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Google Pixel 6 Pro review: The most compelling Pixel yet
Google Pixel 6 Pro
Retail price: $899.00$899.00 at Amazon$899.00 at Best Buy$899.00 at Verizon$949.00 at AT&T$899.00 at Google Store$864.00 at Visible
What we like
What we don't like
The Google Pixel 6 and Google Pixel 6 Pro show the search giant taking bold new strides with its smartphone line. The two phones — and the Pixel 6 Pro in particular — adopt fresh, premium designs and all the top specs a flagship should offer. It’s almost as if Google finally took user feedback to heart and answered long-standing requests with devices that seemingly have it all.
But those aren’t the only challenges Google tackled with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. The company took things a step further by engineering its own processor for the phones, Google Tensor, to give them advanced on-device artificial intelligence and machine learning powers. The result is two phones that deliver a range of experiences not available from most other hardware. Can the Pixel 6 Pro, with its high-end appeal, convince people to give up their Galaxies and go with Google? Find out in the Android Authority Google Pixel 6 Pro review.
Update, November 25, 2021: Watch our Google Pixel 6 Pro video review!
What you need to know about the Google Pixel 6 Pro
- Google Pixel 6 Pro (128GB): $899 / £849 / €899
- Google Pixel 6 Pro (256GB): $999 / £949 / €999
- Google Pixel 6 Pro (512GB): $1,099 / £1,049 / €1,099
There are two flagship Pixel phones for 2021: the vanilla Pixel 6 and the top-of-the-line and larger Pixel 6 Pro. The phones share most features, including the Tensor processor and a uniquely Google take on Android 12, but a few things other than size do set them apart. For example, the Pixel 6 Pro has a telephoto camera, more RAM, and an extra radio when compared to the Pixel 6. Those extra features, combined with the Pixel 6 Pro’s classier design, give the larger phone license to carry the “Pro” mantle.
More than ever, Google is targeting top phones with the Pixel 6 Pro. The company is clearly taking aim at Apple and Samsung, which lead the market when it comes to premium devices. Not only has Google sought to match its competitors in terms of design, but also in performance and, specifically, camera prowess. It’s quite a change of pace for a company that has until now appeared to let others dominate the upper crust of the market, eschewing cutting-edge specs while focusing on its software experience.
Related: The best Google Pixel deals
The Google Pixel 6 Pro is available in three finishes: Stormy Black, Cloudy White, and Sorta Sunny. Each finish can be ordered in one of three non-expandable storage allotments: 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB. Pricing is in line with the likes of the Apple iPhone 13 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21 families, though it notably undercuts ultra-premium flagships such as the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and the iPhone 13 Pro Max. The phone includes a USB-C to USB-C cable and a USB-A to USB-C adapter, but does not pack a charging brick. You’ll also want to be very careful when buying an adapter as the fastest charging speeds are only available with a specific breed of wall chargers — check out our dedicated article for more.
The Google Pixel 6 Pro officially goes on sale on October 25, 2021. At the time of this writing, the availability of the Pixel 6 Pro is limited. Google sells the phone directly via its web store, though many colors and storage variants are currently back-ordered, meaning you’ll have to join a waitlist. Availability is equally scarce at major third-party retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy. Even US carriers selling the phones, including AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, have shipping times that push into late November. Outside the US, snagging a Pixel 6 Pro appears to be proving just as difficult at least until supply and demand balance out.
Let’s start peeping this Pixel.
Design: Finally, a premium Pixel
- Gorilla Glass Victus, metal alloy
- 163.9 x 75.9 x 8.9mm
- In-display fingerprint reader
- Stereo speakers
- Camera bar
- Stormy Black, Cloudy White, Sorta Sunny
The sixth-generation Pixels take a decidedly different approach to design when compared to previous generations. Looking back at last year’s Pixel 5, for example, you had a smallish device that was made from a unibody aluminum chassis with a thin plastic coating. It was unique, but came across as a bit pedestrian. Google has put that look firmly behind it. The Pixel 6 Pro is a full-on, top-tier premium device as evidenced by its design, materials, and quality of manufacture.
See also: The best Pixel 6 Pro cases you can buy
Gone is the unibody chassis in favor of the glass sandwich approach. A polished metal alloy frame is positioned between curved glass front and back. The frame is thinner along the side rails and thicker where it forms the top and bottom edges. It’s shiny and smooth. Google says all the glass is Gorilla Glass Victus — Corning’s current top grade. What I can tell you is the glass is highly polished and extra slippery, making the phone hard to hold onto. If you’re prone to dropping phones, grab a case.
The Pixel 6 Pro is a big, big smartphone. It’s larger than an Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, and it’s fairly weighty, too. If the compact Pixel 5 appealed to you, I’m afraid the Pixel 6 Pro pushes things into new dimensions. Oddly, the smaller Pixel 6 isn’t that much smaller than the Pixel 6 Pro at all. Google went big this year and we’re all going to have to deal with it.
