Google Pixel 6a Review: Worth the attention!

Software experience is really where this phone shines

Google Pixel 6a

Google’s approach with its Pixel lineup of devices hasn’t always been very clear. Sometimes it’s meant to show Google’s own approach to what an Android phone should and could look like other times it is what a not-so-flagship-device can offer. The Pixel 6a falls in the second category. With a price tag of Rs. 43,999, let’s look if this Pixel is worth your attention or not.

The Pixel 6a sports a 6.1-inch full HD 20:9 aspect ratio-display on the front that also carries in-screen fingerprint scanner towards the bottom and a front facing camera near the top. The borders on the front aren’t wrapping around the display don’t measure equal in size (chin being a little broader than the forehead that houses the earspeaker grille), and they aren’t the slimmest on a device by any means, but they aren’t too big either. The back has an interesting two-tone coloured plastic design that doesn’t feel cheap at all. The plastic feels decent and build quality seems okay, too. Alongside, there’s a very noticeable visor (strip) on the top of the back that carries the camera setup. And the sides have aluminium around. The front doesn’t attract too many smudges and fingerprints, but the back can, though the colour and material make it less noticeable. Both the power and volume buttons sit on the right, with the power button neared the top, I would have probably preferred it the other way around since a lot of times I accidentally tapped the volume buttons when I had to use the power/lock key without looking at the device. The SIM card tray sits on the left side; loudspeaker, primary mic and USB type C port at the bottom; and the secondary mic at the top. There are plastic stripes on the sides four each on the left and right side, two at the top and one at the bottom, for better network reception. As mentioned, the phone feels somewhat premium and nice to carry (weighs just under 180 grams) and doesn’t show any creeks or loose ends. Oh, and it’s IP67 water and dust resistant.

The device has a 6.1 (2400x1080) OLED display (Gorilla Glass 3 on top) that sports a standard 60Hz refresh rate. That’s correct, there’s no 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rates here, which has lately become quite common in smartphones. You might really miss if you’re used to a higher refresh rate display, though it must be said given the price tag, a 90Hz display wouldn’t have been big ask. The display itself is quite sharp punchy. It’s certainly not the brightest display we have seen recently. The default display mode (adaptive) tends to be more on the punchier side, you might want to try natural mode (or boosted, if you want). It handles high resolution videos quite well, nothing we haven’t seen at such a price point. Coming to the camera – there’s a 12MP (f/1.7) main camera and a 12 MP (f/2.2) ultrawide camera. The primary camera is same as what we have been seeing on Pixel phones for years now, while the ultrawide is kept from the Pixel 6. The photos taken from rear cameras looks well-tuned and balanced. The phone doesn’t have a long shutter lag and the camera doesn’t show any hiccups either. HDR and portrait shots appear a little better than the Pixel 4a, but there’s not much changed here. Top shot, when enabled, gives you the automatic best shot from a small video clip taken when you press the shutter button, especially useful if you’re taking photos of babies. Magic brush allows you to, well, as the name suggests erase some parts in a photo while retaining the background as if the photo was taken this way. It works quite well when the background doesn’t have a lot of colours, say a checkered shirt, so removing a can from a plain background or a straw from your coffee cup works okay. On the front, you have an 8Mp (f/2.0) camera that takes nice, detailed shots, and can hold okay even in not-so-great lighting.

The Pixel 6a is equipped with Google’s Tensor chipset (internally codenamed GS101) that has an octacore processor and a Mali G78 MP20 GPU, coupled with 6GB LPDDR5 of RAM and 128GB UFS3.1 storage. You also get Titan M2 for enhanced security. The phone runs on Android 12 (Android 13 should be out soon) with the June security patch. Software experience is really where this phone shines. The whole look and feel of the OS is Google’s vision of what an Android user should get. Among major features of Android 12 is Material You, which basically allows you to customize the overall theming on

the UI as per your own colour preference. You can choose to change icons as per your chosen wallpaper and change UI colour pattern within Settings and notification shade. The multitasking view allows you to copy-paste a link from an app like YouTube without having to tap into that app and then do so, and you can also copy an image from the same view, some neat little features. Another feature worth mentioning is the live transcription feature in the recorder app, which works consistently well. Day to day performance is nothing to complain about. The phone can handle switching between apps, having multiple Web browsers open, watching videos or viewing images all without showing any glitches. For gaming, playing a game like Fortnite on default settings should be just fine, but there’s no highest settings in the game available for this device so far.

The phone sports a 4,410 mAh battery unit that supports up to 18watt charging officially. The phone only comes with a USB type C to type C cable and no charger in the box (along with a USB A to C dongle). You would require a power delivery (PD) supporting charger if you would like to have the device charge at its highest speed (which isn’t very high anyway). The phone lasted me around 18-20 hours most of the time, it did struggle to last one whole day often. The phone charges in about 110-120 minutes from 1% to full, which can be annoyingly slow if you’re used to any smartphone from the likes of OnePlus, Oppo, Xiaomi in past two years or so. So, the battery experience is just about okay, and nothing much to give credit for.

The biggest disappointment in terms of using the device is its in-screen fingerprint scanner. Such fingerprint scanners are still known to pale in comparison to physical (external) fingerprint scanners on a phone, but this one was particularly below par. A lot of times, it failed to recognize the correct thumb or took too long to recognize it to unlock. The phone got a couple of updates, which did make the fingerprint scanner perform a little more reliably but it’s still far from giving a satisfactory performance. Some earlier batches of the Pixel 6a showed some WiFi and network reception issues, but no such issues were seen on my unit. The WiFi and network data performance is top notch. Throughout my usage, not even once did I see WiFi drop in performance or show anything unusual. The loudspeakers are quite loud and clear, doing the job well for your YouTube and occasional music playback.

All in all, the Pixel 6a’s position is quite clear – it isn’t competing with the likes of iQoo, OnePlus and Xiaomi with its hardware specifications on paper, it would come up short there. It has a below par fingerprint scanner, a strictly okay battery experience, but a solid design, and it excels in delving a cohesive and consistent software plus camera experience. So, if those two things matter the most to you, this should be on your consideration list.

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