Google Pixel 6 Pro Review

Google Pixel 6 Pro Review

The Google Pixel 6 Pro is not a phone I expected to like as much as I did. At first glance, it feels very similar to many of the Android smartphones that hit the market over the past year, with a massive camera array, big screen, metal and glass construction. But after using the phone for around a week, the Pixel 6 Pro finally made me a believer that Android could blend hardware and software in a harmonious blending of features, and Google has a phone that competes against the iPhone in a way never before possible.

There have been plenty of powerful Android phones, and even some that try to find that balance between software and hardware. But there is something to be said for the company that makes the software, working closely with the hardware team to deliver the best possible device. With the Pixel 6 Pro, Google’s hardware team delivered a phone that looks stunning, delivered industry first features, and just feels great to use.

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Google Pixel 6 Pro Display & Specs

At first glance, the Pixel 6 Pro continues with the Google design aesthetic we have seen over the last few iterations of the Pixel line. The Pixel 6 features a 6.7″ curved LTPO OLED display with 3,120×1,440-pixel resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate that looks absolutely stunning when powered up. The front glass is protected by Gorilla Glass Victus and features a punch hole in the centre for the 11.1MP selfie camera. As with most recent Pixel and other Android powered smartphones, the Pixel 6 Pro also features an in-screen fingerprint sensor for biometric unlocking.

What does break away from what we have seen in the past is the new camera array. Looking at the back of the phone, the Pixel 6 Pro features a horizontal camera bar spanning the full width of the device. This bar is where you will find everything for the Pixel 6’s camera features, including the LED flash, some sensors, and the three shorts—50MP primary (with OIS), 48MP telephoto, and 12MP ultrawide.

The overall feel of the Pixel 6 Pro is a major step up compared to past Google offerings. This feels like a flagship device through, and through. The all metal sides, and glass front and back feel great in the hands, and at 210 grams it has enough weight to keep the device feeling premium, while never stepping over the line to be cumbersome. The camera bar, despite being a bit odd, grew on me over the course of using the phone. It gave room for my fingers when taking photos, making for far fewer unusable shots due to finger placement. Coming in three very Google sounding colours (Stormy Black, Cloudy White and Sorta Sunny), there is a look that should fit most people’s tastes, we tested the Stormy Black for this review.

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Looking back at the screen, Google have out done themselves with this display. The 6.71-inch QHD+ OLED panel features the aforementioned 120Hz refresh rate that can scale down all the way to 10Hz when needed. This not only saves power, but just makes sense if you are reading text or looking at a static image, but ramps up in games or while using the interface. In practice, everything feels smooth as butter, and while not unique in 2021, something that would be glaring if it was missing on this device. The 500-nit max brightness looks great when viewing video or playing a game, and the 800 nits for HDR content in High Brightness mode is just a great touch on an already fantastic display.

Google Pixel 6 Pro cameras

Google has prioritized photography one of the biggest features with the Google Pixel 6 Pro, and that camera bar is just one example of this endeavour. Finally the company is not focusing purely on software to deliver great results, and have found a balance, delivering great software, fantastic internal hardware with the new Tensor chip, and genuinely good cameras. There are now three cameras on offer with the 6 Pro, 50MP wide-angle camera, a 12MP ultrawide camera, and a 48MP telephoto camera with 4x optical zoom. These give a great selection of options, and enough to make smartphone photography masters happy.

On a pure photography standpoint, this is the best the Pixel range has ever looked with photos. Colours feel natural, while vibrant. The main 50MP shooter takes some truly fantastic shots. While testing I was consistently amazed at its ability to not only capture true-to-life images, but was able to do so while at night or in lowlight conditions. 

The fantastic software, combined with good sensors means the Google Pixel 6 Pro feels like a photography studio in your pocket, able to deliver stunning results even in the worst conditions. From skin tones and nature, to urban decay and industrial shots, the Pixel 6 Pro is now your best tool to capture the world around you in staggering detail. 

Along with the new sensors, Google is offering many new features to improve the already great photos. Thanks to the Tensor chip, there are a few AI features that feel right out of an Adobe powered image editor right on your smartphone. The Pixel 6 Pro features Magic Eraser, Face Unblur and Motion Mode, and they are far more useful than they may first sound. The Magic Eraser is an essentially powerful photobomb fix, allowing you to clean up the amazing family memories even if something unforeseen manages to enter the shot. Once done taking a photo, you simply open the edit mode, select it, and tell the phone what to remove. While it is not perfect, it worked far better than I expected. 

Face Unblur is great for the parents reading this, and helps when you have a very wiggly child that just can’t sit still even for a quick five second photo. It does what it says, quickly unblurring the faces so you can salvage a photo that ALMOST worked. Sadly, as of right now it only works on people, sorry all you dog lovers in the audience. 

Google Pixel 6 Pro Review
(Image credit: Google)

Finally, Motion Mode is made to craft the look of an all night party, great for those long exposure shots that craft artistic and dynamic photos that look great to share on socials. Action Pan focuses on a moving subject and blurs the background, while Long Exposure adds blur to the moving objects in the scene. While I dont think these modes will be used on a daily basis, they are fun additions, and will make some unique shots worthy of sharing when done right.

A feature added on by default now is the attention to skin tone reproduction this year. With the Pixel 6 Pro there has been tweaking to the white balancing and light algorithms to be much more inclusive when capturing images with people of colour, along with just making skin tones feel more natural all around. This is something long overdue, and I am happy to see Google take the initiative to implement it, and ensure it is something that is always on, rather than a setting deep in a menu. 

