Google Pixel 6 Pro Review

The Google Pixel 6 Pro (starting at $899) is the company’s most ambitious smartphone to date, and a major improvement over last year’s Pixel 5. Now, the Pixel 5 was a fine phone, with an excellent camera, good performance, and a lot of value for the price, but it was also a bit boring. With the Pixel 6 Pro, Google overhauls everything inside and out. The phone sports a new Tensor chip that delivers superb performance, a vivid OLED panel, and a battery that lasts all day. It’s the most expensive phone in Google’s lineup, which includes the Pixel 6 (starting at $599) and the wallet-friendly Pixel 5a With 5G ($449), but it stands out as the best high-end Android you can buy right now, earning our Editors’ Choice award for Android flagships.

Unconventional Design 

You won’t mistake the Pixel 6 Pro for any other smartphone. With a design that toes a fine line between elegant and offbeat, it’s refreshing to see Google step away from the generic glass sandwich we’ve come to expect. 

The phone measures 6.5 by 3.0 by 0.4 inches (HWD) and weighs 7.4 ounces. These dimensions are pretty common for a flagship, but it might be on the large side for people with small hands. It’s available in three colors, including Cloudy White, Sorta Sunny, or Stormy Black. The Cloudy White version is all gray with chrome rails and trim. Sorta Sunny is an understated mix of peach and sand with gold detail. And Stormy Black has a subdued two-tone back panel with glossy rails.

A 6.7-inch LTPO OLED display dominates the front of the phone. The bezel-less panel sports an adaptive refresh rate between 10Hz and 120Hz. Its resolution comes in at 3,120 by 1,440 pixels, which equates to a super-crisp 512 pixels per inch. Colors are vibrant but accurate, with immersive, inky blacks. Viewing angles are solid, and it’s easy to see the phone in direct sunlight.


The Pixel 6 Pro has an idiosyncratic design
(Photo: Steven Winkelman)

The in-display fingerprint sensor is on par with the one in the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. It’s pretty fast and has a 95% accuracy rate. It’s also among the easiest to set up that we’ve used.

On the glossy back of the phone, a chunky camera bar creates a boundary between its complementary color blocks. And while the protruding camera bar stands out, it doesn’t affect the phone’s usability. We couldn’t get the handset to wobble or teeter when placing the phone on a flat surface. 

A glossy aluminum chassis sits between the display and curved back. The left and top edges are bare, while the right side houses a power button, a SIM card slot, and a volume rocker. Instead of the textured buttons found on most other phones, Google goes with a matte finish; the buttons look more attractive and are easier to press, with a satisfying click. The bottom is home to a USB-C charging port and dual speaker grilles.

With a Gorilla Glass Victus display and back, the Pixel 6 Pro should easily withstand the minor drops and dings that accompany daily life. And with an IP68 rating, you don’t need to fret over a splash or drop in the tub.

The Pixel 6 Pro packs a 5,003mAh battery. In our battery drain test, in which we stream HD video over Wi-Fi at full brightness, the phone lasted an incredible 22 hours and 18 minutes before powering down. With moderate daily use, you can easily get two days between charges.

As with other flagships, Google doesn’t include a power adapter in the box. That said, the Pixel 6 Pro supports 30W fast charging via USB-PD 3.0 and is compliant with third-party adapters. Qi wireless charging tops out at 12W, but the upcoming Pixel Stand 2 supports fast charging at up to 23W. Reverse charging is also in the mix.

Life in the Fast Lane

The Pixel 6 Pro ships unlocked from Google and has a SIM slot as well as an eSIM. It works on every major US carrier’s LTE, mmWave, and Sub-6 GHz networks, thanks to extensive band support. There’s also C-band connectivity for improved mid-band 5G that should start popping up on networks soon. Google lists only one version of the Pixel 6 Pro for the US, but if you purchase your phone directly from a carrier, make sure it’s not locked to that network.

We tested the Pixel 6 Pro on Verizon’s 5G Ultrawide Band network in Chicago and recorded admirable speeds. Verizon has a huge mmWave footprint in Chicago and our speeds averaged 1.7Gbps down and 102Mbps up.

