Google has a flagship and it goes by the name Pixel 6 Pro. It features Google’s custom processor, 120Hz curved screen, telephoto camera, and a memory and battery upgrade over the Google Pixel 6. Hardware and software work together here to offer the best experience with Google’s Artificial Intelligence being in focus here, but is the price difference to the base model really justified?
Updated 01.24.2022: After three months using the Google Pixel 6 Pro daily, my experience with the device has changed significantly. Therefore, I decided to update this review. The categories revisited are Performance and Software, Battery, and Final verdict. The original content has been maintained.
- 10-120Hz adaptive screen
- Super versatile camera
- Android 12
- Five years of security updates
- IP68 certified
- Battery charge time
- Limited storage availability by region
- A niche product
Google Pixel 6 Pro in a nutshell
The Google Pixel 6 Pro has a versatile and excellent camera system, a competitive display, and a processor that promises to deliver better performance for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) tasks. Google’s flagship in 2021 is a complete package, but it is still a niche product.
Sold in select regions such as the United States and some European countries, the Pixel does not have the distribution capacity for devices like the iPhone and the Galaxy. In the past, Google faced problems with out-of-stock and, in 2021, with the shortage of parts in the market due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the scenario does not look optimistic.
Compared to Pixel 6, the Pro variant has a telephoto camera that works very well, a larger screen with curved sides and a 120 Hz refresh rate, more battery, RAM and internal storage options. The aluminum frame gives a more Premium impression to the Pixel 6 Pro as well. But that’s it, in total, this difference adds $300 to the bill.
With all the fuss over the launch of Pixel 6 Pro, Google’s flagship, the feeling is that the line may finally take off. However, this is still an unanswered question. Pixel phones are a niche, and Google has an important partnership with companies with which its flagship competes. In the end, this partnership will probably speak louder.
Original design and 120 Hz screen
The design of the Pixel 6 lineup revolves around the camera module bar.
According to Google the most elegant solution was to add a telephoto lens for the Pro model. As a consequence, we have a device with unique design. Another striking visual feature is the size of the phone’s screen.
What I liked:
- Original design.
- 120Hz screen refresh rate.
- Borderless display.
- Button positions.
What I didn’t like:
- Slight overhang on curved sides at certain angles.
- Only one screen size option.
Looking at it from the front, the Google Pixel 6 Pro is pretty much just screen. The OLED display is 6.7 inches and the side edges are curved, which offers a good impression when consuming content. However, depending on the angle we move the device, a slight shadow can be perceived.
Even with a large screen and a considerable battery, the Pixel 6 Pro is a beautiful and elegant device, made of Gorilla Glass Victus glass and aluminum frame. Compared to the various flagships on the market, the Pixel 6 Pro feels premium, and reminds me a lot of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
On the back, the bar camera module becomes a signature for the Pixel 6 series. Even with the significant elevation, at no point did my experience suffer from this format. The buttons are in the right position, even those with a small hand can reach them without difficulty.
Incidentally, using the new one-handed phone use option added to Android 12, it’s very easy to navigate the system on a phone even with this screen diagonal. However, this is still a heavy phone, it weighs 210 grams and its measurements are also impressive: 163.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm.
Finally, the 120 Hz display makes everything more fluid and smooth. The adaptive refresh rate automatically sets the device from 10 to 120 Hz depending on the content we consume on the screen. In addition, the biometric sensor positioned under the display allows you to unlock the device
quickly and securely.
Tensor is the first SoC developed exclusively by Google and the main goal of this processor is to handle Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) software processes right on the device.
In other words, image and language processing happens privately and locally, without cloud storage.
What I liked:
- Consistent performance.
- Android 12 and Material You.
- Five years of security updates.
- No hardware overheating.
What I didn’t like:
- Limited storage variant availability.