Pixel 6 Pro performance

The new Google Tensor chip is an interesting beast, and one that delivers very mixed results in testing. While the new silicon manages to impress with day to day operations, it is clear there was more attention to AI and machine learning over just pure raw performance. So when comparing it to the Snapdragon 888, it looks far less powerful then the user experience may suggest. 

The Pixel 6 Pro packs the new Google Tensor (5 nm) SoC, that features Octa-core (2×2.80 GHz Cortex-X1 & 2×2.25 GHz Cortex-A76 & 4×1.80 GHz Cortex-A55), and has a Mali-G78 MP20 for graphics and gaming. To go with this new SoC, Google has packed in 12GB RAM (8 GB on the Pixel 6) giving plenty of legroom to push this new device to its limits. 

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When firing up Geekbench, the Pixel 6 Pro delivered a single-core score of 1038 and a multi-core score of 2856. For reference, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra with the Exynos 2100 only managed a 960 on the single core test but it did surpass the Pixel 6 Pro in multi-core benchmarks. 

When jumping into 3DMark’s Wild Life benchmark, the Pixel 6 Pro managed a score of 6,281 and an average FPS of 37.60. Again very respectable, and should be able to tackle even the most taxing games currently on Android. It stacks up very comparable to most 2020 flagships, but does feel a bit less powerful then the most current offerings.

When you break it down, benchmarks really don’t matter, and it is how well it performs that counts. Thankfully, the Google Tensor chip did fantastic with all the games and software we threw at it. On the games front, Epic Games’ Fortnite ran fantastically well. The display made the colourful graphics pop, with enough contrast to draw you into the experience with buttery smooth visuals with it’s 6.7 120Hz display. The same can be said when we jumped into League of Legends: Wild Rift, with the overall experience feeling as some of the best mobile gaming experiences that stack up with the best phones on the market. 

Pixel 6 Pro Battery and Charging

I have been critical of past Pixel devices when it comes to battery, many never making it to my nightstand before I stress over running low on charge. Thankfully, Google has listened and blessed the Pixel 6 Pro with one the biggest battery ever seen on a Pixel phone. The massive 5,000 mAh and the Tensor’s efficiency make the Google Pixel 6 Pro a battery life champ. 

I managed more than 24 hours of use before I started to worry about topping the phone up. It was impressive to see 55% after a full day of testing and use, making this one of the most impressive phones in terms of battery we have tested in a long time. Apparently, if you are really in a bind, you can push the phone to 48 hours, provided you set the battery-saver mode to active, but this does limit what the phone can do, and is more a way to push the limits of the tech in an emergency or while travelling. 

Charging also feels improved, with it moving to 30W up from the piddly 18W seen with the Pixel 5. In real world testing, this means you can charge your Pixel 6 Pro from 1% to 50% in around 30 minutes. Given the phone already lasts a solid 24 hours of use on a full charge, this means you get another half day with a half hour of charging. Very impressed Google, keep this up! The Pixel 6 Pro also features adaptive charging to ensure it is kind to your phone overnight, charging it over time to not needlessly degrade the battery. It also features 12W Qi charging should you want to avoid those pesky wires.

Pixel 6 Pro software and Features

This is the first phone to be built for Android 12, and it shows how well the software compliments the hardware on offer. This is one of the most drastic changes to Android in a while, delivering a much more refined experience that feels more inline with the modern smartphone landscape. The Pixel 6 Pro is a highlight reel of all the best features on the platform all in one device. From the new Material You design language and theming engine to the Privacy Dashboard and Private Compute Core, this is a showcase for Android and the platform, and it does it with flair and style.

One major thing about the new Google silicon in the Pixel 6 series is the privacy-centric features blend seamlessly with the hardware, and this is very apparent in the security hub. The Pixel 6 series, as mentioned before, features the new Tensor that has a dedicated security with its fancy Titan M2 chip. This means your phone is more secure than ever, provided you take advantage of these features. The Security Hub works as a great way to see all options with a quick glance

The Pixel 6 Pro also acts as a showcase for all other security features—such as the new Personal Safety app—that once set up, makes it easy to alert contacts where you are, and that you could be in danger. This will share your location in real time, and allows anyone you set to be able to check on you, just in case of an emergency. There is also an easy SOS button that will emergency call, share or take a video recording to give an extra level of security while traveling or walking alone. You will need some sort of mobile signal for any of this to work, but it is a great addition to Android, and great to see the Pixel 6 Pro showcase it so well. 

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There are plenty of features in Android 12 that add to the appeal of the new OS. From new settings for setting the level of information you want to share, to the simple ways Android now puts all the important toggles at a quick glance, this feels like a great refinement of the user experience. While many of the features will be coming to all Android 12 compatible devices, things like Live Translate, improved voice assistant, and an overall better Google experience will be something you will still need to invest in Pixel to experience.

Google has improved on the formula with the Pixel 6 Pro. This is the phone that finally makes the Pixel range feel worth the time and effort. At $1,179, the Pixel 6 Pro is the best Android has to offer, delivering amazing photography, smart features, and a new SoC we have only begun to scratch the surface of its true potential. Finally, the Pixel range is the must have smartphone with Android, and it is now up to Apple and the rest of the Android market to prove they have what it takes to stack up against it. Well done Google, you made me a believer. 

Final Thoughts

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