Android Central Verdict
Bottom line: This time around, Google pulled out all the stops for the Pixel 6 pro, offering up a full-tier flagship phone at a compelling price. Using its own in-house silicon and a bevy of AI-powered features, the Pixel 6 Pro rockets itself to the top of the must-have list of smartphones this year and proves that Google still has what it takes to remain the camera king.
Stunning, unique design
Cameras are a generational leap forward
Best haptic motors in the business
120Hz LTPO OLED is buttery smooth
Tensor is an AI-processing beast
New Pixel-exclusive features are a meaningful addition
Not as customizable as some other Android flavors
Curved screen is challenging for screen protectors
Fingerprint sensor can be finicky
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The storied past of Pixel phones has long been wrought with failures and compromise, yet peppered with promising bits that have slowly paved the way for the future we're now finally able to behold. Google finally went all-out for its sixth-generation phone, packing in everything and the kitchen sink, including its first-ever in-house developed chipset, the Google Tensor.
The result is a phone that's just about perfect in every way and, instead of being held back by compromise or poor decisions on Google's part, its biggest weaknesses are down to preference. It's one of the best Android smartphones you can buy right now — especially if cameras matter to you more than anything — and it represents an on-point Google we've simply never seen before. Everything from the software to the hardware feels like a purposeful, bespoke experience in a way that's truly magical.
The Google Pixel 6 Pro is the larger, more full-featured version of the Google Pixel 6. For $300 more than a standard Pixel 6, the Pixel 6 Pro features a larger screen with curved edges, more RAM, more maximum storage space, UWB radios, a higher-res front-facing camera, and a 4x telephoto lens on the back. It fits right along with what we've come to expect from the "Pro" version of a product, and it's the single best phone Google has ever made.
For our Pixel 6 Pro review, I used the Google Pixel 6 Pro 128GB in the Sorta Sunny colorway.
Google Pixel 6 Pro: Price and availability
The Google Pixel 6 Pro launched at $899 for the model with 128GB of storage. $999 upgraded that to 256GB of storage, while $1,099 ups the storage to 512GB. Once you've decided on the storage amount you'll need, you can choose from one of three colorways: Stormy Black, Cloudy White, and Sorta Sunnny.
You can buy the Pixel 6 Pro directly from Google, from major retailers like Amazon and Best Buy, or from your carrier of choice. As is the case with most phones these days, many carriers are running deals that will net you several hundred dollars off a Pixel 6 Pro.
All Pixel 6 Pro models ship with the capability to connect to 5G mmWave and sub-6 networks.
Google unveiled the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro at the Made by Google event on October 6, 2022. These phones are the official follow-up to the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro and are replacing them at retail. Additionally, Google will be offering the Pixel 7 series in more countries than the Pixel 6 was available in. Check out these amazing Pixel 7 deals, which likely make them cheaper than buying a Pixel 6 Pro at this point in time.
Google Pixel 6 Pro: Hardware and design
The Google Pixel 6 Pro represents Google's vision for a Pixel phone with top specs. At $300 more than the Pixel 6 with the same storage configuration, you'll be getting a larger, souped-up phone that will make more sense for some folks than others.
|Category||Google Pixel 6 Pro|
|Device name||Google Pixel 6 Pro|
|Operating System||Android 12|
|Display||6.7-inch, 1440 x 3120 resolution (512 ppi), LTPO OLED, 10-120Hz refresh rate|
|Storage||128GB, 256GB, or 512GB|
|Radios||Sub-6 5G, mmWave 5G,|
|Rear Camera||50MP, ƒ/1.85, 1.2μm (wide-angle)|
12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.25μm (ultra-wide)
48MP, ƒ/3.5, 0.8μm, 4x optical zoom (telephoto)
|Front Camera||11.1MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.22μm|
|Security||In-display fingerprint scanner|
30W Fast Charging
12-23W Wireless Charging
5W Reverse Wireless Charging
|Dimensions||163.9mm height x 75.9mm width x 8.9mm depth|
|Water and dust resistance||IP68|
|Colors||Stormy Black, Cloudy White, Sorta Sunny|
When putting the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro side-by-side, the backs look almost identical, with Pixel 6 Pro's taller forehead rising slightly more above the camera bar. In fact, if you actually sit them side by side, the camera bars align perfectly between the two models, showing just how much care Google has put into making the designs near-identical.
