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Google Pixel 6a Review: An Ultimate mid-ranger with everything you need!

The Google Pixel 6 Pro (Review) that was launched at the beginning of the year is easily one of my favorite smartphone this year. It might not features the most number of cameras or the fastest charging speed, but that doesn’t stops the phone from offering perhaps the best mobile experience in day-to-day usage, while also serving as a fantastic photography companion.

However, it’s $1,298 asking price might be a stumbling rock for those who isn’t keen on spending over a thousand on a smartphone. Google knows that well, and it’s precisely why the company had launched a much more affordable Pixel 6a earlier this month.

Google Pixel 6a Design -1

Despite being priced at nearly halve of what the Pixel 6 Pro commands, the Pixel 6a continued to impress us in many different ways. To find out why we have so much love on this device, check out our full review of the Google Pixel 6a!

Design

If you love the Pixel 6 Pro’s design, then you’ll definitely love the Pixel 6a which shares an almost identical design language as the Pixel 6 Pro. That of course include it’s signature horizontal camera bar as well as an unique dual-color scheme to complement the overall design of the phone.

Google Pixel 6a Design -2

However, we can still easily differentiate between the two devices judging by their sizes, whereby the Pixel 6a is unmistakably the smaller model among the two. Likewise, putting the two devices side-by-side will also tells you that the Pixel 6a has thicker bezels due to the adoption of a flat display as opposed to a curve panel as seen on the Pixel 6 Pro.

Sporting an overall footprint of 152.2 x 71.8 x 8.9 mm, the Google Pixel 6a is a pretty compact phone which is nice to hold and use with one hand. This is further helped by it’s featherlight weight of just 178 grams which is among the lightest in the segment.

Google Pixel 6a Design -3

Google launches the Pixel 6a in three different colors such as Chalk, Charcoal and Sage. The latter is the one we’d received for review which I would say is my favorite variant among the trio, though that’s not to say that the other two colors are without their charm.

The Sage variant we’re holding on features a black-colored, horizontal camera bar with two varying shades of Green above and below the camera bar. It’s quite an understated color but it does makes the phone looks elegant and classy from different angles.

Unlike the Pixel 6 Pro which has a Gorilla Glass Victus-equipped rear panel, the Pixel 6a’s back panel is made from a “thermoformed plastic composite” material which actually gives an impression of a glass back rather than a plastic one. Also, it does an excellent job in repelling those unwanted smudges or fingerprint marks despite it’s glossy surface.

Display

Moving on to the front side of the phone, the Google Pixel 6a greets us with a 6.1” display which provides just enough screen estate for work and play. To help with selfie and video calls, it features an 8MP front-facing camera housed within a miniscule, centered hole-punch cutout.

Google Pixel 6a Design -5

Speaking of the display, it’s a high-end FHD+ OLED panel which not only looks sharp, but also looks more vibrant than most other devices in the segment with LCD display. To sweeten up the deal, the front display also boasts other advanced features including a deep contrast ratio along with HDR support for a more immersive viewing experience when streaming your favorite movies on Netflix.

Google Pixel 6a Design -5

For someone who love taking photos, it’s high brightness mode is certainly a much appreciated feature which helps to ensure the screen remain visible when using the phone in outdoor areas with strong ambient light. Otherwise, you’ll probably have a hard time taking a proper shot with a washed out screen that blurs the viewfinder.

Rounding out it’s front package is an additional layer of Gorilla Glass 3 to protect the screen against accidental drops or scratches. This is certainly a nice addition for those with butterfingers like myself who have the tendency to drop phone every now and then.

Performance

Just like the Pixel 6 Pro, the new Pixel 6a is powered by the same in-house Tensor chipset that’s fully designed by the company. Despite being the first mobile silicon solution developed by Google, the Tensor chipset has every means to go toe-to-toe with some of the best chipsets in the market.

However, what really sets Google’s Tensor chipset apart from the crowd is the complex machine learning capability which allows Pixel smartphones to support certain exclusive features such as real-time language translation as well as many other camera-related software wizardry like Magic Eraser and Face Unblur.

In day-to-day usage, you can well expect the same blazing-fast performance as the Pixel 6 Pro, but at just halve a price. Whether you’re working across multiple apps or playing a fast-paced action game, the Pixel 6a wouldn’t flinch at all. That’s how good the Tensor chipset is.

