Google Pixel 6a overview: Proper telephone, flawed time

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Even by Google smartphone requirements, the Pixel 6a was a poorly saved secret. It was talked about within the firm’s personal product colouring e-book for Pixel superfans originally of the 12 months, however now it’s lastly arrived within the UK.

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Introduced on the Google I/O builders convention in Might, simply as the unique Pixel 3a was three years in the past, it’s primarily what you’ll anticipate from a Pixel ‘a’ sequence handset, which is to say the Pixel 6a is a scaled again model of the flagship Pixel 6, which we slightly favored once we reviewed it in October final 12 months.

Google Pixel 6a overview: What you have to know

However there’s a key distinction this time. Google has taken a leaf out of the Apple iPhone SE handbook by matching the processing energy of its flagship and making cuts elsewhere. The Pixel 6a makes use of Google’s personal Tensor chip, giving it the identical processing and graphical grunt because the full-fat Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Professional. That is backed by 6GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage.

This isn’t simply optimistic in its personal proper: it additionally means the Pixel 6a is simply as quick because the flagship model, which might be why Google has felt assured sufficient to vow not less than 5 years’ price of safety updates. And given Pixel telephones get entry to new builds of the cell OS first, that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Elsewhere, the Pixel 6a has a smaller 6.1in, 1080p, 60Hz HDR OLED show with Gorilla Glass 3 safety and an under-screen fingerprint reader. It has reverted to the 12.2MP predominant digital camera used on the earlier three generations of Pixel, versus the 50MP quantity that debuted on the Pixel 6, however that is supported by a 12MP ultrawide sensor and an 8MP selfie digital camera.

Google Pixel 6a overview: Value and competitors

Contemplating the mid-range £399 value, these cuts don’t sound too unreasonable, not less than on paper. The problem, nevertheless, is that the Pixel 6 is 9 months previous by this level – with the Pixel 7 on the best way – and so it now prices significantly lower than it did at launch.

In truth, on the time of scripting this overview, the Pixel 6 is at present on provide for simply £450. That is solely a short lived deal, in fact, but when savvy buyers time it proper, they will scoop up a flagship-level Pixel, with a bigger, 90Hz show, 8GB of RAM and a superior 50MP predominant digital camera for just a bit bit extra.

The Pixel 6a additionally finds itself in harmful territory in relation to non-Google competitors. The mid-range market has exploded this 12 months, with wonderful decisions coming from the likes of the Xiaomi 12 Lite (£332), Samsung Galaxy A53 5G (£399) and the OnePlus Nord 2T 5G (£369). It’s additionally equivalent in value to the brand new Nothing Cellphone (1), though we’re but to obtain a handset for overview so can’t touch upon how the 2 examine.

Google Pixel 6a overview: Design and key options

At first look, the Pixel 6a doesn’t look too dissimilar from its siblings. It’s smaller in measurement, measuring 152 x 72 x 8.9mm, however retains the chunky horizontal digital camera bar from the common Pixel 6 and 6 Professional. This stretches throughout the complete width of the telephone however isn’t fairly as thick as it’s on the dearer fashions.

Somewhat than describing it as plastic, Google says that the Pixel 6a has a ​​”thermoformed composite” rear and that is surrounded by an aluminium body. The opposite Pixel fashions have glass-coated backs, which helps with scratch safety, though when positioned subsequent to one another you may’t actually inform the distinction.

Sadly, my preliminary overview mannequin had a small manufacturing defect. The rear panel was barely misaligned with the body, leading to sharp protrusions on the underside left and proper corners of the handset. I mentioned this with different reviewers at a latest business occasion and I used to be the one one with this difficulty, so it’s doable that I merely received unfortunate with an early manufacturing pattern.

When approached for remark, Google stated: “we will verify, on background, that it is a one-off fault”. After getting in contact with them, I swiftly obtained a alternative handset which didn’t have this difficulty.

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Transferring on, the Pixel 6a is IP67 rated towards mud and water ingress, which means it ought to survive a dunk as much as a depth of 1m for as much as half-hour, and the entrance is coated in a protecting layer of Gorilla Glass 3. The telephone is available in a selection of three colors: Sage, Charcoal and Chalk (pictured right here).