For this, Google has created an Integrated System on Chip (SoC) with two Cortex-X1 cores, two Cortex-A76 cores and four Cortex-A55 cores in between for less power hungry tasks. The SoC works in conjunction with Mali G78 GPU and 12 GB of RAM.
Leaving the spec sheet aside, the Google Pixel 6 Pro demonstrated consistent performance, with no significant temperature rise or any kind of slowdowns. The processing time of the camera software is fast, as well as the use of multitasking features and the system’s app responses.
My criticism, however, goes to the limited storage variant availability in some regions. That’s because the Pixel 6 Pro is a smartphone focused on image and language processing, with the camera as a major highlight. Without offering microSD card support, many people will be hostage to the cloud in the long run.
In the benchmark comparison table below, you can see that the Tensor SoC manages to achieve significantly better results than the Snapdragon 888 chips of the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, but ends up almost in a tie with the Exynos 2100 of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, for example. Compared to the iPhone 13 Pro‘s A15 Bionic SoC processor, the Tensor lags behind when compared in the 3DMark benchmark database.
Google Pixel 6 Pro
|Model/Benchmark||Google Pixel 6 Pro||Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra||Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra||Apple iPhone 13 Pro|
|Geekbench 5 (single/multi)||1.043/2.876||942/3.407||1.123/3.619||–|
|3DMark Wild Life||6.446||5.375||5.621||9.665|
|3DMark Wild Life Stress Test||6.367||–||Overheating failure||9.694|
Update: This is the first time the Tensor SoC has been put to the test, so issues involving hardware and software performance are to be expected. Over the past three months, a series of errors related to the biometric sensor, malfunctioning on-screen scrolling, and image processing have been significant to a poor experience with the device.
Although January’s corrective update brings optimizations, some bugs are still appearing, even if in smaller numbers. This is the case with on-screen scrolling, which continues to stutter and cause certain applications to close forcibly. This bug no longer happens with the previous frequency, but has not yet been completely fixed. Google also sent a 300 MB camera app update that apparently fixes the issues with image processing.
The experience with the biometric sensor, on the other hand, has not changed, it remains inaccurate and sluggish even after the software update.
Android 12 and Material You integrated
The Google Pixel 6 Pro is the first smartphone to leave the factory running Android 12. In addition, we have the insertion of device colors into the OS itself, making the hardware and software coexist in seamless harmony that we have never seen before.
The dynamic Material You theme lets you deeply customize system and app colors. So, from camera software to setting options, everything follows the same color palette.
In addition, the Privacy Dashboard features and usage indicators for the phone’s features, such as microphone and camera, are on board the Pixel 6 Pro. Incidentally, regarding security, Google has stated that the sixth generation Pixel will receive up to five years of security updates, as well as three years of Android updates.
Update: Google had to cancel delivering the December/21 update for the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro because of errors causing calls to drop or disconnect. Because of this, the software fixes were postponed until January/22. When our review was initially published, it was not possible to use the Pixel 6 Pro volume rockers to adjust Chromecast volume for streaming in some apps. Now the feature is finally available.
Versatile and fun camera set
Pixel devices are known for the excellent quality of the camera and the same goes with the Pixel 6 Pro. Here we have a set of three lenses, with the highlight being the 48 MP telephoto camera, capable of capturing images with 4x optical zoom. In addition,
the Super Res Zoom feature delivers impressive results.
What I liked:
- Camera versatility.
- Accurate and vivid colors.
- Super Res Zoom impresses.
- Motion Mode is a great addition.
- Ultrawide front-facing camera.
What I didn’t like:
Like the Pixel 6, the Pro variant features a 50 MP main lens capable of capturing 12 MP images via the pixel binning technique. Google opted to use Samsung GN1’s 1/1.31-inch sensor (with 1.2µm pixels), with f/1.85 aperture and optical stabilization (OIS).
The devices also share the 12MP ultra-wide-angle camera setup with f/2.2 aperture and 1.25µm pixel size, with 114-degree field of view. And the front camera uses an 11 MP sensor, with the option of image capture with ultra wide-angle field of view.
