Nothing phone (1) vs. Google Pixel 6a

There has never been a better time to buy a mid-range phone, and the latest offering from Google reinforces that notion. The Pixel 6a comes with high-end internals and fantastic cameras, and it delivers clean software without any bloatware. For its part, Nothing did a great job with the phone (1), delivering a device with a unique design, clean software, and useful extras. So if you're in the market for a new phone and unable to decide between the phone (1) and Pixel 6a, here's what you need to know. 

Nothing phone (1) vs. Pixel 6a: Design

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Nothing phone (1) vs. Google Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

With the phone (1), Nothing set out to create a phone with a unique design, and it managed to do just that. The see-through design at the back makes the device stand out in a sea of similar-looking phones, and the addition of LEDs gives it a lot of flair. It's clear that a lot of thought went into the design of the phone (1), and the result is a device that is sure to turn heads.

Both phones have striking designs, but the phone (1) stands out a bit more thanks to its see-through aesthetic.

Nothing also did a great job with the materials, and the phone (1) has an aluminum mid-frame that's sandwiched between two panes of glass. The white version I'm using looks very elegant and shows off the internals really well, and there's also a black option on offer. The LEDs at the back light up for incoming notifications and calls, and they double up as a fill light when using the cameras — a nifty addition. There isn't any customizability here, and other than using the fill light mode, I didn't get much usage out of the LEDs.

As for the Pixel 6a, Google did a great job carrying over the design from the standard Pixel 6 series. The phone has a similar design language with a full-width camera bar at the back, but this time around, it doesn't protrude as much. As a result, the Pixel 6a doesn't have any wobble when laid flat on a surface, and that's always a good thing.

I'm using the Charcoal variant of the Pixel 6a, and while it also has a two-tone design, it isn't anywhere as striking as the Sage or Chalk colors. The Pixel 6a also has an aluminum mid-frame, but the back is polycarbonate. That isn't a big deal as devices like the Galaxy S21 FE and the Galaxy S22 also come with a polycarbonate back, but I would have liked to see a matte texture that isn't as prone to smudges.

The Pixel 6a is smaller and easier to hold and use, and you get IP67 ingress protection.

Coming to in-hand feel, the Pixel 6a is the better choice by far. The phone (1) has dimensions of 159.2 x 75.8 x 8.3mm, with the Pixel 6a coming in at 152.2 x 71.8 x 8.9mm. The fact that the Pixel 6a isn't as tall means it is great for one-handed use, but it's the width that makes a huge difference in daily use — the phone (1) feels too wide next to the 6a.

Both devices have flat sides, but the Pixel 6a has subtle curves where the back meets the mid-frame, and that makes it just that little bit easier to hold and use the phone. At 178g, the Pixel 6a is also 15g lighter than the phone (1), and you can easily make out the difference when using both devices side-by-side. 

I don't like that Google puts the power button above the volume rocker on its phones; it just makes accessing the button that much more awkward. But that isn't as big an issue on the 6a thanks to its smaller size. 

Google also wins out in terms of ingress protection, with the Pixel 6a offering IP67 dust and water resistance as standard. The phone (1), meanwhile, gets an IP53 rating, and while that's good enough for the occasional splash of water, it doesn't cover full immersion.

Nothing phone (1) vs. Pixel 6a: Screen

Nothing phone (1) vs. Google Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

The phone (1) has an interesting flexible OLED panel that allows the phone to have uniform bezels around the screen, and that makes the device that much more elegant. That's not the case with the Pixel 6a, with the phone sporting a sizeable chin at the bottom.

Both phones deliver good color vibrancy and contrast levels, and the Pixel 6a gets slightly brighter.

As for the screen size itself, the phone (1) has a considerably larger 6.55-inch OLED panel with an FHD+ (2400 x 1080) resolution, with Google offering a more manageable 6.1-inch AMOLED with the same FHD+ resolution. The phone (1) has a layer of Gorilla Glass 5 over the screen, while you get Gorilla Glass 3 for the Pixel 6a. You get stereo sound as standard on both devices, and it's decent enough for streaming videos.

Both phones have good color vibrancy and contrast levels, and using them side-by-side, I found the Pixel 6a to have slightly better colors and brightness level. The Pixel 6a has a basic always-on mode, and you can see the time and date, weather, battery charge level, and unread notification icons. There's no customizability here, and this particular feature is identical to what you'll find on the phone (1) as well — just with Nothing's dot matrix font.

Nothing phone (1) vs. Google Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

The phone (1) has a 120Hz refresh rate, and you can switch between 60Hz or 120Hz modes. The main drawback with the Pixel 6a is that it is limited to a 60Hz refresh. I can't remember the last Android device I used that had a 60Hz screen; even budget phones these days come with 90Hz or 120Hz as standard, and for a phone in the mid-range category to have a 60Hz panel feels like a shortsighted move from Google.