Likewise, the Pixel 6a also handles heat relatively well, though it’s not doing it as good as the Pixel 6 Pro due to it’s smaller size. Most of the time, I hardly encounter any heating issue that calls for my attention even with long hours of gaming. However, it does heats up a little when working on tasks like video editing.

In the local market, the Google Pixel 6a is available in a single configuration featuring 6GB LPDDR5 RAM and 128GB UFS 3.1 storage which is more than sufficient for an average user. In the event that the phone’s storage runs out, users can leverage various cloud storage solutions such as Google drive to safekeep documents or Google photos to store their photos at a small monthly free.

Cameras

Coming to the photography side of things, the Google Pixel 6a features a versatile dual-cam system comprising of a 12.2 megapixels main camera with a bright f/1.7 aperture as well as a 12 megapixels ultra-wide unit that handles landscape photography.

Unsurprisingly, photos taken with the default shooting mode are great across all lighting conditions. The camera does well in terms of exposure and white balance, resulting in accurate color reproduction which allows photos to look natural and realistic – just like what we saw with our own eyes. 

Google Pixel 6a Main Camera Sample -1
Daylight Sample
Google Pixel 6a Main Camera Sample -2
Food Sample
Google Pixel 6a Main Camera Sample -3
Indoor Sample

While the effective resolution of the main camera here is comparatively lower than the Pixel 6 Pro’s, but image quality doesn’t appears to suffer much thanks to the advanced AI and computation photography employed by the camera system in pre and post-processing stages. In fact, it’s safe to say that photos taken by the Pixel 6a are among the best-looking within the segment as evidenced by the photo samples.

Google Pixel 6a Low-light Sample -2
Night Mode Sample
Google Pixel 6a Low-light Sample -1
Night Mode Sample

To assist in low-light photography, the Pixel 6a comes with the usual Night Sight feature which automatically kicks in whenever the camera detects a low-light scene. When turned on, it’ll improve the overall exposure and uncovers shadow details that are otherwise non-visible in the photos.

Moving on to it’s ultra-wide camera, this is actually the same Sony INX386 sensor as the one used in Pixel 6 Pro’s ultra-wide unit which offers an impressive 114-degrees Field-of-View.

Google Pixel 6a Ultra Wide Sample -3
Ultra Wide Sample (Daylight)
Google Pixel 6a Ultra Wide Sample -2
Ultra Wide Sample (Night Mode)

As I mentioned before, this is an equally impressive camera that’s able to capture photos with good dynamic range and color profile. Also, the camera comes with a built-in lens correction feature to eliminate those unsightly ”fisheye effect”, allowing photos to look more natural and flattering.

Google Pixel 6a 2x Zoom Sample
2x Digital Zoom
Google Pixel 6a 4x Zoom Sample
4x Digital Zoom

Although the Pixel 6a lacks a dedicated telephoto camera, but the phone is able to support up to 7x digital zoom via digital cropping through it’s main camera. This is a great feature for taking close up photos of floras and faunas especially with it’s ability to capture well-focused shots even from a distance thanks to the OIS stabilization.

Battery & Charging

The Google Pixel 6a is backed by a respectable 4,410mAh battery which can easily support more than a day’s usage on a single charge. In fact, I sometimes found myself getting up to two days’ battery life on busier days when I only use the phone on text messages and simple web browsing.

In case the battery runs out, the Pixel 6a also supports 18W wired charging which is able to fill up a completely flat battery from 0 to 100% in slightly less than two hours. Sadly speaking, the phone doesn’t have wireless charging support, but that’s a reasonable sacrifice to make for a more amicable price point.

Verdict

Google has managed to strike a perfect balance between specs and pricing on the new Pixel 6a by providing all the essential features necessary for a premium smartphone experience, while cutting back on other less frequently used (but nice to have) features to keep the phone at a more affordable price point.

This winning formula allows consumers to enjoy in the same smartphone experience in day-to-day usage as the more expensive Pixel 6 Pro despite paying just halve the price. To sum up, the Pixel 6a is an easy choice to recommend for anyone looking for a solid smartphone performance and a capable camera system.

Pricing & Availability

The Google Pixel 6a will be available for purchase starting today at $749 through the Google Store, as well as retail partners Amazon SG, Courts, Challenger, Shopee.

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