Google's striking design will undoubtedly turn heads. It's probably the most unique-looking phone of the year and certainly the most unique design Google has ever made for a Pixel.
The camera bar, in particular, is a bold design piece that feels like a natural evolution of the camera bar from the Nexus 6P. It's not just great-looking though, it's also much more utilitarian than a camera bump as it makes the device lay evenly on a surface when placed down. Conversely, most other camera bumps are usually off-center and end up making phones wobble when placed on a surface.
Similarly, Google reversed the side curve in-between the power and volume rocker buttons from a convex to a concave curve. This makes it easy to identify where the buttons are and make them easier to press without looking; another subtle design touch that shows quite a bit of thought went into every inch of the device.
It's also the most well-made Pixel the company has ever produced. The Pixel 6 Pro ups the glam factor by making everything very shiny, including the side rails — which are a matte color on the regular Pixel 6. The unfortunate side of the shine is that it also makes things very slippery. If you live in a colder climate, be sure to put a case on this one, as it's extremely easy to drop.
If I'm going to be nitpicky, there are a few areas where it becomes apparent that Google's build quality isn't 100% up to Samsung's. Upon closer inspection, you can see extremely slight gaps between the glass back meets the camera bar on my unit. The plastic bar at the top of the phone, which hides the mmWave antennas, also has very slight raised edges on my review unit where it meets the metal rails.
Android Central received a few different review units, and these tolerance levels appear to be different on each one. It's more than likely there's just a bit of variation in some units, and it could show that Google's quality control still needs a bit of work.
These are slight inconsistencies that I doubt most people will notice, but they show that Google still has a little bit of work to do. It's also worth noting that comparable phones — like the iPhone 13 Pro Max and Galaxy S21 Ultra — are $200-300 more than the Pixel 6 Pro with the same amount of storage. Corners most certainly had to be cut to achieve those more affordable prices.
The earpiece and bottom-facing speakers play sweet, sweet tones in conjunction to create a stereo experience despite the bezels being tiny around all four sides. The bottom bezel is the thickest one, making the phone slightly uneven if you're extremely OCD, but it likely isn't enough of a difference to bother most people.
As has been the case for a while, you'll only find a single USB Type-C connection on the phone and no other ports of any kind. The Pixel 6 Pro supports wireless charging and reverse wireless charging, so you can charge your wireless headphones or another device if needed.
Inside the phone is the most wonderful haptic feedback motor I've ever used on an Android phone. Of course, Google has long had excellent haptic motors since the Pixel 3, but this is a noticeable step up in quality. Every vibration feels wonderful and solid, and things like tapping on the keyboard feel much more thought out than a typical phone vibration motor.
Even after using phones like the Galaxy S22 Ultra in early 2022, it's clear that Google's use of haptic motors goes well above and beyond any other manufacturer's efforts.
Google Pixel 6 Pro: Display
Along the front is a curved display panel utilizing LTPO OLED technology. Like other phones with LTPO tech, the Pixel 6 Pro can change its refresh rate on the fly, dynamically adjusting between 10Hz on screens with no movement or animation and all the way up to 120Hz whenever movement occurs.
Google's use of LTPO OLED tech isn't quite as efficient as some other manufacturers, as the Pixel 6 Pro can only switch between 120Hz, 60Hz, and 10Hz depending on what's happening on screen.
If you've ever used a phone with a 120Hz display, you'll know just how incredibly smooth everything feels. It's hard to go back to 60Hz — which will happen automatically in battery saver mode — but it can be chosen if you prefer to prioritize longer battery life over an ultra-smooth experience.
The display gets plenty bright and is usually easy enough to see outside, but it doesn't hold up as well under extreme direct sunlight. That's because the display only reaches a peak of 800 nits brightness while other phones, like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, can reach a peak brightness of 1,500 nits. The average max brightness on both Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro is only 500 nits, a dim comparison to the 900+ nits of the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
But this is only a problem in direct sunlight, and Google has done an exceptional job of balancing HDR tones on the display while watching videos. Case in point, Netflix HDR content like The Witcher looks absolutely superb on the Pixel 6 Pro's display. It exhibits a wonderful color range, superbly bright highlights, and excellently detailed shadows without the black crush that some mobile OLED panels suffer from.
