Google's Pixel series made an official comeback to India with the Pixel 6a, but does the Rs 43,999 price tag justify its worth? We try to answer that in our Pixel 6a review.
Google Pixel 6a is the first Pixel to launch in India in almost two years. The excitement around Pixel smartphones is always driven by smartphone enthusiasts and fueled by Google’s aggressive pricing strategy. The best example is the Pixel 4a from 2020. However, the Pixel 6a this year is a different story altogether.
First, it comes with a price tag of Rs 43,999, which is way higher than the Rs 31,999 price tag that Pixel 4a came with at launch. However, multiple factors are playing a role in the steep pricing this year, including the rise in dollar value against the Indian rupee and, of course, the units being imported from Vietnam. More than that pricing, even the under-the-hood specifications are not the best compared to a host of rival devices in the sub-Rs 45,000 price category in India. This puts Pixel 6a in a tight spot and makes it extremely important to prove its mettle. In a short span of time, we liked the Pixel 6a and even said that in our first impressions. We have been using the Pixel 6a for a few weeks, and here’s why we think it’s an excellent device launched at the wrong time.
Pixel 6a Review: Dual tone design is a win, but 60Hz refresh rate is a setback
If there’s one thing that goes in favour of the Pixel 6a, then it has to be the two-tone design, the same as the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro phones. We have seen Pixel 3a and Pixel 4a that were previously launched in India, and to be fair, the design started showing its age. The good news is that the Pixel 6a feels fresh, and the best part is it stands out in a crowded smartphone market. It’s a phone that will speak for itself and needs no introduction.
The Pixel 6a has made its way to the Indian market in two colour options – Charcoal and Chalk. We got the latter, and it’s a fingerprint magnet. We spent a reasonable amount of time cleaning the back of the phone as it quickly picked up smudges. We believe Chalk is a more beautiful colour for the Pixel 6a, though it would still have the smudge issue, so best of luck with that. On the back of the Pixel 6a, “Made in Vietnam” is written at the bottom.
The moment we took the Pixel 6a out of the box, we had a quick nostalgia trip, thanks to Lumia-style frames on the device. Reminds of the iconic smartphone from Nokia, but the similarity ends right there. The front has a boxy design, and thick bezels can be seen around the 6.1-inch OLED display. In short, nothing that blows you away. The alloy frame feels solid in the hands.
The back panel is where things get interesting. It has a “G” (for Google) printed at the back under the plastic back panel. And, yes, it’s a plastic back panel, not a glass. Google says it is a 3D thermoformed composite back. The bottom line is it doesn’t feel cheap and gives a very glass-like appearance and a premium touch. The camera bar on the top houses dual cameras alongside LED flash housing.
The Pixel 6a is a fantastic everyday device for regular tasks. One-hand use is easy while it’s not as slippery as an iPhone. The tactile feedback of the power and volume rockers is decent. However, I wish they had a proper gap between them as we sometimes pressed the power key and turned off the display instead of hitting the volume rocker button.
The Pixel 6a has a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 at the front and sports an IP67 rating for water and dust resistance. However, at 8.9mm and 178 grams, the Pixel 6a isn’t the slimmest or lightest phone around. There’s no 3.5mm headphone jack on the Pixel 6a, which is slightly disappointing. The dual-SIM Pixel 6a comes with a single nano SIM slot, while the other SIM can be an e-SIM.
Coming to the display, which in our opinion, is a setback of sorts. The Pixel 6a ships with a 60Hz refresh rate display, making it the only Android smartphone in India at this price point featuring a slow refresh rate display. Mind you, the regular iPhone models also offer just a 60Hz refresh rate, but then it has a different brand perception and cannot be compared to Pixels in India.
Talking purely about the display, the Pixel 6a offers an OLED panel which means it provides deeper blacks and decent contrast, be it for any multimedia you watch on the device. The screen resolution sits at Full-HD+. And it is also aptly bright outdoors, so there is no sunlight legibility issue. Everything on display is perfect for the price until we notice the slow 60Hz refresh rate. While Google might have its reasoning for going with a slow refresh rate display, considering the smartphone options in the same price segment, it makes the Pixel 6a look like an out-of-league phone. We took a couple of days to settle in with a 60Hz display coming from a 120Hz display. We, however, have to admit that the Pixel 6a has the smoothest 60Hz display we have seen on Android devices.
Overall, the Pixel 6a is a great-looking phone at this price point, but we have to admit that we have seen better displays in this price segment.
