We are free to talk about the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro starting today, so prepare yourselves for a wave of content. There is a lot to talk about with these phones, if they live up to the hype they’ve created, how the cameras perform, if Tensor is a game-changer, and if we plan to continue using either going forward.
We will most certainly have reviews of each phone up before the end of the week with more complete thoughts, but as you are well aware, the review embargo ended today and I’m sure you would like to hear some of our initial thoughts. So, that’s what I have here to give you a bit of a taste of how I’m feeling after using the big guy, the Pixel 6 Pro for the past 7 days.
This post won’t go into a lot of detail and is instead more of a quick hitter. I’m hoping it’ll feed that appetite before phones launch in a couple of days.
Performance (Google Tensor)
Google’s first smartphone processor is Tensor and there will be plenty of processor talk from the guys who know processors inside-and-out. I’m not that guy, so apologies now if you were expecting a breakdown of cores and what matters when and with a series of benchmarks. That’s not my expertise.
What I can tell you about Google Tensor in the Pixel 6 Pro is that when you use this phone, you won’t stop regularly and wonder what that hiccup was from or why that app or the Assistant is loading slowly or why it’s now burning your hand after playing a game. What you will notice is how snappy and polished everything feels from one task to another. The processor here is doing the right amounts of work when necessary to leave you feeling like this phone can do it all.
The camera loads and snaps instant shots in a way I haven’t seen since that one on-stage Galaxy Nexus demo. Every app I need is ready right when I need it without hesitation. The minimal amounts of games I’ve run have had no issues and I haven’t noticed the phone getting extra hot or warm like some of the recent Snapdragon 888 phones.
For another comparison, know that I’ve been mostly using an iPhone 13 Pro for the past couple of weeks and this Pixel 6 Pro feels on-par if not smoother than Apple’s best phone. There is a softness to the touch and the way Android 12 moves from an activation you get from finger to motion through this display that is unmatched right now.
I know there will likely be unflattering benchmarks for this phone because of the mix of old and new that Google has used, but I’m telling you this phone hasn’t slowed in my week with it. I haven’t for a second stopped and thought, “Well, this new processor was a bad move from Google.” Google Tensor is off to a great start.
Now, I wish I could sit here today and tell you that I’ve put this camera through all the tests and that it’s the best camera setup ever put in a smartphone. However, we’ve been destroyed by “bomb cyclones” for the past several days and it hasn’t exactly been photography weather.
My initial impressions of the 50MP x 12MP x 48MP camera on the Pixel 6 Pro are that Google has a winner, but I need to spend more time in different situations. The camera is stupid fast, it has a couple of fun new motion-related modes I want to play with, and I’d love to shoot the stars if Portland would ever let me again.
For today, I’ll leave you with a few samples and tell you to “stay tuned” for much more from the camera either today or tomorrow.
The Pixel 6 Pro packs a large 5000mAh battery and has 30W fast charging, as well as 23W wireless charging (from the new Pixel Stand which isn’t available yet). In my testing, battery life has been pretty average if not slightly disappointing at times.
My best day was day 1, where I grabbed a screenshot at 11:30PM and had 15% battery remaining and 4 hours of screen on time. I did have another heavy use day with 6.5 hours of screen on time and 13% battery left at 9PM. But then one day I was down to 14% at 7PM with 4 hours of screen on time. There were others where I definitely grabbed a charger for an hour, just to make sure we were good.
If anything, this phone still feels like it’s learning my habits and which apps it can shutdown to further expand it using its “Adaptive” skills. The apps that show as using the most battery from day to day keep changing, some of which are apps I’ve barely touched.
- UPDATE: Because my battery life has been so weird, I’m factory resetting as I type this to give it a fresh go. I’ll see where the new results take me when we get to the full review.
I don’t want to say battery life has been getting worse, but maybe more confusing. That’s partly why we are still testing and not posting our reviews today. At this point, battery life is a mixed bag of good and bad.