Google went big with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Google actually did carry over some design elements from previous Pixels: the buttons and other controls placed along the outer frame. The power button and volume toggle are on the right edge. Unlike many competing devices, Google positioned the power button above the volume toggle. If you’re coming from a Galaxy device it may take some time for your muscle memory to recover. Notably, these two buttons hardly have any profile at all and lack the contrasting power button of older Pixels, making them hard to tell apart. The travel and feedback are minimal at best, too. These buttons could be better.
The SIM card tray is integrated into the phone’s left edge. The Pixel 6 Pro supports one physical SIM card and an eSIM should you wish to use the phone with two networks. On the bottom, you’ll discover the USB-C port centered between two slits.
You’ve probably noticed the camera bar on the back. How could you not?
You’ve probably noticed the camera bar on the back. How could you not? In fact, Google designed the Pixel 6 Pro’s rear panel around the camera bar, which is thick and runs horizontally from side to side. That’s why the rear glass is split into two segments. I like that Google went with different shades on the separated pieces of rear glass. On our Sorta Sunny review unit, there’s a yellow-ish shade below the camera bar and an orange-ish shade above it. The camera bar itself is protected by a layer of black glass and high metal ridges on either side. It’s quite a look, but still Google-y all the same. I like that Google matched the color of the antenna lines built into the metal frame to the orange piece of glass above the camera.
In addition to the Gorilla Glass Victus to help prevent breakage, Google made sure to waterproof the phone. This is table stakes for a modern flagship. The Pixel 6 Pro carries an IP68 rating for protection against dust and water. That means it can handle a 30-minute dunk in about five feet of water.
The Pixel 6 Pro has stereo speakers. Bi-directional sound is formed when the earpiece and a downward-firing speaker work together. Google didn’t call out any specific audio technologies in the speakers, such as Dolby Atmos, but they do sound good. Not only do the speakers get nice and loud, but they are also clear throughout the volume range. I was able to fill mid-sized rooms with plenty of sound without crackling and distortion.
Biometrics on the Pixel 6 Pro are limited to the in-display optical fingerprint reader. There’s no Soli-assisted face unlock nor any other type of facial recognition available. Training the Pixel 6 Pro’s fingerprint reader was a little aggravating. It required me to re-do the entire sequence twice during the process.
The reader has a fairly sizable reading area in the lower portion of the screen. It wasn’t perfect, though, and I had to press it twice from time to time. I also thought it was a bit slow compared to readers on other modern flagships. The rear-mounted fingerprint reader of the Pixel 5 was faster and more reliable.
More reading: How fingerprint scanners work
Google is seemingly addressing the situation following widespread complaints about the reader’s accuracy and speed. An update has been issued that Google says will improve the performance of the scanner.
Last, haptics. The Pixel 6 Pro has tight haptics that are nice and subtle without being too subtle. The motor produces fine vibrations that feel delicate rather than buzzy or jarring. You can dial in your preferred vibration strength should you wish.
The Pixel 6 Pro’s design isn’t for everyone. It’s got a unique look that will surely get peoples’ juices flowing one way or the other. That’s totally understandable. Not every phone has to appeal to every buyer. Personally, I appreciate that the Pixel 6 Pro has any personality at all when compared to the numerous boring slabs on the market. Google has ensured that its phone will be noticed wherever it goes. For a company that has for too long made phones that blend in, a little visibility ain’t a bad thing.
Perhaps more importantly, the company can finally claim to play in the same space as its industry peers. The Pixel 6 Pro hits more of the must-have design cues and creature features that today’s flagship buyers want in their devices. Save from the missing headphone jack (to be expected), the Pixel 6 Pro has checked nearly every box there is to check. Check?
Display: Gunning for Galaxy
- 6.7-inch LTPO OLED
- 3,120 x 1,440 resolution
- 512 pixels per inch
- 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 120Hz refresh rate
The Pixel 6 Pro has the biggest and best screen we’ve ever seen on a Google smartphone.
I don’t know about you, but I was sorely disappointed with the relatively compact six-inch display of the Pixel 5. I was looking for something more. I’m sure other buyers were too. Apple, Samsung, OnePlus, and myriad competing phone makers have been offering massive smartphone screens unfailingly year after year. That’s why it seemed strange for Google to limit its 2020 flagship to such restrained dimensions. Google has apparently seen the light, so to speak.
The Pixel 6 Pro’s panel doesn’t quite rate as the largest on the market, but at 6.7 inches it is close. Google also saw fit to up the resolution to QHD+ and boost the refresh rate from the Pixel 5’s 90Hz speed to the currently-favored 120Hz rate. At the very least, these specs bring the Pixel 6 Pro into the same playing field as its peers. Does it perform at the same level?
The Pixel 6 Pro's display specs put the phone in the same playing field as its peers.
