Pixel 6/6 Pro Review

This is the first year we’re expecting a real Google flagship, right? So previous Pixels have been pretty nice and they’ve had great cameras and pretty cool software features, but overall pretty lackluster hardware. But this is a step up, we’re expecting big things, a big new camera array, a new design language. They made their own chip. There’s a lot going for it. So this is their moonshot, right? This is their chance to compete with the big dogs. So now that I’ve used them, I will say these are my favorite Pixels ever. And there are the most Google phones ever made for sure. But, reality check. They’re not perfect. And there’s definitely some areas where they come up a little bit short. So I’m going to go over those things, but off the top, I just want to hit you with the prices first, okay. So 599 for Pixel Six, starting, and 899 for the Pixel Six Pro those are both at 128 gigs. That’s really competitive. So there’s a lot of action already at that like $599 price range, but also the one they keep calling a flagship, which is the Six Pro. This is the one that’s here to take shots at the iPhones and Samsung Galaxy S 21 Ultra’s of the world, and it competes, but the Six is the real deal. So I’ve grown to really like this camera bar design for the Pixels, and the fact is, it is polarizing. It doesn’t look quite like any other phone, theoretically, you know, the huge new camera sensors need all this thickness here, but it could have looked like any other phone, like the Vivo X 70 Pro plus has the same 50 megaPixels sensor, but they went with a camera rectangle, but this visor, it’s a look, this is the, the Pixel phone look now. It’s very easily recognizable and I think that’s on purpose and they can keep it this way for at least a few years. And the bar design is functional. I will say my index finger does end up resting nicely underneath the camera bar when I’m holding it, which is nice. It doesn’t rock on a table either, if you’re typing or using it out of your hand, the only weird part is it doesn’t quite blend nicely into the aluminum sides of this phone. I think it would have been really cool, if it was a seamless blend, one piece, like what Samson did with the S 21 Ultra. But there are a lot of seams all over this camera module, but at the end of the day, if you’re just going to toss the case on it, like this grip case from channel sponsored D brand, it’s basically just going to cancel the bump anyway, but now you’ve got, you know, a flat even phone. You’ve got your icons logos, but it’s still obviously a Pixel underneath that. You still have the visor across the back. So I think it’s a win unless you think it’s incredibly ugly. In which case, try not to look at the back of the phone too much, but come on, visors look cool. But the part you look on the front of the phone is huge, on both screens. Both of these phones are huge. And I think the question naturally is, why didn’t they make a smaller one? And I think Google’s answer would be, well, there are people who want to spend less on a phone, but most of those people still want a big screen. So they gave it to them. So Pixel Six’s screen, is a pretty massive 6.4 inches from corner to corner, 90 Hertz, 10 ADP, and flat, and with pretty small bezels overall and a hole punch in a top middle for the selfie camera. It’s a pretty good screen again for a $600 phone. But how about that flagship though? So with the Six Pro we’re looking at 6.7 inches, 1440 P, and up to 120 Hertz, it is super, super sharp, very responsive and has been an absolute pleasure. But since they’re saying it’s the flagship, I can get a little more nitpicky here. These curved edges, they’re kind of going out of style. I know that gets you even smaller bezels and they are a little bit smaller, but the fact that it gets kind of a bit darker, in the very corners isn’t doing the screen any favors. And there also is a little bit of color shift, off axis that you really straight up, just don’t see on the more expensive screens, like on the S 21 Ultra or the iPhone 13 Pro. Also the fingerprint reader on the display of both of these phones is kind of slow. So it appears to be an optical sensor, shining a light on your finger, instead of those new Ultrasonic ones Samsung is using. And yeah, it’s gotten kind of annoying after awhile. Often it will take a full half second, at least long enough for me to get annoyed that I’m waiting for it to read my finger. I think they could have used a better sensor here, or at least one that’s a little faster. I am comparing it to thousand dollar phones though. So again, this is what I was talking about earlier. It’s impressive that it’s hanging with the big dogs, but it is just under cutting it a little bit. Now the top hole punch in the middle of these displays, houses the selfie camera, it’s a pretty decent eight megaPixel wide camera on the Pixel Six, but it’s closer to an Ultra wide selfie on the Six Pro, which I really like a lot. And it’s also bumped up to 11 megaPixels. So you can also shoot 4k selfie video, it fits more people on the frame, big fan of the Six Pro’s selfie camera. And then also, you know, the little things, that you sort of expect a great phone to do well, but that you don’t want to have to think about too much, like clicky buttons? Check, both phones are fully water resistant, and the haptics are really good on both phones as well. So that’s a Pixel thing, but the biggest new piece Google’s adding to these phones, it’s definitely on the inside. And that would be the new Tensor chip. So designed by Google for this phone, this is going to let them do in theory, things that they couldn’t do, with the off the shelf Qualcomm chip they’d used before, you know, machine