Pixel 6a Review: Decent performance
Google Pixel 6a is a special phone because of the company’s in-house Tensor chipset. Google has talked about it a lot, so you can check the official website for specifics.
From what we experienced, the octa-core processor is a capable one. And, purely in terms of performance, the Pixel 6a can handle mostly everything easily- browsing, multimedia, multiple apps in the background, and even casual gaming. Moreover, thanks to the Google Tensor chip, the Pixel 6a makes apps launch faster than ever, webpages and images load quickly, and everything runs smoothly on the screen. However, we noticed that the phone tends to get warm, especially during extensive camera use, gaming or even when running benchmark tests.
Talking about gaming performance, in our experience, Pixel 6a has its limitations and, at best, can handle casual gaming. We had a good time playing Need for Speed No Limits and Asphalt 9: Legends games. But jumping to battle royale games like COD Mobile and BGMI (still working for us), we saw stutters on the Pixel 6a.
Of course, we ran the benchmark tests on the Pixel 6a, which fared well. On GeekBench 5, the Pixel 6a scored 1098 in single-core and 2879 in multi-core tests making it sit above most of the sub-Rs 40,000 segment phones, including Poco F4, OnePlus Nord 2T, Nothing Phone (1), Galaxy A53. On the 3DMark Wild Life test, the Pixel 6a scored a decent 6418.
Globally, the Pixel 6a has launched in a single 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, which should be enough for most power users. Even the RAM management on the phone is excellent, and at no point do we feel it lagged in terms of memory.
For years, Pixel (or Nexus range previously) has been loved by Android because of its pure UI experience and the goodies that come bundled in these devices. Gladly, the Pixel 6a is no different. We had a great time using the Pixel 6a with a host of new features built-in. Android 12 has been a major redesign from Google, and the Pixel 6a packs all of that. Features like colour extraction from wallpaper to theme the OS, widget emphasis, the all-new Quick Settings tiles, redesigned notifications, and scrolling screenshots were some of our favourite features. With Pixel phones, there’s always a bonus of getting some fantastic in-built features like our favourite was the live transcribe option. It worked well during the review.
One of the benefits of opting for a Pixel device is a long-term update commitment from Google, and the same goes without saying for the Pixel 6a. The phone supports five years of security updates and three years of Android updates. This pretty much sums up the software experience for consumers who can rest assured to get a new taste of Android every year until 2024.
The rest of the functionalities like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular performance are top-notch. Even the stereo speakers are loud enough for single-person use. Coming to haptics, the phone offers excellent haptics for typing, and we had a great time typing long messages or even emails on the Pixel 6a.
Now, another major setback on the Pixel 6a is biometrics. Pixel 6a ships with an in-display fingerprint scanner which has already raised some concerns in India. In our time with the unit, we noticed that fingerprint wasn’t the quickest way to unlock the phone. You can often notice a reasonable delay when trying to unlock the phone using the fingerprint scanner. We hope that Google can fix some of these issues with an over-the-air update. In addition, we wish that the handset supported the face unlock feature.
Pixel 6a Review: Reliable (but old) camera sensors do the work!
Coming to the most important part, cameras. Pixel devices have been historically popular with their cameras, and the best part is that Google has never followed the more camera sensors or megapixel count, the better. The Pixel 6a is no different, as it gets a dual-camera setup at the back featuring a 12.2-megapixel wide-angle primary Sony IMX363 camera with f/1.7 aperture, PDAF, and OIS. Then, there’s a 12-megapixel ultra-wide Sony IMX386 camera with f/2.2 aperture and a 114-degree field of view. Finally, at the front, there’s an 8-megapixel selfie camera.
Interestingly, Google knows that people loved the camera on the Pixel 3 to Pixel 5, and that’s the reason why the Pixel 6a also retains the primary sensor. This is both a bummer and good news. How? A bummer because the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro come with a newer, more capable sensor. On the other hand, the IMX363 is the same old reliable one we have loved for its results. The decision may be driven to keep the cost down, probably.
Now, coming to the real-world performance of the cameras. First, the Pixel 6a packs a truly impressive primary camera. Remember, we have all loved how Google’s photo processing power since the beginning and the good news is that the company hasn’t given up. As a result, the Pixel 6a can shy away from pricier Android phones with a quad camera setup with just two cameras.
Primary camera samples
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Starting with the daylight shots, the Pixel 6a can prove its mettle with the results. It captures some fantastic images with enough details and rich and true colours. Moreover, the camera is quick, and you don’t have to sweat it out to get the best shot. In our samples, we noticed the true colours of the sky captured along with great texture and overall, the dynamic range is decent.
