The Google Pixel 6 - took me long enough to review

This review has taken me some time to get to have a full review.  I'll get into why at the bottom of the article

There's been some good and some bad, no moreso than any other phone out there.  But, I've had some high expectations, that there was some promise of this being an amazing phone that I kept trying to put off this review in the hopes that some update was going to magically fix any of the imperfections it had.  No magic salve as of yet.

That being said, I'm not giving up on it, like some mega vlogger out there, or other reviewers who are 'disappointed'... I enjoy the phone and am not going to be putting it down for anything else any time soon, or going back to the Pixel 5.

Overall - the quick and short of it is that I like all that it offers (all Google stuff and Pixel exclusive features), just the fingerprint sensor annoys me and I think my connectivity issues can be a nuisance but only is getting better.

Let's dive in.

For reference, I'm using the Pixel 6.  Not the pro - but I don't think that would really change too much of my opinions out there.

Let's see the specs

  • Display
    • 6.4"
    • 2400x1080 (centre hole punch for selfie camera)
    • 90Hz refresh
  • Google Tensor (2.8GHz x2 + 2.25GHz x2 + 1.8GHz x4) with Titan M2 processor
  • 8GB RAM
  • 128GB storage (you can double for $130)
  • Camera
    • Rear 50MP (f/1.2, 25mm [81°], 1/1.31", 1.2µm) + 12MP (f/2.2, 17mm [114°], 1.25µm)
    • Front 8MP (f/2.0, 24mm [84°], 1.12µm)
  • 4614mAh (Qi and reverse Qi)
  • In display fingerprint sensor
  • IP68

All of this, and that's a good amount, for just $799.99.  If you want the 256GB storage option that'll be another $130.  Still isn't too bad a price compared to some of the peers in this area, and you may want to pick that option as much as 128GB space is... I never worried too much myself as I tend to swap out phones every year, but most people probably have their phones much longer and I can bet that you might have to start looking these days about when you need to offload your phone more often with just 128.

Speaking of photos - one thing that off the hop started to annoy me was Google's decision to make this the first Pixel phone that didn't come with some sort of unlimited storage option, even at the smaller resolution.  The Pixel 5 would at least get unlimited at the 'storage saver' size.  

I get it, things cost money, and we can't expect to get everything for free always and forever... but still it's a bit of a pill to swallow.

Opening up and handling the phone, and I have to compare this to the Pixel 5 I'd been using for almost a year, and it definitely feels more 'substantive'.  It's bigger for sure, and there is that 'camera band' on the back, but it feels solid.  Thicker.

The Pixel 5 (as much as I never really took it out of the case) still felt small, and the way it was constructed with a unibody back feels ... 'smaller' than how the Pixel 6 has that 'front glass' and 'back glass' sandwich over a midframe. It gets you to notice.

Almost immediately, I'd put it in the new case to help protect it - but I still miss the cloth style case of the previous models - helped make it stand out.  Interestingly enough, I find the vibration motor that much stronger for some reason.

Anyways, going around the phone it has some of the build quality you'd expect of stuff we've seen in premium phones like the Samsung G or the old LG phones I used to love.  As with previous Pixels the power and volume is on the right side of the phone (power on top).  And one of my 'cherry on top' things about the phone is that there is a almost invisible top earphone speaker at the top of the phone, and then matched with the bottom facing speaker you actually get FULL STEREO!  Something I didn't realize that I was missing on the 5 until I started getting it again now, albeit to get the full experience you really need to have something in portrait.

The 'camera band' is something about the feel of the phone that is hard to ignore.  

It really has a bit of a sense of a prop stand for it as it can't lie flat.  Even with the case, you'd think you'd want to have it be flush, but no, it still has a mini ramp.  It's not so bad, but to put it on a flat Qi charging pad, there's a point where it sometimes will 'slide' so that the ridge of the band sits over the edge.

Overall, I like the side of it.  I imagine the 6Pro might be a bit almost too big, this is just about right.

Also, the screen has a new type of Gorilla glass - now, I'd never had an issue with the 4XL (which used Gorilla Glass 5), but the 5 (which has Gorilla Glass 6) did get a wee scratch on it fairly early on in use - but never again.  So far the 6 (which is Gorilla Glass Victus) hasn't seemed to have any issue with any scratches.

Now, turning it on you get met with a good display.  Nothing spectacular - it's good.  The 90Hz refresh rate isn't really all that new, and I tend to only really notice the fanciness of it is in some games.  Although, maybe I'm just used to it's clean fluid display switching, there wasn't any noticeable screen issues or stuttering of the video as you bounce around app to app.

Same goes for it's processing.  An all new Google Tensor processor.  I was curious how something that is a brand new processor and how it'd handle.  We're used to Qualcomm or Exynos... so something all new is a bit of a gamble.  And the gamble paid off.  I can't say it's BETTER than one of the previous processors, but it's definitely not worse.  

As I said, there's no noticeable stutter or slow downs that I noticed.

The part I did notice was a bit of a stutter was the in-display fingerprint sensor.  It's about the worst sensor I've used of devices that have this style of sensor.  Now, where others were bad with poor accuracy, this was just 'slow'.  It would work, just there's that like 1-2 second or so for it to sense it, feel the vibration for it to recognize and get in, or have it say "partial detected".