Phones with curved or "waterfall" displays often tend to have extreme color aberrations toward the edges of the glass curve, but, curiously, this one doesn't seem to suffer from such issues.
Even if you're not crazy about curved displays, this design at least makes it easier to use Google's gesture-based navigation, which is enabled out of the box for the Pixel 6.
Nestled within the bottom-third portion of the screen is an optical in-display fingerprint scanner, similar to phones from Samsung and OnePlus. Unfortunately for Google, this particular fingerprint scanner isn't very good, and I found it failing more often than I appreciated.
It's not terrible in the way many of the first-generation in-display fingerprint scanners were, but it's also not particularly great. Accuracy is a bit suspect at times and would fail even when I was indoors. Direct sunlight usually made the accuracy drop further, although it was usually when the sun hit the display at an angle.
I also found the sensor to be a bit slow when compared to other phones with similar tech. There's a noticeable one or two-second delay where you'll need to press and hold before it registers your fingerprint. It's most assuredly a far cry from the dedicated rear sensors Google has almost always used on Pixels (sans the Pixel 4, of course).
Since the phone's launch in Fall 2021, Google has tweaked and updated the fingerprint sensor several times, eventually getting it to a point where it's much more tolerable. It's still slower and less accurate than the ones found on Samsung's phones — and many other OEMs — but it's not nearly as problematic three months into 2022 as it was months ago when the phone launched.
Google Pixel 6 Pro: Software and performance
As the Pixel line has matured over the years, it has gained a number of exclusive features you won't find anywhere else. At the core of nearly all of these features is a reliance on AI — usually in the form of Google Assistant — which drives many convenient experiences.
Most of these experiences aren't Pixel 6-exclusive — specifically live captions, voice and speech translation, the recorder app that transcribes audio as it's being recorded, device search, call screening, quick phrases, and At a Glance — but Google has added a few enhancements that are powered by the Google Tensor processor.
In short, that means that most of these features you might have loved from previous Pixel phones are now using onboard processing instead of relaying it to the cloud all the time. That reduces the time it takes for a response and ensures that the phone is using the most private way to compute your visual and voice data.
One of the coolest new features is the ability to translate entire conversations in any supported messaging app. So if you happen to be using Android Messages, Whatsapp, Signal, Line, Twitter, Instagram, FB Messenger Lite, Google Chat, GroupMe, Snapchat, or Verizon Messenger — and also talking to someone who writes in another language — a special button will pop up on the screen that will translate messages from their language into yours.
At launch, English, French, Japanese, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, Hindi, Polish, and Russian are supported for this feature.
Google Assistant can now be used to dictate to in any app when using GBoard by either clicking the Assistant microphone button on the top-right of the keyboard or by saying "Hey Google, type." This makes it easy to simply speak to type in any app, a huge accessibility enhancement and, quite frankly, just darn convenient at times.
Google already held the honor of best phone spam filter in the business thanks to Google Assistant call screening, and now it's extending Assistant's reach to calls themselves, too.
Whenever you find yourself dialing a toll-free number and a menu is read aloud, Google Assistant will automatically transcribe that menu on your phone's display and place them in convenient buttons. That makes it ultra-easy to get through those annoying menus without having to remember the nuance differences between some options.
You can also ask Assistant to hold a call for you so that you don't have to wait for a live operator to pick up. That can be much better than the callback feature some call centers use in these scenarios.
The rest of the experience lies with Android 12, the brand new OS update Google launched just in time for the Pixel 6. Android 12 represents a clear vision for Android that we haven't seen since Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It gives Android an identity that it lost somewhere around the Android 9 Pie days and clearly has been a long time coming.
The visual identity of the Pixel feels like it's finally complete with the launch of Android 12 on the Pixel 6. From the moment you turn the phone on to every time you change the wallpaper, this phone feels wholly Pixel in every way. It's fast, snappy, gorgeous, and unique looking. Google has definitely figured out its look and feel, and I couldn't be happier to use what they've crafted.
Most of these new features — and even some old ones — are made better by Google's first chip, the Google Tensor. But if you were worried that Google might botch things and make a chip that performs worse or feels notably sluggish when compared to Qualcomm chips, don't be.
