Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro shootout

Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro shootout (review)

8.1

Google’s best Pixel smartphones yet. The Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro shootout proves they are up there with the best and should attract a far larger audience than previous models.

It is not that previous models were somehow inferior to others of their ilk – the Pixel 3, 4, and 5 (and variants) were all excellent phones for the time. But they ended up as pure Android enthusiasts devices, lacking mass-market appeal.

The Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro change that. They are a combination of excellent hardware finely tuned to Google Android 12. If you have $999 and $1299 to spend, these must be on your shopping list because there are no real downsides – just a few caveats for specific uses.

While the review headline uses the word shootout, the phones are very similar under the bonnet. The primary differences are screen size (6.4” 90Hz/6.7” 120Hz), ram (8/12), rear camera (Pro has a periscope zoom), front camera (8/11.1MP) and battery (4614/5000). The Pro adds 5G mmWave support that has a long way to go before it is usable.

Throughout the review, we will indicate 6 Pro differences in (brackets); if there is nothing, they are the same. Which one will win?

Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro shootout

sim and eSIM Model GB7N6 (G8VOU)

Australian websiteOverview page and Pixel 6 AU Product Page and Pixel 6 Pro AU Product Page
Price$999/1299 Pixel 6 8GB 128/256GB
$1129/1499/1599 Pixel 6 Pro 12GB 128/256/512GB
Colours6: Stormy Black Kinda Coral, Sorta Seafoam
6 Pro: Stormy Black, Cloudy White, Sorta Sunny
From *Google Online or Telstra, JB Hi-Fi, Optus, Vodafone, Harvey Norman and Officeworks
Launch pre-order offer to 30/11/21Three months of YouTube Premium and Google One. Three months access to Kayo and Binge (retailers may have different offers)
Warranty2-years
Country of OriginChina
CompanyGoogle is an American multinational technology company specialising in Internet-related services and products, including online advertising, a search engine, cloud computing, software, and hardware. It is considered one of the Big Five US tech companies with Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft.
MoreGadgetGuy Google News and Reviews

* Grey market – no Australian warranty

Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro

We issue a strong warning that you must buy a genuine model with Australian firmware, specifically models GB7N6 and G8VOU.

It is easy to identify the Australian version – under Settings, About Phone, Regulatory Labels, you will see the Australian RCM C-tick mark. There is also an RCM C-Tick on the box.

They use unique Australian 5G sub-6Ghz and 5G low-band frequencies and require local activation first. That means a grey market phone likely won’t be able to use 5G here. Also, you will not get local warranty, over the air OS and security updates, nor make a 000-emergency call without a sim.

We have named and shamed the prominent grey marketers here. If you are going to spend this much money, get a genuine ‘Made for Australia’ model.

First impression – great if you love Google style

These are straight out of the Google playbook with cute names, design cues and colours. The key difference to previous Pixel models is the prominent landscape camera bar that houses a dual-LED flash and LDAF (laser detect auto-focus) sensor. The bar means it does not rock when placed on a table and has raised edges to protect the lenses.

The Pixel 6 has flat front glass and a matt alloy frame. The 6 Pro has 3D Edge glass and a polished alloy frame. Looks-wise the Pro is slightly ahead.

Screen – among the best OLED

ItemPixel 6Pixel 6 Pro
Size6.4” 20:9 centre top selfie o-hole6.7” 19.5:9 centre top selfie o-hole
Type90Hz adaptive LTPS OLED120Hz adaptive
LTPO OLED
Resolution2400x 1080, 411ppi3120 x 1440, 512ppi
Colours
Brightness

Contrast
Delta E
sRGB
DCI-P3
HDR
GtG
16.7m
755 nits typical
1000 nits maximum HDR material
Infinite contrast
1.4 (<4 is excellent)
>100%
Covers the entire movie gamut
HDR10 and HLG (Not HDR10+ or Dolby Vision)
7.5ms
16.7m
800 nits typical
1100 nits maximum
Infinite contrast
1.1
Same
Same
Same
7.2ms
Daylight
AOD
Dark mode
Blue light
PWM Flicker
Good viewing angles and brightness for daylight use
Customisable Yes
Yes
Yes

Not noticeable at typical brightness
Same
DRMWidevine L1 so will display Netflix FHD HDR
Current HDCP Level – None and No digital output
Same
GamingNo reason it should not be able to handle mobile games at high frame rates but see CPU Throttling laterSame
ProtectionCorning Gorilla Glass VictusSame
FingerprintOptical under glass – Test: 9/10Same

Both screens are excellent, with the 6 Pro using a Samsung LTPO OLED screen similar to the OPPO Find X3 Pro (that has 1.07 billion colour capability). It is the standout, but it punishes the battery if you run it at 1440@120Hz.

