Google Pixel 6a

The Google Pixel 6a is here, with the promise of a powerful, durable, intelligent, and very good photo smartphone. All for less than 500 euros. Promise kept? The answer in our test.

THE OPINION OF MACBOUND.COM

Google Pixel 6a

MOST

  • + Nice compact size
  • + High-quality screen
  • + Overall Tensor chip performance
  • + The excellent software experience
  • + Solid autonomy
  • + The best in the photo at this price

THE LESSERS

  • – 60Hz display only
  • – Very slow 18W charging
  • – Not cut out for greedy games
  • – No charger in the box

After being deprived of the Pixel 5a last year in Europe, Google has decided this year to market the Pixel 6a on the old continent. It presents itself as a “more affordable” solution than the brand’s high-end models, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. 

The Pixel 6a is primarily aimed at users looking for the “Pixel experience” which translates into a great camera and an uncompromising software experience, but who don’t have more than €459 to put into a smartphone.

Unfortunately for Google, competition is fierce in this price segment. Indeed, there are very good references such as the Samsung Galaxy A53, the Nothing Phone (1), the iPhone SE 2022, and the OnePlus Nord 2. To stand out, the Pixel 6a relies on the Google Tensor chip of its big brothers. It optimizes the software experience and improves photo quality thanks to artificial intelligence.

Beyond its Google Tensor chip, the Pixel 6a is equipped with 6 GB of RAM, a 6.1-inch Full HD AMOLED panel with a refresh rate of 60 Hz, IP67 waterproof certification, and a dual 12-megapixel photo sensor for wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle. 

Its autonomy is ensured by a 4410 mAh battery, with the possibility of using a “fast” charge of 18W. Nothing impressive on paper then, but let’s not draw too hasty a conclusion.

Summary

A Sober Design And a Compact Size

Google Pixel 6a
Google Pixel 6a

Google has managed to keep the identity of its Pixel smartphones with this 6a model which shares the codes of the range: a two-tone appearance and a photo module that takes the form of a headband. 

The latter is also less apparent than on the 6 and 6 Pro models. Its 6.1-inch screen and contained borders make it a compact smartphone that’s pleasant to hold. With only 178 grams on the scale, the Pixel 6a is cut out for small hands and those who don’t like giant mobiles.

If the front is made of Gorilla Glass 3, this is not the case for the back which is made of smooth “composite material” which can slip out of your hands. The “charcoal” gray version that we tested also had the annoying tendency to mark fingerprints. Two flaws disappear if you dress the phone in a protective shell.

Google Pixel 6a Side Buttons
Google Pixel 6a Side Buttons
Google Pixel 6a Back Display
Google Pixel 6a Back Display
Google Pixel 6a Display
Google Pixel 6a Display
Google Pixel 6a C Port
Google Pixel 6a C Port

The lower edge of the phone accommodates the USB-C connector. Of the two slots on each side, only the one on the right allows the sound from the lower speaker to pass through. Present on the Pixel 5a, the 3.5 mm jack takes its bow here. 

On the left edge, there is a hatch that can accommodate a single nano SIM. No slot for a microSD card, you will have to be satisfied with the storage capacity of the phone and a subscription to Google One if you run out of space…

The volume and power buttons are on the right side. They’re plastic and don’t offer the best grip, but nothing to be alarmed about for a phone in this price range. The fingerprint reader is located under the screen, it is sufficiently responsive. Thanks to its IP67 certification, the Google Pixel 6a is dustproof and waterproof up to one meter deep for 30 minutes.

Software Experience

The software part is a strong point of the Pixel 6a. Google offers the same experience as on its more expensive smartphones. Thus, we find Android 12 and its Material You interface whose colors can be adjusted to your wallpaper. A treatment that is also applied to widgets, which thus become dynamic.

Among the new features of Pixel phones, we will also mention the “magic eraser” on Google Photos which allows you to erase on-the-fly objects or people that you do not want to appear in your photos. The result is quite stunning. 

Instant translation of incoming and outgoing messages to chat in any language is also a unique and very powerful feature. The function of double tapping the back of the phone is also very effective. Perfect for taking a screenshot, opening a specific application, or even displaying notifications.

One last for the road: the “listening” feature that identifies song titles near the phone. It is not easy to find as it is in the “sound and vibrate” settings. Google ensures that the music is recognized thanks to a database stored on the phone and that your confidentiality is respected.

Regarding the phone’s features, Google has a good idea of ​​having a “Pixel Tips” application which includes all the key features of the Pixel interface.

Despite the software bugs that the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro faced, we didn’t encounter any during our Pixel 6a test. Among the “defects”, we can mention a somewhat long processing time on certain photos. 