The rear-mounted fingerprint sensor has been eliminated and instead lies an under-screen scanner, which I discovered to be a bit inconsistent. A message would generally show on the display screen asking me to carry my thumb in place for a little bit longer earlier than it unlocked – which wasn’t very best.

We’ve additionally entered our third 12 months since Google final integrated face unlocks. Your guess is pretty much as good as mine as to why Google nonetheless refuses so as to add this function – all of its rivals have been supporting this unlock technique for years now, so its absence right here is jarring.

There’s no area for a microSD card, both, which signifies that if you find yourself fully filling your on-board storage, you’ll both have to begin deleting stuff or pay for a Google One subscription. You’re caught with simply the one nano-SIM slot, too.

Google Pixel 6a overview: Show

Predictably, the Pixel 6a’s show is the smallest of the three Pixel telephones, measuring 6.1in. It’s nonetheless a HDR-certified OLED panel, nevertheless, with the identical complete decision because the common Pixel 6 (2,400 x 1,080) – the one key distinction is that the refresh price is caught at simply 60Hz.

It is a disgrace, particularly once we get to the benchmarks. As a result of in any other case, the Pixel 6a’s display screen is phenomenal, with color efficiency that surpasses the competitors. It even provides dearer flagship handsets a run for his or her cash.

There are three show modes on provide – Pure, Boosted and Adaptive – and color purists are going to need to allow the Pure setting on the first alternative. With this mode chosen, our colorimeter recorded a virtually faultless common Delta E rating of 0.73 when examined towards the sRGB color area – each single color was bang on the cash. You definitely don’t see that fairly often.

Most brightness was measured at 857cd/m2 in auto mode with a torch shining on the ambient mild sensor. Exterior of this setting, the guide brightness slider peaked at a decent 500cd/m2 and I recorded HDR playback at 760cd/m2.

Google Pixel 6a overview: Efficiency and battery life

Essentially the most thrilling addition this 12 months is the introduction of Google’s homebrew Tensor processor. It is a 5nm, octa-core chipset clocked at 2.8GHz and within the case of the Pixel 6a, works alongside 6GB of RAM and 128GB of inner storage.

Because it by no means launched within the UK, I sadly don’t have the Pixel 5a benchmark take a look at outcomes for comparability, however suffice to say the efficiency features between the now two-year-old Pixel 4a 5G and the brand new Pixel 6a are colossal.

Within the Geekbench 5 CPU stress-testing benchmark, the Pixel 6a’s Tensor chip outperformed the Pixel 4a’s piddly Snapdragon 765G by roughly 75% in each single- and multi-core processing. These are broadly the identical scores as these achieved by the Pixel 6, with the 6a completely smashing its equally priced rivals – solely the Xiaomi 12 Lite’s multi-core result’s the outlier right here.

Gaming efficiency has taken a good better leap ahead, though that is the place the Pixel 6a’s 60Hz display screen lets the aspect down. Representing a rise of 114% within the GFXBench Manhattan 3 on-screen take a look at, the Pixel 6a is able to producing larger body charges in video games, not that you simply’ll ever get the possibility to see it. 60fps is all you may presumably hope to attain on a 60Hz show.

Battery life is the one space the place the Pixel 6a hasn’t achieved so nicely. This was to be anticipated – we discovered Tensor to be particularly energy hungry in our Pixel 6 overview – however the Pixel 6a’s battery rating is diminished by roughly three hours. Nonetheless, a results of 20hrs 47mins is superb, and must be sufficient to final you just about two days on a single cost.

The gradual 18W charging is a little bit of a bummer, too. The common Pixel 6 supported a most energy supply of 30W (with wi-fi and reverse wi-fi charging) so it’s a bit disappointing to not see that right here.

Google Pixel 6a overview: Software program

Software program is a kind of massive areas the place Pixel units actually come into their very own. These telephones are normally the primary Android handsets to obtain core updates, and you may even beta take a look at new variations as a part of Google’s preview program, with Android 13 doing the rounds as we communicate.

However the Pixel 6a, just like the Pixel 6 earlier than it, launches with Android 12. On the prime of the checklist of recent options is “Materials You”, a UI revamp with an inventory of recent customisable app icons, widgets and color schemes. There’s lots of selection right here, and you may even match the color and elegance of the Google app icons on the house display screen together with your chosen theme.

