Google Pixel 6 hands-on review: A new Pixel is born

The Pixel 6 offers a big change from previous Pixel flagships, starting with its bold new look and a Tensor processor that fuels new features.

For

Tensor processor powers AI features

The main camera is now a 50MP sensor

Supports faster-charging speeds

Face unblur and Magic Eraser camera features

Good price

Against

90Hz refresh rate slower than Galaxy S21

Older 5G modem

Google’s Pixel 6 is like no Pixel that’s come before it, and not just because of that eye-catching camera bar running across the back of the phone’s two-tone design. This Pixel — along with the Pixel 6 Pro that it debuts with — is the first to feature Google’s own Tensor chipset, opening up a world of possibilities for voice-powered tasks and other features tapping into Google’s expertise with machine learning.

Thanks to Tensor, your camera not only will be able to recognize text but translate it on the fly if it’s in a foreign language. The new chip also powers Pixel features like voice-powered typing and robocall screening, not to mention a new spate of photo processing capabilities.

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Pixel 6 vs. Pixel 6 Pro: All the differences

But there’s more to the Pixel 6 than just Tensor. We’ve got our hands on Google’s latest phone, and while we’re still in the process of testing our full Pixel 6 review, we can share our impressions and details about the new features, specs, design, cameras, and more.

Here’s what you need to know about the Google Pixel 6.

Google Pixel 6 cheat sheet: Top features

New Tensor processor designed for better performance and AI

Dual rear cameras including a 50MP wide camera and a 12MP ultrawide lens with a 114-degree field of view

Magic Eraser camera feature for removing objects and people and Face Unblur for sharper shots

The new design highlighted by a horizontal camera bar across the back and colors including Stormy Black, Kinda Coral, and Sorta Seafoam

6.4-inch display capable of a 90Hz refresh rate

In-display fingerprint sensor

4,614 mAh battery

Support for 30W wired and 21W wireless charging

Android 12 preinstalled

Google Pixel 6 specs

Google Pixel 6 Google Pixel 6 Pro
Price: $599 $899
Colors: Stormy Black, Kinda Coral, Sorta Seafoam Stormy Black, Cloudy White, Sorta Sunny
Display: size (resolution): 6.4-inch (1080×2400 pixels, 411ppi) 6.7-inch (1440 x 3120, 512ppi)
Refresh rate: Up to 90Hz Up to 120Hz
Processor: Google Tensor with Titan M2 Google Tensor with Titan M2
RAM: 8GB 12GB
Storage: 128GB | 256GB 128GB | 256GB | 512GB
Rear cameras: 50MP wide-angle (ƒ/1.85), 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2) 50MP wide-angle (ƒ/1.85), 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2), 48MP telephoto (ƒ/3.5)
Zoom: 7x Super Res digital 4x optical and 20x Super Res digital
Front camera: 8MP (ƒ/2.0), 84-degree field of view 11.1MP (ƒ/2.2), 94-degree field of view
Video: Rear: 4K and 1080p (both up to 60fps), Front: 1080p at 30fps Rear: 4K and 1080p (both up to 60fps), Front: 4Kat 30fps, 1080p at up to 60fps
Authentication: Fingerprint Unlock with an under-display fingerprint sensor Fingerprint Unlock with an under-display fingerprint sensor
Water resistance: IP68 IP68
Battery: size 4,614 mAh 5,003 mAh
Dimensions: 6.2 x 2.9 x 0.4 inches 6.5 x 3 x 0.4 inches
Weight: 7.3 ounces 7.4 ounces

Google Pixel 6 pricing and release dates

The price is the most shocking thing about the Pixel 6. Google is offering the Pixel 6 at $599, which is $150 less than its Pixel 5a, despite all its premium features. That’s $150 less than Apple’s iPhone 13 Mini, the most affordable of Apple’s latest smartphones, and $200 less than the Galaxy S21.

A 256GB version is available for $100 more. Google’s store currently offers unlocked versions for $699 of both the Stormy Black Pixel 6 and Seafoam Sage Pixel 6 Models. Kinda Coral models appear to be limited to 128GB.

Google is currently taking pre-orders to get the Pixel 6 by Oct. 28. T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless, Verizon Mobile, T-Mobile America, Verizon Wireless, and Xfinity Mobile all confirmed that the phone will be available. It will also be available through Google Fi’s wireless carrier. For models with high-speed millimeter waves, Verizon charges $699 while AT&T costs $739. T-Mobile pricing and Xfinity pricing match Google’s Pixel 6 with the Pixel 6 starting as low as $599.

Google launched a new Pixel Pass to help you pay a monthly cost for your Pixel 6 while also receiving subscriptions to Google One cloud storage, Google Play Pass games, and YouTube Premium streaming service. There’s an upgrade program that allows you to get a new Pixel phone in two years.

For the best prices on the latest Google phone, visit our Pixel 6 deals webpage.

Google Pixel 6 design, display

The Pixel 6 is a brand new design for Google’s phones. Instead of hiding the cameras in the corners of the device’s display, they are placed in a horizontal stripe across the phone’s back. This has a practical side effect: while some phones wobble when they are placed on their backs due to their camera arrays the Pixel 6 remains relatively flat even though the bar at the back extends beyond the phone’s back.

The horizontal bar serves an aesthetic function by separating two different color shades on the Pixel 6’s rear. The thin strip at the top of the horizontal bar allows for a contrast between the muted colors that make up the majority of the Pixel 6’s back. There are three colors to choose from Stormy Black or Sorta Seafoam.

Google expects a durable smartphone this time. Corning Gorilla Glass Victus is used to protect the display, making it more scratch-resistant than other Pixels. A punch-hole cutout and an in-display fingerprint sensor are also part of the Pixel 6, reducing the need for bezels.

