Google Pixel 6 Pro Review: Good but Overhyped | Singapore
Updated: May 9, 2022
We finally got our hands on the Google Pixel 6 Pro here in Singapore and after using it for a while, we can tell you it’s a good phone but probably overhyped.
This is the much-hyped Google Pixel 6 Pro that we have purchased from Australia just for this review. We've tested it out for a few weeks and we can honestly tell you that it is a good phone but somehow we can’t help but feel a little disappointed.
The Pixel 6 Pro has a 6.71-inch screen, comes with Gorilla Glass Victus front and back protection and a chromed aluminium frame. It weighs less than the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max and feels decently comfortable in the hand. It does have that premium feel and its "Visor" camera design and two-tone coloured back do stand out. From the front and the side, it looks pretty standard and we do feel that the matte aluminium frame on the Pixel 6 looks and will feel better. The muted and less reflective colours offered by Google does make fingerprints less obvious on the new Pixel phones.
Speaking of fingerprints, many of you would have known about the slow reading speed issue from the new Pixels. From our experience, we really did find it a hassle and we don’t really understand why the compromise. We realised it is not only slow but there were a few rare occasions, it just could not detect no matter how long or how hard we pressed on the screen. This is disappointing as the under-screen fingerprint reader is a mature technology and many other phones we have tried, even midrange phones, have moved on from this issue. We can’t help feeling that Google may have cut some corners in this area.
The addition of a 120hHz screen in the Pixel 6 Pro is a good step forward for Google if they intend to compete in the premium phone space. If you want consumers to shell out top dollars, you will need to give the best even if what’s best is debatable. The 120Hz screen performs admirably as it should. Buttery smooth scrolling, gaming and all but you can only toggle its Smooth Display function on or off. When Smooth Display is on, Google will help you decide your screen’s refresh rates depending on your usage. So for example, if you are gaming or scrolling, it will automatically bump up to 120Hz but if you are just looking at a picture or checking your messages, it should drop to 60Hz so that it helps conserve some energy. If the Smooth Display is off, it will just constantly be at 60Hz. So you basically have to trust Google on deciding what’s best for you… but trust is hard.
Based on our test, the management of the screen’s refresh rate is questionable. For example when gaming on Asphalt 9, you will see that the 120Hz screen is activated and from the Game Dashboard you will see that the game can only go up to 60fps, so I highly doubt a 120Hz refresh rate is necessary. Another example is when the screen is locked, the refresh rate is set to 120Hz. This is odd as technically there is no animation and hardly a need for 120Hz to drain your battery life, especially when you are probably not using it when it's locked. On messaging apps like WhatsApp or watching YouTube videos, we are also getting constant switching between the refresh rates. But oddly on TikTok and Instagram Reels, it locks at 120Hz. Technically most of the videos we consumed hardly go above 30fps, so a 60Hz screen would have been more than adequate for social media consumption. Now, Google’s venture into making its own chip with the likes of Apple, Huawei, Samsung is a very interesting proposition. But unfortunately, it feels a little underwhelmed just because we can’t help but compare it with what’s happening in the Apple camp. Apple’s incredible design and performance of the M1 chip has blown everything out of the water. Even though they have not put it in their iPhones, there is a hope that a tech giant like Google will beat Apple to their game. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The Tensor chip does not have a unified memory architecture like Apple’s M1 chip. It follows something more conventional like Samsung's Exynos chip and rightly so since the Tensor chip is co-developed with Samsung. It is an Octa-core CPU paired with the Mali-G78 MP20 GPU. Oddly, the configuration of the cores resembles that of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888.
Now bear with us as we speak numbers. The Tensor chip runs on 2x 2.8GHz and 2x 2.25GHz high-performance cores, along with 4x 1.80GHz low-performance cores. The highest performance cores have lower specifications compared to that of Samsung Galaxy S21+ running on an Exynos chip and also Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro Max, which has a Hexacore chip with their higher performance cores at 3.22Ghz. This could also be the reason why the Google Pixel 6 Pro scores lower in our Geekbench test. It has a multi-core performance of 2589, lower than the iPhone 13 Pro Max at 4626 and also Samsung’s Galaxy S21+ at 3080, a phone that debuted early this year.
