Back in August, Google surprisingly announced its upcoming Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro smartphones and said they would run on the company’s own “Tensor” mobile chip. We learned a few other things then and got a good look at the phones, as well, but today Google is finally officially revealing the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro.
Google tends to go back and forth with the Pixel lineup, alternating between phones with cutting edge features and prices to match and more mainstream, almost budget devices (last year’s Pixel 5 is a perfect example of the latter). Both the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro feel like they’re designed to compete with Apple and Samsung’s best, but also at slightly more approachable prices — the Pixel 6 starts at $600 (with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage), while the Pixel 6 Pro starts at $900 (with 12GB of RAM and 128GB of storage). Notably, the $600 Pixel 6 is $100 cheaper than last year's Pixel 5, but it looks to be a far better phone, at least judging from the spec sheet.
The new Pixel 6 lineup looks unlike any previous phones Google made, thanks to the thick camera bar stretching across the back. The Pixel 6 has a dual-camera system, with wide and ultrawide lenses, while the Pixel 6 Pro adds a telephoto option. On both phones, the standard camera is a 50 megapixel sensor with a quad-bayer filter, which puts four pixels behind each standard color block — effectively, you’re not going to get 50-megapixel photos here, but something more in the realm of 12.5 megapixels.
Despite the fact that this is a 50 megapixel sensor, these pixels are pretty large, and the sensor is pretty big, too. Putting this all together means the Pixel 6’s main camera is gathering more light info per pixel, which should give it better clarity. Combined with that large sensor and large pixels, we’re expecting to see some impressive results here. Indeed, Google says that this allows its “super res zoom” feature to go in up to 7x the standard field of view; we’ll have to wait and see how those results look, but it’s an intriguing camera setup nonetheless.
The second ultrawide camera is a more traditional 12-megapixel sensor with an f/2.2 aperture and a 114-degree field of view. Finally, the Pixel 6 Pro adds another impressive camera, a 48-megapixel shooter with 4x optical zoom. Given all the camera tech on board here, it’s not surprising that the camera bar on these phones is so large — once we get into our review, we can see if all this translates into quality photos, but Google’s track record here is pretty solid.
As for video capabilities, the rear camera array can record both 1080p and 4K video at 30 or 60 FPS, with other features like cinematic panning, slow-motion, timelapse, astrophotography timelapse and optical image stabilization on board. As with Apple’s iPhone 13, it’s safe to say that the video features Google loaded into the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro far exceed what most people need.
The front-facing cameras are different between the two new phones. The Pixel 6 has to make do with an 8-megapixel shooter with an f/2.0 aperture, while the Pixel 6 Pro has an 11.1-megapixel camera with larger pixels but a slightly smaller f/2.2 aperture. That camera lives in a small pinhole cut-out right in the center of the display. Rather than using that camera to unlock the phone, Google has equipped the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro with an under-screen thumbprint sensor, a first for the Pixel series.
While these cameras are definitely intriguing, the most notable thing about the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro is the Google-made Tensor processor. The company says it’s 80 percent faster than the Pixel 5, and it also provides on-device AI for things like faster and more accurate speech recognition as well as image processing. You can read all about Tensor here, but here's a quick breakdown. It's an eight-core chip, starting with two ARM Cortex-X1 cores running at 2.8GHz. It also includes two Cortex A76 cores running at 2.25GHz, and finally four 1.8GHz A55 cores. Those last four are the "small" cores, which are meant for efficiency, and as you step up the ladder you're getting more and more power. We talked to Google about Tensor in August and they said similar things then, but it’s another thing we’ll need to watch for in our review and see how Tensor stacks up to Qualcomm’s processors.
The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro come in one size each. The Pixel 6 is the smaller phone, with a 6.1-inch display, while the Pro counters with a 6.7-inch screen. The Pixel 6 has a 1,080 x 2,400 OLED, which works out to 411 pixels per inch; the 6 Pro’s screen is even more pixel-dense at 1,440 x 3,120, which works out to 512 pixels per inch. Both have high refresh rates, with the Pro going up to 120Hz. The Pixel 6 tops out at 90Hz, unfortunately, the same as the Pixel 5’s refresh rate.
As we’ve seen in the earlier photos Google released, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro each come in three different colors. Both phones are available in the monochromatic “Stormy Black,” while the Pixel 6 also comes in “Sorta Seafoam” and “Kinda Coral.” The Pixel 6 Pro’s options are a bit more demure; besides black you can choose “Cloudy White” and “Sorta Sunny,” which you could just as easily call silver and gold.
Battery is among the most important factors in a smartphone, and Google is once again promising more than 24 hours of usage, even when the phone is connected to 5G networks. The Pixel 6 has a 4,614 mAh battery, and the 6 pro has a 5,003 mAh battery, both larger than the one found in last year’s Pixel 5. Given that the Pixel 5 managed to last as long as Google promised, we’re expecting these phones should last that day-plus as well, though we’re definitely curious to see how the Tensor processor might play into things this year.
After the rather lackluster Pixel 5, it’s pretty clear Google has re-dedicated itself to the smartphone game with the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. The spec list, cameras, battery life, design and — of course — the Tensor processor all seem set to impress. But as usual, we’ll have to run these phones through a review to say whether Google has a high-end hit on its hands. You can find out for yourself on October 28th when they hit store shelves; if you’re already convinced, pre-orders are live now.
Catch up on all the latest news from Google's Pixel 6 event!