I’m about 4 months late with this review. 8 months late if you account for the fact that the Pixel 6 series launched in Singapore 4 months behind the US. The Pixel 7 series has already been pre-announced and are expected to launch in October (another 4 months from now, how poetic). Hopefully we here in Singapore won’t have to wait too long this time.

So the Pixel 6 Pro is already nearing the end its release cycle – what’s the point of this review then? Perhaps to document my thoughts on Google’s first attempt at a “proper” flagship. To analyse what Google got right and what it got wrong, and serve as a point of reference for its successor coming in the fall. No doubt when the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro launch, people will ask if it’s worth it to spring for the latest, or to find a good deal on the Pixel 6 Pro. And this review will hopefully help with that.

As always, let’s start with the specs.

Pixel 6 Pro Specifications

  • 163.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm, 210 g
  • IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins)
  • 6.71″ 120 Hz, 1440 x 3120 pixels, 19.5:9 (~512 ppi density), HDR10+ LTPO AMOLED
  • Google Tensor (5 nm) – Octa-core CPU (2×2.80 GHz Cortex-X1 & 2×2.25 GHz Cortex-A76 & 4×1.80 GHz Cortex-A55), Mali-G78 MP20 GPU
  • 128GB UFS 3.1 storage, 12GB RAM
  • Cameras
    • Main: 50 MP, f/1.9, 25mm, 1/1.31″, 1.2µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, Laser AF, OIS
    • Ultrawide: 2 MP, f/2.2, 17mm, 114˚, 1.25µm
    • Telephoto: 48 MP, f/3.5, 104mm, 1/2″, 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS, 4x optical zoom
    • Front: 11.1 MP, f/2.2, 20mm (ultrawide), 1.12µm
  • 5003 mAh battery, fast wired and wireless charging
  • Colours: Stormy Black, Cloudy White
  • Misc: Stereo speakers, no headphone jack, under-display optical fingerprint reader, nano SIM and/or eSIM

Design & Build

The design of the Pixel 6 Pro is contentious to say the least, with some people finding the camera bar straight up hideous. I think the phone looks fine, especially from the front, and especially in Cloudy White. Aesthetically, I do think that it’s got a more premium look than the regular Pixel 6.

But my issues with the design of the phone have nothing to do with aesthetics. I have 2 main functional issues with the design:

  1. The screen’s curved edges gives it a more premium look by reducing the bezels on the sides, but Google’s palm rejection software is not up to par. Accidental touches are so frequent it’s become a regular annoyance. Playing games on landscape is terrible due to this (and due to the camera bar, but more on that later). One bug of particular annoyance is when I launch the camera, but due to what I think it poor palm rejection, tapping on the shutter button to snap a photo instead triggers a swipe to go back gesture which closes the camera app. I’ve had that happen to me more times than I can remember.
  2. The camera bar is an annoyance. It gets dirty from lint. It gets caught on the edge of your pocket when you’re trying to slide it in. When propping it up against a surface to watch videos, it gets in the way (and the phone is so slippery it’s almost an exercise in futility trying to prop it up anyway). Finally, when playing games in landscape mode, it gets in the way and feels terrible to hold.

Build quality is good, but not as good as the likes of say, Apple or Samsung – you can feel the edges where the metal rail and the glass panels meet, for instance.

At 210g, it is also a large and heavy phone. You do get used to it somewhat, but there are numerous times throughout the day when you wish it were lighter or smaller. This is where your mileage may vary. I personally prefer smaller and lighter phones (I daily drive a Pixel 5). But if you are used to the large and bulky phones which are commonplace nowadays, the size and weight of the Pixel 6 Pro may not bother you.

Display

The display on the Pixel 6 Pro is fantastic. It’s a high refresh (120 Hz) 1440p LTPO AMOLED panel with the capability of throttling down dynamically to conserve battery. Colours are vibrant and accurate, and it gets plenty bright outdoors.

Google gives you 3 colour profiles to choose from: Natural, Boosted, and Adaptive. The first 2 are based on the sRGB colour space while the latter is based on the DCI-P3 colour space. I found Boosted to be a nice balance between natural and vibrant colours.