We also tested the phone on Verizon’s nationwide 5G network in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and its surrounding suburbs. Speeds averaged 228.6Mbps down and 64.2Mbps up.

What’s most impressive, however, is that the Pixel 6 Pro consistently beat the iPhone 13 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra at dozens of test sites. When we ran speed tests while doing our camera evaluations in densely wooded areas, the Pixel 6 Pro always had a solid signal; in comparison, the iPhone defaulted to LTE and the Galaxy S21 Ultra simply had no signal.

Phone on marble table with bottom edge in focus


The phone supports 30W charging via USB-PD 3.0
(Photo: Steven Winkelman)

We reached out to Google to learn more about the Pixel 6 Pro’s 5G modem, but a representative for the company told us that it is not disclosing details about it. After some digging with Sascha Segan, PCMag’s lead mobile analyst, we confirmed that the phone uses Samsung’s Exynos 5123 modem based on its baseband software.

The Exynos 5123 is the same modem in the international models of the Samsung Galaxy S20 series. The modem supports 800Hz mmWave connectivity and 200MHz of Sub-6GHz 5G. According to Segan, “It’s unclear whether the Exynos can do n41+n71 or n77+n5 carrier aggregation for next-generation standalone 5G performance the way Qualcomm’s X60 modems can, but we also haven’t found any of those schemes in the wild yet—that’s a future feature.”

The Pixel 6 Pro also supports Wi-Fi 6E. In our Wi-Fi tests, it averaged speeds of 501Mbps down and 47Mbps up at a distance of 10 feet from a 802.11AX router on Verizon’s 5G home internet.

Bluetooth 5.2 is onboard for audio and wearable connectivity. Google adds dual Bluetooth antennas for enhanced performance, too. The phone supports most of the common Bluetooth audio codecs including SBC, AAC, AptX, Aptx HD, and, for high-resolution wireless audio, LDAC. The phone’s NFC integration is convenient for contactless mobile payments and boarding passes, while a UWB chip improves file transfers speeds and spatial awareness.

Call quality is clear and noise cancellation works well. The earpiece tops out at 84dB, which is fine for just about any environment. Speaker audio is greatly improved on the Pixel 6 Pro when compared with its predecessor. Maximum volume peaks at 89dB and is well balanced, with a wide soundstage. Timbre is solid and there’s even a hint of bass.

Google’s Tensor Processor Is a Leap Forward

The Pixel 6 Pro and Pixel 6 are the first phones with Google Tensor silicon. The SoC was designed with heterogeneous computing in mind, meaning its processors, coprocessors, instruction sets, and other software all work holistically to complete tasks quickly and efficiently. 

The Tensor SoC is an octa-core processor with a 5nm process. The CPU consists of a pair of 2.8GHz Cortex-X1 cores for the most demanding tasks, two 2.25GHz Cortex-A76 high-performance cores, and four power-efficient 1.8GHz Cortex-A55 cores for everyday applications.

Cropped image of phone with display illuminated.


The Pixel 6 Pro has a crisp 6.7-inch LTPO OLED display
(Photo: Steven Winkelman)

In addition to the CPU, there’s a 20-core ARM Mali GPU for gaming and computational photography, as well as a 50MP ISP with zero shutter lag and Google’s HDRnet. A separate Context Hub coprocessor sits on the SoC for things like contextual reminders and the always-on display. 

Google’s collection of security coprocessors also appear here. The Tensor security core is a CPU subsystem that handles sensitive tasks in an isolated environment. It works in concert with the Titan M2 chip and handles passcode protection, encryption, and sensitive data shared online.

Comparing the Google Tensor processor with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 mobile platform, a common SoC for other flagships, is a difficult task. At the heart of it, Google and Qualcomm have different ideas about what a flagship SoC should be: Google created the Tensor processor specifically to fulfill the needs of its Pixel handsets, while the Snapdragon 888 SoC functions as an out-of-the-box option for manufacturers across the globe. The Tensor processor allows Google to focus exclusively on the features and experiences it believes Pixel owners want.

