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Ne me lisez pas, le post est plus bas!

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Google Pixel 6A Review

| To conquer a neglected hill

What are your options if you want a new, reasonably affordable smartphone, today in Canada? An iPhone SE, if you are in that “ecosystem”, along with a slew of devices from Samsung, Alcatel/TCL, Motorola, Google and even Nokia. Now, you might be tempted to add a few criteria to your search. You could, say, want decent cameras. You may seek an OLED, 1080p display. You may even enjoy Ingress Protection, just to be sure a little splash won’t kill your new smartphone. You might even enjoy long software updates, just for “future proofing”.

Well congratulations, these characteristics, especially the last criterion of the list, have greatly narrowed your possible options. Of those released this year, there are only two, the Pixel 6A and the Galaxy A53. To say the mid-range crown is not fiercely contested would be an understatement. Samsung has traditionally dominated the market – as long as iPhones aren’t taken into account – but we can’t help but feel they have grown complacent, where their new devices are undoubtedly not offering the same value as before. You’d almost hear the chaebol whisper smugly in your ears “Deal with it” now but we have some serious competition this year, with the Pixel 6A. Let’s dive in and discover its worth.

Cover of the Pixel 6a review. The device is presented on a chopped log.

| Table of contents

/ Specs

/ In the box

/ Design, materials and ergonomy

/ Audiovisual experience

/ Communications and haptics

/ Ports and durability

/ Battery life

/ Camera

/ Performance

/ Software

/ Conclusion and alternatives

| Specs

| Detailed specifications of the Pixel 6A

Processor Google Tensor « Whitechapel » (Custom Samsung Exynos) 5nm SoC Composition CPU: 2x ARM X1 @ 2.8GHz, 2x ARM A76 @ 2.25GHz, 4x ARM A55 @ 1.8GHz. GPU: 20x ARM G78 @ 850/950MHz

Storage and RAM 128Go of UFS 3.1 storage, NO MicroSDXC slot. 6GB RAM.

Battery and charging 4410mAh, 18W USB-PD. No wireless charging.

Software and security Android 12, OS updates until July 2025. Monthly security updates until July 2027. Optical fingerprint scanner.

Display AMOLED FHD+ 2400x1080, HDR10, 429ppi, format 20:9, 6.1” Static 60Hz refresh rate Flat, centered Infinity-O style (single hole).

Materials Gorilla Glass 3 covering the display, plastic back and buttons, coated aluminium frame. IP67.

Communications WiFi ax (6E), Bluetooth 5.2, Dual-SIM (SIM+eSIM)

Mobile comms LTE-Advanced, 5G SA and 5G NSA are supported. Only 5G Sub-6GHz is supported. 5GNR Bands supported n1/2/3/5/7/8/12/20/25/28/30/38/40/41/48/66/71/77/78

Ports Port USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps), no headphone jack, no DAC.

Photo sensors Main: 12MP, 1.4µm Ultra wide angle: 12MP

| Changes versus the Pixel 6

| Changes versus the Pixel 5a

| In the box

Along with the coveted device, we are graced with an USB-C to C 2.0 cable of adequate length, an USB-OTG 2.0 adapter, an eject pin and some light documentation concealed in a rectangular box.

Contents of the box the Pixel 6a came in.

I wasn’t quite expecting to be impressed by a mere documentation box, but I was. The cardboard used is of good quality and the box itself can be opened and closed with ease. Those included with Samsung devices are very easy to flatten, tear or otherwise alter by accident while trying to open them. Moreover, removing the eject pin is easy. A small consideration indeed but I do enjoy attention to details. However, I won’t pass on this occasion to lament the lack of charger inside the box.

| Design, materials and ergonomics

Well, we finally have a generation of Pixels whose designs don’t look like they were generated with the likes of GPT-3*. You could excuse Google, as they do enjoy AI, or more appropriately pattern-matching and machine learning, but we’ll leave this matter for another time. I’m trying to praise them for making something relatively fresh and symmetrical that also looks reasonably serious and not like a cheap plastic toy, even if the main materials used were glass or metal. It took them over half a decade to reach this point but here we are.