Google’s reason was that this configuration will work best as the phone will automatically switch to the lower end processors when on less demanding tasks so that less energy will be consumed and it won’t affect the performance of the phone. Based on our usage, the Pixel 6 Pro did perform admirably like any of the premium phones we have tried. You can throw any tasks at it, be it video editing, photo editing, PowerPoint, Excel or more, it will perform without any hiccups. One thing it performs exceptionally well is gaming and that could be the Mali-G78 GPU at work. On our 3D Mark test, it scores 5776, which is the highest amongst all Android phones and even beating gaming phones like Xiaomi’s Black Shark 4 Pro and Asus ROG Phone 5. Something that really baffles us is the battery life. The phone runs on stock Android with a 5,000mAh battery, lower power consumption processors, a dedicated ultra-low power context engine and improved software. Technically it should at least give us one and a half to two days of normal usage. Unfortunately, we can barely get by a day without recharging the phone.
We tried having the screen refresh rate fixed at 60Hz and the Increase Touch Sensitivity switched off, but we are still not able to extend its battery life beyond a day.
One thing we suspect could be the cause is the use of some apps that are data-hungry. For example, with video streaming apps like YouTube, TikTok, Instagram Reels and ride-hailing apps like Grab and Comfort which need constant connection to GPS, the phone heats up when using these apps and it can go up to 40-degree celsius from a normal temperature of 30-degree celsius. This does seem like something a software update can fix and that Google should be very good at.
Both the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro come with the latest Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies. Wi-Fi 6e and Bluetooth 5.2 offers better, faster, stabler and more efficient connections if you have compatible wireless devices. However, the phones only offer USB-C 3.1 instead of the latest 3.2 version.
It also comes with the latest eSIM and 1x Nano-SIM. We feel most people will really miss the dual SIM feature as eSIM is still not a popular option in Asia. Although most of us still can’t travel yet, the dual SIM card functionality is a lifesaver when you are overseas because you can easily purchase a local prepaid SIM card and pop it in.
The sound is passable. It has stereo speakers and that’s about all worth mentioning.
Now, the cameras are one area that we think the Pixel 6 Pro does exceptionally well, at least on the still photography front. Both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro offer a 50MP wide 25mm f1.9 module and a 12MP ultrawide 17mm f2.2 module. However, the Pixel 6 Pro gets an additional 48MP telephoto 104mm f3.5 module and a higher pixel count, wider but less depth of field selfie camera. At 0.7x zoom you will activate the ultra-wide module, at 1x to 6x the wide module will be activated and at 7x onwards, the telephoto module will kick in.
From our tests, all the cameras produce rather sharp and more natural colour reproductions on well-lit subjects. The cameras did well when it comes to high contrast scenes. It manages to not overexpose the bright sky but yet not underexpose the darker trees and retains quite a lot of details. This could be the Tensor chip at work as it is very unlikely to create this nice balance without any lens filters. We feel the picture quality definitely ranks between the iPhone and Samsung phones.
When it comes to dimly lit subjects, the 50MP wide module really performs well. It manages to keep the subject sharp and the noise low. For the rest of the camera modules, you will unlikely be proud of what it produces in darker scenes.
If you don't really like the natural look, or you just want to edit your photos to the way you want them, Google has made it easier using AI. Many of these photo editing features are already available on Google Photos and you can use some of these features on other Android phones. However, Google reserved some of their new features like Magic Eraser and Sky in the Edit/Tools tabs. The sky feature is useful if you enjoy taking skyline shots but have very little luck with the weather. The phone will automatically key out just the sky and you can adjust its colours and contrast by selecting the different options that are provided. The keying is amazingly accurate as the colour change in the sky doesn't affect the rest of the picture as much. Next is the much-hyped Magic Eraser and to be honest, it is just a little better than what is already available in the market. You won't be able to get accurate keying if the picture is too complicated.