Indeed, it is sometimes necessary to wait a few seconds between the moment when we press the button to take a photo, and when we can consult it in the gallery. Nothing bad considering the quality obtained (we will have the opportunity to come back to this). 

It’s also unclear why Google has consolidated internet settings, which requires double-tapping to turn Wi-Fi and mobile data on or off.

As you would expect with Google, the software support is exemplary. The American giant is one of the Android manufacturers offering the best software monitoring. Buying a Pixel 6a this year means getting 3 years of major Android updates and 5 years of security updates. A great point.

Brilliant Display At 60Hz

Display at 60Hz
Display at 60Hz

The Pixel 6a may be a mid-range phone, but it doesn’t have much to envy much more expensive models when it comes to screen quality. The 6.1-inch OLED panel benefits from infinite contrast. But it’s its average brightness of 864 cd/m2 that pleasantly surprised us. 

The Pixel 6a is 28.5% brighter than the average phone between 400 and 500 euros that we have tested over the past 12 months in our 01Lab. Enough to enjoy a comfortable display, even in direct sunlight.

The Pixel 6a also does very well in terms of displaying good colorimetry and faithful colors. Out of the box, the default display mode scores a very good Delta E of 3.08 (the closer to zero the better). Only the iPhone SE 2022 beats it in our comparison of screens in this price range. By switching to the “natural” display mode, the Pixel 6a goes to 2.68.

The only regret we have about this screen is its 60Hz refresh rate. Some competing models, even cheaper ones, have already gone to 120Hz. If you’ve never tested a phone with a faster display, you shouldn’t have a problem with that. Otherwise, you will see a difference in page animations and scrolling. 

The 60 Hz is a concession made by Google to offer its phone at this price, but also to preserve the autonomy of its Pixel 6a.reat performance, but not a gamer at heart۔

Great performance, But Not A Gamer At Heart

Like its big brothers, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, the 6a is equipped with Google’s first in-house chip, the famous “Tensor”. Cut above all for artificial intelligence and computational photography, the SoC is nonetheless efficient in daily tasks. 

We never encountered any lag, and the 6GB of RAM allows for flawless multitasking. Now let’s take a closer look at the benchmarks.

On AnTuTu 9, the overall Pixel 6a score is very good. Only the A15 Bionic chip of the iPhone SE 2022 passes it in this price category. Its score of 705,129 places the Pixel 6a at a good distance from its competitors equipped with generally less efficient SoCs, at least in the theoretical results.

We also looked at the graphics performance of the Google Tensor with the 3D Mark Wild Life test. Again, the Pixel 6a comes second, behind the iPhone SE 2022. But let’s not jump to conclusions too quickly. 

Indeed, it is always more interesting to look at the stability of performance when the chip is under heavy load, over a gaming session of a few tens of minutes for example.

To test this stability, we used the 3D Mark Wild Life Stability test. The results are very different from the first and therefore very interesting…

Indeed the Pixel 6a comes last in the stability test. Understand by this that it is subject to “throttling”. In other words, to limit the heating of its Google Tensor chip, the system reduces its operating frequency.

We also note that the two phones with the lowest performance in this ranking are also those that have the least need to adjust their performance when they are under heavy load. Overall, it is still the iPhone SE 2022 which is doing the best with a very good performance/stability ratio.

In games like Genshin Impact, we were able to play for half an hour with graphics set to “medium” at 30 frames per second in good fluid conditions, without the device heating up excessively. With only 12.8% thermal amplitude, it generally heats up less than other mid-range smartphones.

Photo: King Of The Mid-Range

The king of the mid-range
The king of the mid-range

Unlike the Pixel 5a, the 6a doesn’t share the same cameras as higher-end models. We will content ourselves with two 12-megapixel sensors, for wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle. To be more precise, these are Sony IMX363 sensors. 

If that sounds like something to you, it’s because they’re the same as the Google Pixel 2, 3, 4, and 5. soup”, Google does it again and manages to treat us despite this almost anachronistic material.

Wide-angle shot.
Wide-angle shot.
Ultra-wide-angle photo.
Ultra-wide-angle photo.

Once again, Google is working miracles thanks to computational photography, that is to say, the software processing brought to the shots after having captured them. The processing time, which is sometimes a bit long, sometimes requires waiting a few seconds before being able to display the photo. This is especially true for portrait-mode photos.

That being said, we can only see the excellent performance of the Google Pixel 6a in the photo. For less than 500 euros, difficult to do better. When the light conditions are favorable, the shots are detailed, contrasted, and with natural colors. 

Dynamic management is also a success, with shadow areas that are not blocked, without ever overexposing the rest of the photo. The ultra-wide angle logically displays a little more deformation in the angles than the wide angle, but this remains quite correct.

