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Pixel 6a, which was announced at Google I/O 2022, was 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. However, on paper it looks like it needs to because of its 60Hz refresh rate screen, lack of wireless charging, slow wired charging, no charging adapter in the box and limited and non-expandable 128GB of internal storage. But does the Google experience make up for these imperfections? Let’s find out:
Pixel 6a has a minimalist and refreshing design. It looks bold even though it doesn’t have any decorative element on it. It has a compact shape and a thin and light body. The smartphone is manageable and comfortable to hold and operate. It has a premium design with durable Gorilla Glass 3 on the front and a robust aluminum frame. The back is made of polycarbonate, which may disappoint some. However, with a glass-like texture and finish and the strength of plastic, this shouldn’t be a cause for concern. Finally, the Pixel 6a has an IP67 rating to protect against minor water and dust damage – something most of its peers lack.
Google Pixel 6a
Display and sound
Audio and visuals affect the 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 with a 60Hz refresh rate. The screen is bright and remains legible even in bright outdoor conditions. The brightness is complemented by class-leading contrast that elevates the visual experience and pairs well with the phone’s “Material You” interface. Some users may find the 60Hz screen refresh rate overwhelming, and they may not be wrong. But for what it’s worth, the screen is responsive and provides a smooth experience.
Sound is covered by dual stereo speakers. Although the speakers are loud and clear, they have a mild bass response. Additionally, there is a noticeable volume imbalance between the right and left channels in horizontal orientation. That said, the sound quality is nothing to write home about. However, it is 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 stabilization on the primary sensor. There is an 8MP camera sensor on the front. While not megapixels, Google’s computational imaging algorithms support the camera system, and that makes a difference in performance.
The star of the show is the primary sensor, which is calibrated to capture natural colors. Captures detailed images regardless of lighting conditions with appropriate white balance and contrast details.
It focuses quickly and there is no shutter lag, but it takes some time to process images afterwards. Likewise, photos taken from the 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 the ultra-wide-angle sensor is acceptable, but its narrow field of view fails to capture the essence of the wide-angle frame. The front camera is good, but not the best you’ll get in the mid-range smartphone segment.
In addition to computational photography, the Pixel 6a brings a host of value-added features for a new imaging experience. For example, the new Blur and Magic Eraser tools in the photo editor. The former adds a blur effect to the frame and provides depth settings for matching results, the latter helps in eliminating unwanted objects from the frame. Both of these tools work seamlessly and are great additions to enhance the experience.
When it comes to video recording, the Pixel 6a is capable of recording 4K videos at up to 60 frames per second. However, 60 frames per second is limited to the primary sensor. The ultra-wide-angle sensor does 4K, but at 30 frames per second. However, both rear camera sensors can do 1080p at 60fps.
For Google’s first chip, the Tensor is capable, but it’s not much. It is capable because it works well with every app, feature and tool created by Google. For example, the phone’s built-in voice recorder enables automatic transcription and audio search functions. These features work seamlessly and don’t require internet services thanks to Tensor. In terms of performance, Tensor is good for most things except gaming. Not that it bothers, but graphically demanding titles like Genshin Impact are best experienced with only medium graphics.
The Pixel 6a rolls out Android 12 with the “Material You” interface, which brings new widgets, fonts and customizable color themes. The software experience on the Pixel 6a is smooth. The cherry on top is Google’s promised five years of security updates and three years of major software version updates. The Pixel 6a will also be among the first Android smartphones to receive the upcoming Android 13.
The Pixel 6a is powered by a 4,410 mAh battery and can easily last a full day on a single charge. The good battery life compensates for the slow cable charging (max. 18 W), which takes about two hours to top up a fully discharged battery. Importantly, the phone only comes with a USB-C cable and the supported fast charging adapter is a separately sold accessory. There’s no wireless charging, which is fine for a phone in the mid-premium segment, but adding it would give it a few extra points over other smartphones.
The Pixel 6a skimps on essentials like a high-refresh screen, expandable storage, etc. that one expects from a mid-premium smartphone, yet it turns out to be a strong package backed by a seamless user experience. The smartphone doesn’t have a strong price-to-spec ratio, but that doesn’t hinder its performance capabilities. From an experience perspective, the phone is a complete package with something in store for everyone.