Google Pixel 6a review – a photography delight at a premium

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Google Pixel 6a review – a photography delight at a premium
Google Pixel 6ARounak Jain
  • The Google Pixel 6a is the latest smartphone from the Android maker.
  • Armed with three cameras and Google’s Tensor intelligence, the Pixel 6a promises to be a delight for those who want a clean experience.
  • While a few companies have caught up with or beat Google in photography, Google’s computational photography chops are still amongst the best.
  • I put the Pixel 6a through tests over the last few days and here’s a detailed review to help you understand if this should be your next phone.
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Google Pixel 6a is the Android maker’s latest smartphone aimed at the mid-range, offering some of the best bits of the Pixel smartphone series at a more affordable price point. It succeeds the Pixel 5a, which was not launched in India, which means it’s been a little under two years since Indian Pixel fans have seen a new phone.

The Pixel 6a is a simple smartphone – unassuming in both design and size. It doesn’t stand out, doesn’t scream “look at me,” and comes in a small box with the bare minimum – a cable and a Type-C adapter.

For Pixel fans, though, this should be enough of a lifeline – the last smartphone Google launched in India was the Pixel 4a, in October 2020. The Pixel 5 series skipped India completely, but Google has included India in the first wave of Pixel 6a launch across the world.
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I have been using the Pixel 6a for a few days now, and here’s my review of the latest mid-range smartphone from Google.

Google Pixel 6a price in India and availability


The Pixel 6a price in India is ₹43,999 and it comes in two colors – charcoal and chalk, with a single configuration of 6GB + 128GB.
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The Pixel 6a is available for pre-orders on Flipkart from today, July 21, and will go on sale from July 28.

Google Pixel 6a specifications



ParticularsSpecification
Display6.1-inch Full HD+ OLED HDR
Refresh rate60Hz
ProtectionCorning Gorilla Glass 3
ChipsetGoogle Tensor
Variants6GB + 128GB UFS 3.1
Rear camera12.2MP primary, 12MP ultrawide
Selfie camera8MP ultrawide
Battery4,410mAh
Fast charging18W
Fingerprint sensorIn-display
Weight178 grams
5GYes
Box contentsPhone, Type-C cable, Type-C adapter

Google Pixel 6a pros and cons


Pros


  • Clean, responsive user interface
  • Impressive camera performance
  • Compact design, IP67 rating

Cons


  • Peak refresh rate is 60Hz
  • Low storage and memory
  • Boring design, no charger in the box

Design and display



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Google Pixel 6a review – a photography delight at a premium
The Pixel 6a feels compact to holdRounak Jain

Like I said before, the Pixel 6a’s design is simple and unassuming – some might find it a bit too boring to boot with. It looks especially dull in charcoal, which is the variant I received. However, since most of us use cases with our phones, it’s not a big deal once you slap a nice case on it.

That said, the Pixel 6a feels nice and easy to hold – the phone is compact thanks to the 6.1-inch display. At 178 grams, it does seem a little too heavy for a phone its size, but in regular usage, I never noticed it.

Google Pixel 6a review – a photography delight at a premium
The 3D thermoformed composite cover on the Google Pixel 6aRounak Jain

The back of the phone is covered by a 3D thermoformed composite cover, which is to say it’s not metal or glass. This doesn’t reduce the phone’s “premium” factor, so to say, and it makes the phone easier to hold in hot and cold temperatures.

Google Pixel 6a review – a photography delight at a premium
Google Pixel 6a features a 6.1-inch displayRounak Jain

The Pixel 6a sports a 6.1-inch Full HD+ OLED HDR display – and it misses out on one big thing – a higher refresh rate. This is noticeable across the user interface, and even though Google has done a good job of keeping the phone responsive, a higher refresh rate display would have made everything a lot smoother.
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The 6.1-inch display is bright enough even under direct sunlight. It is vibrant, the color reproduction is very good and offers a good experience overall.

Camera



Google Pixel 6a review – a photography delight at a premium
The dual camera setup on the Pixel 6aRounak Jain

The primary selling point of Pixel smartphones is the camera experience on offer. More importantly, it’s the leaps that Google has made in computational photography which allow it to deliver great results even with sensors that are pretty old now.

The Pixel packs a humble 12.2MP primary camera with OIS support and support for 4K recording at 60 frames per second, along with a 12MP ultrawide angle snapper and an 8MP selfie camera.

Google Pixel 6a review – a photography delight at a premium
Photo captured indoorsRounak Jain

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As far as photography is concerned, the Pixel 6a has been a joy to use and, honestly, the easiest phone to work with. I had to compose the shot nicely, and the Pixel 6a did the rest.

Google Pixel 6a review – a photography delight at a premium
Daylight photoRounak Jain

Photos captured in daylight offered rich details with very good dynamic range and accurate color reproduction. Darker areas had some noise while composing the shot, but the final results were much better after the phone was done processing the shot.

