Pixel 6 Pro review: The very best Google phone | Google

The Pixel 6 Pro is Google’s reinvigorated attempt to beat the best smartphones from Apple and Samsung with powerful new cameras, custom chips, and a standout design.

The new model is Google’s top phone for 2021 and costs £849 ($899 / AUD1,299), putting it above the standard Pixel 6, which costs £599.

From the front, the Pixel 6 Pro looks like a standard top-end phone with a large 6.7-inch OLED screen that looks really good, is crisp, bright and smooth, and has a 120Hz refresh rate. There’s a small hole at the top for the selfie camera and a good under-display fingerprint sensor for unlocking the phone.

The camera bar shares the two-tone glass back and looks a bit like Geordi La Forge’s visor from Star Trek. Photo: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Flip it over to reveal a much more unusual design. Instead of the cameras being arranged in a lump on one side or in the top corner, the lenses are arranged in a large horizontal bar that stretches across the back. I can’t say it’s particularly attractive, but it does mean that the phone doesn’t rock around like most other smartphones when placed on a desk or table, which is a plus.

The 6 Pro is certainly a very large phone, but its curved glass sides make it easier to grip than some and very similar in size to the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, just 17g lighter. It feels like a well-made and premium device, ready to compete at the top of the market.

specifications

  • Screen: 6.7-inch 120Hz QHD+ OLED (512ppi)

  • Processor: Google tensor

  • R.A.M: 12GB RAM

  • Warehouse: 128 or 256GB

  • Operating system: Android 12

  • Camera: 50MP + 12MP ultrawide + 48MP 4x telephoto, 11.1MP selfie

  • Connectivity: 5G, eSIM, WiFi 6E, UWB, NFC, Bluetooth 5.2 and GNSS

  • water resistance: IP68 (1.5m for 30 minutes)

  • Dimensions: 163.9 x 75.9 x 8.9mm

  • Weight: 210g

tensor

google pixel 6 pro review
The Pixel 6 Pro takes over two hours to charge and reaches 50% in 35 minutes with a 30W USB-C adapter (not included). Photo: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Pixel 6 Pro features Google’s first custom Tensor processor, which performs similarly to other top-of-the-line Android chips from Samsung and Qualcomm in benchmarks and general usage. However, the custom items are designed to speed up and reduce power consumption when running Google’s various AI items.

From local voice and object recognition to camera processing and photo editing, all of Google’s more advanced systems certainly run faster on the 6 Pro than on the previous Pixel 5. But compared to rivals like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and OnePlus 9 Pro it proved to be the best difficult.

Overall, performance was at least on par with its higher-profile rivals: responsive, smooth, and all-round snappy.

Battery life is good, but not great. It lasts a good 36 hours between charges, with around five hours of screen use using various messaging, note-taking and utility apps, the browser and around 20 photos, with around two hours spent on 5G and the rest on WiFi . That puts the 6 Pro on par with the S21 Ultra, but way behind the 42-hour iPhone 13 Pro.

sustainability

google pixel 6 pro review
Both the Pixel 6 (left) and Pixel 6 Pro (right) are made from 100% recycled aluminum. Photo: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Google does not provide an estimated battery life. Those found in similar devices typically retain at least 80% of their original capacity after 500 full charge cycles. The Pixel 6 Pro is generally serviceable by Google and third-party repair shops. Screen repairs are £189, back glass repairs are £149 and battery replacements are £99 out of warranty.

The 6 Pro includes 100% recycled aluminum in its frame, which accounts for around 14% of the phone’s weight. The company publishes environmental impact reports for some of its products. Google recycles all Pixel devices for free.

Android 12

google pixel 6 pro review
Android 12 brings more color to more parts of the system than before. Photo: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The 6 Pro is one of the first smartphones to ship with the latest Android 12, which introduces Google’s Material You design and systems. It’s one of stock Android’s biggest visual overhauls, adding personalization options that have historically required third-party apps or tools like Samsung, OnePlus, and others.

The entire interface can now be color-matched, including icons and widgets. System animations are refined with nice details, such as B. turning on the screen by extending outward from the power button.

google pixel 6 pro review
Tensor-enhanced dictation tools allow you to simultaneously dictate and edit text with your finger for fast text entry. Photo: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

A new “Privacy Dashboard” shows how often apps access features like location, your contacts, microphone, camera, and other bits. Camera and microphone privacy icons appear at the top of the screen when accessed by apps, and you can completely disable microphone and camera access with new quick settings.

Google will provide major Android updates and monthly security fixes for at least three years. It will then provide updates for a further two years with the “frequency and categories of updates based on hardware capabilities and requirements”. Samsung supports its top phones for four years, while Fairphone aims for six years and Apple supports its iPhone for up to seven years.

camera

Google Pixel 6 pro
The Google Camera app is very good, with effective focus tracking, but there’s no dedicated macro mode. Photo: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The 6 Pro features Google’s first truly new cameras in years. There is a 50-megapixel main camera on the back, a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera and a 48-megapixel telephoto camera with 4x optical zoom, and an 11.1-megapixel ultrawide selfie camera on the front.

The 50-megapixel main camera is, simply put, one of the best on a smartphone. It easily captures an amazing amount of detail in a range of good and tricky lighting conditions, with generally well-reviewed color balance and a comfortable level of vibrancy. The telephoto camera is by far one of the best out there, delivering unrivaled shots at 4x magnification in good and medium light, with very little drop in quality compared to the main camera, which is rare. Only Samsung’s S21 Ultra with 5x and 10x optical zoom beats it in terms of usefulness, if not necessarily in terms of quality.

The ultrawide camera is the weakest of the three. At 0.7x magnification, it’s not quite as “ultrawide” as I’d like compared to competitors that have 0.5x magnification and a wider field of view. But it produces really good images that are a bit softer in detail than the main camera.

The main camera’s low-light performance is very good, while the dedicated night vision mode on all three cameras works wonders in very dark scenes. The 11.1MP selfie camera is also very good, capable of taking regular and ultrawide photos for when you need to include more people in a group shot.

Video quality is an improvement over previous Pixels, but still nowhere near as good as Google’s still photography, lagging behind Apple and Samsung.

Fun new tools include special modes for blurring the background when shooting a fast-moving object like a bicycle, or blurring moving objects in a static scene like the light trails of moving cars on a street at night. These are impressive feats of engineering, but I have yet to master them, leading to very mixed results.

The “Magic Eraser” tool removes unwanted objects from photos, such as Strangers or power lines, similar to the inpainting tools of desktop photo editors. It works miraculously about 70% of the time, but sometimes leaves artifacts on the image where the object was removed.

observations

google pixel 6 pro review
The fingerprint scanner is good, but not quite as fast as the Galaxy S21 Ultra or OnePlus 9 Pro. Photo: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
  • The haptics, or vibrations that replicate a tactile feel for buttons and other interactions, are really sharp and good compared to most Android competitors.

  • The telephoto camera unit rattles a bit when you turn the phone over, similar to a Galaxy S21 Ultra.

  • Call quality and 5G reception were good, as was Bluetooth performance on multiple headphones.

Price

The Google Pixel 6 Pro costs £849 ($899/A$1,299) with 128GB of storage, or £949 ($999/$1,449) for 256GB.

To compare, the Pixel 4a is £349, the OnePlus 9 Pro is £829, the Samsung Galaxy S21+ is £949, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is £1,149, the Xiaomi 11T Pro is £599, the iPhone 13 Pro is £949 and the Fairphone 4 is £949 499

Verdict

With the Pixel 6 Pro, Google has finally delivered a flagship-class phone that rivals the best in the business in every aspect, not just the camera.

The battery life is reasonable, the screen is fantastic and Android 12 is the most polished and refined software that Google has developed for a phone. The promise of five years of security updates is also good.

It looks, feels and performs like a £1,000 phone with all the bells and whistles you could expect for this kind of money. But with an aggressive price tag of £850 it undercuts top-tier rivals by as much as £300, making it surprisingly good value for money, if not exactly cheap.

The Pixel 6 Pro is the best phone Google has ever made. Whether that’s enough for a hit remains to be seen.

Advantages: Best-in-class camera, 4x optical zoom, awesome screen, great performance, good battery life, recycled aluminum, five years of security updates, Android 12, impressive local AI capabilities, competitive price.

Disadvantages: fairly slow loading, fingerprint scanner not as fast as the competition, no face unlock option, only three years of Android version updates despite five years of security support.

google pixel 6 pro review
The camera bar is the main design feature, but I’d go for a more exciting color option than black and gray. Photo: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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