Update: Our Google Pixel 6 review and Google Pixel 6 Pro review are now live.
The Google Pixel 6 and Google Pixel 6 Pro are looking to be impressive devices at competitive prices, from the new Tensor chip to their advanced cameras. Unfortunately, when compared to other flagship phones like the iPhone 13 and Samsung Galaxy S21, Google is lagging in one key area: 5G.
According to a report from PCMag (opens in new tab), The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro reportedly use Samsung's Exynos 5123 modem along with Google's custom Tensor processor. This is the same modem used in last year's international version of the Samsung Galaxy S20. While this might not seem like a big deal, considering how quickly 5G technology is evolving, it actually does put Pixel at a notable disadvantage compared to the competition.
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- Plus: Pixel 6 Pro vs iPhone 13 Pro Max real-world speed test shows surprising results
When dropping $600-900 on a phone, consumers usually want the latest tech to ensure that their purchase lasts as long as possible. When it comes to 5G modems, having this year's chip means netting faster and more consistent 5G speeds for the following three to five years.
The Exynos 5123 modem is about on par with Qualcomm's X55 modem found on the iPhone 12 and the U.S. version of the Galaxy S20, according to PCMag. The iPhone 13 and the U.S. version of the Galaxy S21 are using Qualcomm's X60 5G modem.
Older 5G modem put to the test
We did an unscientific comparison between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 on T-Mobile's 5G network in the central New Jersey area. Our simple test, done via Ookla's Speed Test app, gave the iPhone 12 an average download speed of 32.72 Mbps, whereas the iPhone 13 sat at 58.26 Mbps. That's a dramatic improvement in 5G performance.
Upload speeds were mediocre across both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13, with an average of 4.07 and 7.55 Mbps, respectively. But it does show that the newer Qualcomm X60, plus other optimizations around antennas, can make a substantial difference.
If the Exynos 5123 modem is a good approximation of performance with the Qualcomm X55, then Pixel 6 owners will have to deal with significantly slower 5G speeds. Of course, firmware, local networks and internal antennas can make a big difference. It's just something to be aware of for prospective Pixel 6 buyers.
I personally had been rocking the U.S. version of the Galaxy S20 FE, which also had the X55 modem by Qualcomm. And on T-Mobile's 5G network here in Houston, I found the experience frustrating. Often, speeds were so slow and inconsistent. I ended up locking my phone to 4G LTE for better overall performance. I've since switched to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3.
Interestingly, during Google's Pixel 6 event, it did very little to show off the connectivity features of the device. We didn't get any 5G Stadia demos or other bits that could show off the phones' Wi-Fi 6E performance. Google was more interested in showing off its Material You UI design that will come packed with Android 12.
The Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro go on sale October 28 for $599 and $899, respectively. Just don't expect blazing 5G in exchange for those lower prices.
My Pixel 1 even has higher speeds (~100Mbps in Amsterdam) than what is being reported here. All speeds mentioned are not even LTE-Advanced (4G) max speeds. They do not max out the capabilities of the X55 modem.
Fact is, 5G is mostly just 4G (LTE-A) when it comes to speed. There are a few efficiency optimisations purely beneficial to the mobile network provider. Real 5G speeds are barely available in the world simply because there is no need for providers to provide that and because ther would need to install a mobile phone tower on at least every corner of every street due to the extremely high frequency and still it would only work outside, not inside buildings, since high frequencies don't penetrate concrete. That's just physics.
Fact is also that not a single provider in the world has planned to implement what is necessary to benefit from the X60 modem, since they don't even need to max out the X55 modem.
Be happy with that X55 modem. It allows for speeds that are sufficient for plenty of years even after the Pixel 6 is End-Of-Life.
Apple had no reason to pay more for the more expensive X60 modem.
The modem mentioned is NOT EVEN A BUG or measurable shortcoming.
Even if one or 2 serious bugs are found in the P6 line, it has SO MUCH going for it, nothing is going to stop the stampede.
The straight value proposition is indisputable:
The Pixel 6 is an amazing utility performance value
The Pixel 6Pro is a superior flagship performance value
In an article written AFTER your site has hands-on with the actual phone?!
Tom's guide, this is why people hate journalists these days, you give journalists a horrible name. Don't do this to your valued colleagues who do take stuff seriously but get the same horrible reputation as a result.
If the phone is still under embargo, wait until it lifts and do a proper controlled test. Or report on facts you can already find out about the difference between these two modems. Don't just make up nonsense. And yes, people are buying these phones right now, but they won't ship until after the embargo lifts. If there is a real issue they will have plenty of time to cancel their orders. But we all know there is no issue anyway, so stop using the excuse of "warning consumers".