As said in the previous section, my main complaint about it is the accidental touches resulting from the curved edges. I also noticed that there are times when the display would stutter and throttle way below 120 Hz, such as with the Internet quick settings toggle, or Spotify or Reddit.

Somewhat related is the under-display fingerprint sensor. It works most of the time, and is slightly faster and more reliable than the one found on my old OnePlus 6T, but it still miles behind the competition (Samsung in particular). There are times when the sensor just refuses to recognise my fingerprint just because it’s a little moist. As the sensor is optical, it also fails regularly in bright sunlight. I hope that Google takes a page out of Samsung’s book and give us a faster and more reliable ultrasonic fingerprint reader in the Pixel 7 Pro.

Performance & Battery

Google is shipping its first ever custom processor, Google Tensor, with the Pixel 6 Pro. It wasn’t class leading at launch, and is soon to be surpassed by the second generation Tensor chip on the Pixel 7. But it’s still respectable in its own right.

Day-to-day tasks are a breeze, especially when coupled with that 12 GB RAM. As previously mentioned, there are stutters to the UI and in some apps, but that’s likely due to the fault of the software rather than the processor.

Being a custom chip means that Tensor will be able to deliver on Google’s machine learning software features. Things like the magic eraser in Google Photos and the Now Playing feature on the lock screen. The latter is also available on the Pixel 5, but I’ve noticed that without Google’s custom chip, it drains a lot of battery on standby, to the point where I disabled the feature on my Pixel 5. I faced no such issue with the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, which is a testament to how efficient Tensor is at performing ML tasks.

Perhaps the main issue with Tensor is the thermal throttling. Running 3DMark’s Wildlife Stress Test confirms this. While the initial burst performance is impressive, the phone quickly gets hot and throttles performance below even that of the Snapdragon 865 from 2020. In practice, it means that the phone will get hot after a few minutes of intensive tasks such as gaming or GPS tracking. It’s not ideal, but I wouldn’t call it a dealbreaker.

Battery life on the Pixel 6 Pro is great. With the 5000 mAh battery, I was able to achieve more than 7 hours of screen on time on a busy day. I never once ran out of battery before the end of the day, even with plenty of music/video streaming, light gaming, web browsing, and texting.

Charging speeds could be better. The Pixel 6 Pro maxes out at less than 30W while phones from Chinese manufacturers are pushing 100W. I never found this to be an issue however. Firstly, because the Pixel 6 Pro always got me to the end of my night. Secondly, because Google’s adaptive charging feature means that I can leave the phone to charge overnight knowing that the phone will adjust the charging speed such that battery longevity is preserved and the phone will be full when my alarm rings in the morning.

Cameras

The cameras on the Pixel have always been great, but the usage of the same camera sensor for the past 4 generations has allowed the competition to catch up. The Pixel 6 finally brings in fresh new hardware, and the Pixel 6 Pro takes it a step further with an additional telephoto with 4x optical zoom.

Photos from all three cameras are fantastic. The main camera produces stunning photos with plenty of detail, great colours, good dynamic range, and a natural shallow depth of field. Compared to the Pixel 5’s main camera, the processing is similar, but I did find the Pixel 6 Pro to have a wider field of view and slightly more detail and vibrance.

The ultrawide camera is great as well, with the same great colours, contrast, and dynamic range.

The true standout of the Pixel 6 Pro’s camera setup however, is its telephoto camera with 4x optical zoom. It provides an impressive amount of reach, all while maintaining a remarkable level of detail. You’d be hard pressed to tell a difference in quality between images from this camera and from the main camera – the colours, contrast, dynamic range, and sharpness are all excellent. It is probably one of the best telephoto cameras on a phone. The reach is far enough that you’d actually want to use it, and it thus opens up a whole new perspective in your smartphone photography.

As always, Night Sight on the Pixel 6 Pro is excellent. The main sensor in particular, has gotten much larger over its predecessors, allowing for much more light to be taken in. This greatly reduces noise in low light, allowing it to produce spectacular photos at night.

Night photos on the ultrawide camera are noticeably more noisy compared to the main sensor, which is to be expected. But Google’s software magic still does a good enough job in cleaning up the noise to a usable state. There is no night mode on the telephoto however. Instead, Google uses digital zoom on the main sensor.