Processor – very intelligent

SoCGoogle Tensor 5nm *
2 x 2.8Ghz (X1), 2 x 2.25Ghz (A76), 4 x 1.8Ghz (A-55) cores
Titan M2 security co-processor
Samsung 5123 5G Modem
GPUMali-G78 MP20 848Mhz
Test: GeekBench 5 Compute
Open CL:   Would not run this test
Vulcan: Would not run this test
Game useSee Throttling below
RAM8GB LPDDR5X (12GB)
Storage128 [98GB free] or 256GB (512GB option) UFS 3.1
Test: Mbps sequential read/write
Internal: 1242/234 (1336/224)
External 1GB Orico iMatch USB-C 3.1 Gen 1: Would not run this test, but the drive was visible in Files after formatting [it appears to request any external drive be formatted]
micro-SDNo
Geek
Bench 5
Single/Multi-Core 1039/2950 (1044/2957)
Single-core is marginally above the Samsung Exynos 2100, and Multi-core is about 5% below.

* The Google-designed Tensor Chip is based on a Samsung Exynos 2100 (the same as the Galaxy S21 series) using Samsung’s Exynos 5123 modem. It is optimised for Google’s AI and ML (artificial intelligence and machine learning) mobile applications. These include speech recognition, language translations, computational photography, power efficiency, security and Google’s claim of up to 80% faster than Pixel 5. It is a very new chip and benchmarks, particularly AI TOPS, are few – we will update these when we can.

We are concerned that the external SSD or Flash storage can be seen in ‘Files’ but will not return a test result. This usually means it cannot be for live storage e.g. mounted, only for drag and drop from internal storage. If this is the case, then it is useless to videographers and vLoggers.

Note that the charging cable is only USB-C 2.0 rated, and you should use a 3.1 Gen 1 30W or higher rating.

CPU Throttle – an issue

Throttle
15-min test
See table below. Tests were at 21°C ambient temperature conducted from power up 6 hours apart. Tests were also repeated on subsequent days but were very similar. Tests were also repeated on another Pixel 6 Pro.
PIxel 68 AM2 PM8 PM
Max GIPS – Giga-Instructions per Second241,320229,628254,327
Average211,878202,531212,108
Minimum180,507174,976168,364
% Throttle21%20%32%
Pixel 6 Pro8 AM2 PM8 PM
Max GIPS224,129268,065236,467
Average204,091221,421185,390
Minimum174,308183,892125,800
% Throttle28%29%45%

They both have Android 12 with a security patch date of 5/11/21 and build number SD1A.210817.036. Unless Google can fix this throttling, these are not good gaming or extended 4K video recording capable devices.

By comparison

  • Samsung S21 Ultra using a similar Exynos 2100 SoC is (max/average/min) 227,660/198,974/180,306GIPS and 16% loss.
  • OPPO Find X3 Pro Qualcomm SD888 240,292/223,471/211,456GIPS and 10% loss

Comms – fast Wi-Fi 6E

Wi-FiWi-Fi 6E AX 2×2 MIMO 2.4GHz, 5GHz and 6GHz VHT 160
 Signal Strength 5Ghz – distance from Netgear RAX200, AX11000, 12 stream router
-dBM lower is better, and Mbps higher is better
2m:  -24/2400 (-26/2400)
5m: – 49/1152 (-52/1152)
10m: -63/866 (-67/866)
15m: -66/433 (68/433)
Both phones perform similarly and have good Wi-Fi AX connectivity
BluetoothBT 5.2
GPSDual-Band GNSS accuracy <10M GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, BeiDou (No NavIC)
NFCYes
Ultra-widebandPixel 6 Pro only
USB-CUSB-C 3.1 Gen 1
External storage is not treated as mountable internal storage.
It does not support ALT DP video/audio output, and the cable supplied is only USB-C 2.0. You can Chromecast to a compatible device.
SensorsProximity, Ambient light, combo Accelerometer/Gyrometer, e-Compass, Barometer

The main difference is the Ultra-wide-band chip on the 6 Pro. Again we express concern that without microSD expansion and the apparent inability to mount external storage for video, this device is too limited for professional users.