The screen’s size is appealing if you like big phones. If you’re not into massive slabs in your pocket, you can always go with the slightly smaller Pixel 6. I appreciate the large canvas of the Pixel 6 Pro for just about every task, from reading emails to scrolling through social media to watching video content. Google kept the bezels to the absolute minimum and the user-facing camera is but a small punch hole centered at the top.
Quad HD+ resolution means you have plenty of pixels on board, pushing a density of 512ppi — three shy of the Galaxy S21 Ultra. On-screen elements such as text, graphics, icons, photos, and video look crisp and sharp. You simply can’t complain about this many pixels. Google doesn’t, however, let Pixel 6 Pro owners dial the resolution down to FHD+ to save battery life, though you can adjust font and icon sizes. Galaxy phones often do permit owners to change the resolution between HD, FHD, and QHD.
Brightness is excellent. Add to that the 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio and HDR support, and you have a screen that’s capable of bright highs and dark lows. I was particularly pleased with the quality of HDR content from Netflix and the like. Outdoor visibility is solid. Google also offers natural, boosted, and adaptive color profiles for the screen and that means you always get a nice clean white no matter the lighting conditions at hand.
The Pixel 6 Pro’s adaptive 120Hz refresh rate didn’t impress me as much as I’d hoped. The phone has two refresh rate settings, 60Hz and 120Hz adaptive. The latter changes the rate between 10Hz and 120Hz depending on the screen activity to help balance battery life and performance. Most of the time you use the 120Hz adaptive setting, the screen actually sits at 60Hz. It leaps to 120Hz as soon as you swipe up or down on the screen.
More reading: Refresh rate explained
Unfortunately, there were plenty of times when the scrolling behavior at 120Hz was totally janky and stuttery rather than smooth. This is not something I’ve seen on other 120Hz panels, so I was surprised to notice it here. I saw stuttering screen scrolling behavior in apps including Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and the browser — generally when there was a mix of text and photo/video content. I didn’t experience the same problem in text-heavy apps such as Gmail. Nor did we see janky scrolling on the Pixel 6’s 90Hz screen. We’re not sure if what we saw is a hardware or software issue with our unit or a broader issue, but it’s something we contacted Google about. We’ll be sure to offer more details once we have them.
The last item worth discussing is the display glass. The Pixel 6 Pro features curved side edges that wrap around to meet the metal frame. The vanilla Pixel 6 has, by way of comparison, a totally flat screen. Curved screens may be appealing visually because they typically reduce side bezels down to nothing, but the touch-sensitive curves can lead to ghost touches. I definitely noticed some accidental touches when using the Pixel 6 Pro, though not too many. Google seems to have tuned its software to properly account for the bent glass. This is most critical when typing on the software keyboard. At the moment, there’s nothing to really complain about here, though we’ve only tested the phone for a few days and things may crop up.
In sum, Google has stepped up its screen tech big time after the Pixel 5’s underwhelming panel. Of course, it is highly likely Google sourced the panel from none other than Samsung. Nevertheless, the Pixel 6 Pro’s display pushes all the right boundaries for a flagship phone.
Performance: On the edge
- Google Tensor
- Titan M2 security
- Arm Mali-G78 GPU
- 12GB LPDDR5 RAM
- 128GB / 256GB / 512GB non-expandable storage
We could write article after article on Google’s decision to design its own processor for the Pixel 6 Pro. In fact, we already have. Google has until now relied on industry-made systems-on-a-chip from market leader Qualcomm for its Pixel phones. This year, Google took a turn. It engineered a custom-made chip for the Pixel 6 series in order to bring new features and experiences to the phones that it says were not possible with other chips. The new processor is called Tensor.
Tensor may have been engineered by Google, but that doesn’t mean Google started from scratch. Tensor has a standard CPU that includes eight familiar 5nm cores: two Arm Cortex A76 cores at 2.25GHz, four Arm Cortex A55 cores at 1.8GHz, and two Arm Cortex X1 cores at 2.8GHz. This DynamIQ configuration includes a mix of efficiency cores, mid-range cores, and performance cores in order to spread the workload around. The CPU is joined by a fairly standard 20-core Mali-G78 GPU for pushing polygons. Other components include an advanced Image Signal Processor for photography; Context Hub for ultra-low-power ambient experiences; the Tensor security core, a dedicated and isolated Titan 2 chip for sensitive tasks; and the Google Tensor Processing Unit, which integrates machine learning on the device level. Last, it’s joined by a competitive 12GB of RAM and plenty of built-in storage options.
The sum of these parts is Tensor, a chip that Google says delivers new speech, translation, text-to-speech, computational photography, videography, and security features not previously available to mobile devices.
So, how does it perform?
When it comes to regular smartphone tasks, such as downloading and installing applications or swiping through the user interface or opening and closing apps, it runs mostly fine. Performance is as smooth and as quick as you’d expect from any flagship smartphone. I didn’t notice any performance hiccups other than the occasional app crash and the aforementioned scrolling behavior. Nothing out of the ordinary for a pre-retail device. Gaming was not a problem for the phone, either. The 3D games I tested, including Call of Duty Mobile, ran really well and action was smooth throughout.
