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My week with Pixel 6: An honest review

Woman holding Pixel 6 looking out a window

Thinking of buying yourself a new Google Pixel 6? Well, I’ve had the chance to spend a couple of weeks with the phone and I’m here to tell you my honest opinion. Yes, full disclosure, we sell the Pixel 6 in the Ting Shop, but the only phone we want you to buy is the one that’s right for YOU.

This is a big phone for Google, really. It’s got a brand new chip inside that’s purpose-built for the Pixel 6, and it’s certainly more premium-looking than previous Pixels, yet prices start at a pretty reasonable $599. 

It’s also got a whole new camera system. Like, actual new hardware. Google has been pretty much using the same sensor system since the Pixel 2 and relied on software trickery to improve from phone to phone up to this point. 

And it has an all-day adaptive battery. Which I truly found to be all day and then some. Admittedly, I spend most of my workday on my laptop rather than my phone, but I could go to bed most nights with the phone’s battery still at 60%.

Let’s get into the gritty, tell-all part of it now because that all felt like a lot of Google marketing hype. Oh, and if you think I have missed any important aspects in my review, drop us a comment below or a message on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and I can always add more details.

Through the looking glass

First thought after taking the phone out of the box is that it’s definitely a more premium-looking phone than Pixels of the past. The Pixel 6’s look and feel keep up with Apple’s and Samsung’s high-end phones thanks to the almost completely glass body.

But my oh my, that glass makes it slippy! It actually slipped off my couch just once, but there were four to five other close calls. I haven’t done a proper drop test, but you will be glad to know that the glass is Gorilla Glass [read: strong, scratch-resistant glass], front and back.

The Pixel 6 also has a 6.4″ FHD+ Smooth Display with a high 90 Hz refresh rate. Colors here are really vibrant, and the phone does a great job of responding to the light around you, brightening the screen so you can even see in direct sunlight. I found it really responsive during gameplay, too. 

The fingerprint sensor behind the display isn’t as quick as when Google placed it on the back of phones, but we’re talking milliseconds and maybe that’ll improve with software updates.

Mega-Pixel

Now onto what has really defined Pixels of the past: photography.

As mentioned earlier, Google is really trying to up the ante here with new 50 MP wide-angle and 12 MP ultrawide lenses on the back, plus an 8 MP front camera. These new camera lenses mean you capture a lot of light, and when it’s really dark, you can use Night Sight to artificially brighten your photo to be more in line with what your eye would see.

In terms of brand new tricks, the Magic Eraser tool has to get an honorable mention. This is a feature with a lot of hype, and while you won’t be using it on every photo you take, it is a handy tool to have when an almost perfect image has a  random person or annoying blemish in the background. Magic Eraser will preselect some objects that it thinks you want to get rid of, and you can also pick your own. Then, it will replace the objects with what it thinks is behind them. The plainer the backdrop, the better the result. But still impressive.

The Motion features are also excellent additions. The Long Exposure option gives you a classic trailing tail light shot, while the Action Pan keeps one moving object in focus and blurs the static background.

Long Exposure won’t be anything new for folks used to photography with a non-smartphone camera, but it’s a nice addition that you don’t really see on other phones. And Action Pan is fantastic once you get used to how close to your subject you need to be and how fast that subject can be moving. It’s no match for my sprinting Corgi in a condo apartment.

Long Exposure shot

All in all, the camera system is punching above the phone’s $599 price tag. Pretty much every photo you take will come out looking crisp and well lit (maybe a little too crisp for those not used to Google’s image processing practices), and there are tools to manually correct the ones that don’t.

Gaming

When I wrote a review for the Pixel 4a last year, I rightfully got critique from some readers for not mentioning gaming. That’s a fair point because smartphones are being used for gaming a lot more these days thanks to bigger screens and 5G capabilities.

I gave a couple of Stadia games a go, mostly the off-road racing game DIRT 5. The cool thing about Stadia is that all of their games are streamed, so I really got to test out the phone’s connectivity and screen refresh rate. And I was impressed. Admittedly, it wasn’t the most extensive testing window, but I noticed no latency of any kind and the graphics were vivid on the 6.4″ FHD Smooth Display.

Live Captions and Translate

There’s not much to see of Google’s new chip…because, you know, it’s in the phone. Terrible attempt at humor aside, you’re not necessarily going to go, “Hey, I can tell there is a custom-built chip in this phone.” It’ll work away in the background providing some powerful AI wizardry and image processing.

One thing the chip makes possible is Live Captions — instantly providing captions (including translations) for any audio playing through your phone without using the Internet. It does a fantastic job, even getting punctuation almost spot on. I gave the Live Translate part in particular some extensive testing.

I, an English-only speaker, was exceptionally impressed by it. My sister (fluent in a bunch of languages) was only somewhat impressed, though. Apparently, my German and Polish WhatsApp messages translated to be rather formal and a little too literal. My response speed was far better than manually copying and pasting into a translator, however. Everything on screen translated in an instant (her messages to me and mine to her). She was impressed by that, at least.

Future-proofing

There are a few other hardware points that I should cover. These aren’t necessarily the sexiest attributes but they are important (if we put our sensible hats on for a second).

For one, this phone is 5G compatible (actually, that is exciting). That means you can benefit from stronger network reliability and faster downloads. And you’re getting great coverage as more and more 5G networks are built out. If you’re on Ting Mobile, it also means you can take advantage of our 5G coverage!

It also has IP68 protection, so you can stress less about a little rain or dust destroying your window into the world of TikTok.

Google also promises 5 years of security updates and 3 years of Android software updates from phone launch. You can bet you’ll receive those Android updates a tad faster than other manufacturers too, since this is Google’s own phone.

Update: Microphone and Speakers

We’ve had a few questions regarding microphone and speaker quality, a feature that I missed. Thanks for those questions, keep them coming!

Here are my thoughts on Pixel’s speakers. When listening to a YouTube video or playing music they are adequate—for phone speakers, they’re not bad at all. For prolonged periods, however, I would still use earphones or a dedicated speaker. At the end of the day, they’re still tiny speakers and that comes with limitations.

The microphone and speaker were excellent when making calls. Thanks to the speaker’s high sound quality, clarity during conversations is pristine. Impressively, the microphone was able to pick up everything I said when I was cycling and the phone was in my back pocket. Yes, that’s the phone’s built-in mic, not a headphone mic. If you’re like me and have a favorite pair of headphones without a built-in mic, this is great for being able to talk while on the move, and also made changing songs using voice commands a breeze.

Speaking of making calls, a really cool feature was Google Assistant’s ability to stay on hold for me when I called my bank, then playing a ringtone to alert me when I (finally) had been connected. In short, I’d say Pixel 6 has top-notch mic and speaker quality, with some nifty call features to boot. 

Final verdict

At $599, you’re really getting a lot of phone for your money, and you’ll probably be the envy of your friends thanks to the amazing photos and videos the Pixel 6 cameras take.

This is a premium feeling, looking and performing phone for a palatable price tag.

If you’re looking to upgrade to the Pixel 6, you can find it in the Ting Shop alongside a wide choice of other great phones.