Shopping for a Pixel 6? With solid hardware specs, capable AI-assisted cameras and attractive two-tone packaging, Google’s latest smartphone batch has plenty going for it. But with three mobiles making up the stable, which Pixel phone is best for your needs and budget?
From the range-topping Pixel 6 Pro to the more affordable Pixel 6a, there’s something in Google’s smartphone line-up for almost everyone. But with each model sharing the same powerful Tensor processor and running the same slick Android interface, the choice isn’t necessarily an obvious one.
Whether you want an accessible 6.1in handset, a top-spec 6.7in flagship or something capable between the two, our buying guide below covers all the key details and differences between Google’s Pixel 6 smartphones. Read to the end and you should know exactly which one is right for you. Unless you fancy waiting for the Pixel 7…
Google Pixel 6
Unlike the penny-pinching Pixel 5, the sixth iteration of Google’s flagship doesn’t cut corners. Adopting a natty two-tone coat, its edgeless back panel – clad in Gorilla Glass 6 – is divided by a neatly distinctive camera bar. And it’s all framed by a classy alloy chassis.
Slim at 8.9mm, it’s not the lightest smartphone at 207g. But it does pack a frame-filling 6.4in display that’s bright, sharp and good for decent refresh rates of up to 90Hz. The panel also supports HDR and works with Google’s At a Glance feature for always-on info.
In the camera stakes, the vanilla Pixel 6 adopts a 50MP main sensor, flanked by a 12MP ultra-wide (covering a 114-degree field of view). Both deploy laser-detect autofocus, plus optical and electronic image stabilisation. In everyday conditions, the main cam can reliably capture detailed, dynamic snaps, while the ultra-wide serves up consistently solid results. There’s no telephoto, though.
Under the hood, the Pixel 6 utilises Google’s tailor-made Tensor processor, paired with a solid 8GB of RAM. Fast, smart and efficient, that Tensor silicon is built to boost the machine-learning chops of Google’s mobiles. It runs Android 12 slick and quick, as well as powering a range of camera tricks, including Real Tone, Magic Eraser, Face Unblur and Night Sight.
The Pixel 6 also gets an M2 chip for enhanced security, an under-display fingerprint sensor, plus a 4524mAh cell inside that can last for more than 24 hours on a single charge. Time for juice? The Pixel 6 supports relatively speedy refuelling with Google’s 30W USB-C charger and 21W wireless charging using the second-gen Pixel Stand.
Want a formidable Android phone at a fair price? The Google Pixel 6 is a very compelling package.
Buy the Pixel 6 if…you want the Goldilocks Pixel phone from Google
Google Pixel 6 Pro
The clue’s in the moniker: the Pixel 6 Pro takes Google’s ‘standard’ flagship and supercharges the spec sheet. Channelling the same two-tone style as its smaller sibling, the Pro benefits from sturdier Gorilla Glass Victus on the rear. But it’s the dimensions that visually distinguish Google’s top-spec smartphone: taller by 5.3mm, it’s fronted by a larger 6.7in display.
And the measurements aren’t the only change. At 512ppi, the Pro is the sharpest Pixel 6 by quite a margin. Plus its panel is an LTPO number, which means the Pro can adapt refresh rates to suit the demands at hand. So you can get silky smooth 120Hz motion when you need it – or super-efficient 10Hz when you don’t.
The Pixel 6 Pro is also the pick of the bunch when it comes to photography. It shares the same 50MP wide and 12MP ultra-wide cameras as the Pixel 6, but also adds a third snapper into the mix: a 48MP telephoto sensor which can shoot at 2x or 4x optical zoom, with digital trickery offering 20x. Detail is excellent, with AI upscaling on hand to sharpen any gaps.
It’s a similar story when it comes to performance. The Pixel 6 Pro pairs the same Tensor chip with an even beefier 12GB of RAM. Unsurprisingly, that translates into superlative performance: there’s enough grunt on tap to sail through Android multi-tasking, demanding games and AI tools (such as real-time translation).
Despite the turbocharged performance, battery life doesn’t suffer. There’s a larger 4905mAh cell inside the Pixel 6 Pro, which means it can match the Pixel 6’s 24-hour longevity in normal use (or 48 in Extreme Battery Saver mode). Likewise, the Pixel 6 Pro supports 30W wired charging, while narrowly trumping the Pixel 6 with 23W wireless refuelling.
Ambitious and uncompromising, the Google Pixel 6 Pro is a top-shelf flagship with a top-tier price. It’s the best Pixel phone yet, even if the Pixel 6 betters it for outright value.
Buy the Pixel 6 Pro if…you want the ultimate Pixel phone experience (and don’t mind paying for it)
Google Pixel 6a
Smaller and more affordable, the Pixel 6a is the accessible cousin to Google’s full-fat flagships. Besides a slightly slimmer camera visor and Gorilla Glass 3 on the rear, it adopts the same design language as the other models in the Pixel stable. It also uses the same interface and – crucially – deploys Google’s punchy Tensor processor, complete with 5G connectivity.
But there are compromises which distinguish the Pixel 6a. With a 6.1in OLED display, the cheapest variant is notably smaller than the Pixel 6 and, in particular, the Pixel 6 Pro. No bad thing, except that its refresh rates top out at a tardy 60Hz. Good for battery life, not so much for slick motion.
And that’s not the only sacrifice. While the Pixel 6a shares its 12MP ultra-wide camera with the Pixel 6 and Pro, its 12.2MP main sensor represents a significant drop down from the 50MP wide camera found on those handsets. Google will doubtless squeeze the best from it using software trickery – and the 6a benefits from the same AI photography smarts – but it won’t be a world-beater.
While the Tensor chip will still zip through Android tasks, the Pixel 6a is pegged back slightly with 6GB of RAM. That’s a respectable amount, but the performance difference may be noticeable if you want to game on your Google smartphone.
Also reduced is the cell inside, which is rated at 4306mAh. But thanks to the low refresh rates and smaller screen, the Pixel 6a can still run for longer than 24 hours on a single charge – and actually outlast the other Pixel 6 devices in Extreme Battery Saver mode, with 72-hour longevity. But there’s no fast wireless charging, while wired speeds are limited to 18W.
Every bit the lite edition of the Pixel 6, the 6a offers a solid package for the lower price. Other manufacturers deliver better screens and camera hardware for similar money, but that Tensor chip is hard to argue with.
Buy the Pixel 6a if…you want a smaller, cheaper Pixel phone with the same processing power