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Google Pixel 6 review: 5 things to know

The Google Pixel 6 series marries software and hardware brilliantly.

Google Pixel 6 review: 5 things to know
25 October 2021

Google may not be up there in the smartphone market with the likes of Samsung and Apple but its dominance from the software side of things means that any new Pixel launch will cause a stir. That’s because the Google Pixel range should be the perfect marriage of Google-based hardware and software - where they both work in harmony to create a handset that means business.

The Google Pixel 6 series comes in two versions: the Google Pixel 6 and Google Pixel 6 Pro. You would think that the difference would be seen in size, but it really isn’t. When you hold them together there really isn’t much in them (what difference there is we’ll explain below). This isn’t Google offering a standard-sized phone and a super-sized one but phones with varying features.

For those looking for a phone that’s as diminutive as the Google Pixel 5, then, you are out of luck. But what you do get with the Google Pixel 6 is a handset that impresses in a lot of ways.

We’ve been playing with it for a few weeks now. Here are 5 things to know about the Google Pixel 6…

1. It’s beautifully designed

Google Pixel 6 review: 5 things to know

The Google Pixel 5 was a good-looking phone but with a design that was a little more mid-range than premium. This all changes with the Google Pixel 6, a beautifully crafted phone that looks distinctive.

Most of thast design flourish has gone into the camera array and it’s fantastic. No other phone on the market has a back like it and it really does stand out.

Our review unit may have been black (Stormy Black, which is something we’ve definitely asked a bartender for before now), but the other dual-tone colours also look striking. Google offers Sorta Seafoam and Kinda Coral as two new colours.

The rest of the phone is minimalist but stylish. A curved 6.4-inch screen blends nicely with the glass back, all of which is strengthened by Gorilla Glass Victus.

The right side of the device houses a volume rocker and on/off button. Interestingly, the sides of the Pixel 6 are different to the Google Pixel 6 Plus. The alloy frame is more tactile, so the front and the back don’t seem as seamless as on the pro. It’s a subtle change, though.

There’s a charging port (USB-C) on the bottom of the Pixel 6 nestled between two speakers and on the left-hand side is where you slot the SIM in.

2. The differences between the Pixel 6 and Pro are small but significant

Google Pixel 6 review: 5 things to know

The 6.4-inch AMOLED screen on the Pixel 6 is bright but a touch lower quality than on the 6 Pro. It’s 90Hz, compared to 120Hz. The difference is there, if you try them both together. Going back to the Pixel 6 after using the more detailed 6 Pro was slight but noticeable, mostly in the detail on the screen.

We didn’t notice a huge difference in gaming or movie watching (where a higher hz means a smoother performance) which is great news for those looking at this, the cheaper Pixel.

We did prefer the bigger 6.7-inch screen on the 6 Pro, though. That extra 0.3 inches does make a decent difference. It also adds a little bit to the height of the 6 Pro, though, which makes the Pixel 6 the (slightly) smaller phone of the two and the more manageable to hold.

The Pixel 6 measures 158.6 height x 74.8 width x 8.9 depth (mm), compared to the 6 Pro’s 163.9 height x 75.9 width x 8.9 depth (mm). This only adds a tiny bit of weight: 207g, compared to the 6 Pro’s 210g.

The biggest difference comes in the camera array. Where you get two cameras the same (it’s a dual setup on the Pixel 6), you do lose the 48MP telephoto camera that’s seen on the Pixel 6 Pro. The front camera has been changed, too, from an 11MP selfie shooter on the 6 Pro to an 8MP camera with a smaller field of view.

Specs wise, there’s 8GB of RAM in the Pixel 6, compared to 12GB in the Pixel 6 Pro. The good news is that Google uses the same chip in both handsets: the Google Tensor.

3. The Pixel 6 is a powerful, fun device

Google Pixel 6 review: 5 things to know

Because Google is using its own chip in the Pixel 6 (for the first time), this means that the Google Tensor is the first processor designed by Google and, according to the big G, is custom-made for Pixel. This breaks down to, up to 80% faster performance than the Pixel 5, and better responsiveness for things like gaming and scrolling.

It is a fast device. There was hardly any delay when switching between the camera and Twitter, loading up Netflix and playing Call of Duty: Mobile. The good news is that Google has also used the chip to make sure that the battery life on the phone doesn’t disappear too quickly. We got well over a day out of the thing which we were impressed with.

4. The dual cameras are superb - you (almost) don’t miss the telephoto lens

Google Pixel 6 review: 5 things to know

Google is really serious about its camera tech this year - so much so, you get brilliant lenses as well as the AI photo software that Google is famed for.

Yes, the telephoto lens is missing but the main 50MP lens is superb, bringing in the type of detail you would expect from a standalone camera. The zoom is decent, too, up to 7x. Yes, this is digital but Google’s hardware flourishes mean you don’t really notice pixelation. Switch to the 12MP ultrawide camera and we got some stunning wide-angle shots.

It would have been nice if Google hadn’t changed the selfie cam to an 8MP one (compared to the 11MP on the 6 Pro), the lens does make it harder to get other people into the shot. Detail, as always, is great however.

Google hasn’t forgotten about the software, either. There’s actually a huge amount of image manipulation you can do in camera. This includes un-blurring faces in a picture (if your image suffers from the shakes), cropping out unwanted people and things in the background of shots and Real Tone is finally a feature that means all people and skin tones are reflected well in portrait shots. It’s nice to see a phone giant finally understand this and make their handsets work for everyone.

So, not a pro-level as the, er, Pro but Google’s mix of hardware and software has never been better than in the Google Pixel 6 range.

5. Android 12 and Pixel 6 are perfectly matchedGoogle Pixel 6 review: 5 things to know

Android 12 is our favourite operating system yet and it is certainly the most customisable. It works fantastically well on the Pixel 6, offering a great selection of wallpapers to customise the handset - and this colour choice bleeds throughout the phone, into things like the calculator app and volume control.

There is a big emphasis on privacy, too. Not only do you get a fingerprint sensor under the screen on the phone but every time you open an app that may use video or camera you are notified in the corner with an icon. Google is also promising 5 years’ of security updates which is a nice touch.

Google Assistant is baked in even further, but we found that we still mostly used it for asking what the song was on the radio.

Google Pixel 6 review: Final Verdict

Google Pixel 6 review: 5 things to know

Google has done it again, creating a handset that’s a real 'phone of the year' contender, especially when it comes to value for money. This is the best designed Pixel phone we’ve seen, with a cracking set of software features, camera features and more. It’s competitively priced as well, with the Google Pixel 6 coming in at £599/$599, for the 128GB variant. This is a fantastic price for what you get.

If you are looking for more pro-camera specs, a better screen and a beefier bit of RAM, then we would opt for the higher-priced $799/£799 Google Pixel 6 Pro. Either way, you are getting a superb phone.

It’s worth noting as well that if you buy a Google Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro before the 28th October 2021, you will receive a set of Bose Noise Cancelling headphones 700. After this, Google is bundling three months of YouTube Premium and Google One on the device.