Nothing I used, whether it was scrolling quickly through Twitter or playing Call of Duty: Mobile, performed any differently than I would expect of a top-of-the-line chipset from Qualcomm.
During heavy use, I noticed the back and side rails of the phone do get a bit on the toasty side. It's nothing uncomfortable and likely won't be noticed if you have a case on, but it does make me wonder if situations could arise where the phone might turn apps off when it gets too hot.
Google Pixel 6 Pro: Battery
The massive 5,003mAh battery inside the Pixel 6 Pro basically ensures that, no matter how much you use your phone, it'll get you through a full day without needing a top-up. During the review period, I often got 5-6 hours of screen on time with several hours of background app usage and still made it to the end of the day with double-digits left.
One particularly heavy use day — where I compared the Pixel 6 Pro with the iPhone 13 Pro Max and several Samsung Galaxy phones — the Pixel 6 Pro sported over an hour of camera use and nearly five hours of screen on time and still had 9% left at bedtime. That's great since many phones will see significant battery drain with that much camera usage, yet the Pixel 6 Pro handled it without issue.
Light users will probably get around two days' battery life on a full charge. As I type this at 3 PM, the Pixel 6 Pro has been off the charger since 6 AM and still has 85% battery life left. I've also not left my keyboard much today and have only turned the screen on for less than an hour so far.
Google doesn't include a charger in the box — something that is certainly annoying when a phone supports a faster charging rate — but with the standard 18W Pixel charger, this phone had little issue topping up quickly.
If you do pick up one of the best 30W chargers to take advantage of that full speed, know that topping up should take around an hour to get the phone from zero to one-hundred percent.
Wireless charging has also seen a speed upgrade, but only when you put the Pixel 6 Pro on the new 2nd-gen Pixel Stand. When you use the Pixel Stand, the Pixel 6 Pro will charge wirelessly at 23W, or nearly double the 12W maximum for other wireless chargers.
Reverse wireless charging is also supported, making it easy to wirelessly charge a pair of supported Bluetooth headphones. Those headphones will need to support wireless charging, of course, but there are enough of them on the market to make this a useful feature.
My only complaint has nothing to do with the battery and everything to do with the battery statistics the phone delivers. Android 12 does a better job of delivering succinct info for individual apps that sap your battery life but a worse job of delivering a higher-level view of overall battery life.
It's one of those things that you can solve with a third-party app if it bothers you but, ultimately, is something most people won't care much about.
Google Pixel 6 Pro: Cameras
Over the years, Google has maintained the reputation of having phones that take the best pictures. In 2021, Apple and Samsung both finally caught up and even surpassed Google on some levels, but the Pixel 6 Pro pulls the rug right out from under those companies.
In short, the Pixel 6 Pro is the finest example of a smartphone camera you'll find anywhere. Some phones might give you interesting niche features — like Apple's Cinematic Mode or Sony's manual controls — but for the everyday user who just wants a phone that takes the absolute best pictures and video with the tap of a button, the Pixel 6 Pro will win every time.
Video is a new categoric win for Google but, for the sake of structural review tradition, I'll take a look at why Google has taken back the photography crown first.
For the first time since the Pixel 2, Google has upgraded the camera sensor hardware in its phones. In all technicality, Google has been using the same base sensor since the Nexus 6P, as the newer sensor only differs from that one by including optical image stabilization.
The new main sensor is a 50MP beast, capable of producing some truly remarkable fine detail in every situation. Not only that, but the sensor's ability to combine physical pixels together to form virtual pixels — plus Google's trademark computational photography prowess — means that you'll be getting the widest dynamic range of any phone we've yet tested.
Google has worked hard to achieve a proper white and color balance that remains unmatched in the industry, especially thanks to its new Real Tone algorithm changes to ensure every skin color is represented properly. Darker skin tones are often seen by camera algorithms simply as dark portions of the photograph that need to be lightened up.
Google purposefully worked to ensure that its algorithm doesn't treat skin tones this way and, as a result, photos from the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro represent real-world skin tones in a way we've never seen from a modern smartphone. Putting photos taken from the Pixel 6 Pro next to ones taken from an iPhone 13 Pro Max show this exact effect in action.
You can also view Tshaka's camera comparison results in the video review at the top of this page.
