Google Pixel 6a Review: How Is It THIS Good?!

Has Google nailed the "affordable flagship" formula with the Pixel 6a?

Google Pixel 6a Review
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For the past 2 weeks or so, I have been using the Google Pixel 6a as my primary phone to prepare for this review. And I am really surprised by how good it is! Yes, I have seen some people writing it off because of the 60Hz display and all the bugs/security flaws onboard, but after 2 updates I have received so far, all of those problems have been fixed. And I am totally enjoying the experience on this device.

Of course, it’s not a perfect phone by any means, and there are a few shortcomings here. But the biggest hurdle for the Pixel 6a is definitely the price set by Google for the Indian market. If you look at this chart, it is more expensive in India than anywhere else in the world!

Google Pixel 6a - Global Pricing

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And with brands like iQOO, OnePlus, and even OPPO offering some great specs in this region, it’s obvious that Google is charging a premium price for this device. So, if you are thinking of buying the Pixel 6a, always look out for bank discounts or coupon codes. At the MSRP of INR 44,000, it’s a hard sell.

Google Pixel 6a Specifications:

  • Body: 71.8 x 152.2 x 8.9mm, 178gm, Gorilla Glass 3, IP67 dust/water resistant
  • Display: 6.1-inches OLED, 60Hz refresh rate, Gorilla Glass 3, HDR
  • Resolution: FHD+ (2400 x 1080 pixels), 429 PPI, 20:9 aspect ratio
  • Chipset: Google Tensor (5nm mobile platform), Titan M2 security coprocessor
  • CPU: Octa-core:
    – 2x Cortex-X1 (2.80 GHz)
    – 2x Cortex-A76 (2.25 GHz)
    – 4x Cortex-A55 (1.80 GHz)
  • GPU: Mali-G78 MP20
  • Memory: 6GB LPDDR5 RAM, 128GB UFS 3.1 storage (fixed)
  • Software & UI: Android 12 (upgradable)
  • Rear Camera: Dual (with dual LED flash);
    – 12.2MP, f/1.7 Sony IMX363 sensor, OIS
    – 12MP, f/2.2 ultrawide sensor, 114° FoV
  • Front Camera: 8MP, f/2.0 sensor (hole-punch cutout)
  • Audio: Stereo speaker, Noise suppression, No headphone jack
  • Security: In-display fingerprint sensor (Optical)
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Ambient Light, Barometer, Gyro, Magnetometer, Proximity
  • Connectivity: Single-SIM (Nano/eSIM), WiFi 6E a/b/g/n/ac/ax (Dual-band), Bluetooth 5.2, GPS / AGPS / Galileo / Glonass / QZSS, USB Type-C, NFC, 4G LTE (VoLTE), 5G
  • Battery: 4410mAh with 18W fast charging (no power adapter provided)
  • Color Options: Sage, Chalk, Charcoal
  • What’s Inside The Box: Pixel 6a, SIM ejector, USB-C to USB-C cable, Quick Switch adapter, User manual and other documents
  • Price in Nepal: N/A (INR 43,999)

Google Pixel 6a Review:

Design & Build

  • 71.8 x 152.2 x 8.9mm, 178 grams
  • Glass front/back, Aluminum frames
  • IP67 dust/water resistant

Anyway, let me share my experience with it starting with the design. And after all my time with this phone, I must say that I have grown to like its form factor.

It’s one of those phones that’s not too small or too big. It just… fits in the hand.

I also didn’t miss the heft which may be because of how evenly the weight is distributed. I was even surprised to find out that the back is made up of plastic here! It does feel like glass a bit but since this is plastic, you will encounter scratches on the back eventually.

Google Pixel 6a - Design 2

So, if you are one of those who is always looking for a lucrative after-sale value, you’ll have to install a skin or use a back cover on this phone. Plus, the back also catches a lot of fingerprints and smudges, so if you happen to be someone like Monica with OCD about cleanliness, you will end up cleaning the back of this phone quite often.

Other aspects of the design are quite good too.

The camera lens doesn’t protrude as much compared to the Pixel 6, so it stays pretty flat when keeping it on a flat surface. The buttons are tactile enough, it is IP67 dust-and-water resistant, and the frames are made up of aluminum which should offer some level of protection against drops.

Google Pixel 6a - IP67 Rating

So overall, although the Pixel 6a might not have a gorgeous-looking design like the OPPO Reno 8 Pro or a fancy one like the Nothing phone (1), it is practical, and I am 100% sure you will love its form factor.

