The Pixel 6 Pro is Google’s first attempt at a proper flagship smartphone as the tech giant looks to rival the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S22 and the iPhone 13.
However, despite its flagship specifications - which includes a large 6.7-inch 120Hz display, Google’s all-new custom Tensor chip and an excellent triple-camera setup on its rear - the Google Pixel 6 Pro isn’t as expensive as many of its competitors. The Android 12 device can be picked up from £849 SIM-free, while a higher-spec 256GB will set you back £949.
The fact that you’ll get change from a grand doesn’t mean you should rush out and buy the Pixel 6 Pro, as it’s not without its flaws. The handset’s longevity is somewhat lacking despite its 5,000mAh battery, and its unusual design is unlikely to appeal to the masses.
Google Pixel 6 Pro: First impressions and design
The Pixel 6 Pro’s design will certainly turn heads, but not necessarily in a good way. While it’s refreshing to see Google doing something different, the handset’s mixed metal and glass design is somewhat jarring. We weren’t too keen on the aesthetic and found it often made the phone awkward to hold comfortably.
Adding to the handset’s awkwardness is the slippery nature of the rear chassis. This means if it’s wet or your hands are sweaty, the Pixel 6 Pro is likely to slide right out. It’s also a fingerprint magnet, and we found ourselves reaching for a microfibre cloth after just minutes of clasping the handset. If you’re thinking of buying this smartphone, we’d recommend you pop it straight into a case.
Thankfully, if you do have any accidents, the Google Pixel 6 Pro is IP68 certified, which means it’s plenty durable enough, as well as offering resistance against dust, dirt, sand and water. The handset is also crafted from super-tough materials including aluminium and Gorilla Glass, so it’s unlikely to suffer any real damage if it slides out of your hand or off a table.
In terms of size, the Google Pixel 6 Pro is… big. It measures in at 163.9 x 75.9 x 8.9mm, which means you’ll struggle to squeeze it into a skinny jean pocket, and is heavier than most of its competitors at 210g. While this means it won’t appeal to those after a compact, lightweight smartphone, it does give the Pixel 6 Pro an overall solid and high-end feel.
Inside the Pixel 6 Pro’s polarising chassis, which is available in Stormy Black, Cloudy White, and Sorta Sunny colourways, you’ll find its standout feature: a 6.71-inch OLED 3120x1440 display with a dynamic refresh rate up to 120Hz. While some will find it difficult to operate the screen with one hand, it is sure to impress when it comes to visuals. Brightness levels are impressive even in direct sunlight, both colours and deep blacks pop, and scrolling and gaming are super-smooth thanks to the 120Hz refresh rate.
Unfortunately, we weren’t so won over by the in-display fingerprint scanner - the first to feature on a Pixel device. We found it more fiddly to operate than the sensors on the Galaxy S21 or the OnePlus 9 Pro 5G, for example, and it also seemed to function more slowly. There’s no Face Unlock functionality on the Pixel 6 Pro, either, which means you have a choice between the somewhat glitchy fingerprint sensor or manually entering a PIN to unlock.
Elsewhere on the Pixel 6 Pro, won’t find any ports or sensors on the phone beyond its USB-C charging port. There’s no headphone jack, microSD slot or IR sensor. Instead, you’re greeted with the bare minimum: power buttons and volume rockers on the left of the chassis and a SIM card tray on the right.
Google Pixel 6 Pro: Camera review
Google’s Pixel smartphones have long been considered among the best camera phones on the market, making even owners of the latest iPhone green with envy. The Pixel 6 Pro is no different, and Google claims the triple-camera setup, which has been designed to complement the handset’s improved software algorithms and Tensor SoC, is the most advanced to feature on a Pixel smartphone.
The Google Pixel 6 Pro features a 50MP main sensor that lets in 150% more light, according to Google, a 12MP ultrawide camera with a 114-degree field of view, and a 48MP telephoto lens with 4x optical zoom. The Pixel 6 Pro can go up to a 20x digital zoom, with Google’s AI-powered Super Res Zoom stepping in to help clean up final images.
