Shopping for a Pixel 6? With solid hardware specs, capable AI-assisted cameras, and attractive two-tone packaging, Google’s latest batch of smartphones has a lot going for it. But with three mobiles making up the stable, which Pixel phone is best suited to your needs and budget?
From the high-end Pixel 6 Pro to the more affordable Pixel 6a, there’s something in Google’s smartphone lineup for just about everyone. But with each model sharing the same powerful Tensor processor and running the same sleek Android interface, the choice isn’t necessarily obvious.
Whether you want an accessible 6.1-inch handset, a premium 6.7-inch flagship, or something capable in between, our buying guide below covers all the key details and differences between the two. Google’s Pixel 6 smartphones. Read to the end and you should know exactly which one is right for you. Unless you want to wait for the Pixel 7…
Google Pixel 6
Unlike the expensive Pixel 5, the sixth iteration of Google’s flagship doesn’t cut corners. Adopting a sleek two-tone coat, its edgeless rear panel – clad in Gorilla Glass 6 – is divided by a perfectly distinctive camera bar. And it’s all framed by a sleek alloy chassis.
Thin at 8.9mm, it’s not the lightest smartphone at 207g. But it packs a frame-filling 6.4-inch display that’s bright, crisp, and good for decent refresh rates of up to 90Hz. The panel also supports HDR and works with At a Glance’s feature. Google for always available information.
In the camera stakes, the vanilla Pixel 6 adopts a 50MP main sensor, flanked by a 12MP ultra-wide (covering a 114-degree field of view). Both deploy laser-detection autofocus, as well as optical and electronic image stabilization. In everyday conditions, the main camera can reliably capture detailed and dynamic shots, while the ultra-wide delivers consistently solid results. There’s no telephoto lens, however.
Under the hood, the Pixel 6 uses Google’s bespoke Tensor processor, paired with a solid 8GB of RAM. Fast, smart and efficient, this Silicon Tensor is designed to boost Google’s mobile machine learning chops. It runs Android 12 smoothly and fast, along with a range of camera tricks including Real Tone, Magic Eraser, Face Unblur and Night Sight.
The Pixel 6 also gets an M2 chip for enhanced security, an under-display fingerprint sensor, as well as a 4524mAh cell inside that can last over 24 hours on a single charge. Is it juice time? The Pixel 6 supports relatively fast refueling with Google’s 30W USB-C charger and 21W wireless charging using the second-generation Pixel Stand.
Want a great Android phone at a fair price? The Google Pixel 6 is a very compelling package.
Buy the Pixel 6 if… you want Google’s Goldilocks Pixel phone
Google Pixel 6 Pro
The clue is in the moniker: the Pixel 6 Pro takes Google’s “standard” flagship and supercharges the spec sheet. Channeling the same two-tone styling as its smaller sibling, the Pro benefits from a sturdier Victus Gorilla Glass on the back. But it’s the dimensions that visually set Google’s high-end smartphone apart: 5.3mm taller, it has a larger 6.7-inch display.
And the metrics aren’t the only change. At 512ppi, the Pro is the sharpest Pixel 6 by far. Additionally, its panel is an LTPO number, meaning the Pro can scale refresh rates based on the demands of the moment. So you can get silky smooth motion at 120Hz when you need it, or super-efficient 10Hz when you don’t.
The Pixel 6 Pro is also the pick of the bunch when it comes to photography. It shares the same 50MP wide and 12MP ultra-wide cameras as the Pixel 6, but also adds a third snapper into the mix: a 48MP telephoto sensor that can shoot at 2x or 4x optical zoom, with digital trickery offering 20x . Detail is excellent, with AI upscaling on hand to fine-tune any gaps.
It’s a similar story when it comes to performance. The Pixel 6 Pro pairs the same Tensor chip with an even more powerful 12GB of RAM. Unsurprisingly, that translates to stellar performance: there’s enough grunt on tap to navigate through multi-tasking Android, demanding games and AI tools (such as real-time translation).
Despite the turbocharged performance, battery life doesn’t suffer. There’s a larger 4905mAh cell inside the Pixel 6 Pro, which means it can match the Pixel 6’s 24-hour longevity in normal use (or 48 in Extreme Battery Saver mode). Similarly, the Pixel 6 Pro supports 30W wired charging, while narrowly outpacing the Pixel 6 with 23W wireless refueling.
Ambitious and uncompromising, the Google Pixel 6 Pro is a premium flagship at the highest price. It’s the best Pixel phone yet, although the Pixel 6 trumps it for absolute value.
Buy the Pixel 6 Pro if… you want the ultimate Pixel phone experience (and you don’t mind paying for it)
Google Pixel 6a
Smaller and more affordable, the Pixel 6a is the accessible cousin of Google’s flagships. Besides a slightly slimmer camera visor and Gorilla Glass 3 on the back, it adopts the same design language as the other models in the Pixel stable. It also uses the same interface and – importantly – deploys Google’s punchy Tensor processor, with 5G connectivity.
But there are compromises that set the Pixel 6a apart. With a 6.1-inch OLED display, the cheaper variant is significantly smaller than the Pixel 6 and, in particular, the Pixel 6 Pro. No bad thing, except that its refresh rates top out at 60Hz lagging. Good for battery life, not so much for smooth motion.
And that’s not the only sacrifice. While the Pixel 6a shares its 12MP ultra-wide camera with the Pixel 6 and Pro, its 12.2MP main sensor is a significant drop from the 50MP wide camera found on those handsets. Google will undoubtedly make the most of it using software trickery – and the 6a benefits from the same AI photography intelligence – but it won’t be a world leader.
While the Tensor chip will still perform Android tasks, the Pixel 6a is lightly pegged with 6GB of RAM. That’s a respectable amount, but the performance difference can be noticeable if you want to play on your Google smartphone.
The cell inside is also reduced, which is rated at 4306 mAh. But thanks to the low refresh rates and smaller screen, the Pixel 6a can still run for over 24 hours on a single charge – and in fact longer than other Pixel 6 devices in Extreme Battery Saver mode, with longevity of 72 hours. But there’s no fast wireless charging, while wired speeds are limited to 18W.
Every bit the lite edition of the Pixel 6, the 6a offers a solid package for the lower price. Other manufacturers offer better displays and camera hardware for a similar price, but that Tensor chip is hard to argue with.
Buy the Pixel 6a if… you want a smaller, cheaper Pixel phone with the same processing power