Running benchmarks tells a somewhat different story. Pushing the Google Pixel 6 Pro through AnTuTu, Geekbench, and 3DMark shows us a machine that puts up respectable numbers that are still a stone’s throw from the top of the game. In general, the Pixel 6 Pro put up scores that were about 80% of those attained by smartphones running the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 — a processor that’s nearly a year old and soon to be eclipsed by a new chip from Qualcomm. In our homegrown Speed Test G benchmark, which balances CPU and GPU tests, it recorded a time of one minute 33 seconds, which is well behind the top score of one minute 13 seconds, though still competitive with other devices in the price range.
Benchmarking is not what matters to Google. AI- and ML-driven experiences do.
We could attribute this to Google’s choice of mid-range cores. Google selected the slightly older A76 rather than the newer A78, which is what’s inside the Snapdragon 888. Otherwise Tensor and the 888 are using the same X1 and A55 cores. We could also attribute the difference to the GPUs. The Snapdragon 888 runs an Adreno 660, which is different from the Mali-G78. Whether or not those minor component differences explain the difference in benchmark scores is up for debate.
What’s also up for debate is how well Tensor holds up over time. It certainly runs great right now and is performant enough that we wouldn’t recommend against the phone. This is simply something we’ll have to keep an eye on.
Of course, benchmarking is not what matters to Google here. AI- and machine learning-driven experiences do. We’ll touch on more of those in the software section later in this Google Pixel 6 Pro review.
Wireless is another factor in performance. The Pixel 6 Pro supports 5G. All models, including those sold in the US and the rest of the world, support sub-6GHz 5G. The model sold in the US also supports mmWave 5G for AT&T and Verizon users. Rather than opting for a typical Snapdragon X55 or X60 modem for the Tensor SoC, Google went with a Samsung 5123 modem. This is a slightly older modem — Samsung used it in the Galaxy S20 Exynos series handsets. The 5123 has not yet previously made an appearance in a US phone, this is its first time.
We tested the Pixel 6 Pro on the Google Fi network in the US, which runs on T-Mobile’s service. In that respect, it connected to T-Mobile’s mid-band sub-6GHz spectrum for 5G service. Performance was good, though I’ve seen better speeds from other phones on T-Mobile’s sub-6GHz 5G network.
More reading: The best 5G phones you can buy
Google was also sure to go with the latest Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology. The phone supports Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2, which is on par with other elite flagships and good news for future-proofing purposes. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth performance were both excellent while I tested the device.
Last, the Pixel 6 Pro has one radio the regular Pixel 6 does not. It includes an ultra-wideband chip for accurate ranging and spatial orientation. Google hasn’t said why the vanilla Pixel 6 does not include the UWB chip, nor has it specified how the Pixel 6 Pro will use the UWB chip other than to note it works with compatible accessories.
Battery: Bigger is always better
- 5,000mAh battery
- 23W wired charging
- 23W wireless charging
- 12W Qi wireless charging
- Battery Share
Google went big with the battery. That’s good news. The 5,000mAh power cell inside the Pixel 6 Pro is far larger than the 4,080mAh battery that was in last year’s Pixel 5 and it matches what’s in most competing flagships.
How is the battery life? Google claims the Pixel 6 Pro offers “beyond 24 hours” of battery life. In fact, its testing showed an average of 34 hours of battery life per charge. Over a week of using the phone, I wasn’t ever able to drain the battery in a single day. I got it down to about 20% a couple of times and that took some effort with the screen brightness set high and the refresh rate set to 120Hz adaptive. Screen-on time averaged about six and a half hours, which is in the ballpark for a flagship phone.
Over a week of testing, I wasn't able to fully drain the battery in a single day.
Google includes plenty of battery tech in Android 12 and the Pixel 6 Pro. First, there’s Google’s Adaptive Battery, which monitors your usage of the phone over time and adjusts to ensure you get the best possible battery life. Then there’s the relatively new Extreme Battery Saver tool, which Google claims can push the 6 Pro’s battery all the way up to 48 hours when needed. This mode, typical of such a tool, kills off background apps and tasks in order to conserve power. You can tweak it by customizing which apps are allowed to remain running.
When your phone is dead and needs a recharge you’ll need a charger with support for the USB Power Delivery Programmable Power Supply (USB PD PPS) standard to get the maximum speeds. The safest bet will be Google’s new 30W wired PD PPS charging brick ($25) — which costs extra (remember, it’s not included in the box). Google says this charger will boost the battery by 50% in 30 minutes. Since Google’s new charger is not yet available, we were limited to testing with a third-party equivalent. Using an off-the-shelf 30W PD PPS wired charger netted a 45% increase in battery charge over 30 minutes, so not quite up to Google’s claims but close enough. However, charging to maximum is closer to the two-hour mark, which is far slower than other flagships.
