Since 2019, Google made a tradition of launching a mid-range version of its Pixel series phones under the Pixel “a” name. The latest in that series, the Pixel 6a, has just launched, and it’s making the rounds. The question is whether this phone is worth the $449. Let’s find out in this review of the Pixel 6a.
It looks similar but feels different
So, we can’t expect the cheaper Pixel phone to feel just like its premium siblings. While the Pixel 6a is similar in size to the Pixel 6 proper, it’s a bit smaller and considerably lighter. You can tell that it was made from less premium materials.
That being said, this phone doesn’t feel cheap in and of itself. Picking it up, it feels reasonably heavy and sturdy in the hand. You can feel the metal of the frame as you grip it, and that assures you that the Pixel 6a can take a tumble without taking damage.
When it comes to the design, it’s extremely similar to its more premium brethren, but there are a few differences. For starters, the visor is noticeably smaller on the 6a. It juts out from the device less, and it also got a height reduction.
Second, there’s an ovular ring around the camera sensors. We see that the majority of the glass on the visor is opaque with the exception of the glass inside of the ring. It’s a small aesthetic change that helps differentiate the Pixel 6a from the others.
The display is amazing
It can be hard sometimes finding phones with nice displays in this price bracket. One good example is the Galaxy A53 5G; the Pixel 6a is another good example. It has a 6.1-inch AMOLED display at a 2400 x 1080 resolution. It’s the same panel as the Pixel 6, and it’s a beautiful display.
I didn’t see any difference in the color science or the brightness, so I don’t think Google made any differences or tweaks to the display before putting it on the phone. The only difference between these displays is the refresh rate. The Pixel 6a caps out at 60Hz.
You’re not going to have any issues with this display, as it’s one of the best on the market. Even though it’s on a cheaper version of the Pixel 6, it’s still just as good.
The speakers did have a slight improvement
Since this Pixel 6a is a less expensive version of the Pixel 6, you wouldn’t expect there to be any sort of improvements. However, the Pixel 6a did improve in one department over the Pixel 6: the speakers.
Both phones have a set of front-facing speakers that are pretty amazing. The Pixel 6 was able to be my phone of choice compared to other phones like the Moto Edge+.
While that is true, the speakers on the Pixel 6a have seen a slight improvement over the Pixel 6. While comparing the two sets of speakers, I could hear that the Pixel 6a’s speakers have just a little bit more body and a bit more low-end.
One of the very few things that the Pixel 6’s speakers lack is a bit more on the bass. The bass isn’t all that much louder on the Pixel 6a; rather, you hear just a bit more of a ring on the low-end. The bass notes resonate slightly better, and that makes the listening experience a little better. It’s pleasing to hear if you want to use your phone as a replacement for your Bluetooth speaker.
We’ve seen this camera before, and that’s not a bad thing
One of the compromises that Google made to keep the Pixel 6a’s price down was in the camera department. This phone uses the camera sensors that we saw in previous Pixel phones. This is the same hardware we saw in phones from the Pixel 3 to the Pixel 5a.
That being said, there’s nothing about this camera that makes this phone a slouch. Pixel phones, even with the older hardware, remained some of the best camera phones on the market.
Since the Pixel 6a is using last generation’s hardware, you can expect the pictures to be similar to pictures from the previous Pixel phones. The pictures come out incredibly with great colors and details. You have the advantage of the HDR+ that Google’s been working on over the years.
When it comes to low-light photography, the story is the same. Taking the camera indoors gave me great results. Pictures came out bright and punchy, as the lights went down, and the Night mode only made the images better.
Overall, you won’t go wrong with the camera on the Pixel 6a. It’s just as good as the previous Pixel cameras, and that’s great for pretty much every situation.
The Pixel 6a has a decent 4400mAh battery, and it was able to deliver some nice mileage. It will last you the full day no sweat under light to moderate usage. Even under a heavy load, the battery was able to give me some good screen-on time.
On the heaviest day, I spent two hours video streaming, two hours gaming, and two hours scrolling through social media. After the six solid hours of usage, the phone had 30% remaining.
When it comes to charging, you’re not getting fast charging speeds. You’ll be waiting more than an hour if you want to charge the battery from 0%-100%. Also, to much criticism, Google did not include a charger in the box with this phone, so you’ll want to make note of that.
The Pixel 6a uses the same Tensor chip that’s in the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. While it’s not as fast as the latest Snapdragon chips, Google’s Tensor chip is still capable of flagship performance.
During my testing, I didn’t experience any instances of lag or stutters in the software. This is the same story when it comes to gaming. I played games that were both modest and graphic-intensive, and I got smooth performance across the board.
When it comes to connectivity, I was able to get a good signal using the Pixel 6a am AT&T SIM. The Pixel 6 proper had some issues connecting to 5G signals regardless of the carrier. However, the Pixel 6a seems to have improved the signal pick-up.
Along with 5G, the Pixel also has Bluetooth 5.2, and NFC. I was really glad that Google didn’t opt to take out the NFC functionality. You can use Google Pay for your purchases.
Should you buy the Pixel 6a?
A review of the Pixel 6a is more of a comparison to the Pixel 6. Both phones are similar in several aspects to the point where you’re basically using the same phone. You’d be hardpressed to find a difference when it comes to the camera quality, performance, and display quality.
The build quality isn’t as premium, the display caps out at 60Hz, and the camera isn’t as new. But, those are small trade-offs for the amazing package you’re getting with this phone. If you’re interested in getting into the Pixel series of phones, and you don’t want to spend too much money, you should definitely pick up a Pixel 6a.