The previous designs were all ugly in a way or another. I could never stand looking at them for any amount of time exceeding five seconds. But the Pixel 6A (and the normal 6, intentionally ignoring the 6 Pro) looks… good! It looks professionally done, enough to be taken seriously. I have the black colourway with me, though the green model strikes a great balance between seriousness and playfulness, unlike Google’s marketing. The boxy design is very well executed.

What could not replicate such an act of skilful conciliation was the decision to use cheaper materials to build the cheaper Pixel 6A around. Indeed, instead of Gorilla Glass Victus to protect the front, we have the frankly antiquated GG3 iteration instead. I would’ve been content with Gorilla Glass 6 or even 4, both of whom have proven to be very durable in my experience, whereas GG3 has proven to be very accommodating to prospective scratches who seek a place to settle down. And the less said about its dated drop protection, the better. Keep this display far from heights and/or concrete.

A bit more worrisome is the choice to replace the GG6 glass back with plastic. That will severely affect sustained performance indeed, but so far, the very, very glossy plastic has proven to be impossible to keep clean. It also gives the device a flair of inexpensiveness. Thankfully, the satisfying, balanced weight and the aluminium frame counterbalances it. I’m a bit disappointed by the plastic buttons though. Aluminium buttons would’ve been perfect. By the way, you might find yourself struggling to adjust to said buttons’ placement, which is inverted relative to, say, Samsung’s. Likewise for the software buttons, for that matter.

Overall, the design is mostly worth commending. The device appears credible and sits well in one’s hand, even if the glossy plastic back hampers the general feeling of the device’s quality.

* This is a text auto-completion algorithm. Its output is notoriously bad and it easily loses its plot. It is most excellent at producing either repetitive or nonsensical results, or even a combination of both. This astutely summaries the Pixels’ previous designs.

| Audiovisual experience

The Pixel 6a boasts a 20:9 6.1” 1080p OLED display with HDR10. It is of very good quality, even if it is “only” a 60Hz panel. Its brightness is great, sufficing (just barely) for outside usage in broad daylight. The display’s tint does not veer significantly into green when the brightness is lowered to its absolute minimum.

The Pixel 6a, presented on another chopped log. Its display is turned on. The scene is quite bright but discerning the elements and the text on-screen is not difficult.

Otherwise, colour gamut and accuracy is most impressive. Though it could not match my reference devices when displaying the same pictures, the results in Natural mode were acceptably close. My only quibble is that the display is a touch too warm in terms of colour.

Unfortunately, the Pixel 6a does not remain impressive on the audiovisual front for too long. The stereo speakers lack power and detail. They simply sound flat, and bass is simply absent. My old S9 and Note9 offer much better sound and I cannot believe that it would be that expensive to fit 2018 speakers here. Even the A53 5G I am testing simultaneously sounds better! However, they are fine enough for anything involving asocial media. You won’t recognise your favourite music tracks if you play them with the built-in speakers. As for series, movies and TV shows, owing to the aforementioned flaws, these all sound muffled. I tried, I really tried to watch something with these speakers, but I had to stop after five minutes because the sound was becoming unbearable. A true shame.

| Communications and haptics

I cannot test mobile network speeds due to my limited data allowance. Moreover, Bell - my current mobile ISP - has a rather slow network in my area. However, I have conducted tests on my WiFi ac (5) home network with 1.5Gbps FTTH speeds. These are the consecutive tests’ average results.

WiFi speeds

Pixel 6a

Note20 Ultra



245 Mbps

360 Mbps

340 Mbps


325 Mbps

650 Mbps

460 Mbps

These are great speeds, albeit not as good as the 2018 Galaxy Note9. They should suffice for any Internet-bound task. On the mobile network front, the Pixel 6a supports a ton of NR bands. n1/2/3/5/7/8/12/20/25/28/30/38/40/41/48/66/71/77/78, that is a lot. Put simply, travelling abroad should not be a concern. Simply activate a local SIM (or eSIM) and your device should connect effortlessly. And since it is Dual-SIM, you can forego Canadian carriers’ roaming packages, use a local SIM for data and yet not miss a call or text message.

Yet, calls might prove a bit challenging as the Pixel 6a only possesses one microphone of average quality. This means no noise cancellation*.

