Subscriber OnlyTechnology

Google Pixel 6 Pro: A world apart from its predecessors

New smartphone feels like a premium device with its excellent camera and Tensor chip

Pixel 6 Pro
    
Price: €899
Where To Buy:

If you've been following the evolution of Google's Pixel smartphone range, one thing should be clear: the new Google Pixel 6 Pro is a world apart from its predecessors. And it's not just because it is the first of its smartphones to have the Google designed Tensor chip that gives the new phones some serious smarts when it comes to artificial intelligence, or that Google has also included its new Titan M2 security chip to help protect users from phishing attacks and other threats.

It also feels more like a high-end phone. Whereas the Pixel 5 was a good mid-range phone made with mid-range materials, the Pixel 6 Pro feels like a premium device. It has Gorilla Glass Victus on the front of the 6.7 inch OLED display, with the 11.1 megapixel selfie camera merely a hole punch in the screen. The rear of the phone is also Gorilla Glass Victus, which is said to be its toughest yet – although I didn’t fancy testing out that theory with the drop test.

The Pixel 6 Pro, the larger of the two Pixels announced, is eye-catching. Google’s first proper flagship smartphone has made a feature out of something that most smartphone makers are trying to blend in; instead of trying to hide the camera array, Google has put a very obvious and large camera bar across the back of its devices.

It’s not as off-putting as it sounds. Does my phone lie flat on the desk? Not yet but once you put a case on it (arriving imminently) that camera bar smooths out, so it becomes a design feature rather than a nuisance.


The design, of course, will be pure Marmite and will have its share of haters. But honestly, I like it. Plus it houses a fairly good camera set-up – a 50 megapixel primary camera that includes image stabilisation, a telephoto lens with a 48 megapixel sensor, and a 12 megapixel ultra wide lens. It has 4x optical zoom and 20x digital zoom for when you need to get up close to the action. There is also an LED flash and some sensors packed into the bar.

The cameras have some interesting features too. At the launch Google was keen to stress its inclusive credentials, with the camera better trained to recognise and reflect different skin tones more accurately, particularly for people of colour through its Real Tone feature.

The other handy feature is the Magic Eraser that will help you remove some – not all – unwanted objects from the background of your photos with a few swipes. It is a bit of editing magic; if you knew your way around an editing package, you would be able to get the same result with a bit of effort but it’s the accessibility of the tool that appeals.

The portrait mode works well too, blurring out the background to get the bokeh effect but giving users control over the strength of it. That’s before you get to the astrophotography and the face unblur option, just in case your subject is a little smudged.

But why opt for the Pixel 6 Pro and not the cheaper Pixel 6? The latter is a great phone but the Pro offers a few additional features, including an extra camera on the rear, a bigger screen and a higher refresh rate on the display, up to 120 Hz. That puts it on a par with the iPhone 13 Pro, the Samsung S21 and other high-end rivals.

The refresh rate is bumped down from the top 120Hz when it isn’t needed to preserve battery life, which holds up well. The Pixel 6 Pro battery is a massive 5000 mAh, which in real terms is more than a day of use.

You also get 12GB of RAM in the Pro versus the 8GB in the Pixel 6, and the choice to increase the storage to 512GB instead of 128GB or 256GB.

The good

As far as premium smartphones go, the Pixel 6 Pro stacks up well: Android 12 out of the box, an excellent camera and artificial intelligence that will help you translate speech in real time when needed. The work on the Real Tone feature should win the Pixel 6 a lot of fans, and simple tools such as the Magic Eraser and Face Unblur will help make something usable out of previously unsalvageable photos.

The Pixel 6 Pro comes with five years of security updates too, which will keep your phone as safe as possible from any vulnerabilities found in software.

The not so good

Once again, there is no expandable storage. That may push more people to sign up for Google One and pay the small fee for expanding cloud storage, but it’s irritating.

Google has also followed Apple in not including the charging plug in the box. If you want to take advantage of one of the Pixel's most useful features – charging up to 50 per cent in 30 minutes – you will have to buy the compatible 30W charger from the Google Store.

The rest

The Pixel 6 Pro is available in three colours and Google has named them with (I assume) tongue firmly in cheek: Sorta Sunny, which is yellow; the gray-black Stormy Black; and Cloudy White. Stormy Black is the only crossover with the Pixels 6, with the other two colours Sorta Seafoam and Kinda Coral.

The Pixel 6 Pro’s fingerprint reader is under the screen; Google has skipped the facial recognition option again.

The Pixel 6 Pro also includes wireless charging and the ability to turn your phone into a power bank for other similarly enabled devices, which is handy in an emergency.

The verdict

Easily Google’s best Pixel yet and it undercuts the competition on price.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist