Twitter, Microsoft Teams, and Reddit. On that day, the Pixel 6a had 15% battery remaining after 4 hours and 45 minutes of screen time.
When it comes time to charge up, the Pixel 6a maxes out at just 18 watts when it comes to wired charging speeds. Google advertises this as “fast wired charging,” nevertheless it’s anything but. Charging the Pixel 6a from 9% to 100%, the phone took 1 hour and 43 minutes. And that point has proven consistently slow during the last two weeks. Even an upgrade to 25W or 33W like we see on budget handsets from Samsung and OnePlus would have been great
And, unfortunately, that 18W wired charging is the one option you have got on the Pixel 6a. Identical to the Pixel 3a, Pixel 4a, and Pixel 5a before it, the Pixel 6a doesn’t support wireless charging.
But while the battery and charging situation might not be ideal, Google once more fires on all cylinders with its software. The Pixel 6a ships with Android 12 and can receive three years of major OS upgrades, plus five years of security updates. Samsung’s now leading the charge with 4 years of Android updates for its phones, but Google’s software support remains to be superb.
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As for the Android 12 software available on the Pixel 6a today, it’s every bit as excellent because it is on Google’s dearer Pixel 6 handsets.
That is seen firstly with Google’s Material You interface. With all the redesigned widgets, subtle animations, and huge Quick Settings toggles, Material You looks and feels outstanding on the 6a. This also includes Android 12’s systemwide theme engine. After applying a latest wallpaper, Android 12 analyzes it and picks out color palettes based on that wallpaper. Once one in every of those color palettes is applied, it’s seen within the Settings app, Quick Settings panel, the lock screen, Google apps, and even some app icons.
Beyond the stark visuals of Material You, the Pixel 6a’s software shines brightest with Google’s suite of helpful tools. Now Playing routinely detects songs playing nearby and shows them in your lock screen — even without a web connection. Direct my Call allows the Google Assistant to transcribe automated menus during phone calls, while Hold for Me keeps your spot in line while waiting to consult with a customer support representative. And Google Assistant-powered voice typing is wise enough to insert emoji, routinely add punctuation, and listen for pauses in your speaking.
While it might lack among the deep customization and tweaking in comparison with Samsung’s One UI and OnePlus’s OxygenOS, Google’s tackle Android has long been my personal preference. The interface is clean, Material You scratches my customization itch, and little features like Now Playing and Hold for Me are legitimately difficult to live without on other smartphones.
Price and availability
The Google Pixel 6a is obtainable for $449 with 128GB of storage. Within the U.S., you possibly can buy the Pixel 6a direct from the Google Store, Amazon, and Best Buy. Google’s also launching the Pixel 6a in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Ireland, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, and the U.K. In comparison with the Pixel 5a’s meager launch in just the U.S. and Japan, the 6a’s availability is a substantial improvement.
Where last 12 months’s Pixel 5a felt like an iterative (and almost pointless) addition to the Pixel a-series family, the Pixel 6a seems like it’s pushing the needle forward for Google. The brand new design is great, the lightweight/compact body is amazingly practical, and the Google Tensor chip enables latest performance capabilities and software features that haven’t been possible before.
But at the identical time, it also doesn’t feel like enough of a change. The display remains to be 60Hz, wireless charging stays MIA, and Google’s clearly gone within the unsuitable direction when it comes to battery life. It’s expected that the Pixel 6a wouldn’t check each box for $449, but when the Pixel 6 addresses all of those concerns (and more) for just $599, the Pixel 6a loses a few of its value upside.
But that definitely doesn’t mean that the Pixel 6a is a foul phone. It’s a very rattling good phone. I’m in love with the smaller body, performance is great, the cameras are solid, and Google’s Android 12 software is almost perfect in my book. It might not be the budget-defining phone like a few of its predecessors were, but in case you’re out there for a latest handset and wish to maintain your budget under $500, the Pixel 6a is a unbelievable alternative.
Is there a greater alternative?
Perhaps the best challenge facing the Pixel 6a is Google itself. Spending an additional $150 to upgrade to the Pixel 6 gets you lots more in your money — including a bigger and more durable 90Hz display, a much bigger battery, faster wired charging, wireless charging support, reverse wireless charging, an additional 2GB of RAM, higher water resistance, and a more capable 50MP primary camera. Those aren’t insignificant upgrades, and in case you managed to grab the Pixel 6 when it was on sale for $499 during Prime Day, it became a no brainer to buy it over the Pixel 6a. The Pixel 6 is a worthy alternative to think about at the complete $599 MSRP, and when it’s discounted below that, making an argument within the Pixel 6a’s favor becomes increasingly complicated.
As for other phones closer to the 6a’s asking price, the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G can also be available for a similar $449. It has a smoother 120Hz screen and two-day battery life, however the performance from its Exynos 1280 chipset is noticeably more sluggish than the Tensor chip contained in the Pixel 6a. The iPhone SE 2022 can also be value considering in case you prefer iOS over Android. Should you can get past its large bezels and lackluster screen quality, Apple’s $429 handset delivers outstanding performance, an excellent camera, and not less than five years of guaranteed updates. Finally, in case you live outside the U.S. and need something with a flashier design, the Nothing Phone 1 can also be value testing.
How long will it last?
The Pixel 6a comes equipped with an IP67 rating. Meaning it’s totally sealed against dust/dirt and might be submerged in up to 1 meter of water for as much as half-hour. Whether you utilize the Pixel 6a out in a rainstorm, drop it in a lake, or get sweat on it while on the gym, it ought to be totally high quality in all those scenarios. The plastic back also needs to be quite durable against drops/falls, though chances are you’ll desire a screen protector to complement the older Gorilla Glass 3 covering the screen. And, as noted above, the Pixel 6a comes with three years of major Android updates and five years of security updates.
Do you have to buy it?
Yes. Despite its average battery life and lack of wireless charging, the Pixel 6a still stands out as a superb value for its price. Should you can’t afford the regular Pixel 6 and crave the Google smartphone experience on a budget, the Pixel 6a is a straightforward advice.