Pixel 6 Pro Review: The Smartphone to Beat


Google Pixel 6
Image: Google

I’m not going to lie, I’m actually shocked I not only was able to successfully order a Pixel 6 Pro but that it came within a week of me ordering it. Aside from the disaster that was the release of this newest Google Pixel, the Pixel 6 is everything I was hoping it would be … and much more.

SEE: Google Pixel 6 cheat sheet: Everything you need to know (TechRepublic)

Understand, I’ve been a Google Pixel phone owner since the very first iteration. I’ve watched these phones evolve (and, in one step, devolve) into something special. And even with the misstep that was the Pixel 4 (which was only hindered by an underpowered battery), every release seemed to be moving toward what became the Pixel 6. And even though Google is one of the worst of the big companies at marketing new devices, it came as no surprise that the Pixel 6 Pro sold out almost immediately.

The phone is that good.

Sure, those of us who weren’t able to get their hands on a pre-release device had to sit back and guess at how well the new Pixel phone would perform, but I’m fairly certain that every consumer, prosumer and reviewer lucky enough to order and receive a Google Pixel 6 Pro found themselves in awe at what it could do.

More on that in a bit. First I want to talk about the hardware.

The Pixel 6 Pro is a big phone

As soon as I pulled the Pixel 6 Pro out of the box, my first reaction was, “That’s one massive phone!” I’ve always been a fan of smaller devices, but this time I wanted the extra bells and whistles found in the Pro (especially the cameras). As you can see (Figure A), the Google Pixel 6 Pro dwarfs the Pixel 5.

Figure A

The Pixel 6 Pro is on the left and is considerably larger than the 5.

The Google Pixel 6 Pro is also considerably heavier than the 5. It should be, given how much larger it is. But having to get used to a phone this big and heavy is taking some time and effort.

It’s worth it. Trust me.

Another thing to note is that the Pixel 6 Pro has a gorgeous rounded edge on the screen, very much reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy line. It’s smooth and all class. Given the size of the phone, those rounded edges make holding it in smaller hands a bit easier. Besides that, they just look elegant.

My first reactions on the Pixel 6 Pro

My very first reaction (after the incredibly simple onboarding) was how stunning the display is. If you’ve never experienced a 120MHz refresh rate on a phone, it’s something to behold. Everything is crystal clear and smooth. Scrolling through the likes of a never-ending Twitter feed is effortless and silky. Animations are beautiful, and images absolutely blow you away.

SEE: The iPhone, iPad and Mac users guide to Microsoft 365 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The next thing to grab me was the fingerprint reader. I’d heard so many bemoan how slow the Pixel 6 in-screen reader was. Although it’s nowhere near as fast as the Google Pixel 5 (which is instant), it’s not exactly slow. I’d also heard that you had to first wake the phone up before the fingerprint scanner would recognize your print. That is not so. I can pick up my phone and place my thumb on the screen (as indicated) and the device unlocks. It’s as simple and reliable as any fingerprint scanner I’ve used (albeit a fraction of a second slower).

However, after using other devices with under-screen fingerprint scanners (such as the OnePlus 10 Pro), I’ve now come to realize the Google Pixel 6 Pro fingerprint scanner is not nearly what it could be. Although it is accurate and (mostly) unlocks on the first try, it is considerably slower than other, similar, devices.

The camera on the Pixel 6 Pro is mind-blowing

There is so much the Google Pixel 6 Pro camera can do. I’ve only scratched the surface of its capabilities. There’s motion (where you can capture an image in motion and blur the background), there’s a 4X zoom, there’s the brilliant Night Sight, the usual Panorama, Photo Sphere and Lens options, time-lapse video, slow-motion video, low light usability … the list goes on and on.

And I’m not going to bore you with a host of images I’ve already taken, but I will share one I took using the (4x zoom) of the end of my turntable tonearm (Figure B).

Figure B

The end of a Rega P8 tonearm up close and personal.

I’m almost embarrassed at how much dust you can see in the image, but it illustrates how amazing this main camera is. And that’s with zero extra light. It’s a great in low light.

Google Assistant as it should be on the Pixel 6 Pro

One thing I always found frustrating with Google Assistant is that it could never seem to keep up with me as I spoke. I’d say, “Hey Google …” and then whatever I said after that was always hit or miss if the phone could keep up with my voice and translate it effectively. With the Pixel 6 Pro, it’s instant. Google Assistant has yet to miss a beat. This is a major improvement over the Pixel 4 and 5. Truth be told, I rarely used Google Assistant on the previous phones because it suffered enough lag as to be frustrating.

With the Pixel 6 Pro, Google Assistant is exactly as it should have been from the start. I’ll be using this feature exponentially more with the Pixel 6 Pro.

Video and calls on Google Pixel 6 Pro are much improved

It should come as no surprise, given the 120MHz refresh rate, that video on the Google Pixel 6 Pro is amazing. On top of that, the sound bests just about every smartphone I’ve ever used. And phone call audio is incredible. Understand, the Pixel 5 call quality was a bit of a step-down from the Pixel 4, so the Pixel 6 Pro had a pretty low bar to reach.

SEE: Samsung Galaxy Unpacked: A look at the Samsung Galaxy S22 and Galaxy Tab 8 lines (TechRepublic)

However, after using other devices with under-screen fingerprint scanners (such as the OnePlus 10 Pro), I’ve now come to realize the Pixel 6 Pro fingerprint scanner is not nearly what it could be. Although it is accurate and (mostly) unlocks on the first try, it is considerably slower than other, similar, devices.

But that bar wasn’t just reached, it was smashed to bits. Phone calls are crystal clear and no longer have that tinny sound associated with previous iterations. With the 6 Pro, you feel as though the person you’re talking with is right there. So, combine all of that together and the multi-media/phone call experience is off the charts.

Get in line if you want a new Pixel

Shortly after the release, every unlocked version of the Pixel 6 Pro was sold out. The good news is they are back in stock, so if you want to grab one, head over to the Google Play Store and purchase either an unlocked or a carrier-specific version. If you’re on the fence, I highly recommend you jump off on the side of buying one. This phone is, hands down, the best mobile device I’ve ever used. I’m glad I opted to go with the massively sized Pixel 6 Pro because the display and cameras are well worth getting used to the heft of the handset.

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