And now for some additional good news: the vibration motor is of very good quality. It isn’t an “HD” motor capable of advanced effects, like you’d see on the Galaxy S8 series onwards (excluding FEs, obviously), but the vibrations are clear, solid and remarkable. I would describe it as “HD-lite”, because it seems to try to make these effects, most notably the Clock app’s alarm vibration model uses variable vibration levels as seen in HD motors, but I failed to notice anything else. It could also be stronger. The tactile feedback is by far more enjoyable than the S21 FE’s, though the latter could be classified as abhorrent… if you were generous. There is no “echo” to fill your every interaction with your device with a sense of emptiness. I don’t think I would expect anything else from a midrange smartphone, even if an HD motor would’ve been perfect.

* AI-powered shenanigans notwithstanding.

| Ports and durability

We have a true USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 port at our disposal. That means 5Gbps, pretty good to move data in and out of the device to a computer, for instance, or to backup data to an USB-C key (or SSD inside an enclosure), or even output video. We do lack a headphone jack, a regression introduced this year. But don’t fret, you can always use an active USB-C-to-3.5mm adapter, or even go ahead and buy all-new Pixel Buds (wink), even if such devices have a major environmental impact, generating a lot of effectively impossible-to-recycle e-waste. Nice job.

The device doesn't enjoy being read by computers. You'll have to manually toggle the USB connection type to File Transfer/Android Auto each time you want to connect it to your PC.

There is no MicroSDXC card slot. This is quite bad, since 128GB of storage isn’t that much if you want to store high quality media content. A decently sized collection of 16-bit, 48Khz and 1Mbps FLAC audio tracks will easily swallow tens of gigabytes.

On the bright side, we have IP67 certification against water and dust. It isn’t quite as dust-proof as the “true” Pixel 6 but at least you won’t have to worry if the Pixel 6a drops in the water.

But back to bad news. The display’s glass is very thin. Very, very thin. A thin sheet of Gorilla Glass 3 will absolutely not resist drops on anything other than a soft pillow, along with the aforementioned sub-par scratch resistance. And the black aluminium frame seems to be cheaply coated. It is likely that the paint will chip off. Don’t expect outstanding durability without a good protection, not that you’d expect a 600$ smartphone to outlive you for centuries. Better glass would’ve gone a very long way to improve this situation.

| Battery life and charging

Evaluating battery life is difficult as the way you use your smartphone is more-or-less unique to you. Keep this in mind while reading the following section.

Power consumption from video playback understandably varies a lot, depending on the video itself, whether it is stored locally or streamed, how it was encoded, the features used, the brightness... I can't test all possible combinations. I've tested a few combinations and the results are as follows. All tests were conducted with maximum brightness.

A high quality 1080p H.264 video stored locally or streamed from OneDrive by WiFi required about 2% of my battery after 10 minutes of playback. There wasn't a significant difference and yes, it was the exact same video of the exact same quality.

A high quality 1080p video streamed from YouTube by WiFi required about 2% of my battery after 10 minutes of playback.

Finally, playing a video game via remote play from a local Xbox Series X also took 2% of battery after 10 minutes. Clearly, video playback is a 2%/10 minutes affair on the Pixel 6a, or 12%/hour.

And that would be it for video testing. I do not subscribe to streaming services at this time to be able to test their battery consumption. I also have data for battery consumption in GPU-intensive use-cases, like video games. As per the 3DMark Wild Life stress test spanning 20 minutes, the battery went from 45% to 35% after the test has concluded. There are far worse scores but this means a quick little session of your favourite pay-2-win game while waiting for %relevant_event% should not kill your smartphone. As such, I believe that the Pixel 6a should last a day in normal circumstances.

Finally, after you've depleted the battery, it takes 1:50 to charge from zero to 100%. The device supports USB-PD charging at speeds up to 18W. It's not a lot indeed but experience with other devices supporting 25W charging proves that this is not a huge issue. Indeed, they do not usually sustain 25W speeds, to manage the stress on the battery, along with said battery and the whole device's overall temperature. Moreover, charging from 15% to 50% takes 26 minutes. The speeds are progressively slower before the 50% threshold and this continues afterwards. This is rather satisfactory. The Pixel 6a does not support wireless charging, let alone reverse wireless charging.

| Cameras

These are test images to put the sensors through their paces and do not represent my work. My actual photos are available here, in the Gallery.

| Hardware and UI

The Pixel 6a boasts two sensors, in stark contrast to the competition, fighting for your attention with three or more sensors. What they don't tell you is that these "extra" sensors are mostly useless, being "depth" and "macro" lenses. You usually have a main, wide sensor and sometimes an ultra-wide-angle auxiliary sensor. For more information on mobile cameras, head here towards our Mobile Photography Guide.

