Google Pixel 6 benchmarks — Tensor is better than you think

Google Pixel 6 benchmarks
(Image credit: Future)

How fast is Google's Tensor chip for the Pixel 6? Sure, Google may be looking primarily to boost the on-board intelligence of its phones through a dedicated Tensor Processing Unit, but does that commitment to machine learning-powered features come at the expense of overall performance?

Now that we've had a chance to test Google's latest flagships for both our Google Pixel 6 and Google Pixel 6 Pro reviews, we have a better answer to that question. The Tensor chip powering both new Pixels has a lot in common with the Snapdragon 888, Qualcomm's leading system-on-chip found in many of the top Android phones released this year. But the A15 Bionic chipset that debuted with the iPhone 13 family continues to set the pace for smartphone performance.

Here's a look at how the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro performed on benchmarking tests and how the Tensor's numbers compared to results from other leading smartphones.

Pixel 6: Geekbench 5 results

The synthetic Geekbench 5 test measures overall performance. While not definitive indicator of smartphone speed, it is helpful to compare phones running different generations of chipsets, not to mention cross-platform comparisons. We look at both single-core and multicore results, as the latter can indicate how a phone takes advantage of multiple cores.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 ProcessorGeekbench 5 single core scoreGeekbench 5 multicore score
Google Pixel 6Google Tensor1,0292,696
Google Pixel 6 ProGoogle Tensor1,0272,760
Samsung Galaxy S21 UltraSnapdragon 8881,1233,440
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3Snapdragon 8881,1073,418
Apple iPhone 13A15 Bionic1,6684,436
Apple iPhone 13 Pro MaxA15 Bionic1,7204,549
Nubia RedMagic 6S ProSnapdragon 888 Plus1,1303,685

This is the one area where Tensor seems to lag the Snapdragon 888-powered competition with the single- and multicore results finishing off the pace set by other Android flagships. The fastest Android phone on this test — the Snapdragon 888 Plus-powered RedMagic 6S Pro gaming phone — has a single core score that's 10% faster than what the Pixel 6 Pro produces; the multicore score is 34% better.

No Android phone can hold a candle to the iPhone 13 models, thanks to Apple's A15 Bionic chip. The iPhone 13 Pro Max is the fastest phone here, with a multicore score that's 65% faster than what the Pixel 6 Pro mustered.

The lesson here is that the Tensor chip is probably not as well positioned to take advantage of apps that rely on multiple cores when compared to the Snapdragon 888. In anecdotal testing, we didn't notice a lag when running apps on the Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro, but the results here are undeniable.

Pixel 6: Graphics test results

To measure graphics performance, we find that 3DMark's Wild Life Unlimited gives us the best way to do cross-platform comparisons of different devices. Wild Life requires phones to render complex scenes in real-time, in the spirit of games that feature short bursts of intense activity; these tests runs those tests off-screen.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 ProcessorWild Life Unlimited scoreWild Life Unlimited FPS
Google Pixel 6Google Tensor5,73534.3
Google Pixel 6 ProGoogle Tensor6,68240
Samsung Galaxy S21 UltraSnapdragon 8885,73934.4
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3Snapdragon 8885,62233.7
Apple iPhone 13A15 Bionic9,33155.9
Apple iPhone 13 Pro MaxA15 Bionic11,41868.4
Nubia RedMagic 6S ProSnapdragon 888 Plus5,88135.2

The Pixel 6 fares much better when it comes to gaming, with results on 3DMark's Wild Life Unlimited matching most Android phones. The Pixel 6 Pro does even better, with its FPS result topping the RedMagic 6S Pro's 35.2 FPS and Galaxy S21 Ultra. And the Snapdragon 888 Plus in the Nubia phone is particularly geared toward boosting graphics performance, making the Pixel 6 Pro's result even more impressive.

Again, Apple's phones are the pace-setters on this test, with the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro Max producing scores of 55.9 and 68.4 FPS, respectively. That's well ahead of either Pixel 6 model.

Pixel 6: Video encoding results

We also try to run real-world tests that mimic activities you'd perform in everyday usage of your phone. Our favorite involves video transcoding using the Adobe Premiere Rush app. We take a 4K video clip and convert it to 1080p, timing how long it takes each phone to finish the task. Typically, this is an area where iPhones dominate, though we've seen some Android devices inching closer.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 ProcessorAdobe Premiere Rush transcode time (Mins:Secs)
Google Pixel 6Google Tensor0:49
Google Pixel 6 ProGoogle Tensor0:48
Samsung Galaxy S21 UltraSnapdragon 8881:03
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3Snapdragon 8880:50
Apple iPhone 13A15 Bionic0:26
Apple iPhone 13 Pro MaxA15 Bionic0:25

Stop us if we're repeating ourselves, but Apple continues to win this test handily. Both the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro Max were able to transcode the video in less than 30 seconds, with the larger of the two iPhones posting the best time.

However, the Pixel 6 models both do well here. They've posted the best time among Android phones, with both the Pixel 6 (49 seconds) and Pixel 6 Pro (48 seconds) besting the Galaxy Z Fold 3's 50-second result. (Note that we don't have numbers for the RedMagic 6S Pro here, as Adobe Premiere Rush isn't compatible with that phone.)

Pixel 6 performance outlook

Geekbench results for the Pixel 6 models may not match what you would get from a Snapdragon 888-powered phone, but the results are close enough for most users. Furthermore, the superior performance on graphics testing and video transcoding should alleviate any concerns you have about the Pixel 6's performance relative to other Android devices.

The iPhone 13 models still remain the kings of smartphone performance. But the Pixel 6 and its Tensor chip can hold its own against any other Android handset.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.

  • TekWreck
    Pixel 6 = Phone of the year. Clearly the best android phone and the best value in cellphones. Already shaking up the market.