Android Authority took a deep dive into the Pixel 6 Pro slow charging habits which you can read here. Google later confirmed our findings and officially revealed the Pixel 6 Pro charges at a peak rate of 23W. It also noted that charging power is “gradually” reduced to improve battery health as it inches closer to full capacity. This goes some way to explaining why the Pixel 6 Pro takes around an hour to hit 80% charge, but a further hour to 100%. While Google’s desire to reduce battery degradation is not without merit, the charging time and/or speeds fall well behind close rivals like Samsung and Apple, as well as those with even faster charging tech like OnePlus.
Related: The best wireless chargers
The Pixel 6 Pro charges wirelessly, too. With Google’s new Pixel Stand 2 ($79), the 6 Pro supports wireless charging up to 23W. With all other Qi-compatible wireless chargers, the 6 Pro maxes out at 12W. It took close to two hours to charge wirelessly on the equipment we have on hand.
Last, the Pixel 6 Pro supports wireless power share for accessories thanks to the Battery Share feature. Google hasn’t spelled out what the charging rate is, but you can use the phone to power up your wireless earbuds or other gear should you need to.
Camera: Capable but short of captivating
- 50MP, LDAF, OIS (f/1.85, 1.2μm pixels, 82-degree FoV)
- 12MP ultra-wide, (f/2.2, 1.25μm pixels, 114-degree FoV)
- 48MP telephoto, 4x optical zoom, (f/3.5, 0.8μm pixels, 23-degree FoV)
- 11.1MP front camera, (f/2.2, 1.22μm, 94-degree FoV)
- 4K video at up to 60fps
Google has finally (finally!) matched its flagship competition with a three-camera smartphone. Past Pixels have dallied with dual-camera setups with a secondary zoom or ultra-wide shooter, but never the trifecta of a standard, ultra-wide, and telephoto camera. It’s long overdue, as Apple, Samsung, and other phone makers have relied on this triple-play configuration in their top phones for some time now. Why does this matter? It greatly expands the types of photos you can get from the phone as well as the quality of those photos. It’s worth noting that the vanilla Pixel 6 forgoes the telephoto and has just a standard and ultra-wide camera setup.
Equally important, Google has updated its sensor selection for the cameras. The company has perhaps over-relied on 12MP sensors for its standard cameras dating all the way back to the original Pixel. In the 6 Pro, we get a 50MP standard camera, 12MP ultra-wide, and 48MP telephoto. Pixel count isn’t everything when it comes to photography, but it doesn’t hurt. Mixing the lens selection, modern sensors, and Google’s computational photography algorithms together should lead to picture magic, right?
See also: The best camera phones you can get
In general, the Google Pixel 6 Pro takes very good photos with the standard sensor. Your average shot is going to be sharp and properly exposed, and show accurate color. One thing we noticed across all the photos we took was the consistency of accurate color. “Accurate” color, however, doesn’t always mean appealing color. Some phone makers (ahem, Samsung) are known to oversaturate the colors in their photos to give them some visual pop. The Pixel 6 Pro doesn’t do that, which means the results sometimes come across as flat or lacking vibrancy. Personally, I prefer accurate because you can always boost colors using editing tools after the fact.
Some downsides to the photos include heavy-handed HDR. It appears as though the Pixel 6 Pro goes too far in balancing out exposures, which means images don’t always have the contrast and/or depth you want. Moreover, we noticed some details have that an over-processed look to them, particularly when you drill in close. This can be common on pixel-binned cameras, such as those on the Pixel 6 Pro.
Switching to the ultra-wide camera, we see a pleasing field-of-view and mostly good focus throughout the image. It dials things out to 0.7x, which isn’t as wide as the 0.6x or 0.5x you’ll get on some ultra-wide cameras, but that doesn’t matter much. Importantly, the color tone matches that of the main camera. This means photos you take from both cameras have the same general look to them. Not all cameras can do this. You will see some noise in the images from time to time.
The zoom camera was particularly impressive. There are several simple on-screen controls that allow you to jump from 0.7x to 1x, 2x, and 4x. However, you can use the pinch-to-zoom gesture and dial in the exact amount of zoom you need all the way up to 20x. The hardware itself is capable of 4x optical zoom using the periscoped lens design. Everything beyond that is a combination of optical and digital zoom. Of note, the color tone of the telephoto camera matches the other two.
Moreover, the zoom is fairly usable through the 20x range. In particular, it was a surprise that the maximum 20x zoom took fairly sharp and colorful images that weren’t hot garbage. Some smartphone zoom cameras boasting high zoom numbers simply don’t deliver. This one does.