LTE and 5G – it is a city/suburbs phone

SIMNano-SIM and eSIM (one active at a time)
Samsung 5123 5G modem
Ring toneSingle
SupportVoLTE – carrier dependent – generally yes
Wi-Fi calling – ditto
DL/ULTest:  20.3/15.2Mbps/44ms (17.2/14.8Mbps/49ms (average)
LTE BandB1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 32, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 46, 48, 66, 71 (same) This is a world phone
5Gn1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 12, 14, 20, 25, 28, 30, 38, 40, 41, 48, 66, 71, 77, 78 (same)
This covers all Australian 5G sub-6Ghz and low bands.
(6 Pro mmWave n257, 258, 260, 261) minimal coverage for the foreseeable future and no inside coverage.
TestsUsing a Boost Mobile (Telstra retail network) sim at 1km line-of-sight from Telstra tower.
Expressed as -dBm (lower is better) and Femtowatts (fW) or picowatts (pW or 1000fw) where higher is better. Tower readings
1: -89 and from 1.3pW to 7.9pW (-90 and from 500fW to 1.6pW)
2: – No (No)
3: – No (No)
4: – No (No)

The Samsung 5123 5G Modem (used in Samsung phones with the Exynos 2100 SoC) does not have the same antenna signal strength as Qualcomm X55 and X60 modems. For example, the OPPO Find X3 Pro with the Qualcomm SD888 (below) finds four towers and is for the city, suburbs, regional, and rural use.

Tower 1: -81 and from 6.3pW to 7.9pW
2: -88 and from 1 to 1.3pW
3: -90 and from 570fW to 1pW
4: – 100 and 20fW to 50fW

The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are city/suburbs phones where you can get strong coverage from multiple towers.

Battery – no charger!

Battery mAh4600 (5000)
ChargerNot provided but Google recommends its Model G411 30W – 5V/3A/15W, 9V/3A/27W, 15V/2A/30W and 20V/1.5A/30W that also supports PPS maximum 11V/3A or 16V/2A or 21V/1.5A.
Test:
0-50% – 34 minutes (45 minutes)
0-100% – 1 hr and 39 min (1hr and 55  minutes)
Using 5V/3A standard USB charger and cable – 5 hours (same)
While all USB-C PD chargers worked, we found that only the Google charger hit the rated charging.
QiThe Pixel 6 supports up to 21W, and the 6 Pro 23W ONLY on its fan cool assisted Pixel Stand Gen 2 $119 and using Google’s 30W charger $45.
If you don’t use these devices, it charges at a maximum of 12W (typically less) on standard Qi charge pads.
Using a Belkin 15W Qi, we achieved 5V/2A/10W, but placement is critical as the camera bar can interfere with flat pads.
We cannot recommend passive, older or lower wattage Qi pads as these charge at 5V/1A/5W or less and don’t have a cooling fan.
Reverse chargeIt supports up to 12W reverse charge, but the maximum we could get was 5V/500mA/2.5W.
Tests – at an adaptive screen rate with adaptive charging offVideo Loop test, 1080p/50%/aeroplane mode: 13 hours 20 minutes (similar)
Netflix, 1080p, 50%m Wi-Fi: 10 hours 12 minutes (9 hours 11 minutes)
Typical light use 4G, Wi-Fi: 19 hours 36 minutes (15 hours 23 minutes)
MP3 music test: 50% volume played from storage: 24 hours+ (same)
100% load everything on, battery drain: 4hrs 37 minutes (4hrs 49 minutes)
PC Mark Work 3 battery test: 15 hr 54 minutes (15 hr 52 minutes)
GFX Benchmark T-Rex: 90Hz 330 minutes 5.5 hours, 4944 frames (120Hz 195 minutes 3.25 hours, 5155 frames)
GFX Benchmark Manhattan 3.1: Would not run – out of memory error (same)

Battery life is nowhere near the 48-hour claim.

The fine print reads ‘maximum battery life based on testing using a mix of talk, data, standby, and limited other default features in Extreme Battery Saver mode, which disables various features, including 5G’.

An interesting thing happened during testing – different USB-C to USB-C cables invoked different mAh charge rates. Please ensure that you have 30W or higher rating cables.

We tested with different chargers and any USB-C PD charger 30W or more is fine. But only Google’s charger reached rated charging wattages.

Despite the battery capacity differences, they lasted about the same time courtesy of the adaptive 90Hz (and 120Hz) screens. But when pushed with graphics-heavy tests, the 6 Pro’s 120Hz rate saw screen-on time reduce from 5.5 hours to 3.25 hours.

We are concerned that they both cannot run the GFX Benchmark Manhattan 3.1 nor GeekBench 5 Open CL or Vulkan tests.

You will need a daily charge and buy the genuine charger or suffer significantly longer charge times.