The camera UI is good. The gyroscope helps you frame your shot tremendously and this is a feature I really depend on when using my real camera, meaning I can testify that this is not a gimmick. There aren't readily available settings laid besides the viewfinder, they're hidden under a tap on the Settings icon. A tap on "More Settings" will present you with a slew of options, all neatly described. For all the criticism I have on how Google endeavours to reduce Android's flexibility, this is very appreciated. Touching the screen to focus will present you temperature, brightness and contrast adjustment settings.

Onto the cameras themselves, then. The main sensor is a 12.2MP, 1.4µm shooter. This seems fine at first glance, and similar to flagship sensors from before the 48/64/108MP craze began. Don't get fooled, however, as a sensor can be of bad quality on its own accord. It is aided by a 12MP ultra-wide-angle sensor. A pretty narrow one, at "only" 0.6x. There is no optical zoom, however. Don't get fooled by that "2x", all it yields is a crude crop of the normal, 12.2MP shot. You're always better off cropping at your own leisure afterwards, or buying a device with optical zoom if need be.

| Actual shots

In broad daylight, the quality seems good at first glance. However, it's like you're always left yearning for more details. Depth of field quality is rather bad and unpleasant to the eye.

Daytime texture quality is certainly good for the category, though shadows seem quite troublesome to the Pixel 6a, yielding a lot of electronic noise.

Unfortunately, what this suggests is that nighttime pictures will be of subpar quality. And indeed, these pictures are simply unusable, blurred and soaked in electronic noise. This goes for both the normal and ultra-wide angle lenses. And yes, I did try Google's famed Night Mode feature but it didn't improve the image quality for it to approach the "decent" threshold. Scenes are shot 4x due to testing the normal and ultra-wide-angle sensors, both with and without Night mode engaged.

For comparison purposes, I have pictures made at the same time and the same location with the Pixel 6A in normal and Night Mode, compared to a normal shot from my Note20 Ultra. Clearly, Night Mode is more concerned with the image's temperature than its subpar quality. It's as if the Pixel 6a couldn't focus on anything.

By the way, the shots are sorted in this order: Pixel 6a Normal, Pixel 6a Night mode, Note20 Ultra Normal.

And another one for daytime pictures, again, to give you a sense of how far the Pixel 6a is from the reality. This time, I'm including the ultra-wide angle shots.

Here, the order is: Pixel 6a UWA, Note20 Ultra UWA, Pixel 6a Normal, Note20 Ultra Normal. Notice how the Pixel 6a's ultra-wide angle lens is narrower than the Note20 Ultra.

It is a shame indeed that Google couldn't really succeed in the camera front. I pin that on the sensors, particularly the main one. Its puny 1.4µm pixels feel a bit antiquated but even then, the results are not as good as I've come to grown accustomed from 1.4µm pixels seen on flagships since 2018. The sensor itself is likely of inferior quality, sadly.

| Performance

| CPU/Compute performance

At the heart of the Pixel 6a lies the very first Google SoC! Except it is simply a Samsung Exynos design branded "Google Tensor". These don't compare at all to NVIDIA's eponymous Machine Learning cores integrated in their GPUs and used in applications such as the famed DLSS upscaling technique. The first SoC lacks a dedicated name so I'll refer to it by its code-name, "Whitechapel". This is the very same SoC used in the proper Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, so you shouldn't worry about performance. But, as already seen in our S21 FE review, high performance SoCs and plastic bodies are a bad combination. So let's assess the damage.

| Geekbench 5 - Average, 5 consecutive tests

The CPU scores are good, if unremarkable. The single-core performance is within what I've grown to expect from my Note20 Ultra, while the multi-core performance is fairly lower by about 15%. Still, these are great scores for a 600$ smartphone.