The display, at least so far, is pretty great. The 120Hz is stupidly smooth, touch responsiveness is top notch, colors and low-end brightness are excellent (Extra dim!), and viewing angles are great. There isn’t a lot to complain about with this massive 6.7″ QHD AMOLED panel.
Need me to complain about something? Yeah, the curve is unnecessary and I wish Google had realized that people no longer want curved displays in 2021. It’s not the most obnoxious curve ever, it’s just that it can be annoying in situations where you need to access touch points near the edge of the display. At least Google did try to end the display about mid-way through the curve, so I haven’t actually run into many issues with it.
Oh, as far as brightness goes, Google said that this phone has a high brightness mode and I’m not sure that mode is very bright. Pixel phones are known for being a littler dimmer than the rest of the phones on the market and that sure seems to be the case again here. At full brightness, even in a lowly lit space, this phone barely makes my eyes say, “Ow, that’s bright.” I wish I could tell you how it performed in sunlight, but (again) it’s been pouring for days in Portland and we have zero sun.
Overall, the display is very nice. Yes, it would be nice if there wasn’t a curve, but this isn’t the worst curve I’ve used.
Design, size, hardware
For the most part, I like the look and design of the Pixel 6 Pro, with its multi-shade backside, the weight of it in hand, and the curves from front to back and back to front that give you a smooth touch experience as you use it. That’s about where my likes end, though.
The massive camera bar on the back is likely going to be an acquired taste and it doesn’t completely offend me. My biggest issue with it is when you pull it in and out of a pocket because it can be a pain if it catches from either direction. Using a case should help here, I’m just not a case user. I also don’t love the gloss finish everywhere from the back to the sides, as this black model I have is constantly covered in smudges and fingerprints. It’s supposed to have a fingerprint resistant coating, but…lol.
The real issue, which you probably guessed because this is me writing, is the size. This is an enormous phone, with its 6.7″ display and ridiculously long body. It matches up almost identical to my wife’s Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. While I know so many people love a big-screened phone, I’m quite sad that Google didn’t give us big and small options this year for the Pro. As an active human, the past week has seen me leave the Pixel 6 Pro at home often if I need to go for a run or workout, because this monstrosity just isn’t built for those kinds of activities. It feels fragile, it’s too big to use with one hand, and it’s kind of slippery.
The Pixel 6 Pro also gives me anxiety every time I set it down. It has Gorilla Glass covering everything, but I’m coming off using the Pixel 5 for a year, a phone that I absolutely tossed around without hesitation because it lacked the use of rear glass. Glass is bad on the backs of phones, if that wasn’t clear. It’s a terrible material that is fragile and only looks pretty for a few minutes before you touch it.
The Pixel 6 Pro is certainly a unique phone from top to bottom that will standout in a crowd and I can appreciate that. I’m glad that Google went a little weird with the design. Small phone lovers, this one isn’t for you, unfortunately.
Some other notes:
- Fingerprint reader: It’s pretty bad at the moment. It’s an optical reader that lights up an area as you use it to scan your finger, like you would see on a OnePlus phone. The reader is mostly slow, sometimes takes extra seconds to figure out that you are scanning, and errors out often. Something about the slowness and errors feel software related, so I’m hopeful that Google can dial it in to make it more usable. I’d also love a face unlock option to go along with it. Either way, Google’s first in-display reader is off to a poor start.
- Android 12: This newest version of Android from Google is such a damn joy to use everyday. Like, if there was one thing I wish everyone could experience on their own from this phone, it would be the software. Android 12 is the best skin in the scene, looks beautiful, and has me so excited for the future of the platform. Google has finally put together an incredibly polished version of Android that only its Pixel phones get and it is a major selling point.
- Pricing: The pricing for these phones is absurd…in a good way. At $899, I can’t think of a better phone for the money. I’m also quite excited to switch over to a regular Pixel 6 after this to see what $599 gets me, because it should be similar.
Alright, that’s all I’ve got for the day. Let us know if you have questions.