Looking to take some portraits or selfies? The Pixel 6 Pro has you covered. Whether you’re photographing people via the main camera or the 11.1MP user-facing shooter, you can expect sharp photos that deliver accurate skin tones. The latter is something Google said it worked hard to solve. I was very pleased with the way my skin turned out in these images, though most of the work Google did was to improve the results of those with skin much darker than mine. Edge detection is really nice with portraits and the background blur is enough to push your focus to the subject rather than the setting.
Nighttime and low-light shots continue to be a boon for the Pixel. Shots we took in the dark (using the Pixel camera’s Night Sight feature) are somehow able to gather enough light to make the photo work. You’ll see a bit more noise or grain on these shots, but Google makes a usable photo out of nothing in some instances. Processing Night Sight shots often takes a second or two and you need to hold still to get good results. The photos below show a selection of indoor and low-light shots, followed by some nighttime shots.
Google gave the Pixel 6 Pro plenty of video capture features. It records video up to 4K at 60fps, which is pretty much standard for a flagship. Samsung and some competitors have ratcheted the video resolution of their phones up to 8K, but that continues to be overkill for now. Video powers include slow-motion and time-lapse as well as four varieties of video stabilization. You can also record 4K footage at 30fps via the front camera, while the regular Pixel 6 caps at 1080p.
The quality of video is very good. I shot 1080p footage at 30fps and 4K footage at 60fps and both looked excellent. I was pleased with focus, clarity, color, and exposure. You’ll get stereo sound capture with the option to use “audio zoom” when you zoom the video camera in on your subject. This tool does its best to eliminate background noise and focus on the sound coming from the subject. It’s mostly good. I don’t think the Pixel 6 Pro delivers quite the same visually impressive video that comes from an Apple iPhone 13 Pro, but it’s not terribly far off either.
Google gave the Pixel camera a couple of new, neat tricks for having fun with your images.
Google gave the Pixel camera a couple of neat new tricks for having fun with your images. The first is called Magic Eraser and is meant to help rid your images of people or other things in the background that mess up a cool shot. I had mixed success with this tool. In some instances it worked perfectly and in others it merely produced smudges. You can see the before-and-after process with a successful erasure below.
The Pixel 6 Pro also has a new motion tool for adding a bit of motion-related drama to your images. The motion feature has two distinct tools: Action Pan and Long Exposure. Action Pan has you move the camera along with your subject. The software then blurs the background to convey movement. Long Exposure is exactly that, a longer exposure so things like water look smooth rather than frozen. You can see how well this works in the waterfall shots below.
Overall, the Google Pixel 6 Pro has a very good camera, one that competes right in the mix of top phones. I don’t think it’s quite the class leader that Pixels have always been and perhaps it’s not as impressive as I was hoping it would be considering all the noise Google made about the Tensor processor’s computational photography powers. Still, it easily challenges the industry’s best. Check out our shootouts linked below for a detailed breakdown.
- Google Pixel 6 Pro camera shootout vs Galaxy S21 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro Max
- Is the Google Pixel 6 Pro camera actually better than the Pixel 5?
You can check out the full-resolution camera samples in this Google Drive folder.
Software: Assisting You
- Android 12
- Three years OS updates, five years security updates
The Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are the first phones to ship with Android 12. Granted, Google made Android 12 available to older Pixels on the day the Pixel 6 family launched, but the new hardware is the first to include the fresh OS out of the box and several features are exclusive to Google’s latest phones.
Android 12 is a wholly revitalized version of Android. You can read about all the major new features right here. For the purposes of this review, we’ll focus on new features specific to the Google Pixel 6 Pro — and there are plenty of those.
First, we’ll cover some basics. Android 12 adopts Google’s new Material You design language. The design style looks and feels more personal. It relies on matching system colors to those found on your main wallpaper. For example, choose a blue-dominant wallpaper and your icons, graphics, and such will have a blue tint to them. It’s subtle, but sprinkled throughout the OS it adds up. I like the cohesiveness of this new color-matching scheme. Not everyone does.
Many of the widgets have been re-envisioned. The most obvious is the analog clock widget, which has a whole new shape. You’ll notice many of the widgets have rounder corners and, in keeping with the color theme, many adopt the base colors found across the rest of the OS. Again, cohesiveness.
The Quick Settings and Settings menus have been given a visual overhaul. I particularly like the new Quick Settings menu, which has much larger and easier-to-toggle buttons. The biggest change to the Settings menu is the new, larger font choice from Google and the increased spacing for easier one-handed use. It works for me.
The Pixel 6 Pro has a handful of software features that are enabled by the Google Tensor processor.
Like many Pixel phones before it, the Pixel 6 Pro has a handful of software features that aren’t available on other Android phones, many of which are enabled or boosted by the Google Tensor processor. Let’s take them one at a time.
- Calling Assistance: Google has enhanced Google Assistant’s ability to reduce the pain of making certain types of phone calls, such as to businesses that have complicated decision trees or long wait times. With Wait Times, for example, the Pixel 6 Pro can generally tell you when business numbers are at their busiest, which allows you to decide when is best to make the call. The tool lets you see an entire week’s worth of business hours. It works pretty well.
