Google Pixel 6 Pro review: Magically erasing Pixels' past

One year later, the Pixel 6 Pro is a better phone than ever.

Google Pixel 6 Pro Back
(Image: © Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

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.

Pros

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    Stunning, unique design

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    Cameras are a generational leap forward

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    Best haptic motors in the business

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    120Hz LTPO OLED is buttery smooth

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    Tensor is an AI-processing beast

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    New Pixel-exclusive features are a meaningful addition

Cons

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    Not as customizable as some other Android flavors

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    Curved screen is challenging for screen protectors

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    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

Google Pixel 6 Pro With Box

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab), 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.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategoryGoogle Pixel 6 Pro
Device nameGoogle Pixel 6 Pro
Operating SystemAndroid 12
Display6.7-inch, 1440 x 3120 resolution (512 ppi), LTPO OLED, 10-120Hz refresh rate
ChipsetGoogle Tensor
Memory12GB
Storage128GB, 256GB, or 512GB
Expandable StorageNo
RadiosSub-6 5G, mmWave 5G,
Rear Camera50MP, 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 Camera11.1MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.22μm
SecurityIn-display fingerprint scanner
Battery5003mAh
30W Fast Charging
12-23W Wireless Charging
5W Reverse Wireless Charging
Dimensions163.9mm height x 75.9mm width x 8.9mm depth
Weight210g
Water and dust resistanceIP68
ColorsStormy 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.

The camera bar doesn't just look great. It also serves the purpose of keeping the phone stable when placed down, unlike a camera bump.

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 $200-300 lower price than the comparable iPhone or Galaxy can be seen in a few extremely minor build inconsistencies.

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.

The Pixel 6 Pro's haptic motors are the best on any Android phone.

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

Google Pixel 6 Pro Display Home Green

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

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.

The 120Hz display is superbly smooth but doesn't feature as many refresh rate stops as Samsung or OnePlus displays.

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.

Google Pixel 6 Pro Display Pool Water

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

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.

The curved display is a bane for screen protectors but a boon for gesture navigation

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.

Google Pixel 6 Fingerprint Scanner Close

Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

The in-display fingerprint scanner is one of the only things I actively dislike about the Pixel 6 Pro.

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

Google Pixel 6 Pro Nexus Wallpaper

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

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.

The core of Google's Pixel 6 software features revolve around reliance on AI, of which Tensor is an extremely capable processing partner.

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.