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Switching between wide and ultra-wide cameras didn’t make much difference in colour rendering – another good thing about the Pixel 6a. The indoor shots are excellent as well. We could notice a good amount of detail being captured, and the colour reproduction was also decent.
The camera app offers a 2x zoom option, though this is handled entirely by the onboard software as Pixel 6a misses out on any telephoto lens. However, the performance is good, and you can use these zoomed images for your social media uploads. Though, don’t expect the results to trump cameras with a dedicated telephoto lens.
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Coming to portraits, the Pixel 6a can click some impressive shots. We liked the blur amount around the subject and the detailing. The default 1x is far better than the 2x option as the latter tends to cut more into the subject and, overall, looks slightly pixelated. However, we would have preferred a toggle to adjust the blur amount during clicking but never mind, that can be done soon after the shot via the Edit option.
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Now, coming to low-light shots. In our experience, the Pixel 6a is full of hits and misses in this department. However, the hits we noticed are far better than any phone in this price range. The phone quickly identifies the lighting condition and quickly offers the Night Sight toggle for the user to select. The Night Sight enhances the low-light shots but also has some limitations. Like, we tried to capture the Gandhi March Statue from a moving car, and the result wasn’t great. But apart from that, the low-light performance of the Pixel 6a has been impressive, even including the zoom shot. In the shot where we clicked the cat sitting on the stairs, we could notice some noise around the cat. I guess such irregularities can be fixed via software updates.
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Coming to the 8-megapixel selfie camera. While it can click some good images with true-to-life colours, it was inconsistent when we tried to take selfies in different light conditions. However, in broad daylight, the selfies were fantastic with proper skin tone.
Our camera review of the Pixel 6a will be incomplete if we don’t talk about the tricks the phone holds up its sleeves. The magic eraser is an extremely fun-to-use feature for someone who hasn’t tried it yet. This is basically software editing tools built-in in into the camera app. The Pixel 6a also offers the newest feature called Camouflage and what it does is it change the colour and brightness of an object around your clicked subject. This helps the Camouflage feature to blend the entire frame in sync. Trust us, and you need to try this to believe this. Talking about videos, the Pixel 6a is a capable smartphone for videos, and it supports up to 4K videos at 30fps.
Overall, the Pixel 6a impressed us with its camera performance, and we have to admit that Pixel still has an edge against the competition, at least in the camera department. However, since we have used the Pixel 3 series, the cameras on the Pixel 6a are not exactly mind-blowing.
Pixel 6a Review: Battery has been a mixed bag
Pixel 6a was a mixed bag when it came to battery performance. Our initial impression of Google’s Tensor chip was that it’s a power-hungry SoC. But it was not exactly that way. Google has tweaked a few things around in software on the Pixel 6a, and the phone can manage up to 6 hours of screen-on time on a daily basis. This means you may get through a day with a single full charge. We especially liked that the Pixel 6a only lost 1-2% battery charge overnight, where the phone was mostly idle.
However, mix a few hours of gaming or camera use, and you will find yourself looking for a power bank or adapter in 10-12 hours.
The next big problem for the Pixel 6a is the absence of a charger in the box and slow (up to 18W) fast charging support. We charged the Pixel 6a with an 18W adapter, and it took around 80 to 90 minutes to fully charge, which is way more than what the competition offers.
Pixel 6a Review: Verdict
Overall, the Google Pixel 6a is an excellent device with some software advantages you won’t get on pricier devices in India. But, the Rs 43,999 makes it a tough recommendation, especially in a market where you have some fantastic smartphones. So, does that make Pixel 6a a bad choice? Well, the answer depends on what the user is looking. The new Pixel smartphone from Google is not a game changer but does best in what it can pull off.
If you want a device that can handle multitasking, offer a good multimedia experience, give decent battery backup, offer good cameras, and receive frequent updates, then go no far, the Pixel 6a is a great package, of course if your budget allows. The clean stock Android experience is a bonus, a rarity on Android-based devices in India.
But, if your use case includes mobile gaming and you want to upgrade to a phone that’s more in sync with the latest features, then the Pixel 6a is not the ideal choice. Instead, you can look at two obvious alternatives: Nothing Phone (1) and the OnePlus 10R.
Google Pixel 6a
DESIGN & BUILD
VALUE FOR MONEY
What Is Good?
- Dual tone design
- Cameras still decent
- Fantastic software experience
- IP67 rated
- Amazing everyday device
What Is Bad?
- No charger in the box
- 60Hz display
- Slow fingerprint sensor
- Just 18W fast charging support