I don't know what would make it better, but it's just slow.  As annoying as it is, it still isn't enough to shake me off using the device.  It's just "ah well, it takes a second" and I get on with my life.  Sure, my Pixel 5 would open in a quarter of that speed, but ... it's about a second.  It's not that long.

Before I get into some of the Pixel features I have to mention the LTE issues I was having.  Now, the discussion I had was with the Bell folk sand they suggested it could be the update they'd been doing to update to 5G... others suggested I needed to just get a new SIM, some even sent in for repair.

Now, since we did get the update (in some areas of the city) for 5G I've noticed a bit less issue with the dropping of data, and since the firmware update we just got (late) in January even more so.  I've still noticed like maybe once or twice a week at most where it happens.

I do have to say I'm more "tolerant" of this kind of issue than probably most.  I'm that tech-savvy type that to fix it usually is a 'put in airplane and take out' and it's fine (and the one or two times I've seen it drop since the update has been it automatically switching back to data, so nothing even needed (just would catch that there was no data and then there would be).

Maybe the update is helping it get better, so I'm patient that I'll probably not even notice it anymore after the next.

Now, for what I do like - aside from it having some great performance and great battery (it definitely is lasting more than a full day -- you do need to watch what games you're using - I had a couple that were absolute blackholes) is going to be essentially the Pixel software.

But just to let you know about the battery, an average day starts with me around 6am taking it off of charge, and then about 1130pm putting it back on and it would still have about 40% left.  That's awesome!

The camera - that's usually where the Pixels shine.  And this is the first in a while that came with a new CCD.  It now has 50MP where it used to have 12.  Is there an insane amount of difference?  No.  It feels like the old camera.

And to be honest, as I pointed out in my initial review that the camera I'm finding isn't doing as well in the almost macro range.  Any closer up photos there tends to be some aberration in the camera, so if you want to do something close up, you may want to digitally zoom in to 2x and then back up a little.

[which do you think looks better]

I almost NEVER use the wide angle shot.  Maybe it's just how I take my photos, I tend to do more telephoto than wide angle type shots.  I would have really preferred to have a wider selfie shot mode as I find that almost a tad too tight for an arms length.

Shots it gives are good, maybe I'm just too used to the wow to still be wowed.  But I like 'em.

But where the camera shines is in the software that the Pixel adds for all the ways it can make the best of whatever you're trying to shoot.

There's some 'motion' options where you can give a panning motion shot, a mode to do those long shutter drags for soft waterfalls.  

probably a little harder to see with frozen water around the moving stuff

It still has its telltale night mode and astrophotography we've covered in the past; its stunning portrait mode... stuff we've seen in other pixels in the past so I won't rehash them here.

Where they've really upped the game this year was having a Pixel 6 exclusive magic eraser feature.  Now, it's a Pixel 6 exclusive as they leave it up to the Tensor chip to process.  Apparently, there is a way to trick the other Pixels to do it, but they have Google Photos do the work.  The Tensor chip allows it to happen 'in house' and super snappy.  You can look over my link just above where I reviewed it and how it works, so I won't rehash it here.

The Tensor also allows it to have a smarter brain to really turn up the juice when it does things (again, in house) like subtitling or auto-translating.

They also make use of the Tensor to really have some more intelligence on the "Material You" new style of UI where it takes elements of colours and place throughout the UI of the device.  I love those little touches that Google likes to do.

Overall, I'm loving the phone.  I'm surprised how quickly I was acclimatized to the slightly bigger handfeel (the 5 was a bit small, but I liked it).  It just works for me and I think I would have been a little more put off by the size of the 6 Pro (tho', I think I would have preferred its higher resolution screen).

The phone is super responsive and fluid, and the battery lasts more than a full day (I might have even gotten 2 days, who knows).

Plus it's a Pixel, so you know it's going to get all the good stuff first. 

...and to be honest that's where I do have to dock it some points.  Originally, that's why I love Pixels... a new feature is announced, and it gets it.  But with the 6 there've been some hiccups.  What held me off writing up this review for a while was the fact that I didn't really make it my daily driver until about November, and I started noticing the LTE issues.  

I didn't want to write up that the device is great except this crippling feature ... I mean it wasn't a BIG deal for me as I tend to be home or at the office more often than not, so WiFi always is my backup.  But, it can't be ignored.

Around that time we heard there was going to be a BIG update for the Pixel line coming soon.  So I held off.  I heard Dec 6 was the date we were going to get it.  That date came and passed.  Some folks got it and said their connections got worse... r'uh r'oh.

So we waited... it wasn't until January 14th that I got the update.

Still, not so bad, I can imagine the other OEMs aren't used to monthly firmware updates, so waiting is normal.  But for Pixel fans it felt like a LIFETIME.  

I have to admit, the start of the Pixel 6 has started with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth - even still, I like the phone.  It's made some improvements over the 5 that I'm ready to keep it going in my pocket for quite some time.

And, I think, for $800 you're not going to get a better bang for your buck (the S21 is $1400... sure it has a telephoto lens, so the 6Pro is $930 - and for that the S21 doesn't have QuadHD screen), and don't let the carriers fool you.  They'll say the phone is $950 or so, but you can get it direct from Google for $800.