learning better AI, better computational photography, all kinds of things they want to focus on with just this phone. They can do it. And it’s done that. It’s really impressive. Now, a lot of people were wondering how Tensor would benchmark, and I don’t think that’s the right way to think about this new chip, but just out of curiosity, I threw a geek bench at it, and we have the numbers that got 1,035 on single core, 2,800 multi-core, that’s maybe eight to 10% slower with the CPU on paper than the Snapdragon triple eight, but also still way, way ahead of the Snapdragon 7 65 G, they used on the Pixel Five last year. But then also I did some GPU benchmarks from 3D mark, and it was looking at 10 to 12% faster than the Snapdragon AAA, but that’s clearly not what Tensor is about. This might be the biggest, this is what makes it a Google-y phone. This is the biggest difference between the benchmarks and what the phone is actually capable of that I’ve ever seen. So, first of all, these phones have been really quick and responsive, no performance problems from me. I’ve mostly been, dailying a Six Pro, which has got the adaptive refresh rate up to 120 Hertz. And I’ve been loving that, but it’s not about the performance as much as it’s about the features. And this continues a tradition of the Pixel phone being the smartest smartphone to come out every year. So, you know, besides the stuff we’ve already seen, like cost screening, where Google assistants can filter incoming calls for you, or Now Playing which ambiently detects whatever song is playing in the background in your environment, and just keeps a running list. So you can remember what song was going on in the background in the grocery store an hour ago. And we’ve seen live captioning of any and all videos and phone calls and movies in real time, besides all of that, there is some new improved stuff, thanks to Tensor and dedicated pieces of that chip. So first of all, speech to text unreal on this phone, absolutely incredible, to the point where it actually changes the way I use the phone. I try to use voice more often on this phone, because it’s so good. So anywhere I’d normally be typing, I use that mic button anywhere I can. And no matter how fast you talk, you can basically rap at it. You can talk 200 words per minute, like Eminem, if you want to, and it’ll just keep going quick. It also adds punctuation really accurately. So you don’t really even have to think about that. You’re just automatically grammatically accurate all the time. This is going to make sitting in lectures and people in class taking notes way less stressed and basically anywhere else transcription is useful. Even on top of all that it’s smart. So if you say a name, it will pull from the names and your contacts, try to make sure it spells it right. If there’s multiple different spellings of names, for something and you correct it once, it will remember that corrected spelling of a name, things like that. If you say, delete this or send, it doesn’t type those words and knows what you’re trying to do, and will actually delete the words or send the message. Now there’s also a new feature in Google photos, for Pixel Six, that lets you go back to any picture in your library and erase the things, that you don’t want. Now, this isn’t blowing your mind if you’ve seen Content Aware fill on Photoshop before, but I’m mostly really impressed with how easy and simple it makes the process. So you go into any image, go to tools and it’s called magic eraser and it automatically selects what it thinks you want to remove. Usually a background photo bomber of some sort, and then you can just do it. And if there’s other stuff you want to remove, you can draw a sloppy outline around it. It will auto-detect the edges usually really well, with any sort of contrast, finds the object you’re talking about, and just removes it, just like that. So it kind of reads like magic, and people on Twitter loved it, but just like Photoshop’s Content Aware fill, it has certain things that works really well on, and other things not so much. So it works best with simple repeating backgrounds, you know, maybe gradients or textures and with a lot of contrast. But if you try to get rid of like a large object, that’s in front of several different backgrounds, well that’s just going to look bad. That’s difficult for AI, but I was very impressed with some of the things it pulled off, just messing around with it. It’s probably a gimmick feature still, for most people, but this is yet another demo of the powerful AI and Tensor. That can be pretty great sometimes. Now something I thought would be better with Tensor, is battery life. And maybe I was getting my hopes up too high, because what I saw Apple do with their Silicon has been amazing. Their chips are basically the pinnacle of efficiency, not to compare too much, but when I see iPhone 13 Pro max getting eight plus hours of screen on time, easy, with a 40 300 million power battery, that’s pretty amazing. So now I see Pixel Six come out 40 600 million power battery and the Pixel Six and 5,000 million powers in the Six Pro and they design their own chips. So I was thinking this would be amazing. It’s not. So I was consistently getting three and a half, to four and a half hours of screen on time on the Pixel Six Pro and slightly less on the Six, which is just average at best. It’s not that great. Like that’s dead by the end of a long day, pretty often. Now on a $600 phone, that’s not too crazy. You can probably forgive that, but on a flagship, that’s a weakness. And then also on top of that, you’ve got to remember, there is no charging brick in the box like we saw, and it supports up to 30 Watts of wired charging, which is not super