The iPhone — and many other phones — tend to lighten up darker skin tones more often when HDR kicks in and to a more extreme degree in low lighting situations. However, even in the most difficult lighting conditions proved no match for Google's impressive processing, which nailed the skin color in these photos while Apple's processing utterly failed.
A number of other new modes and features now also grace the Google Camera app, including the fabled Magic Eraser mode, which was first announced back in May 2017. Google is using the power of Tensor and its AI-processing capabilities to finally enable the feature. Although it's not quite as automated as Google may have initially made it out to be, it is a feature that will get plenty of use from people in the future.
You'll find the Magic Eraser function under the tools heading while editing any photo in Google Photos. Yes, this even includes photos not taken on a Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro. When first loading a photo, Tensor will scan the photo for any objects or people to remove from the background, then give you quick one-tap suggestions for what to remove.
Alternatively, you can manually highlight or circle objects to help Tensor identify objects in need of removal. Surprisingly, this even worked for objects in the foreground or other objects you might not normally want to remove but might find humorous. In this example, my friend has found himself missing, maybe not unlike Marty McFly in Back to the Future.
The feature isn't perfect, but it's a massive step in the right direction and a great example of how AI can simplify or enable tasks not otherwise possible. I compared Samsung Object Eraser to Google Magic Eraser and, to the surprise of very few, Google's results came out on top. Magic Eraser is a huge win for Google, and it's likely to only get better from here.
Tensor can also help deal with — or even enhance — motion blur in photos. The age-old problem of just trying to get a clear picture of your kids has finally been solved thanks to Face Unblur, which automatically identifies any faces in a scene and attempts to use the power of computational photography to, quite literally, unblur a moving human's face.
In practice, this worked absurdly well. I spent a busy afternoon with extended family during my review, taking photos of my son and his cousins, many of which were significantly enhanced (and now actually usable) thanks to face unblur.
Other times, you might want to add in a bit of purposeful blur to enhance the look of your photos. That's where Action Pan and Long Exposure modes come into play. Action Pan is designed to highlight a moving subject in extra crisp detail while simultaneously blurring the area around them to enhance the sense of movement. I tried this with my son while he was on the swing, and the results were nothing short of stunning.
Long Exposure flips the concept and, like Astro mode, is meant to be used while on a tripod. The phone will capture a scene with long exposures, balancing out the still parts — usually a city street or the woods around a river — and blend motion together to create light trails or soft water effects.
Both of these motion modes are impressive not just because of their results but because they are designed to be used free-hand. That means you'll just be holding the phone, no tripod required — a huge upgrade from other phones that might offer similar features.
It's something that's been done on other phones but, thanks to Google's excellent computational photography, is just better on Pixel 6.
Likewise, you'll find that Night Sight is even better than before. It can capture more light in less time than on previous Pixels, packs in more fine detail, and squeezes in even wider dynamic range. Again, the results tend to blow away the competition, no matter if it's at dusk, in dim restaurant lighting, or in pitch-black conditions.
Like the Pixel 5a, Night Sight is enabled automatically whenever the phone detects light under a certain lux level. This can be disabled with a tap if you so choose, but having Night Sight enable itself automatically ensures you get the best photo every time, no matter the lighting conditions.
The Pixel 6 Pro sports a new 4x optical telephoto lens — a first for a Pixel phone — and enables a maximum photo zoom of 20x and a maximum video zoom of 15x. As with the rest of the testing, the Pixel 6 Pro blew just about everything out of the water in our tests. In most scenarios, the only phones able to go toe-to-toe with it were the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and, by proxy, the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
With the introduction of the Galaxy S22 Ultra, Samsung has one-upped Google in zoom quality in many scenarios. During the day, the Galaxy S22 Ultra usually takes pulls out more detail than the Pixel 6 Pro when zooming in beyond 10x. That difference only magnifies itself by the Galaxy S22 Ultra's ability to zoom in up to 100x.
But Samsung's advantage drops significantly once lower lighting conditions are reached. Essentially, the darker a scene gets, the better Google's processing gets. Even though the Galaxy S22 Ultra has a 10x optical zoom lens for these distant shots — and the Pixel 6 Pro has a "mere" 4x lens — Google's superior AI-powered processing makes up for the physical gap.