The Pixel 6a has the distinction of being the only Android phone I used this year with a 60Hz panel — Google should have done better here.

The Pixel 6a isn't slow by any metric — it is in fact considerably faster than the phone (1) — but because of the 60Hz screen, you miss out on that fluidity that is a mainstay on every other mid-range phone. Using the Pixel 6a next to the phone (1) makes it clear just how much of a difference a high refresh rate screen makes in day-to-day use. All interactions are nearly instantaneous, and there's no jitter or delay whatsoever — and this is from a device that has distinctly inferior hardware to the Pixel 6a.

I can't help but feel that the Pixel 6a has been hobbled as a result of this decision, and that Google should have added at least a 90Hz panel here; it just doesn't make sense for a device of this caliber to be limited to 60Hz.

Nothing phone (1) vs. Pixel 6a: Performance

Nothing phone (1) vs. Google Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

The phone (1) doesn't differ too much to its immediate rivals on the hardware side of things. The phone is powered by Qualcomm's 6nm Snapdragon 778G+, and it is a known quantity. You get four Cortex A78 cores and four A55 cores, with a single A78 core running at 2.5GHz and the other three at 2.4GHz, and the four A55 cores at 2.0GHz. The Adreno 642L is decent enough for gaming, but it isn't suited for visually-demanding titles.

The Pixel 6a is among the fastest Android phones in this category, with Google offering the same Tensor hardware that you'll find on its flagship phones.

Things are much more interesting with the Pixel 6a. The phone features Google's custom Tensor platform, the same as the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. That means you get the same level of performance as Google's high-end phones, and the best part is that Google hasn't underclocked or otherwise altered the Tensor design in any way here. Like the Pixel 6 series, you get two Cortex X1 cores at 2.80GHz, two A76 cores at 2.25GHz, and four A55 cores at 1.8GHz.

The Mali-G78 has the same set of 20 shader cores as well, ensuring the Pixel 6a delivers outstanding gaming performance. Before we delve into day-to-day use, let's take a look at a few synthetic workloads.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategoryNothing phone (1)Google Pixel 6a
CrossMark (Overall) 747846
Productivity793854
Creativity657839
Responsiveness918845
Geekbench 5.1 (single-core)8211038
Geekbench 5.1 (multi-core)29152852
3DMark Wild Life (score)25795921
3DMark Wild Life (FPS)15.435.4
3DMark Wild Life Extreme (score)6981749
3DMark Wild Life Extreme (FPS)4.210.5

The Cortex X1 cores do a great job in day-to-day use, but most of the time, the phone relies on the A76 and the A55 cores. That's evident with the scores, with the X1 giving the Pixel 6a a distinct edge over the phone (1) and its A78 cores — the single-core scores are in line with the best Android phones

The Pixel 6a in general posts better scores across the board for single- and multi-core workloads, and that's noticeable in daily use as well. But it's the gaming side of things where the Pixel 6a pulls into a considerable lead — it's safe to say that this is among the best mid-range phones for gaming. And with games limited to 60fps, the screen isn't a limitation. 

I didn't see any lag or slowdowns with the Pixel 6a, and after using several Pixel A devices with underwhelming hardware, it's great to see Google offer this level of performance on its mid-range phone.

The phone (1) does a decent job in its own right, but it is found to be lacking on the gaming front. It is still a good choice for casual gaming and day-to-day use, but it isn't as good as the Pixel 6a in this particular regard. On that front, the Pixel 6a has a much better vibration motor as well, and you get the ability to adjust the intensity of the feedback. The phone (1) has a powerful motor, but there's no way to fine-tune the feedback, and it's set to its highest setting all the time.

Nothing phone (1) vs. Google Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Both phones have optical in-screen modules, and they're slow. For what it's worth, the Pixel 6a is a smidgen faster and more reliable than the Pixel 6 Pro, but it isn't on par with the Galaxy A53 or other mid-range phones. Similarly, the phone (1) tends to take a little longer than necessary to authenticate, and it serves up a lot of errors. Of the two, the phone (1) is just a little bit faster than the Pixel 6a — when it works. 

Coming to the rest of the hardware, the phone (1) has 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage as standard, and there's a 12GB/256GB model available as well. The Pixel 6a, meanwhile, comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Google should have rolled out an 8GB/256GB variant here. 

Things are on an equal footing on the connectivity front, with both devices featuring Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, and NFC. I didn't see any issues with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity, and both devices held up just fine in day-to-day use. The phone (1) has dual-SIM connectivity as standard, with the Pixel 6a limited to a single SIM. If you need to use a second SIM with the phone, you'll need to go the eSIM route.

Nothing phone (1) vs. Pixel 6a: Battery