There are a handful of smaller, high quality of life modifications, too, together with new translation choices – resembling dwell translating within the recorder app – and new Google Assistant options. Google’s digital butler can now wait on the road should you’re placed on maintain throughout a name, show present and projected wait instances for toll-free telephone numbers and might even transcribe automated voice messages and menu choices in real-time.

Google Pixel 6a overview: Cameras

On the flip aspect, there’s not quite a bit that’s new when it comes to digital camera {hardware}. The Pixel 6a’s main digital camera is identical 12.2MP (f/1.7) sensor beforehand utilized by the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5, whereas the 12MP (f/2.2) wide-angle unit is equivalent to the one discovered within the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Professional. An 8MP (f/2) selfie digital camera sits inside a central gap punch notch on the entrance of the telephone.

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That’s disappointing, but it surely’s price noting that earlier Pixels punched nicely above their weight within the pictures stakes. So, when you think about that the Pixel 6a borrows varied sensors from previous releases, there’s no purpose to imagine issues have modified for the more serious right here.

Particularly since Pixel-specific digital camera options together with Magic Eraser – which lets you digitally take away objects within the background within the digital camera app – make a return, alongside Face Unblur and Actual Tone. The latter is baked into Google’s digital camera algorithms and helps to provide extra natural-looking pores and skin tones in portrait photos.

Certain sufficient, the Pixel 6a’s cameras proceed the development set by Google in offering high-end smartphone pictures at cheap costs. The principle digital camera captures a way of depth and element that’s merely unmatched by its opponents, with spectacular capabilities in low lighting situations as nicely.

The Pixel 6a’s scenic photos are merely gorgeous, producing sharp, intricate particulars and correct exposures each time you press the shutter button. On a sunny weekend stroll round Valentines Park in London, the Pixel 6a captured sun-dried foliage superbly, with a pleasingly impartial color rendition as well.

Nonetheless photos are simply as spectacular as mild ranges dim, too. The Pixel 6a did an amazing job brightening the general scene with out altering the tint of the picture, and it saved the sunshine bloom from close by avenue lamps to a minimal as nicely.

The Pixel 6a’s ultra-wide digital camera isn’t fairly as spectacular, however there’s nonetheless quite a bit to love. With a large 114-degree discipline of view, you may squeeze loads of stuff into the body, and I most popular the standard of the Pixel’s photos in comparison with the Galaxy S22 Plus, however the caveat right here is that there’s a slight loss intimately over the first digital camera.

It’s additionally price taking a minute to speak concerning the Pixel 6a’s portrait mode. Similar to we noticed with the Pixel 6, Face Unblur works rather well, taking photos from each the primary and ultra-wide cameras and mixing them to cut back blur on a transferring topic. There’s a great quantity of background blur discount, too, with crisp outlines – even separating particular person strands of hair from the remainder of the scene.

As for video, the Pixel 6a is able to recording as much as a most 4K decision at 60fps. All modes are absolutely stabilised, and photographs appeared excellent in my checks, recording judder-free video with a great quantity of element, even in darkish situations.

Google Pixel 6a overview: Verdict

So there’s lots to love concerning the Pixel 6a, then. Not that you have to be stunned – in spite of everything, Google’s pedigree is well-documented at this level – however the Pixel 6a ought to nonetheless be applauded for squeezing this a lot stuff right into a handset this inexpensive.

Only a few telephones can match the calibre of photos it’s able to capturing, and people that may are usually flagships costing twice as a lot because the Pixel 6a. Efficiency can be spot-on, to not point out that it makes use of one of the crucial colour-accurate shows I’ve ever laid eyes on.

However it’s not with out fault. The Pixel 6a’s battery life is weaker than its predecessor (however nonetheless good) and the shortage of a microSD slot and face unlock continues to be an annoyance.

What’s most weird, although, is its timing. The nine-month-old Pixel 6 has dropped in value since launch and at present isn’t far off what Google is charging for the Pixel 6a. When you can spare the additional money, you’re higher off going with Google’s flagship – if something only for the marginally bigger 6.4in 90Hz show and 50MP predominant digital camera.

Nevertheless, in case your pockets merely can’t stretch previous the £400 mark, then the Pixel 6a 5G can’t be crushed.


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