Don’t expect the Tensor processor to ace every benchmark—it won’t. Most smartphone benchmarks are poor indicators of everyday performance anyway, and some manufacturers capitalize on the public thirst for high scores by optimizing their chips and software specifically for benchmarks.

Smooth, Fluid Performance

In addition to Google’s Tensor processor, it sports 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM and is available with 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB of UFS 3.1 storage. You don’t get the option for external storage, but the Pixel automatically backs up 15GB of your data to Google One; Pixel Pass subscribers get 200GB of storage, and you can select different cloud storage configurations if you opt for the paid Google One service.

See How We Test Phones

The phone powers up within a few seconds, apps open instantaneously, and Google Assistant works without any lag. Gaming performance is impressive, too. Both Genshin Impact and Alto’s Odyssey opened within seconds and we didn’t experience any lag or skipped frames over several hours of gameplay

Phone on table with left edge in focus


The phone has a thick camera bar, but you won’t notice any wobbling when using it on a flat surface
(Photo: Steven Winkelman)

And while benchmarks fail to provide meaningful results for typical use scenarios, the Pixel 6 Pro still manages to impress. On Geekbench 5, an artificial benchmark that quantifies raw performance, the phone scored 1,027 single-core (SC) and 2,777 multi-core (MC). For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra scored 1,128 SC and 3,500 MC, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max scored 1,721 SC and 4,629 MC on the same test.

Pixel-Perfect Android 12

The Pixel 6 Pro ships with Android 12, which has been completely reimagined with the new Material You UI. Google also worked in several exclusive features for the Pixel 6 lineup. 

Material You uses contextual clues based on your habits and color preferences to choose custom backgrounds and icons. It does more than simply choose a background, though. Obsessed with the velvety purple and lush gold tones you see in one of Deanna Lawson’s photos? Snap a photo and Google will attempt to recreate a similar palette with custom icons. 

Phone standing on marble table with display illuminated


Android 12 and Material You create work together to create custom UI experiences
(Photo: Steven Winkelman )

Transcription features are improved. In Google Messages, Instagram, and several other messaging apps, Google automatically recognizes other languages and offers to translate them into your native tongue. You can even use the Recorder app to translate German or Japanese into English in real time. 

Similarly, the updates to Voice Typing are welcome improvements. GBoard, Recorder, Translation, and other apps use your preferences, contacts, and other data to understand context. The Pixel 6 Pro will automatically pick the correct spelling of a friend’s name and even punctuate your sentences properly. 

Finally, Google is even making phone calls less painful with the Pixel 6 Pro. After introducing Hold for Me last year, it added two new features for 1-800 calls. Wait Times, which shows estimated hold times throughout the day before you hit send or place a call, worked about half the time for us. Direct My Call transcribes calls and creates buttons for you to select based on voice automation prompts. That said, it’s not entirely accurate, and requires you to manually toggle on a setting hidden in the Phone app’s menu.

Google promises a minimum of three years of OS upgrades and five years of security updates for the device. Pixel 6 Pro owners also get updated features throughout the year with Google’s Feature Drop program.

New Cameras, New Possibilities

The Pixel 6 Pro’s combination of new sensors, lenses, software tweaks, and Tensor processor keep Google firmly planted at the top of the smartphone camera game.

The rear camera bar has three sensors. The primary camera clocks in at 50MP with an f/1.85 aperture, 1.2μm pixel width, and large 1/1.31-inch sensor format. It uses an Octa PD Quad Bayer method with all-pixel autofocus for crisp 12.5MP shots.

The primary and ultra-wide lenses capture solid image in any light. Our daylight test photos have crisp foregrounds and excellent depth of field. We noticed some loss of fine detail in photos with direct light and, overall, the metering system leans toward slight underexposure.

A 12MP ultra-wide sensor with a 1.25μm pixel width and f/2.2 aperture sits next to it. The lens has a 114-degree field of view. The lens elements minimize the distortion that’s common with small-format ultra-wide sensors.

A 48MP telephoto camera rounds out the camera stack. It has a 23.5-degree field of view and half-inch sensor size. The angle of view is tighter than the main lens, effectively a 4x optical zoom, and works in conjunction with the primary camera for 20x Super Res Zoom. 