Sound – good stereo separation

SpeakersStereo – earpiece forward/up-firing and down-firing bottom speaker. These are reasonably well-matched with a slight preference for the bottom speaker.
Sound stageReasonable – it is a little wider than the unit in landscape mode.
AMP Tensor SoC
BT codecsCodecs are SBC (standard), AAC, and LDAC
As it is not a Qualcomm chip, it does not support any aptX codecs. These are greyed out in Developer options (see below), and we could not enable them. This is the same as any Samsung based Exynos SoC.
Pre-setsNo EQ or pre-sets
MicThree with noise-cancelling, stereo recording and audio zoom. Take care not to block the mics with your hand. Also, with Bluetooth microphone support.
3.5mmNo, and no USB-C to 3.5mm DAC cable either
Tests dB
Anything over 80dB is excellent
Media – 70 (70)
Music can reach 76.2dB (77)
Ring – 79.8 (80.1)
Alarm – 66 (65)
Earpiece – 56.2 (55)
Handsfree – adequate volume and clarity
Bluetooth HeadphonesBluetooth drove our reference Sony WH-1000xM4 in SBC with good volume and separation.
Hearing aidM3/T3 HAC Rating

The maximum volume is a tad low but fit for purpose. Lack of aptX codecs is an issue for those using aptX headsets.

Sound quality – no bass

Note: Frequency response is from 20Hz to 20kHz

Deep Bass: 20-40HzNilsame
Middle Bass: 40-100HzNilsame
High Bass: 100 to 200HzStarting at 129Hz and very slowly buildingsame
Low-mid: 200-400HzSlowly buildingsame
Mid: 400-1000HzSlowly building to flatten at 1kHzFlat
High-mid: 1-2kHzFlatsame
Low-treble: 2-4kHzFlatsame
Treble:4-6kHzFlatsame
High Treble: 6-10kHzDescending to 8kHz  and then flat to 10kHzDescending to 10kHz
Dog whistle: 10-20kHzFlat to 12kHz and then plummets off the cliffQuick peak to 12kHz then ditto

The sound signature verges on analytical (bass/mids recessed, treble boosted), which is crisp but can be overly harsh and unpleasant for most music. You can read more about sound signatures, why they are so important and how we test.

There is no EQ or pre-sets nor any support for Dolby Atmos or other spatial music.

Build – quality all around

Size/Weight58.6 height x 74.8 width x 8.9 depth (mm) x 207g
(63.9 height x 75.9 width x 8.9 depth (mm) x 210g)
BuildGlass – Gorilla Glass Victus
Frame – Alloy (polished alloy)
Back – Gorilla Glass 6
IP68
In the boxBumper cover
1m USB-C to USB-C 2.0 cable

I understand that Foxconn makes these. It also assembles the Apple iPhone. Build quality is excellent.

Android 12 and 13, 14…

AndroidGoogle Android 12
Security patch date 5 November 2021 (interesting considering this review was published 26 October)
UINone
GoogleAll standard apps, Google Lens, Maps, Assistant and YouTube.
Google Assistant by pressing the power key
BloatwareNone
Update PolicyThree Android OS upgrades
Five years of security patches from data of launch
SecurityOptical under glass Fingerprint reader
Google Titan M2 security chip

Google calls the Android 12 UI ‘Material You’, which is chock full of themes and styles. You can retain the old three-button navigation if you wish.

Several exciting features revolve around voice and translation. You can voice type (Hey Google, Type) and send a message. It can live translate from a foreign language (Live Caption) or a camera image. It has 55 offline and 104 online languages. Or it can be an interpreter between two languages both ways.

A new Privacy dashboard helps you to identify what apps have permissions and to control them. A security hub offers all device security tools in one place. Emergency settings help you via car crash detection and can send an SOS.

Missing

3.5 mmNo 3.5mm nor a USB-C to 3.5mm DAC adapter
MicroSDNever has and never will be, but it’s a concern that external storage can’t be mounted to direct record video and large files. No flagships have this feature.
SoundDolby Atmos, Qualcomm aptX, EQ and pre-sets – expected in flagships
ChargerEspecially as 30W charging only works with the Google Charger!