All these "new" photo editing features are not new but Google did make it a little better.
Both phones can shoot up to 4K 60 frames per second video. The colour balance is well managed and similar to the photos, and the footage is sharp. One issue we saw is moire in the videos. We have tried using different lenses and lowering the frame rate and resolution but the moire still appears. This could be a bummer if you take videos of architectures or subjects that have thin stripes and small checkered patterns. It is one area we really wish the Google Tensor AI will jump in to help clean it.
One thing Google AI did jump in and work admirably is with its digital image stabilisation. There are a few notable features that take good advantage of this. First, the Locked feature. The camera can stay locked on to a subject even when you tilt the phone gently. The Cinematic Pan function is also another neat feature where you can create some smooth panning or tilting movements in your videos. It also works surprisingly well when you execute a parallax movement. Another feature that Google markets heavily with the Pixel 6 is Live Translate. This feature is already available on the Translate app for all Android phones. The only difference is that the translating is on-device using the Tensor chip, which does not need a data connection.
One really useful way of using the translation feature is through Google’s translator. You can easily activate it by telling your Google Assistant "Can you be my translator?". Once activated, you can select the preferred language and Google will automatically repeat what you said in the selected language. Again, this is not a unique feature to the Pixel phones, as it is already available on most Android phones. On our test, the translation is not faster on the Tensor chip.
If you have the latest Android 12 OS on your phone, the translation function is now accessible on Gboard on any Android phone. We remember having to toggle between the Translate app and the messaging app when communicating with non-English speakers but now you can easily type in your preferred language and Google will automatically translate it to the language you have selected. This makes it much easier to communicate in different languages using WhatsApp, Line, WeChat and even emails.
So technically most of the Live Translate features are already available on all Android phones and some features will be available through upcoming Android 12 updates. The only difference is that one needs data and the other doesn’t.
Currently, the new Pixel phones are only available in selected countries in Asia. There is no official announcement that it will be available in markets like Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia. In Australia, the base 128GB model for the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro phones costs AU$999 and AU$1299 respectively. It comes up to about the same pricing in SGD, making the prices very attractive. The Pixel 6 Pro costs lower compared to premium phones like the Galaxy Z Flip 3, and is priced similarly to the iPhone 13 at S$1299, much lower than the iPhone 13 Pro and even the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
But should the Pixel 6 be considered a premium phone? That's the conundrum we have.
The hardware would usually decide whether we would consider a phone to be in the premium category or not. It justifies the usual high pricing because we are paying extra for the newest and fastest tech.
The Pixel 6 Pro does come with some premium features like the 120Hz screen, high-end cameras and good build quality, but can the Tensor chip be considered a premium chip? Technically it’s not faster than the Snapdragon 888 or Apple’s A15 Bionic, and all the bells and whistles that it can do are technically something that Google is already doing through their AI servers, and some of the features are even working well with non-Pixel phones. Design and finishes are also not exactly what we would consider innovative.
Don't get us wrong, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are still very good phones and some features are probably right up there competing with the best of the best. But somehow it just feels like there are many corners that were cut in the process of making a really good phone.
Should you get a Pixel 6? Yes and no. Yes if you like Google phones, but do only go with the Pixel 6 and not the pro version. It uses the same Tensor chip and you probably won’t miss the 120Hz screen, the telephoto lens and definitely not the larger size battery. So far most of the complaints about weak battery life only come from Pixel 6 Pro users and Pixel 6 phones seems to be fine even with a smaller battery.
No, you shouldn’t upgrade to the Pixel 6 because Google prides itself by focusing on good software rather than the best hardware. So in general, the older Pixel phones should still work as well and you will have most of the software features once you are on Android 12. And if you are not a Pixel user, no, you shouldn’t get a Pixel 6 because there are better phones out there that perform better and cost about the same.