Dart target on green field


At 20x zoom, Google’s computational tweaks kicked into overload, creating overly mosaic photos
(Photo: Steven Winkelman )

A laser detect autofocus (LDAF) sensor is also worked into the camera bar, along with a spectral and flicker sensor to improve photos under pulsed light sources. The primary and telephoto cameras leverage both optical and electronic image stabilization. 

Orange sculpture surrounded by lights.


The Pixel 6 Pro does well in very little light, but you’ll notice some lens flare
(Steven Winkelman )

Low-light photos look excellent as well, with a few caveats. The biggest issue we encountered in testing is lens flare: Pixels have long handled difficult lighting situations well, but with the 6 Pro, you’ll see more blooming around bright points in mostly dark scenes. It also seems like Google may have been a little too aggressive with its computational photography with the Pixel 6 models, because the noise-to-texture ratio is off; there’s almost zero noise in our test photos, but that comes at the expense of rough surfaces taking on a nearly Plasticine appearance. One upshot, however, is we didn’t observe any distortion in our ultra-wide test shots.

Old truck with text painted on it


The Pixel 6 Pro captures fine detail better than any other Android phone
(Photo: Steven Winkelman)

It should come as no surprise that the telephoto lens works best with plenty of light. Our 4x zoom test photos are crisp, with excellent depth of field. At 10x zoom, details become a little fuzzy, but the results are still solid for a smartphone camera. At its maximum 20x Super Res Zoom, the images are a mess; close examination of our test shots shows extensive mosaicking reminiscent of ’90s Photoshop filters.

Back of building


Despite many opportunities for distortion in this shot, the ultrawide lens avoided them
(Photo: Steven Winkelman)

An 11.1MP, fixed-focus sensor sits on the front of the phone. It has a 94-degree field of view and a large, 1.22μm pixel width. This camera is an absolute winner no matter the lighting situation. Exposure is accurate and all of our test photos look crisp. Portrait mode photos have a natural bokeh without the segmentation issues we normally see on smartphones.

In addition to the cameras themselves, the Tensor processor brings several new features to the Pixel 6 Pro. Magic Eraser automatically removes photobombs or unwanted background detail; it works best for minor tweaks on solid backgrounds. Real Tone accurately reflects a range of skin tones, and several friends and colleagues were amazed by the way the Pixel 6 Pro portrayed them.

Person wearing hat against orange background


The 11.1MP selfie camera takes excellent shots in any lighting scenario
(Photo: Steven Winkelman)

The Pixel 6 Pro also has several new custom modes for photos, but they were finicky in testing. Action Pan lets you capture naturally blurred backgrounds in photos where a subject is in motion. It’s relatively simple to use, but not entirely accurate. In our few test shots, we noticed parts of the subject would fade into the bokeh.

Long Exposure blurs moving backgrounds while keeping stationary subjects in focus. There’s a learning curve to use this feature that’s harder than it should be. Once you master it, however, the results are impressive.

Finally, Face Unblur does just what the name implies: It removes blur from faces in motion. Once it recognizes the subject’s face, it does a good job of removing blur, but it’s not going to completely correct the smeared face of a child in motion.  

The Best Android Flagship You Can Buy

The Google Pixel 6 Pro sets a new bar for Android flagships. Its combination of top-notch camera quality, battery life, performance, display, and software combine to make the phone worthy of Google’s asking price, as well as our new Editors’ Choice winner for high-end Android phones. That said, if you’re looking to save money, the standard Pixel 6 is an excellent alternative. Although it has a little less RAM, a smaller display, and lacks a telephoto lens, it offers an otherwise similar experience to the Pixel 6 Pro for $300 less. And if you’re not committed to Android and simply want the best camera phone experience possible, the iPhone 13 Pro is a strong alternative that allows you to retain the most data in HEIC and ProRAW formats. For the best Android has to offer, however, the Pixel 6 Pro sets a new standard.

The Bottom Line

Class-leading battery life, swift performance, and promising cameras are just a few of the things that make the Pixel 6 Pro a home run for Google.

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