Pixel 6 Review: Google Hardware Is Finally Realizing Its Potential
Google did it. The company has finally created a phone that feels like a flagship with full commitment. It’s been six long, frustrating years, but with the Pixel 6, it finally feels like Google isn’t holding back out of concern for its Android licensees or some other commitment issue. The Pixel 6 has a custom Google SoC, tons of AI software features that really work, and a new and exciting version of Android. These combine to create the best Android smartphone on the market – the One True Flagship of the Android ecosystem. With a great price, the Pixel 6 is an easy buy recommendation.
That’s when you can buy one. The only negative thing you can say about the Pixel 6 is that while Google has improved their phone making skills, they haven’t improved their phone selling skills. The Pixel 6 is only sold in 12 countries instead of the 100+ that Apple and Samsung sell, and Google is already having inventory issues. Despite Google’s brand awareness and multiple mega-billion dollar companies, Google Hardware remains a tiny side project. So buy a Pixel 6 if you can – just don’t do it from an eBay scalper.
Low prices and great camera bars
Enlarge / The back of the Pixel 6 Pro with that distinctive camera bar. Google says this is supposed to be a “two-tone” design, but it’s hard to see on my model.
Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro
(Ars Technica may receive compensation for sales from links in this post through affiliate programs.)
We expected the Pixel 6 to sell at comparable prices to other sellers, but the biggest win for the product line is that Google aggressively rated these phones. The Pixel 6 Pro costs $ 900 and is relatively comparable to the Galaxy S21 Ultra with a 120 Hz 1440p display, 12 GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage, and a 5000 mAh battery. However, the S21 Ultra has an MSRP of $ 1200, so Google is $ 300 cheaper.
For $ 600, the Pixel 6 has a 6.4-inch 90 Hz display, 8 GB of RAM, and a 4600 mAh battery. It doesn’t have a perfect Samsung comparison, but I’d say it’s somewhere between the S21 and S21 +, which means it’s about $ 300 cheaper too. Google even undercut OnePlus, and both Pixel 6 models have a larger battery than the $ 970 OnePlus 9 Pro.
The Pixel 6 design is definitely something. We’ve seen camera bumps get bigger and bigger over the years, but the Pixel 6 introduces the camera bar, a large, black stripe of a camera bump that extends across the back of the phone. It really stands out, and the Pixel 6 immediately became one of the most iconic Android phones when the design leaked five months ago.
I’m actually a fan of the camera bar. Between the bottom edge of the phone and the edge of the camera bar, the phone has two complete edges of contact with the surface it rests on. So it’s rock solid when you bump into a Pixel 6 on a table.
Enlarge / When you’re holding the Pixel 6, it’s nice to press your finger against the camera bar for an extra point of contact.
The bar is pretty high for a camera bump. I measured it on the Pixel 6 Pro with a height of 2.5 mm and on the smaller Pixel 6 with a height of 3 mm. I don’t really have a problem with that either. Thicker phones can be good; they usually result in longer battery life. Both new phones are about 12mm thick if you include the camera hump, and this has always been a neat pocket size.
Since the camera bar extends across the back of the phone, you can easily reach it with your finger while holding the phone normally. Sometimes I reach for a grip where my index finger presses against the bottom edge of the camera bar. This extra point of contact supports the phone vertically and gives me another point of contact in the fight against gravity. It’s a good thing in my opinion that the phone’s rear contact points are something other than a smooth sheet of glass. You can see the aftermarket are trying to do something similar with all kinds of stick-on phone grips that add geometry to the back of the phone, but the Pixel 6 has that built in somehow. I feel like I’m less likely to drop a Pixel 6 thanks to the camera bar.
I spent most of the time with the white Pixel 6 Pro that was mailed to me and it looks great. However, I can’t really say that my phone’s color scheme matches the Google renderings, which show a two-tone design with a gray back over the camera bar and a white back underneath. If you take a photo editor’s eyedropper on one of these images you may notice a small difference, but it’s so subtle that I doubt you would notice it in real life. It is hard to imagine that such a small color variant was planned by a designer; it feels more like a quirk of manufacture (the color matching is very difficult) that Google went with.