| Comment on the GPU scores

| Comparison and sustainability

Since the Pixel 6A bears the equivalent of last year's flagship processor in a cheaper package, it is only fair we compare its performance and how it sustains it to the S21 FE and its Snapdragon 888. As such, I present you with some Geekbench 5 tests, conducted consecutively. The results are presented in the table below:

Test #

Mono Pixel 6A

Multi Pixel 6A

Vulkan Pixel 6A

Mono S21FE

Multi S21FE

Vulkan S21FE




































Admittedly, as it uses the same materials as the S21 FE 5G, the Pixel 6A can hardly do any better regarding thermal dissipation. Plastic is just that good at imprisoning heat. However, the system’s performance regulation differs by gradually reducing performance as heat is generated by the SoC. Though the Tensor “Whitechapel” SoC is not quite as powerful as the Snapdragon 888, mainly for multi-threaded workloads, it eventually prevails as the S21 FE has to drastically throttle itself as it faces unsustainable temperatures. This may sound great but it is quite bad in reality. The CPU is clearly 10% slower after a mere 10 minutes, which isn’t great to hear if you plan to use your device for extended periods.

| GPU performance and sustainability

Peak GPU performance is most excellent. With a score of 6630 for the 3DMark Wild Life Vulkan test, this comfortably exceeds the 2021 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888's scores, that hovers around the 5500 mark, give or take 200 points. This means the peak performance is effectively 20% higher. The ARMv9 Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (or 8G1 as I like to call it) does a fair bit better, at 7400. But if you compare to older high-end SoCs, the uplift is very significant. Not bad for a midrange device.

However, peak performance means little and as for sustained GPU performance, you can see below that it gets worse.

3DMark Wildlife (1 run = 1 min)

Pixel 6a

Note20 Ultra

A53 5G

Peak (1st run)




Sustained (10th run)




Sustained (20th run)




​Sustained performance ratio




Max temperature




Well, would you expect a different result from 20 Mali-G78 compute units clocked at more-or-less 900MHz, all being kept cozy under the Pixel 6a’s plastic back? After the tenth loop, with each loop taking roughly 1 minute to complete, the GPU has throttled to 66% of its peak performance. The performance then seems so stabilize at less than 50% of its peak in the remaining 10 loops. The GPUs are clearly burning after the 20th loop, where the peak FPS rendered collapse from 54 in the first loop to 21. All that means you shouldn’t expect to play games for more than five minutes at a time with respectable performance.

It is interesting to note that older and weaker GPUs like the Note20 Ultra's, who have better thermal dissipation, catch up to and outpace these newer, plastic-clad powerhouses in any sustained performance scenario. In fact, the Note20 Ultra begins outpacing the Pixel 6a after the 9th run and remains steadily ahead afterwards. The A53 doesn't throttle because it is so very weak, with its paltry 4-core G68 GPU.

| Software

I’ll confess that my last truly hands-on experience with “stock” Android was on Android 7 Nougat, most likely. It never struck me as bad, only mind-numbingly boring. And now, I get to experience pure Android 12 Snow Cone and five full releases of improvements and regressions.

| A static system

We have Material You at our disposal. Horrible name. That’s Google’s theming solution to change the system and compatible apps’ colour palette according to your wallpaper if you so wish. I’m not really a fan of this system, as you are forced to pick a palette derived from said wallpaper, or one of the four basic ones. You can’t force specific colours, create your own palette, or select which apps to apply the system-wide colours. Sure, you might point me at someone’s (probably root-based) external solution but I can’t use that to ignore glaring flaws in the base software everyone will use out-of-the-box, just as I won’t for the A53 and its ads issue.

There isn’t a lot to personalize, and for some reason, someone thought it would be practical to hide the brightness slider beneath two swipes from the top of the screen. Software ergonomics are thus leaving a lot to be desired, especially as the number of Quick Settings tiles is very limited by their purposelessly gargantuan size. And even this absurd decision is not enough to fit said toggles’ labels.

We aren't done yet with Quick Settings tiles, as another major oversight is that base/system apps do not reveal all their QS tiles from the start. You'll keep noticing new tiles are added over a week or so, as you use your device. This does not let you set your QS panel as you so wish, since an option you might want to toggle frequently isn't available just yet but might be a bit later.

