Google’s Pixel 6 event this week was the least surprising tech event in the history of tech events, maybe ever. We knew most of the details well in advance thanks to a combined effort from Google’s marketing team, a number of industry insiders and reviews less than perfectly willing to adhere to embargoes. But that doesn’t mean that it didn’t leave us with some strong impressions.
There’s something grand about a Google smartphone event. Despite Google’s niche status on the hardware market, its number one position in software makes a Pixel launch important to the whole industry.
And now that the event is done and we’ve had a bit of time to think about it, let’s discuss the things that stood out.
Tensor is smart and extremely powerful, but will it overheat?
Google’s Tensor chip was the first thing Google talked about at the event, so you could tell it’s as important as the cameras on a Pixel 6. Tensor is a custom developed system on a chip that’s the first in the world to feature not one, but two Cortex-X1 big cores in its processor. That alone indicates it has more computing power than a Snapdragon 888 with its single Cortex-X1 core. The Tensor also sports two Cortex-A76 cores mid cores and four Cortex-A55 for the least power-hungry tasks, while the Snapdragon 888 employs the same four Cortex-A55 cores and three Cortex-A78’s, which are both more powerful per cycle and support a higher clock speed than the Cortex-A76’s in the Tensor.
Still two prime Cortex-X1 cores should do more than enough to give Tensor an edge. As long as the cooling is able to adequately manage thermals, that is. We are indeed worried that the Pixel 6 could either be a very hot phone under load and have underwhelming battery life or resort to throttling so quickly that its higher theoretical speed would make little difference in practice.
But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. And even when you leave performance aside, Google Tensor allows the Pixel 6 phones to perform some cool tricks, like Live Translate and more importantly takes computational photography to a new level.
The ‘Pixel Look’ is built right into its Image Signal Processor and it applies it to both stills and videos. Google’s new and improved skin tone rendering of various color skin is baked in. Tricks such as Magic Erase, which automatically removes foreign objects from your images, Motion Mode can simulate long exposure effects like blurred water, etc.
This is the first Pixel phone that has a bold new design. Up until now the Pixel line has stood for minimalism and has had a generic design meant to move out of the way, so you can focus on the software.
The Pixel 6 line with its prominent, camera “bar” is different than anything in the tech world right now. The majority of phones have a distinct camera island in some upper corner on the rear. The Pixel 6′ island immediately stands out. As a nice bonus when the bigger Pro and smaller 6 are put side by side and upright, their camera visors align almost perfectly, showing a lot of thought went into that design.
Google’s choice of dual-toned finish is also distinctive on the Pixel 6 with choices like Sorta Seafoam and Kinda Coral.
Exciting camera hardware on a Pixel, finally
The Google Pixel 2 launched with a 12MP 1/2.55″ sensor back in 2017 and that resolution and sensor size has been relied upon for the Pixel 3, Pixel 4, Pixel 5, and their sister models since.
The Pixel 6 is the first to move in the direction of the large, high-megapixel sensors that’s dominant in the flagship phone industry for the past few years. The 50MP 1/1.31″ sensor’s binned pixels are superior in size to those in former Pixel cameras – 2.4µm vs 1.4µm – and the result is a main camera that can gather as much as 150% more light. So main camera images from the new Pixels should be better in good light and low light alike.
The 12MP ultrawide is also an improvement over the 16MP sensor on the Pixel 5, while the 4x periscope in the Pixel 6 Pro is the joint-largest telephoto sensor on the market – the same 1/2.0-inch imager found on the Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra, 11 Ultra and Galaxy S20 Ultra. We expect great Night Sight performance from this camera despite the challang that a periscope lens poses.
But it could’ve been better
The camera hardware is a huge improvement over previous Pixels, but there are still some omissions compared to some current flagship phones. The new 12MP ultrawide camera lacks autofocus, putting it a step behind the likes of iPhone 13 Pro and Galaxy S21 Ultra for Macro shots.
The selfie cameras on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro both lack autofocus as well. What’s more, Pixel 6 buyers will get an inferior 8MP 24mm front camera compared to the much wider 11.1MP 20mm on the Pixel 6 Pro.
Small Pixel isn’t small at all
Long-time Pixel lovers will lament the upsizing in this year’s Pixel lineup. The Pixel 6 is technically the smaller Pixel this year, but the difference is negligible as it’s just 3g lighter at 207g, 5.3mm shorter, and 1.1mm narrower than the 6 Pro. And compared to the Pixel 5, the Pixel 6 is plain huge – 56g heavier, 13.9mm taller, and nearly 5mm wider.
The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are well-priced, there’s no question about it. $599 is a great starting price for an 8/128GB Pixel 6 with a flagship chipset, high-refresh rate OLED display, big battery with fast charging, a top-tier camera config and added bonuses like an IP68 rating and wireless charging. Compare it to a similarly-specced iPhone 13 and you’d need to pay $230 more, a Galaxy S21 5G is around $100 more.
In Europe, at €649, the Pixel 6 is also a good deal. The Pixel 6 Pro at $899 and €899 is very competitive against the the €1,199 Galaxy S21 Ultra and €1,249 iPhone 13 Pro Max.
And when you factor in special pre-order bonuses like the high-end Bose 700 noise-canceling headphones or Google Pixel Buds A-Series for free with a purchase, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro become superb deals.
Finally, Pixel Pass nets you a Pixel 6 or 6 Pro in installments with YouTube Music, Premium, Google One, and Google Play Pass bundled together for $45 or $55 per month.