Google has not been launching its flagship Pixel smartphones in India since the Pixel 4 series. The company’s Pixel a-series mid-rangers, however, have been making it to our shores constantly, barring last year’s Google Pixel 5a. With the much talked about Pixel 6a series, Google has made sure to not leave Indian users in complete disappointment and we have finally got the first “new Pixel” with the Pixel 6a in India. Many Android users look forward to the Pixel, and with so many eyes on the new launch, here’s a quick review of the Google Pixel 6a.
The Google Pixel 6a has been launched at a price of Rs 43,999 in India, but is available for Rs 39,999 with a launch discount in place. The smartphone takes cues from its elder siblings the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, and comes with a similar design, chipset, and ofcourse, the most raw (best?) Android experience any phone has to offer. Now, when Google approached me for an opportunity to review the Pixel 6a, I was very intrigued to see how much the mid-range Pixels have improved and how similar the experience is, with the flagship Pixel smartphones. In this review, I will tell you everything I like about the Google Pixel 6a, everything I don’t like about the smartphone, and finally, if you should spend at least Rs 39,999 on the Pixel 6a.
In terms of design, the Pixel 6a looks very similar to its elder siblings. The smartphone comes with the same three-colour back panel design with a camera “visor” that splits the back panel in two parts. We got the Charcoal colour option for our review, which has a darker grey shade on the bottom part of the back panel, and a light grey shade on the top part above the camera visor. The Google logo is right in the middle of the back panel, and the camera visor holds the dual camera setup along with an LED flash.
Up front, the design is very familiar. There is a hold punch camera on the Pixel 6a in the middle of the top of the screen. There is a slight chin on the bottom, and the bezels are slightly thick from what we’re used to, but it still looks good. There is a bit of a curve on the edges of the back panel, but that starts after the bezels, so it is a flat display effectively.
The quality of materials used on the Pixel 6a is very good. The company has used good quality material on the Pixel 6a and the smartphone feels quite nice and premium in your hand. The size is also very nice with the 6.1-inch display. Using the Pixel 6a with one hand is super easy and comfortable. There is Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for protection on the Pixel 6a.
The display on the Google Pixel 6a is a 6.1-inch OLED panel with an FHD+ (1080×2400) display and 60Hz refresh rate. The display also comes with HDR support, and comes with a “High brightness mode.” Now, Google has not mentioned the exact brightness of the display, but the display is bright enough for use in all kinds of environments. I used the Pixel 6a under the bright Delhi sun and did not struggle with the visibility. It is not the brightest display out there, but it is good enough.
The 60Hz refresh rate is something that might hurt the Pixel 6a. I was using a 120Hz refresh rate smartphone before this, and coming back to 60Hz from 120 was quite a test. The screen feels quite slow, and this took a while to get used to, especially if you are coming from a 90Hz or a 120Hz display. Further, competing devices in this range all offer a 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rate. The display, in terms of resolution and colour accuracy is quite good. There is good detail and the image is crisp. It is a 1080p panel, and the detail is as good as it can be on a 1080p panel. The colour accuracy is also very good – blacks are super dark and deep, and reds are bright. Watching videos and movies on this display was a good experience.
PERFORMANCE AND BATTERY
The Google Pixel 6a uses Google’s in-house Tensor chip paired with 6GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage. Out of which, about 17GB is taken by the operating system. In terms of performance, Google Pixel 6a is pretty decent. During my brief usage, the Pixel 6a performed very well as a daily driver. The smartphone showed no signs of slowdowns or app crashes. There were a couple of instances where the phone did stutter for a second or two, but that is something negligible and could have been a software issue. Switching from a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1-powered flagship smartphone (Samsung Galaxy S22), the Pixel 6a did not feel sluggish at all. Now, this is not flagship-level performance, but it is enough for all kinds of daily users. For comparison’s sake, the AnTuTu benchmark score for the Google Pixel 6a is just under 650,000, which is just ahead of the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra in AnTuTu rankings.
Coming to the main thing, the software and the overall experience of using the Pixel 6a. In my reviews, I have always said that I am not a fan of the UI skins that OEMs put on Android smartphones over the stock OS. The Pixel is where you get the best, cleanest and the most authentic Android experience, and the Google Pixel 6a is no different. The Android experience is clean and slick. This is the first time I have used stock Android for Android 12, and this has been the best version of the software that I have used so far. The user interface is clean and neat, just like it should be, there is no bloatware, the gestures work just how they should. The setup process is clean and hassle-free and you don’t need to give unnecessary access to things to be able to use features, this software is perfect. You also get developer options enabled by default with the Pixel 6a, and there are other software advantages like a fully-unlocked Google Photos editor, a more streamlined experience with Google’s tools and services, a real-time speech-to-text feature, and many other Google Assistant features.
