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Google Pixel 6 Pro — 5 reasons to buy and 3 reasons to skip

Google Pixel 6 Pro should you buy?
(Image credit: Future)

The Google Pixel 6 Pro delivers a lot for just $899. You get a stellar camera system that now lets in more light, plus a telephoto lens with 4x optical zoom. And you can do all sorts of cool things with your photos, thanks to the new Magic Eraser feature and Action Mode.

I am also pleasantly surprised by the Tensor chip’s performance based on our Pixel 6 benchmarks. And this chip helps you save time with new Google Assistant AI powers, such as live translations of signs, smarter speech to text and even holding on the line for you during customer services calls. It's no wonder the Pixel 6 Pro is already selling out, and we have a guide to where to buy the Google Pixel 6 to help you snag one. 

But the Pixel 6 Pro is certainly not perfect, and there are some trade-offs you’ll need to make if you’re thinking of getting this phone over, say, an iPhone 13 Pro Max or Galaxy S21 Ultra. Here are 5 reasons to buy the Pixel 6 Pro and 3 reasons to skip. 

Google Pixel 6 Pro: Reasons to buy

Stellar cameras

The Pixel 6 Pro packs a trio of cameras, including a new 50MP main wide sensor that captures up to 150% more light than the Pixel 5. It's paired with 12MP ultra-wide camera and a 48MP telephoto lens that features 4x optical zoom and 20x SuperRes (digital) zoom. The new camera system has also been tooled to more accurately capture darker skin tones, and there's a new Motion mode for action pans and long exposures.

In our testing, the Pixel 6 Pro more than held its own versus the iPhone 13 Pro Max. In fact, we preferred the Pixel 6 Pro's results on our portrait shot (better detail in the face) and when using Night mode (brighter image). The zoom isn't as powerful as the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but at 20x we actually preferred the results from the Pixel 6 Pro.

Aggressively priced

At $899, the Google PIxel 6 Pro is $200 less than the iPhone 13 Pro Max and $300 less than the Galaxy S21 Ultra. That's a lot of money that can be put towards accessories like cases and chargers, as well as apps. The biggest problem is finding the Pixel 6 Pro in stock right now, so be sure to check our where to buy Google Pixel 6 guide. And if you want to save even more, see our Google PIxel 6 deals page. 

Tensor chip is better than you think

Google Pixel 6 benchmarks

(Image credit: Future)

The Pixel 6 Pro ditches Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips in favor of Google's own silicon called Tensor, and the results were better than we expected on various Google Pixel 6 benchmarks. While the Pixel 6 Pro trailed the Galaxy S21 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro Max on Geekbench, it actually bested Samsung on the 3DMark Wild Life graphics benchmark.

Even better, the Pixel 6 Pro finished a good 20 seconds faster than the Galaxy S21 Ultra on our video encoding test using the Adobe Premiere Rush app. Google's phone finished in 48 seconds, compared to 1:03 for Samsung.

Magic Eraser mode and other AI powers

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The Tensor chip inside the Google PIxel 6 Pro has all sorts of smarts. For starters, it lets you erase photobombers and other unwanted objects from photos; you just select what you want to delete and the Pixel 6 Pro does the rest.

I also really like the call handling features in Google Assistant. For example, when you call an 800 number, the Pixel 6 Pro will show you how long the wait might be based on historical averages in real time. When the call starts, Google Assistant will transcribe the call and present options to you to select, and you can have the Assistant hang on the line for you. 

A design that stands out

pixel 6 pro back to camera leaning against books

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Google Pixel 6 Pro is unlike any other Pixel phone before it, and that's mostly a good thing. I like the way the camera bar stretches the whole way across the phone, which is more of a streamlined look that the unsightly patches on the back of the latest iPhone and Galaxy phones. And, unlike the regular Google PIxel 6, the Pixel 6 Pro's 6.7-inch display has a gentle curve to it without resulting in accidental touches. Add in Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and back and you have a sturdy and sleek flagship. 

Google Pixel 6 Pro: Reasons to skip

Google Pixel 6 Pro display dimmer than competition

Google PIxel 6 Pro display brightness vs iPhone 13 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future)

The Google Pixel 6 has a responsive quad HD OLED display with a smooth 120Hz refresh rate. It’s a quality panel, but it’s simply not as bright as competing flagships.

Using our light meter, the Pixel 6 Pro averaged 495 nits of brightness, which got as high as 842 nits of peak brightness with adaptive brightness enabled. The iPhone 13 Pro Max starts at 837 nits and goes all the way up to 1,038 nits.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra’s screen is dimmer (821 nit average/1,500 peak), but still brighter than that of the Pixel 6. 

A slow fingerprint sensor

Google Pixel 6 Pro fingerprint sensor

(Image credit: Future)

Google ditched the rear fingerprint reader for a sensor that’s embedded in the display, and the good news is that this reader works. The bad news is that the fingerprint sensor can be slow to read your fingerprint and is inconsistent.

I’ve found that on both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro that you need to hold your finger down longer than with the Galaxy S21 series to unlock the devices. And you will sometimes get a false negative. I’m hoping this can be improved with future updates. 

Relatively short battery life

Pixel 6 Pro (Adaptive / 60Hz)iPhone 13 Pro MaxGalaxy S21 Ultra (Adaptive / 60Hz)
Battery life (Hrs:Mins)7:49 / 7:5512:1610:07 / 11:25
Recharge percentage (15 mins)201931
Recharge percentage (30 mins)404056

Here’s a weakness I don’t think can be fixed easily — or maybe not at all. Despite packing a 5,000 mAh battery, the Pixel 6 Pro lated only 7 hours and 53 minutes on the Tom’s Guide Battery test. This involves continuous web surfing at 150 nits of screen brightness. See our Pixel 6 battery life results comparison for more details. 

By comparison, the iPhone 13 Pro Max (12:16) and Galaxy S21 Ultra (11:25) both lasted more than more than 4 hours and 3 hours longer on a charge, respectively. Note that this result was over 5G. If you want longer endurance we suggest that you switch your Pixel 6 from 5G to 4G

Bottom line

The Pixel 6 Pro definitely cuts a few corners in its fight against the iPhone 13 Pro Max and Galaxy S21 Ultra, but it's still one of the best phones of they year when you consider the price. We recommend the Pixel 6 Pro for anyone who likes Android and is looking for a big-screen experience without the big premium. 

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Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for nearly 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.