The main camera is one of the very best on a smartphone, capturing a stunning amount of detail no matter the lighting conditions. Images are generally well-balanced and not over-saturated, a gripe we have with many Android smartphones. The photos offer a great level of vibrancy that looks great on the handset’s pin-sharp display.
The telephoto camera is also one of the best available on the market. While most handsets struggle to produce zoomed-in images without sacrificing image quality, the Google Pixel 6 Pro was able to shoot detailed, well-lit images at 4x zoom. It beats the Galaxy S21’s 5x and 10x optical zoom and the iPhone 13’s 3x zoom.
Thanks to Google’s new Tensor chip, there are also a bunch of new AI features to help you improve and touch up your images. Our favourite is Magic Eraser, an impressive tool built into the camera app that lets you remove unwanted items from the background of your photos. While it’s by no means perfect – we found some images could look slightly glitchy - it’s an impressive feat of engineering.
Google Pixel 6 Pro: Performance and battery life
The Pixel 6 Pro is the first smartphone to feature Google’s custom silicon in the form of the Tensor chip. The six-core chip has been designed with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in mind. Google has boasted that the processor is a “state of the art” SoC that has allowed it to bring completely new features to its Pixel smartphone series. This includes Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and Live Translate.
The Tensor chip also impresses when it comes to raw performance. In the Geekbench 5 benchmarking test, the Google Pixel 6 Pro racked up a single-core score of 1,011 and a multi-core score of 2,589, making it roughly 75% faster than the last-generation Pixel 5. It fails to match the likes of the Galaxy S21 or OnePlus 9 in terms of benchmarking numbers, but it felt just as slick during our hands-on time with the device.
It isn’t just the hardware that’s seen a significant overhaul, as the Google Pixel 6 Pro also comes with Android 12. And it has an all-new look and feel thanks to Google’s new “Material You” design language. There are a bunch of new homescreen widgets, and the operating software (OS) will now change dominant colours to match your wallpaper.
There’s also a more minimalist layout that changes everything from the System menu to the lockscreen, notifications, and quick settings tray. We found it much more visually attractive than Android 11, and were also pleased to see the addition of new privacy-focused features such as camera and microphone indicators.
Naturally, there are also a host of new AI features on the Pixel 6 Pro thanks to its new Tensor chip. Google Assistant has picked up enhanced voice typing that can let you do things like insert emojis and spell out words. And Google’s much-hyped Live Translate now lets you point the camera at a sign in another language and see it translated in near real-time.
While we were impressed with the Pixel 6 Pro’s Tensor-fuelled AI features, we were disappointed when it came to battery life. While the Pixel 6 Pro packs a 5,000mAh battery - the largest ever squeezed into a Pixel device – we found it fell short in terms of real-world longevity. It lasted around 10 hours in our battery test and struggled to make it through an entire day of usage.
Google’s charging options are also somewhat lacklustre. While many Android smartphones now offer super-fast, 15-minute charging, the Pixel 6 Pro remains limited to 18W charging. Which means it’ll take at least an hour to rejuice the smartphone from zero to full. This falls to 12W if you charge the Pixel 6 Pro using a standard Qi wireless charger.
Value and verdict
The Google Pixel 6 Pro is available in the UK from £849 SIM-free, and can be picked up on a pay monthly contract from less than £40 per month.
Although it has its pitfalls, the Pixel 6 Pro is worth the money. The handset is one of the best Android camera phones we’ve tested, and the 6.7-inch OLED screen is one of the most vibrant and punchy we’ve used. Performance, fuelled by Google’s custom Tensor chip, is also impressive and brings a bunch of innovative AI features to the handset that you won’t find elsewhere.
Sure, the battery life is lacking, and the fingerprint scanner isn’t great. But at around £300 less than most other Android flagships on the market, the Pixel 6 Pro is an excellent option.