Overall, images captured with the Pixel 6 Pro have excellent colorimetry, and even with the focus on computational photography, the digital processing of the photos maintains the natural properties of the scenes. In other words, images captured in well-lit environments do not undergo an aggressive treatment. The Pixel 6 Pro’s camera works very well the dynamic range, with respect to details and sharpness.
But what makes the Pixel 6 Pro the flagship of this series is the 48 MP telephoto camera, capable of capturing images with optical zoom of up to 4x and digital zoom of up to 20x. So, the versatility of the Pixel 6 Pro’s camera is what marks an upgrade in the series.
Google’s night mode has always been among my favorites when it comes to image processing in low-light environments. However, with the Pixel 6 Pro, it was possible to use the camera at night without even activating the feature, which I found really impressive in some cases, leaving the captured scene a bit more natural.
During my test, I used the automatic settings pretty much the entire time.
When it comes to the camera software, Google offers a clean layout and some new features, like the Motion Mode, for example, that makes using the camera more creative. Exposure, contrast and white balance adjustment controls are available right on the screen and are easy to set up, as well as switch between one lens and another.
The Magic Erase feature, however, is really hard to apply, because although the camera’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) can perfectly understand the unwanted people or objects that need to be removed from the photo, the editing is not good. Check out the result below:
A comparison test of the Google Pixel 6 Pro’s camera with top 2021 competitors will be published this week.
Only satisfactory battery life
With a large 120Hz screen and advanced processing power, the Pixel 6 Pro is built with a 5,003 mAh battery.
Like Apple and Samsung, however, this device doesn’t follow the trend of charging speeds from manufacturers like Xiaomi, OnePlus, and Oppo.
What I liked:
- Wireless charging option available.
What I didn’t like:
- Charging adapter not included in the box.
- Full recharge time is slow.
In one day of heavy use, the Google Pixel 6 Pro had a battery life of 14 hours. Which isn’t bad for a device with a 6.7-inch screen with 120 Hz refresh rate. On this day, almost 25% of the battery was consumed by the camera and 5% by the game Free Fire. The screen usage time was 4h30min.
In a day of normal use, I could use the device for a whole day, reaching the end of the night with 16% of the load.
However, I did not have enough time to test the battery autonomy in the long term. So, wait for the update of this section in the coming days!
Regarding charging time, the performance of the Pixel 6 Pro is very close to what Apple and Samsung offer. That is, charging can last up to three hours depending on the charging mode set. By default, the Pixel 6 Pro is set to do adaptive charging, which is recommended for nighttime recharging, i.e. while you sleep.
However, even with adaptive charging mode disabled, charging 30% of the battery can take 1h15min. Which, according to my experience, can be consumed in two hours of camera use.
Update: The battery experience of the Google Pixel 6 Pro has not changed much since the publication of the review of the device. That is, the average usage of the device is still 14 to 16 hours. My daily experience is to charge the device every night to safely reach the end of the day with at least 8% battery life.
As stated earlier, the charging time will directly depend on the mode used during the process. Adaptive mode is the one I use most often, since it preserves battery life during the fast charging process.
This is because when the battery level is low, charging is faster, reaching about 50% of the battery capacity in 30 minutes. After that it slows down the charging rate until it reaches 80% and then again until it reaches 100%. Thus, as the battery approaches full charge, the charging power is gradually reduced, preserving battery life and longevity. This using a 30W charger.