- Direct My Call: This feature visualizes the decision tree with all the numbered options spelled out on the screen (press one to leave a voicemail, press zero for the operator, etc.) It works pretty well, too, though I noticed decision trees that have a lot of options don’t always show everything. It really depends on the clarity of the recording on the other end of the line.
- Hold For Me: Using this tool, you can set the phone to sit on hold for you leaving you free to focus on something else while waiting to speak with someone. Google says the tool is smart enough to tell the difference between a recorded voice message (for example, “Your call is important to us, please continue to wait”) and a real operator or company representative. I tried it a couple of times with mixed success. These features aren’t perfect, but they can be genuinely helpful and reduce the pain points of calling some businesses.
- Voice typing improvements: Assistant is now better at voice typing. You can say “Hey Google, type…” and the assistant will launch the microphone and transcribe your speech (when in the Google Messages app). There are a slew of commands such as clearing text, sending messages, halting dictation, and inserting emoji. I use voice typing a lot and can say that these tools are a bit better on the Pixel 6 Pro than on the Pixel 5.
- Live Translate: Live Translate got a huge number of upgrades to improve the experience of speaking with someone in a different language. It works best in messages and media apps, or when using the camera and interpreter mode. In Android Messages (and a host of third-party messaging apps), you can receive messages in another language and have them translated automatically upon receipt. In media apps it lets you translate songs that are sung in another language. With the camera, you can more easily and consistently see a real-time translation of text that’s captured in the viewfinder, such as food menus or street signs. The interpreter mode is pretty advanced, allowing you to have a full-0n, real-time conversation with someone in another language. Most of these features require some degree of making adjustments to the settings menu, downloading various languages ahead of time, and similar. They do work if you put in a little bit of effort.
- Recorder: Google’s Recorder app, which is amazing at transcribing phone calls or meetings, now works in German and Japanese. That’s good news, but Google has a long way to go on language adoption for other regions.
- New Assistant phrases: There are new quick phrases for using Assistant that don’t require the “Hey, Google” catchphrase, such as answering or declining calls. This is nice, but we need a greatly expanded list of these actions because saying “Hey, Google” is still extremely awkward.
While these are welcome tools to have aboard any smartphone, I’m not sure they’re the absolute vital features that most users are clamoring for. Don’t get me wrong, I truly appreciate them, they do work as intended, and surely they’ll aid a great many people in their daily lives. What matters most here is that the speed of these services is amazing. Thanks to Google Tensor, most of the language processing happens on the device rather than in the cloud. That makes all the difference in the world for speed and privacy.
Last, we have to talk about the update situation. Google says the Pixel 6 Pro will receive three years of OS-level updates and a minimum of five years of security updates. This feels a bit like Google is underselling buyers on operating system upgrades considering it its move to custom hardware and the fact it literally owns Android. That said, it at least matches the very best you can get on any Android phone, while the promise of five years of security patches is the best you can get.
The benchmark here is still Apple, however, which supports iPhones for around six years for both platform upgrades and security updates. Considering it is now moving to customized hardware, Google should be in the business of supporting its own phones for the same length of time.
Google Pixel 6 Pro specs
|Google Pixel 6 Pro|
19.5:9 aspect ratio
3,120 x 1,440
120Hz adaptive refresh rate
Gorilla Glass Victus front and back
Titan M2 security
128, 256, or 512GB
Battery and power
23W wired charging
USB-PD 3.0 (PPS)
23W wireless charging (w/ Pixel Stand)
12W Qi wireless charging
No charger in box
- 50MP main
1.2 μm, ƒ/1.85, 82-degree FoV
OIS and EIS
- 12MP ultra-wide
1.25 μm, ƒ/2.2, 114-degree FoV
- 48MP telephoto
0.8 μm, ƒ/3.5, 23.5-degree FoV
4x optical zoom
OIS and EIS
- Laser AF
- 11.1MP single
1.22 μm, ƒ/2.2, 94-degree FoV
4K at 30/60FPS
1080p at 30/60FPS
4K at 30FPS
1080p at 30/60FPS
No 3.5mm port
Titan M2 chip
5 years security updates
Buttons and ports
USB-C 3.1 Gen 1
Dual SIM (single nano and eSIM)
No expandable storage
No 3.5mm port
Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax)
[5G Sub 6GHz] Model GLUOG
GSM/EDGE: Quad-band (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
UMTS/HSPA+/HSDPA: Bands 1,2,4,5,6,8,19 LTE: Bands
5G Sub-62: Bands
[5G mmWave + Sub 6GHz] Model G8VOU
GSM/EDGE: Quad-band (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
UMTS/HSPA+/HSDPA: Bands 1,2,4,5,6,8,19
5G Sub-6: Bands
5G mmWave: Bands n257/n258/n260/n261
Dimensions and weight
163.9 x 75.9 x 8.9mm
Stormy Black, Cloudy White, Sorta Sunny
1m USB-C to USB-C cable (USB 2.0)
Quick Switch adapter
No charger in box
(*France has charger and headphones included per local laws)
Value and competition
Google hit some flagship-tier goal posts this year, all while keeping the Pixel 6 Pro’s starting price reasonable at $899.