The base launcher also forces the Google Search bar which also searches online automatically. You can’t remove it or alter its behaviour. I’d qualify that as intrusive. Disabling the Google app and tapping the bar opens its App Info screen, as a subtle hint to re-enable it.

| Detours

Other issues with the software are the many choices made to ensure the software isn’t as practical as you’d expect. We can start with the decision to not enable you to swap the virtual Back and Recent buttons (particularly important for previous Samsung and many other OEMs users) or to force you to scroll all the way to the left to close all apps in the Recent/Task Switcher menu. These are simple ways to improve or hamper stock Android’s ergonomics, fluidity, (OEM) interoperability and ease of use. Google has chosen to hamper.

| More examples of bad UX in Google software

There are even more issues with the software at hand, such as the inane file system limitations to better emulate iOS' chronic lack of flexibility. For the "Communications and haptics" section, I had to produce two recordings from the device's microphones. I then connected the smartphone to my PC and couldn't locate the recordings at all. It only took a few seconds for me to understand the issue, Scoped Storage. The idea is that apps can't see the device's storage and you can't see their storage area. There are exceptions – for now – so I had to make a long detour, "sharing"/uploading the recordings to Google Drive and downloading them afterwards, to finally copy them on my PC. This is fast enough for small files such as voice recordings but I ran into the same limitations with anything shot from the camera. This can only be described as stupidity.

At least, I can highlight that the system’s UI is fluid and responds in a near-instantaneous fashion. The apps load well in under a second when they weren’t already in RAM. Other UI interactions are fast and I like the pseudo-acrylic effect when highlighting a menu or toggle. It feels quite elegant.

What isn't always fluid however is the built-in keyboard. Typing can become laborious or infuriating when the keyboard begins to lag and miss key presses. This was a terrible issue a few years ago with Samsung smartphones, and somehow the Pixel 6a suffers the same fate. This is far more prevalent in apps like Chrome and less so in "lighter" apps such as Settings.

Rounding off our stock software tour, we have the base Always On Display feature, helpfully concealed under Display/Lock Screen/Always show time and info. There, you are presented with a very limited alternative to what we have grown accustomed from Samsung, where you cannot freely select what it should display or even when. It is very, very basic indeed. You can't change the clock style either. Media controls aren't available either, though you can see what media the smartphone is playing. There is no brightness adjustment function whatsoever. There is an option to wake the device when you tap the display but alas, it wakes the screen after a single tap. I could even wake the Pixel 6a with a very gentle touch. This strikes me as an invitation for accidental actions when you and your device are in transit.

| Conclusion

The Pixel 6a may be described as Google’s masterful FE. The Pixel 6’s MSRP is already quite impressive, at only 800$, and yet, the Pixel 6a drops this figure even further without offering an overly compromised experience. It is what you’d expect from a cheap mid-range smartphone which wasn’t designed as a pretty ornament for your local landfill facility. It is a breath of fresh air in a market so stale it bore a depressing, musty stench. It isn’t quite the revelation the original Motorola Moto G* was when it arrived in 2013 – and is much more expensive than it –, back when the venerable telecommunications entity was owned by Google, but it is enough to dwarf its closest opponents in the 400-700$ segment.

Though the components used are mostly good picks from the ad giant, the software is very limited, presenting you with few options to do what you want and tweak the device's behaviour to ensure it adapts to your needs – and not the reverse. You'll want to hunt for suitable alternatives. Moreover, the cameras and speakers aren't as good as one would hope.

Ultimately, if you have a smartphone to replace and seek to save as much money as possible without buying something useless, then the Pixel 6a is here and awaits your purchase. I'd still advise you to wait for a sale, as there is nothing quite revolutionary about it.

* I really wish Google would try to revive it and make a good quality Pixel Mini (because “Pixel 6g 5G” will cause confusion) at around 200$. The low-end market suffered a great loss when Google sold Motorola to Lenovo and they decided to dilute and neuter the Moto G line, after – or rather during – the Moto G3’s run. This led to the J3 2016 being the last decent attempt by Samsung to sell a good-value smartphone at 200$.

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