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  • Bryan Tan

Google Pixel 6a Review: The Compact Appetiser To The 7!

Following the typical Google Pixel release pattern from the past few years, what we have here is the Google Pixel 6a, the light refresh of the 6 before its cooler newer brothers hit shelves this coming October. Our bottom line for the 6a is that it's a slimmer and more compact phone that will make any existing owners of the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro blue with envy, at least until you mention the specs to them.

On the overall design, the 6a is more similar to the 6 rather than the 6 Pro with a matte finishing on the sides and its flat display. Buttons, speakers and microphone placements are also in the same positions. One key design difference is that the camera visors are now much thinner and recessed as compared to the 6, although it still catches its fair share of dust.

With a 6.1-inch FHD+ OLED panel that only goes up to 60hz, it retains the same resolution as the Pixel 6 but the low refresh rate might be the deal breaker for most people. If you are coming from a higher refresh rate panel, this will be very noticeable in the first few hours of using the phone but you'll get used to it.

Accompanying the display is a set of stereo speakers that are okay for general content consumption, but in terms of quality, it’s definitely not the best out there with muddied frequencies which are very perceptible at higher volumes.

Similar to its brothers, the 6a is equipped with the Google Tensor chipset along with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Ideally, we would prefer to have larger storage capacities but since Google One is still a thing that Google is pushing for its users, let's leave it at that.

On the other hand, as we were unable to download Geekbench and 3D Mark from the PlayStore at the time of reviewing the 6a, here are the scores for our Pixel 6 for reference as they share almost the same internals.

In terms of gaming performance, lighter games such as Pokemon Unite will have no trouble running at the highest settings. On Diablo Immortals though, you can see 6a struggles quite a bit with frequent stutters on 60 fps, persisting even with the resolution set to medium which is the lowest. The stuttering does cause quite an annoyance so we recommend playing the game at 30 fps, not the smoothest experience but at least it's playable.

Gaming on the phone also causes the 6a to run quite warm to the touch and drains its 4,410 mAh battery much faster as well. Provided you don't spend the whole day playing Diablo at 60fps, you'll definitely get more than a day worth of battery life with about 7-8 hours of screen on time with an always-on display, Bluetooth and location all on at the same time, which reflects well on the battery resource management on Pixel phones. Other than that, if we have anything to nitpick about regarding the battery, it will be its lack of wireless charging.

With new Android builds usually launching alongside the flagship releases in October, there's not much to be mentioned here as the 6a is still loaded with Android 12. If you are interested in trying out Android 13 at your own risk though, you can opt-in for the beta programme over at Google's website.

Camera hardware is also one of the corners that were cut, most probably to lower the price point, with only a 12.2MP f/1.7 main, a 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide and an 8MP f/2.0 front camera. Thankfully the key ingredient that makes photos from Pixel phones look great is its software processing so the lack of megapixels is hardly a limiting factor, with photos looking natural with the right amount of contrast. The glare issues caused by the camera visor glass in the previous Pixel 6 and 6 Pro also aren't present here for those concerned.

The sensors also shoot videos at up to 4K 60fps, but video quality leaves much to be desired with noticeable noise and processing artefacts even in 4K under daylight. Not that it's unusable, you just have to set your expectations lower to budget standards.

Lastly, for the worried viewers who might have heard of the fingerprint issues faced in the 6 and 6 Pro, rest assured that if you are looking to purchase the 6a that the fingerprint scanner reads just fine.

The Pixel 6a will be available for pre-orders on 21 July for S$749 and comes in 3 colours, chalk, charcoal and sage.

In conclusion, this Pixel 6 "mini" may be the Android device made for all you compact phone fans out there, it's lower asking price also accommodates the general phone users who worry less about specs, making the lower-specced refresh rate, RAM and camera seems superficial in comparison to it's older brothers last year. For the rest of you heavier users out there, the Pixel 7 is right on the horizon so you might want to sit tight for that instead.

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