Google is giving fans of its phones many of the features they’ve been clamoring for. The company dialed up the quality of the design and materials and packaged them together in a phone that’s as fine as any Galaxy S or Galaxy Note there ever was. The Pixel 6 Pro has more personality than some competing slabs, even if the looks may not appeal to everyone. Toss in table stakes such as an IP68 rating, stereo speakers, rapid wireless charging, a trio of capable cameras, a pretty screen, and solid battery life, and you have a near total package. Performance over time is the only real question mark here, as it slightly trails the raw compute power of Snapdragon-equipped rivals.
Check out: The best Google Pixel 6 alternatives
The pricing should give Apple, Samsung, OnePlus, and others something to worry about. Google’s $899 price tag for the premium Pixel undercuts the cost of some of the top phones on the market. It’s possible, should Google put some actual marketing muscle behind the Pixel this year, that the company’s phones will achieve something they never have: fans outside of the tech sphere.
What if the Pixel 6 Pro is too big or still too pricey for you? You can always look at the smaller Pixel 6 ($599). The chief differentiators between the Pixel 6 Pro and the Pixel 6 are the screen and battery size, the amount of RAM, the camera configuration, and the ultra-wideband radio. Want to spend even less? Don’t forget the new-ish Google Pixel 5a ($449), which makes further trade-offs, but is an excellent mid-ranger.
As usual, the biggest player in the game, Samsung, has a flotilla of options from which to choose. The most obvious competitor to the Pixel 6 Pro is the Galaxy S21 Ultra ($1,199), which has similar specs and features across the board. You can spend a little less to get the Galaxy S21 Plus ($999) or the Galaxy S21 ($799), which are both smaller than the Ultra. If you want something out of the ordinary, you might consider the Galaxy Z Fold 3 ($1,799) or the Galaxy Z Flip 3 ($999), though you’ll be sacrificing camera quality and battery life for the privilege of having a foldable phone.
The best remaining option is the OnePlus 9 Pro ($1,069). Unfortunately for OnePlus, its phone is more expensive and doesn’t match the camera quality of the Pixel 6 Pro. Meanwhile, if money is less of an object, there’s the Sony Xperia 1 III ($1,299) which is a well-made, enthusiast-focused phone with a princely price to match.
Last, there’s always Apple to consider. The Apple iPhone 13 Pro ($999) and iPhone 13 Pro Max ($1,099) are competitive offerings that challenge the Pixel 6 Pro in terms of camera quality and best it in software support.
Google Pixel 6 Pro review: The verdict
Google has never quite managed to deliver a pure winner with its line of Pixel smartphones. Each iteration has suffered some small issue holding it back. With the Pixel 6 Pro, Google has come perhaps as close as it ever has to dialing in the right mix of form, features, and functionality to appease fans of flagship phones.
From a distance, it appears as though Google checked all the right boxes. The Pixel 6 Pro has a metal-and-glass build with high-quality materials. It has a large, gorgeous display that’s bright, fast, and pixel rich. The battery lasts as long as any other flagship’s does, too. Crucially, the new triple-camera system provides for incredible imaging flexibility and delivers consistent results across the board. Google’s Android 12 tweaks just for the Pixel 6 Pro can be helpful if you don’t mind spending some time climbing the short learning curves.
With the Pixel 6 Pro, Google has come as close as it ever has to dialing in the right mix of form, features, and functionality to appease fans of flagship phones.
The Pixel 6 Pro’s weaknesses are few and far between, but they do exist. The in-display fingerprint sensor is an immediately obvious misstep — it just isn’t fast enough. In addition, the Google Tensor processor isn’t quite up to par with the performance of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 when pushed to its limits. Right now, it’s close enough, but this could matter more the longer you hold onto the Pixel 6 Pro if Google’s machine learning can’t offset the CPU performance delta long-term. There’s also a tinge of disappointment that Google hasn’t expanded software upgrade support beyond three years. However, it’s still the best supported Android phone you can buy.
Another perspective: Google Pixel 6 review second opinion — imperfectly wonderful
True fans of the Google Pixel phone have already placed their orders, reviews be damned. Those buyers will surely delight in the Pixel 6 Pro’s many compelling features and will likely grumble, perhaps loudly, about the things that bother them. If you’re a buyer who’s on the fence, what we can tell you is that Google created an excellent, highly competitive smartphone in the Pixel 6 Pro. It takes the fight straight to Samsung’s door and beats on it loudly. The Pixel 6 Pro is definitely worth strong consideration from everyone.