Google launched the Pixel 6a, the company’s latest mid-range Pixel phone last week, 2 years after the launch of Pixel 4a. This time it has 5G support, larger screen, bigger battery and uses the same Tensor chip that is present in the Pixel 6. The price has also increased compared to the Pixel 4a. Is the phone worth the price? Let us dive into the review to find out.
- Pixel 6a in charcoal colour
- USB-C to USB-C Cable (USB 2.0)
- Quick Start Guide
- Quick Switch Adaptor
- SIM Ejector Tool
Display, Hardware and Design
Starting with the display, the Pixel 6a has a 6.1-inch Full HD+ OLED display with a pixel resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels, 20:9 aspect ratio and a pixel density of about 431 PPI. The display is bright, and has HDR support. Outdoor visibility is good as well.
The phone has a 60Hz refresh rate display, compared to 90Hz in the Pixel 6, and the competitors in the price range offer 120Hz and even 144Hz refresh rate. If you had already used 120Hz refresh rate before, you will feel the difference when using the Pixel 6a, especially when you are scrolling through the UI and when gaming. It also has HDR 10+ support, which works for YouTube and Netflix.
Under the display options, there are different options to adjust colours based on your preference. There is also a night light option that lets you reduce the display’s blue light emission, so it doesn’t cause eye strain when you are reading at night. There is Dark mode, similar to other Android phones. It has an always-on display option for the lock screen, but it doesn’t offer a lot of customization. It doesn’t have MEMC or DC Dimming option. The phone comes with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection, compared to Gorilla Glass Victus protection in the Pixel 6.
The phone has a tiny centre punch-hole that houses an 8-megapixel camera, which doesn’t disturb when watching videos since it just occupies a small space. Above the display there is an earpiece on the top edge which also doubles up as a secondary speaker.
The phone has an optical in-display fingerprint scanner which is present almost near the centre area, similar to Samsung. You can also notice a small bezel below the display, which is slight bigger than the bezels on the sides and the top.
Coming to the button placements, the power button and volume rockers are present on the right side. The single SIM slot is present on the left side, and the phone has eSIM support. The USB Type-C port, microphone and speaker grill are present on the bottom. The secondary microphone is present on the top. Since the sides have a metal frame, you can see the antenna bands, and it doesn’t attract fingerprints.
Compared to the glass back on the Pixel 6 and the 6 Pro, the Pixel 6a uses a plastic back, which the company calls 3D thermoformed composite back cover. The back cover is prone to scratches and also attracts fingerprints easily, so it is recommended to use a case. The phone is 8.9mm thick and weighs 178 grams.
In addition to the Grey, the phone also comes in Chalk colour, which is white, but the Sage colour is not available in India. The phone has IP67 ratings for dust and water resistance compared to IP68 in the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, but this is still good since some only have IP52 and IP53 ratings. Overall, the build quality is decent.
- 12.2MP rear camera with f/1.7 aperture, IMX363 sensor, PDAF, OIS
- 12MP 107° Ultra-wide camera with IMX386 sensor, f/2.2 aperture
- 8MP front camera with 84° ultra-wide lens, IMX355 sensor, f/2.0 aperture
The camera UI is simple with options for night sight, portrait, camera, video, panorama, photo sphere and Google Lens. There is no expert or pro mode mode is pro mode, but there is RAW option, which you can enable from the advanced settings. Other features include, Astrophotography, Night Sight, Top Shot, Magic Eraser, Real Tone and Face Unblur.
Coming to the image quality, daylight shots came out well with brilliant dynamic range from both the cameras. You get full 12MP output from the main and ultra-wide cameras. It doesn’t have macro option. The 8MP front camera is also good. Even though the phone only has digital zoom up to 7X, the computation photography makes the image look clear. Edge detection is decent in portrait is almost perfect. Lowlight camera performance is also good, and the night sight helps in places where there is minimal light.
Check out the camera samples.
It can record videos at 4k resolution at 60 fps from both the main camera and 4k 30 fps from the ultra-wide camera. You can also switch between the main and and ultra-wide cameras. The main camera has standard, locked, active and cinematic pan stabilization options. Standard is enough for most cases, and the active mode uses the ultra-wide camera, and zoom in for better stabilization. It also has 120 (1/4) and 240 (1/8) fps options in 1080p. Video quality is good from both the main and ultra-wide camera. Since the front camera resolution in only 8MP, you only get 1080p video recording, that too only in 30fps. There is no HDR video option.
Check out the video samples
Software, UI and Apps
It runs Android 12 out of the box with Android security patch for April 2022, but some are getting the July security patch, so it should roll out for everyone soon. The company has promised 3 Android OS updates and 5 years of security patches. You don’t get any bloatware. There is live translate feature that you can enable from the system settings.