Camera

 CameraPrimary
50MP
bins to 12.5MP
(same)
Wide
12MP
(same)
6 Pro only
Periscope
48MP
bins to 12MP
Selfie 8MP
(11.1 – 12MP)
SensorSamsung GN1Likely
Sony IMX386 or
OmniVision OV12A10
IMX586see note *
FocusLaser Detect AF to 4m
see note **
FFPDAFFF
Aperture f-stop1.852.23.52.0 (2.2)
Pixel size um1.2 bins to 2.41.25.8 bins to 1.61.12 (1.22)
FOV° and [cropped]82 [71.4]11423.584 [72]
(94 in ultrawide)
StabilisationOIS to 30fps   
Flash Single   Screen fill
Zoom7X digital 4X optical
20X digital
10x digital
Video Max4k@60fps no OIS
(Locked video stabilisation crops image)
4K@30fps OIS
  1080p@60/30fps (4K@30fps)

Selfie*

Pixel 6: The standard selfie is 6MP (1836 x 3264), and the wide selfie is 8.1MP (2464 x 3280). We are reasonably confident it is a Sony IMX219, 8.1MP, 1.12um sensor.  

Pixel 6 Pro: As far as we can find, there are no native 11.1MP, 1.22um camera sensors. Our diagnostic software shows it as an 8.3MP (2160 x 3840) image in 4:3 and 11.1MP (2880×3840) in 16:9 wide. We think it is a Sony IMX633 12.2MP, 1.22um sensor with a crop for wide and standard selfie formats.

Our test results show neither of these sensors is a spectacular performer and rely heavily on AI processing.

Laser Focus**

It uses an STVL53L1 Time-of-Flight (ToF), laser-ranging, sensor with a range of 4m.

Laser focus bounces an infrared laser to calculate the distance between the object and the camera. It is very fast but has a maximum distance of four metres; then PDAF kicks in. The result is that bokeh beyond 4m is variable.

Google Pixel tools – AI processing

  • Magic Eraser allows you to erase parts of the photo – people or objects – and replace it with Google’s estimation of the background. It is handy, but we found that it works best when Google recognises the object to delete.
  • Face Unblur lets you sharpen faces by combining two lenses
  • Motion Mode adds creative blur effects, and then there is a truetone feature for diverse skin tones.
  • Real Tone (portrait) fixes skin tones and is always enabled.

Daylight, outdoors (Left – Pixel 6 and rigth Pixel 6 Pro) – click on images to zoom

Macro

Indoors Office Light (>400 lumens)

Low light (<100 lumens) – The Pixel 6 is ahead by a whisker

Night mode

Rear Video (both using the 50MP rear OIS sensor)

The camera app has a choice of video stabilisation: standard (light movement), locked (to the horizon), active (heavy movement) and cinematic pan (half speed).

Both shoot at 4K@60fps in locked mode (Electronic image stabilisation crops a full-frame image to keep the horizon stable) and below that in OIS (optical image stabilisation), which moves the lens.

I cannot fault the video in day and office light – lively colours, great definition and low noise. OIS is excellent, particularly at 1080p@60fps. Audio zoom (follows the focus point) is impressive

The Pixel 6 has a .7 wide-angle and 2x zoom, and the 6 Pro has an additional 4X zoom.

Front video

The Pixel 6 takes up to 1080p@60fps. The video is stable with accurate colours. The 6 Pro takes 4K@30fps, but it is not as stable, and the colours are not as vibrant. Both have 4X zoom.

GadgetGuy’s take

The Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro shootout proves these are Google’s best efforts to date. It is streets ahead of the Pixel 5 series in speed and camera performance. It is a worthy flagship, and the more you use them, the more features you discover.

But neither device is perfect. CPU throttling will affect videographers and gamers. Being unable to record video to an external SSD will affect videographers and vLoggers. The speaker sound is average with no EQ and no aptX support.  And it is a shame that the USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 is not enabled for ALT DP video/audio out, although that is probably to enforce some digital rights management laws.

If those issues are not important to you then these are worthy of your strong consideration.

Rating explanation

These both exceed paradigms for a flagship device. Add to that 2-year warranty, 3/5 years OS upgrades/updates, great camera and battery life commensurate with expectations, and it earns a few more points.

But the Throttling, USB-C limited implementation, no charger and narrow range of BT codecs knocks some of the gloss off. We will continue to review these especially as we expect firmware upgrades to address some of the issues.

Android Competition ans should you buy it?

We have a detailed look at the competition and make buying recommendations depending on your use.

YouTube

Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro shootout
Both the best Pixel devices yet but a few quirks need to be solved before they are class-leaders
Features
8.5
Value for money
8
Performance
7
Ease of use
9
Design
8
Positives
Exceptional build quality asnd unique Google design cues
IP68 and Qi charge
Great camera but needs a little work on the camera app
Good daylightr eadable displays
Android 12, 12, 13, 14…
Negatives
Throttling is more than expected and will be a deal breaker for power users
Limited USB-C 3.1 implementation - no ALT DP or external stroage mounting
Average selfie camera
8.1