One more thing to mention here is that the Pixel 6a also comes with a Titan M2 security chip, which is a physical chip that stores all your sensitive data like passwords and keys within the device, avoiding the need to store data on a server. The Titan M2 chip is derived from the same chip Google uses to protect Google Cloud data centers. The Titan M2 chip handles your most sensitive processes and information, such as passcode protection, encryption, and secure transactions in apps. A good feature from Google, given that Android is more prone to threat attacks.
Coming to battery, the Google Pixel 6a’s battery is what impressed me the most. The smartphone has a 4,410mAh battery, and the backup is just brilliant. Google claims a 24 hour battery backup with the Pixel 6a and believe it or not, it is not a stretch. Without gaming, the Google Pixel 6a constantly gave me an over 7 hours screen time, which is probably the best in this segment or size. I charged the smartphone to just above 90 percent at around 11:30AM, and used it as my primary throughout the day. Tested the camera, ran benchmark scores, and whatnot, and the battery died the next day at around 9:30-10:00AM, which is about 24 hours for a normal day’s usage.
The improved battery life is courtesy to a bigger 4,410mAh battery unit and improved efficiency with Google’s Tensor chipset. The smartphone supports 18W fast charging, which is able to completely charge the Google Pixel 6a in less than two hours.
The Google Pixel 6a has been launched with a dual rear camera setup that includes a 12-megapixel primary camera and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide angle shooter. Now, the Pixel is known for its camera performance, and this Pixel 6a comes with the same 12-megapixel cameras that we have seen on previous Pixel devices before the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. The Pixel 6a’s camera, while being pretty average in terms of hardware, does click very good images. The images may not look as pleasing in the viewfinder but once they are processed, the results are quite nice and vibrant.
Now, the colours might seem blown up to many, but the results are sharp and very detailed. Google’s processing does a brilliant job in getting out the detail and making the colours pop. Google Pixel 6a’s Night Sight is also as good as you’d expect, and even in very low light conditions, the smartphone clicks very sharp and detailed images.
The portrait mode is something that Google Pixel smartphones have mastered over the years, and the Pixel 6a is again no exception to this. The portrait mode on the Google Pixel 6a is superb. The edge-detection is brilliant, and the camera blurs out the background quite nicely.
However, during our usage, the camera did struggle at times, and the image got a bit hazy a few times. While most times you get a very good picture out of this camera, there are times when the processing just goes off and the results are not as pleasing as you’d expect. This, however, seems more like a software issue, as we have seen on previous Pixel cameras. Initially there have been mixed reviews about the cameras, and it takes a few updates to get in the groove. Just Pixel things. Overall, this is a very good camera, which will further improve with updates to the software.
The Google Pixel 6a camera also comes with a slew of features that users can take advantage of. There is a magic eraser feature where you can remove unwanted elements from a photo, there’s a Top Shot feature where the Pixel 6a takes a short video and suggests frames to capture more of a moment, there’s Night Sight, Google’s famous low light mode, and other features like Live HDR+ which is a long exposure mode to click on stable object in a moving crowd, there’s dual exposure controls that let users set the tone and exposure of the image before clicking it, apart from the ISO control that’s already there on other cameras.
Video quality on this camera is also decent on the Pixel 6a. We did not get to test the video as extensively, but it is good enough for your casual videography and social media. The Google Pixel 6a is capable of recording in 4K resolution at a 60FPS frame rate, and the quality of footage is good for a mid-range smartphone.
The Google Pixel 6a is a very good mid-range device, but comes with certain limitations. The smartphone’s Rs 43,999 price tag is almost stepping into Android flagship territory, but the Google Pixel 6a is not here to compete with other Android mid-rangers. The Pixel offers the best Android experience in all smartphones in India, despite being a mid-ranger with an average display. Just the software experience makes the smartphone easy to recommend, if not for the 60Hz refresh rate display. It has one of the best cameras in this range, and looks and feels very premium in your hand. It is also the most secure Android phone with a physical Titan M2 chip and has a brilliant battery backup. Now, while the Rs 43,999 price tag does seem quite high, the Pixel 6a is still one of the best Android smartphones in this range, despite the slow screen.
Google’s strategy with the Pixel 6a is similar to Apple’s strategy with the Apple iPhone SE 2022. Both the smartphones are priced similarly in India, but as a 2022 Android, the Pixel 6a has much more to offer than the iPhone SE 2022 as a 2022 iOS device.