Out of 6GB LPDDR5 RAM, you get 5.55GB of usable RAM, and about 2GB of RAM is free when default apps are running in the background. It doesn’t have memory extension or virtual RAM. Out of 128GB, you get about 110GB of free storage. It has UFS 3.1 storage, and we got sequential read speeds of 1450.99MB/s. Apart from the Google apps, it doesn’t have any third-party apps.
The phone has an in-display optical fingerprint sensor. Unlike most phones, it doesn’t immediately unlock the phone just by keeping your finger on the sensor, and takes at least a second. This was also present in the Pixel 6. Some have reported that the phone gets unlocked when using fingerprint of the users who have not even registered. We tried, and couldn’t replicate this. If this is true, it is a serious issue which Google should fix.
Music Player and Multimedia
YouTube Music is the default music player. It doesn’t have Dolby Atmos or any other custom audio features. Audio through the stereo speakers is clear and loud, and there is no distortion even at full volume. Audio through the headphones is good as well. The phone has Widevine L1 so that you can play HD content on Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and other streaming apps. You also get HDR playback on Netflix, in addition to YouTube.
SIM and Connectivity
It has single physical SIM and an eSIM support, so you can use it as a dual SIM phone. The phone has the usual set of connectivity features such as 5G with support for n1, n2, n3, n5, n7, n8, n12, n20, n25, n28, n30, n38, n40, n41, n48, n66, n71, n77 and n78 bands, dual 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 6E 802.11ax (2.4 + 5GHz), Bluetooth 5.2, GPS + GLONASS and NFC support. It also has USB OTG support. Looks like it doesn’t have carrier aggregation, since I couldn’t get it to work. We did not face any call drops and the earpiece volume is good, even though it is present on the top edge.
The Pixel 6a’s body SAR is 1.16W/Kg and head SAR is at 1.10/Kg which is slightly high compared to some mid-range phones, but it well under the limit in India, which is 1.6 W/kg (over 1 g).
Performance and Benchmarks
The phone is powered by Google Tensor SoC, which was first introduced with the Pixel 6. It has 2x 2.80GHz Cortex-X1 + 2 x 2.25GHz Cortex-A76 + 4 x 1.80GHz Cortex-A55) with 848MHz Mali-G78 MP20 GPU and also has Titan M2 security chip.
The performance is smooth without any lags, and it also offers smooth gaming performance even in graphic intensive games. When you play graphic-intensive games like COD, BGMI and Genshin Impact, or use the camera for a long time for recording videos, it gets hot quickly. It reached maximum 44º in our testing indoors in Wi-Fi, but this might vary outdoors in 4G. I got overheating warning when using the camera for about 10 minutes in the sun. That said, check out some synthetic benchmark scores below.
As you can see, the Tensor chip is decent, but it can’t compete with other flagship chips, which is okay. Hope the company resolves the heating issue.
Coming to the battery life, the phone packs a 4410mAh (typical) built-in battery which might looks small, but it lasts for a day even with heavy use on 4G. With minimal use on Wi-Fi, it should last for 2 days. I got over 5 hours of screen on time with over a day of use on Wi-Fi. This might be due to the 60Hz OLED screen.
It has 18W PD fast charging, and takes about 45 minutes to charge to 50%, over 1 and half hour to charge to 90%, and the next 10% takes another half an hour, so it takes over 2 hours for full charge. It doesn’t have wireless charging.
Overall, the Pixel 6a is a good upgrade to the Pixel 4a, since it has a more powerful chip, comes with dual cameras, has IP67 ratings and a better battery life. However, the Rs. 43,999 price tag is hard to justify since it only has a 60Hz screen, comes with 18W charging and a slow fingerprint sensor.
Google offered Rs. 4,000 instant discount on Axis Bank Cards and EMI as a part of limited-period offer for pre-orders, now the discount is down to Rs. 2000. If you want to get the phone for the camera and the software support, you can wait for the price cut.
In the similar price range, the iQOO 9 is a good deal. You can also check out the Samsung Galaxy A73 for the One UI experience, moto edge 30 pro for a stock Android-like experience and also check out the OnePlus 10R for its 150W fast charging.
Pricing and availability
The Google Pixel 6a is priced at Rs. 43,999 (MRP) and is available from Flipkart.
- Promise of 3 OS updates and 5 years of security updates
- Brilliant cameras
- Smooth performance
- IP67 ratings
- Loud stereo speakers
- 60Hz screen
- Fingerprint sensor is slow
- Back is prone to scratches
- Gets heated quickly during intensive tasks
- 18W charging is slow