fast, but it’s okay. And the wireless charging that’s supported, is even a little bit slower than that. So the battery situation for me, has been overall kind of a bummer on the flagship. I can get around it by just charging all the time, like in my car, at my desk at work, but you never really want to have to do that. You kind of just want to be able to use your phone normally, and not think about it, but hey, using this phone when it’s not running low on battery, has been awesome thanks to Android 12. I want to use it all the time. Totally made over aesthetic, material you, and all kinds of visual overhaul happening here. So I made an entire video about all the new features here, which I’ll link below that like button. But yeah, I really liked most of it. At first, it definitely feels like a little spread out. There’s a lot of extra blank and white space in the UI. There’s these huge UI elements and really big buttons, and especially on a huge phone with a huge screen, it feels kind of cartoonish at first, but it all comes together. It’s this big flowing bouncy UI with matching colors, and lots of nice scrolling physics and haptics. It all ties together. But yeah, it’s just nice that no matter what wallpaper I choose, for example, the quick settings and the settings app, and all the menu backgrounds and widgets, all find an accent color in the wallpaper, and match it right away. It’s just, it’s so sweet. It’s nice, it’s nice. My only little gripe with Android 12, is two things, actually. One, that the brightness slider is two swipes away. It’s all the way at the top and you got to drag it down. I just think that could be way more reachable and way more accessible. And the other thing is I don’t like the new internet toggle. I usually just want to turn wifi on or off, but now that takes an extra tap, and I feel like they could just add a wifi toggle, in the quick settings, but just a general internet one exists. But you know what, when you think about Pixel, what do you think of? You think of the software and the camera. I think the software is pretty great. So let’s talk about the most distinctive part of this phone, the camera. So Pixels have had this same camera, more or less, since the Pixel two, right? The small 12 megaPixel sensor on the Pixel Two, was pretty revolutionary for its time. And so they kept the same one in Pixel Three, and then kept the same one in Pixel Four, and then kept the same one in Pixel Five. And it was fine because others were catching up around them with better hardware. But Google had figured out a really great way to compensate for the small sensor, with incredible software, amazing computational photography, great HDR and multi frame bracketing, and all this stuff that made their images, their night sight. All of those photos look incredible. It was almost like they just proved with these cameras, that the software is more important than the hardware itself. But now here we are in 2021, everyone’s catching up. And so now Pixel Six has launched, with a brand new camera system, featuring a much better hardware suite, a huge 50 megaPixel main sensor, but you can’t actually take 50 megaPixel photos. There’s no Hi-Rez mode or anything for it. It’s always binning, and everything is down to 12 and a half megaPixels. And then there’s a new 12 megaPixel Ultra wide. And the Pro phone also gets a 4X telephoto camera as well. So, okay. I’ve been shooting with it. I think Google’s still running all of their camera algorithms at 11, like when they don’t need to anymore. So this has much better hardware, and they had been compensating, like I said, for a smaller weaker sensor to bring it up, and bring out all the magic. And now running that same type of look starts to make photos look a bit over-Processed, a little over HDR-y, pretty frequently. So there are a bunch of interesting things about this camera, but like I said, 50 megaPixels doing four to one binning, with no option to keep all 50, means you’re only really getting a small amount of improved sharpness over the previous, but photos are sharp. White balance is pretty good, but still bias a little bit too cool sometimes. But you can see in regular lighting, the Pixel does an enormous amount of HDR, and it almost looks like someone turned up the clarity slider in Photoshop just a little bit too high, so shadows never quite get all the way to black. And it’s very rare that highlights like the sky, are ever blown out. But then, yeah, that also gives you a bit of an exaggerated over processed look, when the photo should just have regular lighting. Now, the thing is, this sensor is amazing. So it’s taking in a ton of light and a lot of information. So actually the more difficult high dynamic range shooting situations are handled great, like shooting directly into the sun or shooting at night, with bright lights, these more difficult shots are actually very impressive looking now, because the processing is keeping so much information in the final shot, but even so these darker scenes tend to overexpose when you don’t adjust the slider in the viewfinder. So it’s really impressive. Believe me, having all this sharpness, and almost no noise in a nighttime shot, that’s technically incredible, but it shouldn’t look this bright. So here’s a comparison shot, with the iPhone 13 Pro on full auto. Just to give you an idea, of the difference between night modes, it’s almost turning night into day on the Pixel, but here’s a pretty perfect example, to visualize all of this processing. On the left is a raw shot from the Pixel’s camera that we colored with just a quick boost to the vibrance. And on the right side is a Google Process JPEG. And that sensor you can see is getting a ton of information and