Wide-angle with night vision mode.
Wide-angle with night vision mode.
Wide-angle without night mode.
Wide-angle without night mode.

If we left it at that, other mid-range smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G could stand up to it. But where the Pixel 6a buries the competition is in nighttime snaps. So much so that we can only recommend that you permanently activate the famous “Night Vision” mode of the phone. 

In exchange for a longer exposure time that requires not moving too much (a viewfinder in the center of the image helps you stay still during the break time), the results are simply stunning. 

Admittedly, we are not at the level of a Pixel 6 Pro or a Galaxy S22 Ultra, but this is much better than what other smartphones offer in this price category.

The Pixel 6a, on the other hand, does not have a telephoto sensor. It is therefore necessary to be satisfied with a digital zoom x2 by default. It offers a correct result and can also be used with the “Night Vision” mode. The digital zoom can be pushed up to x7, but we don’t advise you to go that far, otherwise, the quality will deteriorate quickly.

The portrait mode of the Google Pixel 6a is very convincing. Without cutting out the subject perfectly, he manages to make the soft blur progressive for a very natural result. The 8-megapixel front sensor also does very well provided you have optimal light conditions. 

Portrait mode applies to crop, and the background blur isn’t as gradual as that offered by the main photo module.

On the video side, the front sensor can shoot up to 1080p at 30 fps. With its rear module, the Pixel 6a can go up to 4K definition at 60 fps. The video quality is there, as is the optical image stabilization. If you activate the “video stabilization” mode, the camera then applies a crop by zooming in.

Solid Battery Life And Very Slow Charging

The 4410 mAh battery, the 60 Hz screen as well as the software optimizations that the Pixel 6a benefits from allow it to have solid autonomy. Indeed, our versatile autonomy test places it in the high average compared to smartphones in its category.

The Pixel 6a is distinguished by its autonomy in video streaming, 29% higher than the average of other smartphones between 400 and 500 euros, and tested by the 01Lab over the past 12 months. 

With 15 hours and 12 minutes, the 6a lasts almost two hours longer on the Galaxy A53 and five hours longer than the iPhone SE 2022. Only the Nothing Phone (1) does better on this specific point.

If you like to play heavy titles like Genshin Impact, you’ll lose about 10% battery for a 25-minute gaming session. Beyond the 01Lab tests, we never had trouble lasting a full day of intensive use before having to recharge it, which is encouraging. If you don’t ask too much, you can count on a day and a half of autonomy.

We recently learned that the Pixel 6a will have a 90Hz display, but that Google has made a conscious choice to restrict it to 60Hz at the software level. This makes sense insofar as this is what allows the phone to offer completely correct autonomy. 

Others will see it as an artificial way found by Google to differentiate the smartphone from its big brothers, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro…

We now come to the annoying subject: the load. Although it is described as “fast” by Google, we do not agree. The fact that no charger is present in the box is not a problem. Charging speed stuck at 18W is one. Even Samsung, which is far from being the best in this area, offers 25W.

Thus, it takes 48 minutes for the Pixel 6a to regain 50% battery and more than two hours for a full recharge. For comparison, it’s twice as slow as the average smartphone tested by us in the last 12 months (in this price category).

Google Pixel 6a Technical Sheet

SystemAndroid 12
ProcessorGoogle Tensor
Size (diagonal)6.1″
Screen resolution429 dpi

MOST

  • + Nice compact size
  • + High-quality screen
  • + Overall Tensor chip performance
  • + The excellent software experience
  • + Solid autonomy
  • + The best in the photo at this price

THE LESSERS

  • – 60Hz display only
  • – Very slow 18W charging
  • – Not cut out for greedy games
  • – No charger in the box

Google Pixel 6a Verdict

The Pixel 6a is a success. Google manages to offer a more affordable version of its Pixel 6 and 6 Pro while retaining what makes the identity of Pixel smartphones: excellent photo quality and an uncompromising software experience.

Yes, the Pixel 6a makes concessions on certain points such as the screen refresh rate at 60 Hz or too slow a charge. But it is these adjustments that allow Google to integrate the Tensor chip and clearly distinguish itself from other smartphones under 500 euros.

If you’re looking for a mid-range phone with great photography skills and want to take advantage of Google’s latest software innovations before anyone else, and for the next three years, the Pixel 6a is a must.

Read more about The Google Pixel 6a Smartphone Is Down Sharply On Amazon

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Abram left his e-business studies to devote himself to his entrepreneurial projects. In 2017, he created the company Inbound Media and wrote articles about high-tech products for his Chromebookeur site. In 2019, Chromebookeur was renamed Macbound and became a general purchasing advice site. Today, Abram manages the development and growth of Macbound, surrounded by a young and talented team.

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