Google Pixel 6a review: Budget smartphone design, cameras, battery life


For the past week I’ve been testing Google’s newest budget smartphone, the Pixel 6a. And although the ‘affordable’ phone comes in at $749, it shares a lot of features with Google’s premium $999 Pixel 6 smartphone.

Unboxing and design

The phone comes in three fresh colours including ‘Sage’, which is a light green, ‘Chalk’ which is white with a grey accent and ‘Charcoal’ which is a predominantly dark grey. I got my hands on Sage, which has to be my favourite.

There was a similar colourway on the Google Pixel 6 called Seafoam and it looks just as good on this budget phone. In fact, the device looks like they took a shrink ray to the Google Pixel 6. It’s identical at a glance, with the same FHD+ OLED display and in-screen fingerprint reader, with only a visible difference in its size.

The Pixel 6a has a 6.1” display in comparison to the Pixel 6’s 6.4” screen. And even though the Pixel 6 has a more premium glass back housing, the Google Pixel 6a is indistinguishable even though it’s only made of plastic.

Looks-wise, you’re certainly getting to flaunt the illusion of owning a premium phone for a more affordable price point.

Unfortunately, you get the same in-the-box contents that’s become the norm with premium phones though, meaning no charging brick in the box. All you get is the phone, a USB-C charging cable and a USB-A to USB-C adaptor. Google sells their fast charging USB-C adaptor separately at check out.

Cameras

The Google Pixel 6a has a strip on the back of the phone that houses the cameras and protrudes from the device. I kind of dig this design as it means the phone is balanced when placed camera-side down on a table, whereas some phones wobble due to balancing on the cameras that are positioned to one side.

There are two back cameras including a 12.2 MP wide camera and a 12 MP ultrawide camera. And although these can’t really compete with many phones in this price bracket, Google’s in-camera tech allows for high quality photos with balanced, bright, true to life colours.

Even though these lenses are somewhat outdated, traditionally the Pixel’s camera hardware in tandem with its software has always brought about great results and it’s the same for the 6a. Nightmode is especially impressive and the camera performs well in all conditions.

On the front you get a reasonable selfie camera too. It’s only 8 megapixels but believe it or not it’s the same front camera that’s in the premium Pixel 6.

Tech specs

There are a couple of notable sacrifices you’ll make with this more budget phone and that’s a 60hz refresh rate. If you don’t know what that means then honestly, you probably won’t notice the difference.

On the flip side, if you’ve experienced a higher refresh rate on a phone such as 90Hz on the Pixel 6, you’ll notice the phone doesn’t scroll as ‘smoothly’.

Additionally, there’s only 6GB of ram in the phone so, technically, it has a little less processing power but it’s not really noticeable with Google’s new Tensor chip.

This is the same chip in, not only the Pixel 6, but Pixel 6 Pro. It allows the phone to perform awesome new features such as live translate, which lets you chat in 11 languages in real time. Additionally, the phone is launched with Android 12, the latest operating system.

Battery life

You can’t share your battery with others with this phone but you can keep the battery going for over 24 hours, or at least that’s what Google quotes.

The phone has an adaptive battery that’s able to learn how you use your device and will turn lesser used apps off in the background to save battery life.

I found that over time, my battery was able to consistently last around 20 hours if I didn’t spend too much time binging video content.

And if you’re in a pinch you’re also able to use the ‘Extreme Battery Saver’ to bump up the battery life (but only really to keep it alive for that last phone call or Uber ride to get you home).

Should you buy it?

This is a great phone, but I do miss the headphone jack that was previously seen on the Google Pixel 5a 5G.

There are some new software features that do set the Pixel 6a apart from its predecessor, including the Tensor processor. However, I’m a big fan of the rugged plastic, slim, design of the previous Pixel 5a, which I still think holds up really well.

Overall, this is a sleek little 5G Pixel 6 clone, which does a great job of offering you the latest and greatest performance and style of the Pixel 6 on a budget. So, if you want to stand out from the crowd but still save some cash then the $749 Pixel 6a is where it’s at.

Elly Awesome is an Aussie tech and lifestyle vlogger | @ellyawesometech | YouTube

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