The Google Pixel 6a is finally out, and reviewers have been putting it through the paces. Powered by the same Tensor chip that the flagship Pixel 6 and 6 Pro use, it should be an impressive device.
For $449, you get most of the style, power, and camera ability of the flagship Pixels. That’s a good deal, assuming things like battery life hold up to scrutiny.
You also get a pure Android experience, with just enough Pixel-only features to make you feel special. Every other A-series Pixel has been a hit, so we have high hopes.
Let’s see if it’s going to be the new midrange champ or just a middling chump.
Let us start by talking about how darn good the Pixel 6a looks. That two-tone back looks flagship because it’s essentially the design of the Pixel 6.
The camera bar is slightly smaller, which is a good thing, and it’s smaller than the flagship, with a 6.1-inch screen. That makes for better “pocketabilty,” according to TechRadar.
Let’s see what else people are saying:
The Verge isn’t so sure that the design language will age well. The back is now plastic instead of glass, and it’s a full ounce lighter than the Pixel 6.
On the other hand, PC Mag was a fan, stating that “The Pixel 6a stands out in a sea of sameness.”
The 6.1-inch OLED screen is “crisp, colorful, and bright,” according to The Guardian, although it only features a 60Hz refresh rate, so it won’t seem as smooth as the flagship devices.
The only negative thing to note about the design is that multiple reviewers said it’s slippery to hold. Put a case on it, and that won’t be an issue.
Oh, and if you were worried about the under-screen fingerprint sensor, don’t be. It sounds like Google fixed the inconsistent feel of the sensor:
“The Pixel 6a is a slight improvement on the whole. It feels a tick faster than the Pixel 6 Pro, but just barely,” says 9to5Google.
This is a stylish device, which is something you don’t usually get at midrange prices. Kudos to Google.
Power and performance
Powered by Google’s Tensor chip, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage, the Pixel 6a should be pretty speedy. How does it fare when reviewers threw their tests at it?
CNET liked it while calling out the flagship Pixel 6 for its many issues:
“The Pixel 6A’s performance felt fast enough for most everyday tasks, and I haven’t noticed any of the bugs or hiccups that plagued the Pixel 6.”
The Verge said all you need to know about the performance of the Pixel 6a:
“It is the best performer for under $500 (at least among options available in the US).”
Google has a track record of well-performing midrange devices, and the Pixel 6a is another winner.
Battery life of the Pixel 6a
Midrange devices usually have decent battery life. That’s often because of the midrange processors, but Google used the full-fat Tensor chip in the Pixel 6a. What does that do to battery life?
TechRadar was less-than-complimentary here:
“We’re not going to mince words here, it’s absolutely dreadful. Getting the phone to last for a full day of use was almost impossible- in fact, we didn’t always get it through a full waking day even when battery saver mode was turned on.”
Oh. Oh, dear. That’s not the only review mentioning bad battery life either. 9to5Google wasn’t feeling it, either:
“I can’t help but be a little disappointed.”
Some reviewers (in this case, CNET) fared better, so perhaps it’s down to the use case:
“The Pixel 6A’s battery is sufficient but not particularly impressive.”
We know from the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro that using lots of cellular connectivity drains the battery faster.
That could be the case here, as CNET specifically says that days spent at home had better battery life than those they had to go into the office.
You get 18W fast charging via USB-C, but you need to buy a charger. Oh, and not including wireless charging is disappointing, but it’s a midrange device.
We had high hopes for the Pixel 6a camera
Google sells its smartphones based on the power of the Pixel camera. Is that the same here, even on a midrange device?
Gizmodo found that for most times of day, the Pixel 6a camera “was the best.”
It only really lagged behind at night or when the light was dimming and tended to “overexpose white spaces.” But long exposure shots are great, according to Gizmodo:
“Expect flagship-like photo taking at a mid-range price. It remains the best smartphone at this price point for taking long exposure nighttime shots of the sky.”
The Guardian credits Google’s computational photography skills as one of the reasons the camera is so capable:
“Google’s camera software is some of the very best in the business and as a result the 6a shoots photos that beat many phones costing twice the price.”
Every other outlet had similar things to say about the Pixel 6a cameras. Sure, it only has a 12.2MP main camera instead of the 50MP one used on the flagship Pixel 6.
That doesn’t stop the Pixel 6a from beating every other smartphone at this price.
Should you buy the Google Pixel 6a?
Google decided to pare back its Pixel 6 to make the midrange version, which looks like it worked. You get the Pixel camera performance, and some cool features, with the full-powered Tensor chip.
The trade-off is a slightly worse screen with a lower refresh rate. Is that acceptable? All the happy A-series Pixel owners seem to think so, and the Pixel 6a is another winner.
You can’t get this level of camera performance on any device at this price. Except maybe, another Pixel. The Pixel 6a is available directly from Google and Amazon.
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