Google Pixel 6 Pro technical specifications
|Technical Data Sheet|
|Screen||6.7-inch LTPO OLED
1,440 x 3,120 pixels (512 PPP) at 120 hertz
2x ARM Cortex-X1 @ 2.80 GHz
2x ARM Cortex-A76 @ 2.25 GHz
4x ARM Cortex-A55 @ 1.80 GHz
20x ARM Mali-G78 (GPU)
(varies by region)
|12 GB LPDDR5-6400
128 GB, 256 GB or 512 GB UFS 3.1
|Main camera||50 MP | f1.85 | 25 mm | 1.2 µm | 82° FoV | OIS
(Samsung GN1 sensor: 1/1.31”)
|Ultra Wide-angle||12 MP | f/2.2 | 16.3 mm | 114° FoV|
|Telephoto lens||48 MP | f/3.5 | 104 mm | 0.8 µm | 23.4° FoV | 4x optical zoom | OIS
(Sony IMX586 sensor: 1/2”)
|Video||4K at 60 fps (rear)
4K at 30 fps (front)
|Selfies||11 MP | f/2.2 | 1.22 µm | 94° FoV|
|Wired Charging||Max. 30 watts|
|Wireless charging (Qi)||Max. 23 watts|
|Pricing (worldwide)||From US$ 899/ € 899|
The Pixel 6 Pro is the Google flagship we’ve been waiting for years. The company has built its own SoC to carry forward the AI and ML development project that it considers the future of technology interaction. Compared to the previous models, the new generation is a game changer and had upgrades in many ways, especially the Pro model.
The Google Pixel 6 Pro is available in few countries and despite all the marketing investment from Google, the series should still be considered niche. The Pixel models of 2021 will hardly stand up to iPhones and Galaxies, because despite the excellent camera performance and hardware quality, they suffer Google’s limited distribution capabilities.
In 2021, we can look forward to more people purchasing Pixel devices, as Google’s pricing is more aggressive. The Pixel 6 Pro can be bought for $899, which for a flagship is very attractive.
Now, it remains to be seen if geek concepts like Artificial Intelligence, Computational Photography and Machine Learning can be translated to the general public. Right now, it seems hard to me, but that doesn’t mean the Google Pixel 6 Pro isn’t great!
Finally, answering the question from the beginning: are the 300 dollars more charged by Pixel 6 Pro justified? Personally, I don’t think so. I’m a fan of the Pixel line and I’ve been using Google smartphones for more than three years, so what the camera software is able to deliver from computer photography is enough for me, I don’t need a telephoto camera, despite finding it functional.
In addition, a 90 Hz screen is enough for me, because it is already a comfortable experience, and it would continue to be for the next two or three years. However, this is a question I leave you to answer. What is really important to you? If Pixel 6 Pro extras are relevant in your daily life, that’s it, the 300 dollars are justified.
Update: Over the long run, the Google Pixel 6 Pro was presenting a number of problems that at the time of publishing the review of the device were either not experienced, or were considered minor. Since this is a smartphone that has recently hit the market and is packed with a new processor, we decided to update this review.
Over the past three months, with the series of issues presented by the Pixel 6 Pro, my experience was really compromised. However, the corrective update has brought improvements, and in the past week the device has been more stable. However, it must be said that Google seems to be fixing hardware and software compatibility bugs as they come along. What I mean by this is that it is still early to express a final opinion regarding the Tensor SoC, as the last few months have been quite inconsistent.
The Pixel 6 Pro is still a device with great features, and post-launch bug fixes are common for high-performance smartphones. However, just as a smartphone that had issues deserves to have its evaluation fixed, the same goes for a phone that had a performance drop. So even though it achieved greater stability after the latest update, in the long run the Google Pixel 6 Pro raised some red flags that need to be acknowledged when it comes to a cell phone with a newly launched CPU on the market.
Therefore, our rating of the Pixel 6 Pro is changed from 4.5 to 4.0. This means that the Pixel 6 Pro goes from “a clear buy recommendation” to “a better than average overall product, but one that may have minor weaknesses” that need to be considered by people interested in the device before choosing it.
So, what did you think of Google’s flagship for 2021? Would you consider getting the niche flagship by Google? Is the Google Pixel 6 intuitive enough for you?