Google Pixel 6 Pro Review: Early hands-on


Availability

  • UKRRP: £849
  • USARRP: $849

Introduction

The Pixel 6 Pro is Google’s first truly high-end phone and, on paper at least, appears to be one of the more interesting Android devices to launch this year.

The road to release for both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro has been – to put it mildly – interesting. Following an initial batch of leaks showcasing Google’s switch in design focus, the search giant itself announced the existence of the phones in August, confirming the updated look and the Tensor chipset that it was designing itself.

A few months and plenty more leaks later, we finally have all the details for Google’s new devices including camera specs, battery sizes and more. While a full review of the Google Pixel 6 Pro will have to wait, here are some hands-on thoughts following a few days of use.

Design and screen

  • Completely new design
  • Three colour options
  • 6.7-inch OLED panel with 120Hz

With its striking camera ‘visor’, interesting colour combinations, and classy overall feel, the Pixel 6 Pro is the most interesting phone Google has ever released. While previous Pixel phones like the Pixel 5 have always focused more on simplicity, the Pixel 6 Pro tries harder to make a statement.

I wouldn’t say this statement is communicated as well on this Stormy Black version, but pick the Sorta Sunny with its varying shades of orange and you’re getting a very distinct-looking phone.

The back of the device has a glossy finish, which does pick up fingerprints with ease, while the phone’s sides and the display curve into each other. I was initially concerned that the display’s curve might be a tad too dramatic, but in reality this isn’t the case; it simply slopes gently off at the edges. There’s certainly a hint of Samsung about the design, with the colour scheme here reminding me of the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

The Pixel 6 Pro features an IP68 rating to protect the device from splashes, and the glass rear allows for wireless charging.

Pixel 6 Pro green wallpaper

In terms of the display, the 6 Pro easily outmuscles its smaller sibling, with a 120Hz adaptive panel and a larger 6.7-inch size. It has a sharper QHD+ resolution, too. For the first time, Google has also added an in-display fingerprint sensor for secure unlocking – and this is the only form of biometric unlock available.

My first impressions of the screen are positive. It’s sharp, colourful and punchy. The use of OLED, a staple of previous Pixel phones, should also help push HDR performance further. 

Performance and battery life

  • Powered by the Tensor chipset
  • 12GB RAM, some regions have a 512GB storage tier
  • 5000mAh battery and Qi fast charging

The Pixel 6 Pro doesn’t use a Qualcomm chip as has every previous Google handset; in fact, this device doesn’t use a chipset that’s ever been seen before on a phone. Instead, the Pixel 6 is powered by Google’s own Tensor SoC (system-on-chip). 

Some previous leaks have suggested that Tensor is made by Samsung to Google’s design, and is similar in structure to an Exynos chip. However, it also features elements that have been seen in Google phones over the years, including a focus on AI and ML (machine learning). 

Tensor will give Google deeper control over the Pixel 6 Pro, and it has already confirmed the leaks that both new 2021 Pixel 6 phones will receive five years of security updates. Alongside the Tensor chip you’ll find a Titan M2 co-processor, which covers all the security aspects of the phone.

I’ll need longer with the phone to determine the rival devices it’s comparable to, and also to gauge how Tensor performs on a daily basis; however, I’m already excited about the potential. Many of the phone’s camera features are made possible by Tensor, as are improvements to live dictation and translation. While it feels we’ve reached a point where the majority of phones are fast enough, it’s the skill outside of sheer performance that’s becoming more interesting.

Paired with Tensor is 12GB of RAM – the most included in a Pixel phone – and either 128GB or 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage. Some regions will also see a 512GB model. As ever with Pixel phones, expandable storage isn’t an option, so pick wisely unless you want to rely on the cloud.

It’s too early to offer a verdict on battery life, so I’ll just focus on the specs here. Inside the Pixel 6 Pro sits a 5000mAh battery that supports 30W charging. Google doesn’t include a charger, though, so you’ll need to provide your own plug. 

Pixel 6 Pro camera in hand

Google says that using its own 30W plug, you’ll get from 0 to 50% in 30 minutes. There’s also a new wireless Pixel Stand that can charge at 23W – again, this is a separate purchase.

Android 12 is a big update on the software front – and, for the first time, it feels like it’s been tailored specifically for the Pixel phones. The Material You theming engine first announced in May at Google I/O provides far greater control over how the phone looks, with deeper customisation of accent colours and icons. There are new widgets, too, including a quirky clock of which I’m a huge fan. I just wish there were more of these new widgets.

Camera

  • Triple camera system on the back
  • New 50MP main sensor with f/1.85
  • Updated 11.1MP selfie camera

A Pixel phone is only ever as good as its camera, and there’s plenty to get excited about on this front.

The Pixel 6 Pro has three cameras on the rear, including a telephoto lens that isn’t included on the Pixel 6. There’s a 50-megapixel main wide sensor (1.2μ pixels, f/1.85, 1/13in sensor), a 12-megapixel ultra-wide with a 114-degree field of view, and a 48-megapixel sensor capable of 4x optical zoom (and 20x SuperRes digital zoom).

Pixel 6 Pro camera

There are a couple of things of note here. First, it’s great to see that the old 12-megapixel sensor has finally been ditched in favour of a unit with far larger pixels. This should let in substantially more light – 150% more than the Pixel 5, according to Google – and display lovely, natural depth-of-field effects. This is also the first Pixel device to offer up a proper zoom camera – something I’ve been requesting for years. 

These hardware features work alongside Google’s excellent photo-processing algorithms and a number of new software tweaks aided by the Tensor chip. There’s a Magic Eraser, for instance, which uses AI to remove unwanted extras from your snaps, and a blur tool that tries to add the feeling of movement to shots of waterfalls, moving cars and so on.

Google’s excellent low-light mode returns, and the Pro model packs a superior wide-angle 11.1-megapixel front camera – up from the 8-megapixel version on the smaller Pixel 6. This can also record in 4K.

There’s a lot to like about the cameras in the Pixel 6 Pro, with the upgrades most certainly welcome. I’ll be testing the sensors at far greater depth for our full review, so stay tuned for that.

First Impressions

I’ll need a lot more time with the Pixel 6 Pro to really judge its merits. However, after a short hands-on with the phone things are looking good. With Tensor, the new camera sensors and an interesting design, this could very well be Google’s first mainstream hit.

Pixel 6 Pro specs

Want to know all the Pixel 6 Pro specs then you’ve come to the right place

UK RRP

USA RRP

Manufacturer

Screen Size

Storage Capacity

Rear Camera

Front Camera

Video Recording

IP rating

Battery

Wirless charging

Fast Charging

Size (Dimensions)

Weight

Operating System

Release Date

Resolution

HDR

Refresh Rate

Ports

Chipset

RAM

Colours

A ‘hands on review’ is our first impression of a product only – it is not a full test and verdict. Our writer must have spent some time with the product to describe an early sense of what it’s like to use. We call these ‘hands on reviews’ to make them visible in search. However these are always unscored and don’t give recommendations. Read more about our reviews policy.



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