Google Pixel 6a review – a photography delight at a premium
Indoor photoRounak Jain

The noise in dark areas in indoor conditions always seemed very high while composing the shot, but most of it is gone after processing.

Google Pixel 6a review – a photography delight at a premium
Bokeh effect in normal modeRounak Jain

The bokeh effect also works really well with both the rear and the front cameras. The phone was flawless in locking focus and keeping it even after the subject or the phone moved – and it maintained the bokeh even with shaky hands.
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Google Pixel 6a review – a photography delight at a premium
Normal vs portrait mode in indoor conditionsRounak Jain

The portrait mode was also good, even with multiple subjects in the frame, with proper edge detection both indoors and outdoors. The built-in photos app also lets you change the depth, so you can play with the settings to fine-tune the effect to your liking. However, the default bokeh effect is really good.

Photos captured with the ultrawide angle camera were ever so slightly lacking in color and details in challenging conditions.

Google Pixel 6a review – a photography delight at a premium
Photo in night sight modeRounak Jain

Night Sight automatically kicks in if the phone detects the light on the lower side. This mode works best with still subjects – while I captured a flower well enough in one shot, the image turned out to be a little blurry the first time when my hands were shaky.

Google Pixel 6a review – a photography delight at a premium
Selfie captured in normal and portrait modesRounak Jain

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I tried capturing selfies in different light conditions, and the Pixel 6a delivered good results regardless of the intensity of background light. The noise was low even in indoor lighting conditions in dimly lit surroundings. Portrait mode worked really well, even with multiple subjects in both natural and artificial light.

Google Pixel 6a review – a photography delight at a premium
Rounak Jain

Overall, the Pixel 6a really shines when it comes to photography. Google’s computational photography chops show why Pixel phones are amongst the best when it comes to this.

The built-in photos app also has several features like camouflage, a magic eraser and more that let you play with your photos to help them shine even better.

User interface


The Pixel 6a comes with Android 12 out of the box. Since this is a Pixel smartphone, it comes loaded with Google’s goodies like Live Translate, Live Transcription, Magic Eraser, Face Blur/unblur, and a lot more.

Live Transcription and Now Playing are some nifty features that prove useful in day-to-day usage. The Live Transcription feature comes in handy while recording something. It works well for the most part, especially with English, and if you want to take notes, it comes in very handy since you can revisit the transcription after finishing the recording.
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The Now Playing feature can be enabled to detect the music playing in the background quickly. It also saves all the tracks it has identified so it can go through the list later.

Apart from this, the user interface is clean and smooth. It does not come with all the bells and whistles that manufacturers include in their phones, but that does not hamper usage in any way.

Performance and battery life


The Pixel 6a is powered by the first Google Tensor chipset manufactured in partnership with Samsung. This is paired with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage, and no, you can’t expand it.

The Tensor chipset is important for several reasons – it allows Google to finetune its software for the chipset, and Google’s leaps in artificial intelligence and machine learning can be experienced first hand with features like Live Translate, Speech Enhancement, Live Transcription in the Recorder app and more.

In day-to-day life, I did not use the Live Translate feature too often, but it can prove to be useful while traveling. However, the Speech Enhancement feature comes in handy when you want to record a selfie when outdoors or in noisy surroundings. The Live Transcription feature is the most useful one, and it mostly works well.
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Gaming performance was surprisingly good – I played Battlegrounds Mobile India for a few rounds here and there with the graphics set to HDR and frame rate at ‘Ultra’. It was a smooth experience gaming-wise, but the audio was on the lower side. The phone did get a little warm after a few rounds, though.

Overall, the phone lasted me almost a day’s worth of usage, with dozens of phone calls, plenty of texting and emailing, and a few photos clicked throughout the day. I usually streamed a few videos but played games occasionally.

The phone does not come with a charger, though, so you will have to use an existing one. It supports fast charging up to 18W, which might seem a little low at a time, with 33W and higher speeds have become common. Still, given that it lasts a day mostly, this is not a big deal.

Wrapping up


The Pixel 6a is a great little phone that promises and delivers on the photography front quite effortlessly. I’ve clicked dozens of photos every day so far and most have turned out well, so it’s a joy to use. The interface is as clean as it can be, and it is smooth for the most part. Google’s smart features take the overall experience a notch up and the much bigger battery compared to the Pixel 4a is a welcome upgrade.

Where the Pixel 6a misses out on is the 60Hz display, a design that is a little mundane and the low internal storage for the price that Google is asking, without any higher storage options on offer.
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Lastly, in a smartphone market that is as competitive as India’s, the Pixel 6a comes across as a little expensive for what is on offer. On the basis of pure spec, it is easily beaten by smartphones that cost less.

With the Pixel 6a, Google delivers a really good overall experience for people who want a phone without bloatware, adware or gaudy user interfaces. This phone is for people who want something that gets the job done and removes itself from the picture instead of becoming the story itself – but that comes at a price that might be a little rich for some.

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