Display

  • 6.1-inches FHD+ OLED panel
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection

Over on the front, there is this black bezel all over the corner which could not be aesthetically pleasing. But over time, it hasn’t been a problem for me. The actual quality of this 6.1-inch screen is very good.

I used it in the natural profile which exhibits true colors, but what’s important to know is that the core quality of this OLED screen is excellent.

Google Pixel 6a - Display 1

The contrast is superb, there’s no weird color shift in different viewing angles, and HDR streaming works flawlessly on all platforms. Brightness levels are sufficient too, so no problem glancing at messages on a bright sunny day or scrolling through the news feed at minimum brightness while in bed at night.

What about the fingerprint reader?

The fingerprint sensor placement is also just where I want it to be. And thanks to the updates I mentioned earlier, it has gotten as fast as any optical sensor out there. There have been multiple reports of the Pixel 6a’s fingerprint sensor recognizing unregistered fingers, but that issue is non-existent on our unit from day one.

The typing experience is also superb, all thanks to proper touch calibration and quality vibration motors. That being said, this display refreshes at just 60Hz and that’s kind of suicidal you may assume. If any Chinese brands or even Samsung had done this, that would have been game over!

But since Google has optimized its UI incredibly well, I personally didn’t feel the 6a’s 60Hz screen to be choppy. Yes, 90Hz would have been nice, but I am honestly surprised to see this 60Hz not being a problem for me!

Battery

  • 4410mAh battery with 18W fast charging

And because this is a 60Hz panel, I was able to get a good—if not great—battery life as well. Google claims this is a “one-day battery phone”, and I was able to get similar results on moderate usage! On days when I would game a lot and constantly use 4G mobile data, I had to charge the phone as soon as I reach home.

Google Pixel 6a - Ports

But I think they could have squeezed a bigger 5000mAh cell here, which would have improved the endurance even more. Similarly, the Pixel 6a supports just 18W PD charging and it takes around 1 hour and 45 minutes to get fully charged.

So, if you are someone who has used that 65W charger on your OnePlus and Realme devices, it will take quite some patience to shift to this! But if you are someone whose experience with fast charging is just Samsung’s 25W or iPhone’s 20W solution, shifting to the 18W charger shouldn’t be that much of a problem.

Performance

  • Octa-core Google Tensor 5G SoC (5nm)
  • 6GB LPDDR5 RAM, 128GB UFS 3.1 storage (fixed)
  • Android 12 (upgradable)
  • 3 generations OS, 5 years of security updates

Now, another thing that I am satisfied with here is the performance. The 6a uses the same Google Tensor chipset as the more expensive Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.

But what’s crucial to understand is that this chipset is more than 6 months old now, and all the issues that we saw on the Pixel 6 series earlier, like unusual overheating, unoptimized fps in games, and the likes have all been fixed during this time. And thus, we get a much more reliable performance on the 6a.

Google Pixel 6a - UI

The Tensor chip still gets slightly warm under normal usage, but it’s nothing to worry about. It’s just as fast as you would expect for a phone at this price segment. And despite having just 6GB of RAM, I found the memory management to be pretty good and it can handle anything you throw at it.

Not made for gamers though

But if you game a lot, you will be better off with phones like the iQOO 9 or the OnePlus 9RT which offer a better gameplay experience in practically every title. But if you are just a casual gamer like me, it’s no problem.

I particularly enjoyed 4 finger claw grip due to the smaller form factor.

However, the Pixel 6a does get quite hot on the back under heavy gaming sessions. And in games like Genshin Impact, which is both CPU and GPU taxing, the fps stability takes a hit with heavy fluctuation which means the gameplay isn’t all that enjoyable.

Google Pixel 6a - Gaming

That being said, I just want to reiterate that the overall performance of this year’s Pixel 6a is commendable. It’s undoubtedly a big leap over what we got on the Pixel 5a or the Pixel 4a before that. And I also don’t think many potential buyers of this phone are going to complain about its mediocre gaming stability, because the main purpose of owning a Pixel phone is for the software ordeal.

And this phone has got everything from clean UI and bloatware-free experience to years of software updates. Thanks to the custom Tensor chip, you also get a lot of benefits here that a typical Android smartphone simply cannot offer.

From improved speed and accuracy while using Google Assistant to exclusive Pixel features such as Assistant Voice Typing, Live Caption for calls, and Live Translation, these are definitely some helpful value additions that you will admire and make use of eventually.

