Announced at the Google I/O 2022, the Pixel 6a launched in India on July 21. Powered by the Google Tensor chip, the smartphone brings the best of Google at a mid-premium price of Rs 43,999. On paper, however, it seems wanting due to its screen of 60Hz refresh rate, lack of wireless charging, slow wired charging, no charging adapter in the box, and limited and non-expandable on-board storage of 128GB. That said, does the Google experience make up for these imperfections? Let’s find out:
The Pixel 6a has a minimal and refreshing design. It looks bold despite wearing no fancy element. It has a compact form factor and thin-and-lightweight body. The smartphone is manageable and feels comfortable to hold and operate. It has a premium construction with scratch resistant Gorilla Glass 3 on the front and sturdy aluminium frame. The back is made of polycarbonate, which may disappoint some. However, with glass-like texture and finish, and strength of a plastic, it should not be reason for concern. Lastly, the Pixel 6a is IP67-rated for protection against minor water and dust damages – something that most of its peers lack.
Google Pixel 6a
Display and Audio
Audio and visual influence user experience in a big way and the Pixel 6a impresses on both fronts. Starting with the display, the smartphone sports a 6.1-inch fullHD+ OLED panel of 60Hz refresh rate. The screen is bright and remains legible under shiny outdoor conditions. Complementing the brightness is the class-leading contrast, which uplifts the visual experience and goes well with the phone’s ‘Material You’ interface. Some users may find the screen’s 60Hz refresh rate underwhelming, and they may not be wrong. But for what it is worth, the screen is responsive and delivers a smooth experience.
Audio is covered by dual stereo speakers. Though loud and clear, the speakers have a mild bass response. Moreover, there is a perceptible imbalance in loudness between the right and left channel in horizontal orientation. That said, the sound quality is nothing to write home about. It is, however, acceptable for everyday use.
Pixels have traditionally been camera-centric smartphones, and the Pixel 6a is no different. It has dual 12-megapixel camera sensors on the back with optical image stabilisation on the primary sensor. On the front, there is an 8MP camera sensor. Though not megapixel-rich, Google’s computational imaging algorithms back the camera system, and that makes the difference in the performance.
Star of the show is the primary sensor, which is calibrated to capture natural colours. It takes detailed shots irrespective of lighting conditions with appropriate white balance and contrast details.
It is quick in fixing focus and there is zero shutter lag, but the frames take some time to process afterwards. Likewise, the photos taken from ultra-wide-angle sensor look good. In low light conditions, this sensor struggles in default mode but surprises in Night Sight mode. The performance of an ultra-wide-angle sensor is acceptable, but its narrow field-of-view fails to capture the essence of a wide-angle frame. The front camera is good, but not the best you get in the mid-premium smartphone segment.
Besides computational photography, the Pixel 6a brings tons of value-added features for novel imaging experience. For example, the new Blur and Magic Eraser tools in the photo editor. The former adds blur effect on the frame and provides depth setting for appropriate results, and the latter helps in eliminating unwanted objects from the frame. Both these tools work seamlessly and are great add-ons to uplift experience.
Coming to the video recording, the Pixel 6a is capable of recording 4K resolution videos at up to 60 frames-per-second. However, the 60fps is limited to the primary sensor. The ultra-wide-angle sensor does 4K but at 30fps. Both the rear camera sensors can do 1080p at 60fps though.
For Google’s maiden chip, the Tensor is capable but not exactly a powerhouse. It is capable because it works fine with every app, feature, and tool made by Google. For example, the phone’s built-in voice recorder allows auto transcription and audio search features. These features work seamlessly and, because of Tensor, do not require internet services. In terms of performance, the Tensor is good for most things but gaming. Not that it struggles, but graphic-intensive gaming titles such as Genshin Impact are best experienced only at medium graphics.
The Pixel 6a boots stock Android 12 with the ‘Material You’ interface, which brings new widgets, fonts, and customisable colour themes. The software experience on the Pixel 6a is smooth. Cherry on top is the promised five years of security updates and three years of major software version updates from Google. The Pixel 6a will also be among the first Android smartphones to receive the upcoming Android 13.
Powered by a 4,410 mAh battery, the Pixel 6a easily sails through a day on a single charge. Good on-battery time compensates for sluggish wired charging (18W max), which takes about two hours to replenish completely drained battery. Important to note, the phone comes only with USB-C wire and the supported fast-charge adaptor is an accessory sold separately. There is no wireless charging, which is okay for a phone in the mid-premium segment but its addition would have made it earn a few extra points over other smartphones.
The Pixel 6a cuts corners on essentials such as screen of high refresh rate, expandable storage, etc. that one expects in a mid-premium smartphone, yet it turns out to be a strong package lifted by smooth user experience. The smartphone does not have the strong price-specs ratio, but that does not hinder its performance capabilities. From experience perspective, the phone is a complete package with something in store for everyone.