Google Pixel 6 display

The Pixel 6 has a 6.4-inch OLED display with FHD+ resolution. Google has added a Pixel 6 refresh rate to the device that adjusts automatically between 60Hz-60Hz depending upon what is happening on-screen. Although other phones, such as the Pixel 6 Pro, have faster refresh rates of 120Hz, the Pixel 6 can boast smoother scrolling compared to the iPhone 13/13 mini, which has a fixed 60Hz rate.

The Pixel 6 has an average max brightness of 500 and an 800 nit peak brightness for HDR content. The Pixel 6 is decent, but not as bright as other flagships.

Google Pixel 6 cameras

Pixel 6 also comes with two rear cameras. These aren’t your usual dual 12MP cameras found on Google’s phones.

Instead, the Pixel 6’s main cameras are a 50MP wide-angle lens. A 12MP ultrawide-angle camera with a 114° field of view is also included. Google promises that although you won’t get a zoom lens with telephoto like the Pixel 6 Pro, its Super Res View feature (which cleans up noise caused by digital zoom) can produce a 7x zoom.

Google Pixel 6 (left), Google Pixel 6 Pro. (Image credit: Tom’s Guide).

The Pixel 6’s camera system has undergone hardware upgrades, but computational photography will continue to be a core part of the phone’s approach when taking photos. This is especially true when the Pixel 6 has Google’s Tensor chipset. AI/machine learning is an integral part of silicon’s reason d’etre.

Magic Eraser allows you to quickly remove unwanted people or objects from the background. More information is available in our Pixel 6 Magic Eraser video.

Motion Mode is a technique that allows you to focus on a specific subject in action photos and add creative blurs in the background.

A tool that removes blurred faces can be used by parents to remove people from their photos. This is especially helpful for parents with kids who refuse to pose. Google has promised that the Pixel 6 will give you more natural skin tones especially when you are photographing people of color.

The Pixels often rank near the top of our best-camera phones rankings. However, the iPhone 13 elevates the standard for handsets with its excellent photography. We are excited to see how Pixel 6 performs against other top-performing cameras.

Google Pixel 6 Performance and Tensor

We’ve already mentioned the Tensor Chip that debuts in the Pixel 6; while we’re curious to see the difference in performance compared with the Snapdragon 888 (the silicon used in other top Android smartphones), the real story is the improvement in machine learning/advancement.

The Tensor chip will power new features for the Google Pixel 6. Google phones already have excellent features to handle calls where you’re placed on hold. The Tensor chip will increase those capabilities with the ability to screen for robocalls.

Google offers voice features that allow you to dictate text messages. Voice commands can be used to send and edit text messages. You can also insert emojis into your dictated text. Tensor adds new features to existing ones like Recorder and Live Translate.

The tensor will have its true value once we’re able to try some of the features Google offers, but it is one of the most important additions to the mobile market in years.

We discovered, however, that the Pixel 6 is equipped with an older Qualcomm X555G modem. This is a lot worse than other flagships. We’ll be comparing the performance of 5G with other flagships.

Google Pixel 6 battery and charging

The Pixel 6 will come with a larger powerpack to match the Tensor Chip’s promise of high power efficiency. Google lists the Pixel 6’s battery at 4,614mAh. That’s a lot better than the Pixel 5’s 4,000-mAh battery, which lasted just 9.5 hours in our battery test.

Even better, the 18W fast charging speed of the Pixel flagship will be available for memory. This phone is capable of 30W wired charging. You will need to purchase an additional 30W charger as the one provided in the box is not sufficient. The Pixel 6 will be capable of wireless charging at 21W, which is slightly slower than that of the Pixel 6 Pro.

Google Pixel 6 software features

Android 12’s launching party is the Pixel 6, and this will not be the first time you see it in action unless you have been following the betas for Google’s software update. Expect widgets to play a bigger role in this new version of the software.

Android 12 also introduces the Material You interface. The interface is fully displayed in Pixel 6. The wallpapers on your phone will adapt to the colors of your Pixel. There are also themed icons.

Google Assistant learns more skills during the Pixel 6 launch. Google touts the assistant’s ability to take dictation from text messages and even recognize which part of the message is a command, such as “Clear”, “Send” or “Clear”. Phone app continues its improvements with Assistant-powered features, highlighted by the fact phone tree options can now easily be transcribed into text in real-time.

Google is also supporting privacy and security with the Pixel 6. Tensor powers many of them, as does its security core, which contains a Titan M2 chip. The Pixel 6 comes with a privacy dashboard to help you see which apps are accessing the location, camera, microphone, and other information. Security hub provides a central place for managing your passwords and app permissions. The Safety app allows you to alert people when you are having problems.

Google Pixel 6 Accessories

New Pixel Stand now supports wireless charging up to 23W, thanks to the Pixel 6’s arrival. You can also stand up your Pixel 6 while it charges, making it a deskside device.

Google has not given a ship date for the second generation of the Pixel Stand. The Google Store lists it as coming soon.

However, you can order the Pixel 6 Case directly from Google. The $29 case has dual-layer shock absorption and raised edges to protect the phone’s display from contact with other surfaces. Google is pushing for sustainable products and the 30% recycled materials make up the case.

Google Pixel 6 Outlook

There are many things to take in about the Pixel 6. Some of it is Tensor powered, and others that have the same improvements as any other flagship. We’re excited to test these new features once we know more about the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Plus.

Overall, the Pixel 6 seems to be a good flagship in terms of how much you get for your buck. We will need to find out how all the new features fare in daily usage.

Philip Michaels, a senior editor with Tom’s Guide, is Philip Michaels. He holds strong opinions on Apple, the Oakland Athletics, and classic movies. Follow him @PhilipMichaels

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