Google’s midrange A phones have quickly become some of the most anticipated launches each year. Like its predecessors, the Pixel 6a is a sub-$500 handset that offers excellent cameras, performance and battery life. This year’s model moves the series over to Google’s own Tensor chip, and brings over the two-tone color scheme and camera bar the company debuted on its flagships last year. With so many similarities to its higher-end siblings, the $449 Pixel 6a feels less like the budget option and more like a smaller version of Google’s best phone.
Similar to recent A-series Pixels, the 6a is basically a scaled-back clone of the company’s flagships. This time, though, Google didn’t skimp on the color options for its budget handset. In addition to white and black, the Pixel 6a comes in sage as well. It has a two-tone palette similar to the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, with a black horizontal camera bar about an inch from the top. The top strip is a paler pastel green, while the rest of the rear is a darker, more muted shade that’s similar to the Pixel 5.
- Attractive and refined design
- Great cameras
- Long-lasting battery
- No headphone jack
- No wireless charging
I prefer the mintier color of the Pixel 6, but the 6a’s version is pretty enough. At least the camera bar protrudes less, and the Pixel 6a doesn’t wobble when placed face up on a surface. It’s also rated IP67 for water and dust protection, though I thankfully have yet to drop my review unit or get it wet. I do wish it had Gorilla Glass Victus protecting its screen like its flagship counterparts, but it at least is covered by Gorilla Glass 3. I also wish this thing had a headphone jack like the Pixel 5a, but unfortunately Google saw fit to remove it this year.
Though it’s not much smaller than the Pixel 6, the 6a is noticeably lighter and easier to maneuver with one hand. To be specific, the 6a is about 30 grams (or 1 ounce) lighter, but it also has a smaller 6.1-inch screen. Meanwhile, the Pixel 6 has a 6.4-inch display and is a whole 0.05 inches thicker.
In terms of size the Pixel 6a feels like a happy medium, weighing in at 6.3 ounces (178 grams) with a 6.1-inch screen. The latest iPhone SE has a tiny 4.7-inch panel and correspondingly weighs a mere 5.09 ounces (144 grams) while the Samsung Galaxy A53, with its 6.5-inch display, comes in at 6.66 ounces (189 grams).
Display and audio
With a 2,400 x 1,080 resolution and a 20:9 aspect ratio, the Pixel 6a’s OLED delivers a higher pixel density than the Pixel 6. But it also refreshes at just 60Hz, while the 6 and 6 Pro go up to 90Hz and 120Hz respectively.
So, while photos, wallpapers, icons and text all look as crisp and vivid on the Pixel 6a as on Google’s higher-end phones, when it comes to scrolling and games the 6a can feel sluggish. High refresh rates aren’t unheard of on midrange phones, either. The Galaxy A53, for example, can get up to 120Hz, though to be fair the iPhone SE is also stuck at 60Hz.
I did find it slightly easier to read things on the iPhone SE under sunlight, though the Pixel 6a wasn’t too difficult to see. Indoors, the Pixel 6a was vibrant and sharp, and I enjoyed watching Instagram Stories and ogling gorgeous landscapes on it.
I also didn’t mind playing music on the Pixel 6a. Its stereo speakers did a decent job of delivering clear vocals and instrumentals on songs like Ariana Grande’s No Tears Left To Cry, though like most smartphones it lacks bass. I used the Pixel 6a and iPhone SE to record a rendition of U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, and Google’s handset was better at prioritizing my voice over ambient noise, too.