Cameras

  • Dual camera setup at the back
  • (12.2MP main, 12MP ultrawide)
  • 8MP selfie camera (hole-punch)

Finally, let’s talk about its cameras! And this is the reason why I really like this phone so much. I have been using the Pixel 6a alongside the OPPO Reno 8 Pro and just started testing the OnePlus 10T. And trust me, none of these devices can capture as good images as the Pixel 6a.

Normal Images

As you can see from the daytime samples, the photos have ample details, balanced exposure, and a noticeably contrast-heavy output, but in a good way.

The dynamic range is also a class above any midrange phones you will find in this price segment. Likewise, the closeup shots also provide good bokeh and you will instantly feel like you are using a flagship phone.

Ultrawide Images

Also, what usually happens with most premium midrange phones is that their secondary ultra-wide lens is pretty meh. There would be a lot of color shift between the wide and the ultra-wide shots, and the details and dynamic range would just be all over the place.

But not on the Pixel 6a. As you can see, the main and ultra-wide images have consistent color rendition and contrast levels. Even the details are pretty decent from the ultra-wide camera here.

Videography

As for videos, you can record at up to 4K 60 fps from the primary and up to 4K 30 fps from the ultra-wide camera. The quality, of course, isn’t as good as the Pixel 6 or 6 Pro, but what I like about its footages is that they have the same contrasty color scheme as we saw in the photos.

Selfie Images

Having said that, there are a few areas where I hoped the Pixel 6a’s cameras were better. And number 1: it’s the selfies. It’s alright for the price, but I think Google could have included a better sensor for nicer details and sharpness.

Lowlight Images

The second aspect is the nighttime images. Although it can capture good colors and contrast, I found the camera sensor struggling to preserve details during low light conditions.

This is probably because Pixel 6a uses a very old Sony IMX363 sensor, which is quite a small image sensor that can’t capture as much light. And it is also void of features like pixel binning and stuff.

Portrait Images

Besides this, I think Google needs to roll out an update and fix the skin tone on the portrait shots. As you can check for yourself, it clearly messes up the subject’s skin tone. I noticed this in multiple portrait photos I took, although some of them turned out fine.

Audio

  • Dual stereo speakers, No headphone jack

Alright, I almost forgot to mention to you that the Pixel 6a accepts only one physical SIM and one eSIM. I have heard people complaining about the call quality and dropped calls, but on my usage, I haven’t faced such issues. And the audio quality from the earpiece is loud and clear.

Google Pixel 6a - Design 1

By the way, this earpiece also works as a secondary speaker and there is also one downward-firing speaker for the stereo effect. The output is decently loud with not much distortion and a respectable dynamic range.

Google Pixel 6a Review: Conclusion

So, to conclude this review, I really really enjoyed my time with the Google Pixel 6a. I honestly didn’t expect it to be this good! Just before I started using this phone, I kept thinking that this review might turn out to be a rant of sorts, because, on paper, the Google Pixel 6a isn’t a good deal by any imagination. At least when you look at the specs.

It has a plastic body, a 60Hz screen, and sluggish charging for a whopping INR 44,000! But despite all this, I am genuinely impressed!

Google Pixel 6a - Display 2

Of course, you can find phones like the OnePlus 9RT or the iQOO 9 with superior hardware specs, but I am 100% confident that none of them can match the experience and camera quality of the Pixel 6a. And one more thing. I hope to see Google address the exorbitant pricing issue in markets like India sooner than later.

One of the ways it can do this is by manufacturing Pixel phones in India itself, which should keep the price down by a significant amount. But whether Google wants to aggressively expand its smartphone business in this part of the world remains to be seen. But seeing how good the Pixel 6a is, I really want that to happen soon!

  • Watch our video review of the Google Pixel 6a

Google Pixel 6a Review: Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Fairly compact design
  • Excellent OLED display
  • Nice haptics
  • Decent battery life
  • Unmatched clean Android experience
  • Great everyday performance
  • Reliable cameras

Cons:

  • Should’ve been priced more aggressively
  • No high refresh rate
  • Just Gorilla Glass 3 protection
  • 18W charging isn’t that fast
  • Can’t handle gaming that well
  • Accepts one SIM only
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Build
9.5
Display
8.5
Performance
9
Back Cameras
9
Front Camera
9
Software & UI
10
Battery
8.5
Speaker & Haptics
8.5
Value for Money
9
Google Pixel 6a is an impressive sub-flagship phone. It might not look so on paper, especially in markets like India where it is priced quite high, but the overall smartphone experience you get with the Pixel 6a is nothing short of amazing. google-pixel-6a-review