Google Pixel 6a review | Hands on with the new fast, affordable phone

by W. Andrew Powell
Pixel 6a

If you’re looking for a fast and affordable phone this year, it’s hard to top the new Google Pixel 6a and the host of features, all day battery, and great interface and design.

Available in Sage, Chalk, and Charcoal, the Pixel 6a is smaller, lighter, and more affordable than the Pixel 6, for $599 in Canada, and $449 in the U.S.

What makes the Pixel 6a stand out is the Google Tensor chip with Titan M2 security, the same chip as the Pixel 6, with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage.

Featuring stereo speakers, 5G, dual rear cameras optimized by Google’s incredible software, and overall great speed when running apps or games, it’s a great package for a phone that comes in cheaper or on par with phones that are slower and offer less features.

Cameras, Photos, and Video

Google Pixel 6a - rear cameras

If you’re looking for a phone that takes great pictures for a great price, the Pixel 6a tops the competition in a number of ways.

The dual rear cameras–a 12 MP main and a 12 MP ultra-wide, plus the 8 MP front wide angle camera–take great pictures on their own, with colour saturation, contrast, and sharpness that are excellent, especially for the price. On top of that though, Google Photos, the default photo editing app on the Pixel 6a, offers a whole suite of great options to enhance your shots.

In editing mode with Google Photos, I love portrait light, that gives you the ability to position a virtual light around the subject to change the lighting on their face. It’s a powerful tool, especially when real lighting just doesn’t work out. You can also adjust blur, add a colour focus, so only the subject stands out, or change the photo to B&W.

The Pixel 6a also has a face unblur effect to fix focus on portraits, Real Tone ensures skin tones are accurate, and you can use the magic eraser effect to remove objects or details from a photo, or just subtly alter the colour of an object in the photo to make it distracting.

Video captured with the phone in 4k is also sharp, bright, with excellent colour that really pops.

Display, Interface, and Battery

Google Pixel 6a - display

The Pixel 6a’s 6.1″ FHD+ OLED display offers a refresh rate up to 60 Hz, and Google’s new Material You interface. The interface matches the themed icon colours to the background, or to a custom colour palette you can pick from. That means that all the icons on your home screen, widgets, and especially for date, time, and weather, follow one colour scheme, and some widgets also come in funky shapes to liven up your home screen.

The phone has a 4410 mAh battery, plus IP67 protection, so it can withstand splashes. With 18W wired charging, the phone recharges quickly, but thanks to software and options the phone last up to 24 hours on a full charge, and up to 72 hours using the Extreme Battery Saver feature.

The display also includes Google’s best fingerprint unlocking that works better than any other affordable phone, and better than some premium smartphones too.

Features

Before and after the Magic Eraser effect

Finally, the Pixel 6a has a host of great features and software to make the most of everything, from work, to security, and downtime.

Like other Pixel phones, the phone app offers Hold for Me, so if you’re put on hold during a call, the Pixel 6a will notify you when the wait is over. The phone also estimates wait times when calling 800 numbers.

You can also get Google Assistant to type for you. Just say, “Hey Google, type” and the Assistant will take notes. The phone also offers live translate, so you can receive text messages in another language, and Google will translate for you. That feature also works in Whatsapp, Twitter, Instagram, Google Chat, and others.

As an interviewer I also love the Recorder app that transcribes as you record, and that’s also obviously a fantastic for anyone who needs transcribed notes from meetings.

The Pixel 6a also has a lot of privacy and security features built in, including a Privacy Dashboard that will tell you what apps have access to location information, your camera, microphone, and more. While security features provide a checkup to make sure the Pixel is as secure as possible.

From the top menu in the phone you can also quickly and easily turn off your microphone and camera, so no apps on the phone can use them.

Availability & Sample Gallery

The Google Pixel 6a is available for pre-order starting on July 21, at 1 PM (ET), and it’s available in stores and for purchase online starting July 28. Visit store.google.com for full details, to pre-order, or to purchase.

Here are a few photos that I captured with the Pixel 6a:

All images by W. Andrew Powell/The GATE.

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