Overall, the Google Pixel 6 Pro boasts an impressive set of cameras across a versatile range of focal lengths. Definitely one of the best smartphone cameras in the market.

(Main camera) Pixel 5 (left) vs Pixel 6 Pro (right)
(Main camera) Pixel 5 (left) vs Pixel 6 Pro (right)

(Ultrawide) Pixel 5 (left) vs Pixel 6 Pro (right)
(Ultrawide) Pixel 5 (left) vs Pixel 6 Pro (right)
Pixel 5 (left, 4x digital zoom) vs Pixel 6 Pro (right, 4x optical zoom)
Pixel 5 (left, 4x digital zoom) vs Pixel 6 Pro (right, 4x optical zoom)

Miscellaneous

  • The stereo speakers are good but not as full-sounding as offerings from say, Samsung. I compared it to a Galaxy S10e, and that had a noticeably more low-end and clarity despite being a much smaller device.
  • Google promises 3 years of software upgrades for the Pixel 6 Pro, which means that it will get up till Android 15 in 2024. That’s not great considering that Samsung is promising 4 years of Android upgrades with its phones. To be fair, Google is promising 5 years of security updates, which will stretch the lifespan of the Pixel 6 Pro till 2026 albeit without new software features.
  • I did notice quite a few bugs with my Pixel 6 Pro review unit, although I was unsure if it was the fault of the software or of a buggy data transfer from my old phone (Note: This was before the June feature drop, which claims to have squashed a ton of bugs):
    • Google Assistant keeps randomly activating even though no one says anything remotely close to sounding like “Ok/Hey Google”
    • Experienced once a bug where I can’t expand the quick access panel until a restart. I had the same issue on my Pixel 5 so it is likely an Android 12 issue
    • Experienced bugs with Gmail and Telegram notifications not showing
    • Occasionally get serious lag when launching the camera
  • Haptics are good but not as precise as I’d like

Pricing & Conclusion

Pros

  • Premium looks and build quality
  • Excellent display
  • Excellent cameras with good night mode, 4x telephoto is superb
  • Excellent performance (unless under sustained load)

Cons

  • Large and heavy
  • Curved display looks premium, but accidental touches are common and frustrating
  • Fingerprint sensor is relatively slow and unreliable
  • Thermal throttling is an issue, phone gets hot and slows down under sustained load
  • Software bugs
  • Just 3 years of OS upgrades

I do think that the Pixel 6 Pro is a wonderful phone and a fantastic first attempt at a flagship by Google. Finally, a proper “Pro” phone from Google. Personally, it’s too large and heavy for my tastes, and the accidental touches caused by the curved display does make for a frustrating experience. I’ll likely stick to my Pixel 5 until Google is able to make something with a similar form factor again.

In Singapore, the Pixel 6 Pro costs S$1,299 while the Pixel 6 costs S$999. For the extra S$300, you get the following over the Pixel 6:

  • Larger (6.71″ vs 6.4″) higher resolution (1440p vs 1080p) higher refresh rate (120 vs 90 Hz) display
  • 12 vs 8 GB RAM
  • Additional 4x optical telephoto camera
  • Higher resolution (11.1 vs 8 MP) and wider (20 vs 24 mm) selfie camera
  • More premium-looking build with slimmer bezels and curved screen

It’s up to you to decide if the price difference is worth it. I think it is. The telephoto camera is a truly fantastic experience, and I vastly prefer the look and feel of the 6 Pro to the 6. The higher resolution and higher refresh rate display is just icing on the cake.

Is the S$1,299 price worth it considering that the Pixel 7 Pro is right around the corner? Probably not. There was a recent sale where the price dropped down to S$1,099, which was a lot more enticing, but that’s unfortunately over. I think if you’re not desperate for a new phone, it’s worth waiting to see what the Pixel 7 Pro has in store. Then you can decide whether to spring for the new generation or to snag the Pixel 6 Pro at a good deal.

You can purchase the Google Pixel 6 Pro on Google Singapore’s official store in Stormy Black or Cloudy White.


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