The Pixel 6a is officially here. But at just $150 less than the Pixel 6, has Google’s budget Pixel lost its appeal? Let’s find out by looking at all the latest Pixel 6a reviews…
After much ado, the Pixel 6a is now official and the first batch of reviews has landed. In this post, we’ll take a look at a bunch of reviews from around the web, assess the changes Google has implemented (good and bad), look at its specs, and at the end attempt to decide whether it is a better option than the only-slightly-more-expensive Pixel 6.
Not so long ago, Google’s Pixel A phones were the talk of the town. Google had an instant hit on its hands when it unleashed the Pixel 3a, its first truly affordable phone since its Nexus days. The 3a was very popular. It was also a very good phone too – I used one for close to six months. Then can the Pixel 4a and the Pixel 5a. Now it’s the turn of the Android 12-powered Pixel 6a.
But in 2022, the Pixel 6a is a tougher sell than ever. It costs £399/$449, making it only slightly cheaper than Google’s Pixel 6. It costs more or less the same as Samsung’s Galaxy A53, a hugely popular phone right now, and you no longer get a headphone jack on the phone (thanks to the release of Google’s PixelBuds Pro). But you will get three major Android updates and four years’ worth of security updates, as well as the best UX available on an Android phone.
Let’s first take a look at some Pixel 6a reviews to get a meter on what the general consensus on this phone is. After that, we’ll take a look at its specs and how it compares to the Pixel 6 and other similarly-priced phones, and, finally, we’ll then recap everything we’ve covered to anger the question: is the Pixel 6a worth buying in 2022?
Normally, a phone like this would be a simple recommendation. But 2022’s market is very competitive, so things could go awry for the budget Pixel phone…
Google Pixel 6a Reviews
Pixel 6a Specs
- Screen size: 6.1-inch OLED (2400 x 1080)
- Refresh rate: 60Hz
- CPU: Tensor
- RAM: 6GB
- Storage: 128GB
- Expandable: NO
- Rear cameras: 12.2MP main (f/1.7), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.2)
- Front camera: 8MP (f/2.0)
- Battery size: 4,410 mAh
- Battery life (Hrs: Mins): 6:29
- Charging speed: 18W wired
- Size: 6 x 2.8 x 0.35 depth inches/152.2 x 71.8 x 8.9 mm
- Weight: 6.3 oz/178 g
- Colors: Sage, Chalk, Charcoal
Pixel 6a Camera Overview
As you can see, the Pixel 6a packs in plenty of what made the Pixel 6 such a compelling phone. On paper, the Pixel 6a appears to run a less impressive camera module than the Pixel 5a (16MP vs. 12MP). But that’s just the sensor; the real magic of Google’s phones has always been in image processing and the 6a benefits from a larger sensor, so it lets more light in, and this translates into improved performance over its predecessor.
I was disappointed to see that Google didn’t include at least one of the Pixel 6’s updated cameras in the Pixel 6a. The Pixel 6, for comparison’s sake, runs a 50MP sensor as its main lens and runs the same advanced post-image processing as the 6a and Pixel 6 Pro. Again, if image quality and overall camera performance are a must for you, you’ll want to go with the Pixel 6 – the difference is night and day.
The Pixel 6a is no slouch; it’ll shoot 4K video at 60fps and supports Live HDR+ too. With respect to overall performance, the Pixel 6a’s camera is solid, as you’d expect, but it isn’t going to give any of the top flight phones – Apple’s iPhone 13, Galaxy S22, Pixel 6 Pro – any trouble in this context. For a cheaper phone, though, its camera performance is still punching well outside its weight class.
Pixel 6a Performance
With overall performance, the Pixel 6a is more or less on par with the Pixel 6; it runs the same Google Tensor CPU, after all, so this is to be expected. The iPhone SE 3 will still run rings around it but that’s just par for the course when you’re talking about Apple’s A15 CPU – it is monstrously powerful. The Pixel 6a is faster than the Galaxy A53 in nearly all benchmarks tests, however, proving Google is making very good progress with its custom silicon.
The Pixel 6a’s under-display fingerprint scanner, as expected, is slow and laggy compared to the competition. This is a huge clanger of an issue that Google really needs to fix. I cannot believe, with all of its money and resources, that Google cannot come up with something better or faster. As it stands, the Pixel 6a’s under-display fingerprint scanner is one of its worst features – it makes using the phone a pain, and that is deeply troubling considering how often you have to use the feature.
The Pixel 6a runs Android 12 out of the box and it’ll be one of the first Android phones to get Android 13 too. But for overall support, Google is no longer the best option in the Android market. Samsung now promises four major Android updates, even on its cheaper phones like the Galaxy A53, so for overall longevity that phone, not Google’s, is now a better option. Google really needs to sort this out.
Pixel 6a Battery Life
One area where, I think, Google has potentially dropped the ball is in the battery performance department. For whatever reason, The Big G decided to outfit the Pixel 6a with a smaller battery than the Pixel 5a – it runs a 4,410 mAh vs 4,680 mAh on the Pixel 5a. Given what we know about 5G, Tensor, and how much people hammer their phones these days, this probably wasn’t a good move.
Nearly all of the Pixel 6a reviews online cite battery life as “below average” and this is a real shame because Google’s previous Pixel A releases have always had really solid battery life. Why Google didn’t just bite the bullet and add in a larger battery cell is beyond me; no one minds a slightly thicker and heavier phone if the trade-off is exceptional battery life.
You also only get 18W charging on the Pixel 6a; now, that’s OK when compared to Apple’s iPhone, but it pales in comparison to what you get on similarly priced Android phones, where 30W and even 60W is now the norm. Again, given Google’s decision to reduce the size of the battery, this is another area where it could have improved things. Had the Pixel 6a launched with actual fast charging, its sub-par battery life might have been less of an issue.
Is The Pixel 6a Worth It?
The Pixel 6a is a bit of an odd phone. In many respects – its design, the camera, the overall polish of Android 12, and its features – the Pixel 6a is a very compelling phone that delivers pretty solidly across the board. But for only $150 more, you could get the Pixel 6 – and that phone is just better whichever way you slice it.
If you cannot stretch to the extra $150, the Pixel 6a is a brilliant device chock full of useful features and it possesses a truly brilliant and very smart camera, complete with Google’s Magic Eraser tool. In some respects, the Galaxy A53 is perhaps a better option: it’ll get more Android updates and it has better battery life. But the Pixel 6a is a better all-around performer in most instances.
Is the Pixel 6a worth it? I’d say, yes, the Pixel 6a is well worth the asking price – it punches well outside its weight class with features, overall design, and camera and video performance. The only issue with the phone is Google’s muddled pricing. Why go out for hamburgers (Pixel 6a), when you have steak (Pixel 6) at home?
My advice? Spend a little extra and get the Pixel 6. It’s a better phone. You’ll get a significantly improved camera module, better battery life, the same level of support from Google, and a larger display with an improved refresh rate. And it only costs $150 more…
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.
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