detail and the processing is to make it look like, what it thinks we want on a phone screen. Again, bringing up the shadows, bringing down the highlights, sharpening everything. But I think the ideal might be somewhere in between these. Now the Ultra wide is pretty good. It’s not amazing, but it has a lot of the same traits as last year. And I’m glad there’s still an Ultra-wide. There’s no macro mode with it though. And then the telephoto on the Pro was surprisingly good. When you’re moving around handheld, although you still get much better sharpness out of an Ultra, Google’s super-res zoom is pretty good at sharpening up and improving shots that would normally be soft, but they can still tend to look a little bit like a watercolor painting at the extremes. But overall, as someone who’s loved the Pixel’s rich contrast look, and really honestly preferred it for years, over pretty much anything else. I think this is an almost great camera, that can take some tweaks and maybe some software updates. At least I’m hoping to get better, because I’ve taken some incredible sharp photos with this camera, and I’ve also taken some weird looking ones. So basically I guess the question is, would you rather have a camera that’s a 10 out of 10 sometimes, but also a seven out of 10, some other times? Or just a camera that just gives you nine out of 10, nine, nine, nine, every single time, because that’s the iPhone, that nine out of 10, that consistent shot, the iPhone 13 Pro’s camera system is more consistent, but the Pixel’s camera aces some shots sometimes, but then also gives me a really weird, over HDR-y looking shot that I wouldn’t even want to share. So bounces back and forth. I will say the video from the Pixel did really level up. Kind of the same style as the photos. It has great dynamic range, great stabilization, and that big sensor is giving you real background blur, and impressively staying in focus most of the time. And in some of these harder scenes, you can definitely see the processing working, like here, when it’s trying to bring up the shadows, it’s pretty noisy, but still overall, color and exposure and white balance, and the details are all great with the Pixel Sixes video, and I’m really happy to see that. And then another thing I noticed, the Pixel really cranks ISO all the way up, in the viewfinder. So you can see a lot of noise before you snap a photo, and start the Processing. It’s very easy to see this here in a screen recording, but that’s what it’s doing. You can see in the selfie viewfinder, especially, it’ll look super jacked up and really noisy, just to keep a high frame rate and shutter speed, when you’re taking the selfie and then you take it, and you see it process, and then everything sharpens up and it looks miles better. And while that seemed kind of weird to me at first, I actually think this is a good move. So Tensor has the horsepower, to just run the stuff at high ISO, and the preview might not look great, but at least it’s not choppy and laggy. And then it basically under promises and over delivers, people will see the viewfinder and think, “This will be a bad photo”. And then they’ll be shocked at how good the final photo is. And when you’re taking photos with faces in them, the Ultra-wide camera is always running at a higher shutter speed. So if you get someone moving too quick, and the primary camera has a blurry face, it can merge in the faster sharper face, from the Ultra wide camera into your shot automatically. I mean, you just never have blurry faces in your photos. Overall, just as someone who’s used now, both of these phones for a couple of weeks, iPhone’s camera system is better than the Pixel’s. It just is right now. It’s more consistent, It doesn’t struggle with over-processing, it shoots to more formats. It’s a better overall camera system, but the hardware is so good in the Pixel’s, and you can see that promise in those 10 out of 10 shots, that the Pixel fan in me, is hoping, maybe in one or two software updates, it’ll be a 10 on 10 more often, but until then, because we don’t know if that’s ever going to happen. Yeah, you saw the sample shots. That’s what it does. That’s how it looks. So yeah, I want to come back to the price at the end here, like I said, 599 for Pixel 6, 899 for Pixel Six Pro, it’s a $300 delta. And for that difference, you’re getting 120 Hertz over 90, 1440 P over 1080, a curved screen over a flat one, some glossy sides over the matte sides, I like the matte sides better. Then you get an extra telephoto camera on the back, and you get a wider selfie camera on the front, a little more Ram, a little bit bigger screen. That’s kind of it. So basically my conclusion is Pixel Six, a really good phone, really, really great deal because for 600 bucks, this is one of the best ones you can get. And then the difference in money to get to Six Pro, it makes it a better phone than the Pixel Six, sure. A lot of good stuff here, but this stuff doesn’t vault it over the top of all the other flagships. I would get this phone if you’ve really got to have the telephoto or the Ultra-wide selfie camera, or the bigger, faster screen, that’s kind of the main bullets, but I think Pixel Six is almost incredible. And the truth is, this is the most important Google phone yet. This pivot to, from enthusiast phones and really cool cameras, and software features, to still being the smartest smartphone in the world, but also now having much better hardware, this new design and making their own chip and competing, like really competing? I’m into it, I’m super into it. So that’s fun to see that’s Pixel Six and Six Pro. It’s Tech-tober, so there’s still a lot more to talk about.

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