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

Reasons to buy and skip the Google Pixel 6
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro arrive in stores this Thursday (Oct. 28), introducing the world to Google's new processor, improved cameras and a ton of new capabilities for the phone's on-board assistant. Having posted our Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Plus reviews, we're suitably impressed by both devices, which are the best phones that Google's made in some time.

Pixel fans likely don't need convincing that the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 deliver. But how about smartphone shoppers mulling an upgrade from another device? Whether you've got an Android phone — be it from Samsung or some other device maker — or even an iPhone, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro certainly deserve a long, serious look.

Here are the arguments for making either Pixel 6 model your next device. And here are the reasons you may want to consider other phones instead.

Google Pixel 6: reasons to buy

Great cameras with top-notch tools

After a couple years with just a pair of cameras, the Pixel 6 Pro offers a third shooter — a telephoto lens that supports a 4x zoom. But that's not the only thing that's changing about the camera hardware on the latest Pixels.

Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro cameras

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Both the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro feature a new main lens, one with a 50MP sensor. The beefier camera captures some pretty impressive looking photos to the point where you could argue the Pixel 6 can challenge the iPhone 13 for the title of best camera phone.

But we're talking about more than just hardware when we talk about the relative merits of Google's cameras. As with past Pixels, the new versions come loaded with new features powered by computational photography. Shoot a picture of someone who moves just as you press the shutter button, and the Pixel 6 can un-blur their faces. You can also use the phone's new Motion mode to turn static images into action shots, while the Magic Eraser removes unwanted people cluttering up the background of your image with just a tap, as you can see below.

These features don't require you to spend a lot of time fine-tuning edits. It really is as simple as letting the computational photography that Google excels in do its thing and then accept or reject the results.

Tensor delivers really good performance and AI powers

A lot of those machine learning-powered tricks are enabled by the new Tensor system-on-chip on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. Instead of the Qualcomm Snapdragon silicon that's powered previous Pixels, Google is now designing its own chipset, with an emphasis on artificial intelligence driven by the Tensor Processor Unit that's an integral part of the chip. 

Google Pixel 6 benchmarks

(Image credit: Future)

As a result, the Pixel 6 can do a lot of things that are beyond premium phones. We're particularly impressed by how we can dictate text messages on the Pixel 6, with the Google Assistant smart enough to recognize when to put in punctuation or when we're issuing Send and Clear commands instead of dictating.

Even better, this added intelligence doesn't come at the expense of performance. Based on our Pixel 6 benchmark testing, the Tensor silicon delivers the kind of performance you'd expect from a Snapdragon 888-powered handset — slower in some areas, faster than others, but essentially what you'd expect from a top-of-the-line Android device.

Easy access to Android 12

Pixel is the phone to get if you like a pure Android experience. And the Pixel 6 is your first chance to get your hands on Android 12, the latest version of Google's phone software. Because this is a Google phone, you're also assured of getting updates more or less as they become available. And to sweeten the deal, Google says its Tensor processor allows the Pixel 6 to be able to support security updates for the next five years, extending the lifespan of this particular device.

Google Pixel 6 home screen

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Pixel 6 doesn't just run Android 12 — it incorporates the update's Material You interface into its very design. Wallpapers now reflect the color of your phone, and there are even custom icons and keyboard flourishes that mimic the look of your particular Pixel 6 model.

A distinctive new look

The Pixel 6 looks a lot different from what's cone before it, and that's a good thing in a world where it's increasingly harder to tell smartphone slabs apart. Oh, you get a two-tone color pattern as you have with Pixels of the past, but it's separated by a horizontal band running across the back of the phone.

Google Pixel 6 held in hand

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

That band houses the Pixel 6's camera array — two rear lenses for the standard model and three shooters for the Pixel 6 Pro. It's certainly a lot more attractive than the camera bumps that bulge out of the corners of most phones these days. And because it stretches from one end of the Pixel 6 to the other, the horizontal bar prevents your phone from wobbling when you lay it on its back.

There are three new colors for each phone — Sorta Sage, Kinda Coral and Stormy Black for the Pixel 6 while  Cloudy White and Sorta Sunny join Stormy Black on the Pixel 6 Pro. So no matter your taste, there's likely to be a Pixel 6 color that suits it.

A great price

We've already argued that the Pixel 6's best feature may be its price. Even if you think that's overstating it, it's hard to argue with a premium phone that starts at $599 — $100 cheaper than the least expensive iPhone 13 model and $200 less than what Samsung charges for a Galaxy S21. 

Even the ultra premium Pixel 6 Pro has a reasonable $899 price — $100 less than equivalent iPhone and Galaxy S models. 

Trying to keep its phone prices down has been part of Google's M.O. the last couple years. Unlike 2020's Pixel 5, though, the company didn't skimp on features to offer a less expensive flagship. And that's particularly impressive, considering the Pixel 6 actually costs less than the Pixel 5 did.

Google Pixel 6: reasons to avoid

Not all models have that attractive starting price

While we're fans of the $599 starting price for the Pixel 6, that's not the same cost for every model. Buy the Pixel 6 from Verizon, and you'll pay $699; that same phone costs $739 at AT&T. Similarly, AT&T charges $939 for the 128GB Pixel 6 Pro — $40 more than what you'd pay elsewhere.

The reason for this disparate pricing is that the AT&T and Verizon models are designed to work with those carrier's high-speed mmWave-based 5G networks. The $599 Pixel 6 merely works on sub-6GHz 5G. 

We understand the reasoning. But we'd also note that this is a complication that, say, the iPhone 13 doesn't introduce with its pricing.

The Pixel 6's older modem

Reports suggest the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro use a Samsung Exynos 5123 modem, which is about a generation behind the modems found in the iPhone 13 and Galaxy S21. That means, potentially, that 5G connectivity may not be as fast on the Pixel 6. We've seen some evidence in our testing, where Pixel 6 speeds on Verizon 5G fluctuated widely in the same location, while an iPhone 13 using the same SIM card produced more consistent download speeds.

pixel 6 pro nav bar zoomed in

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

There's another impact reflected in our battery testing numbers. While we observed slower than average results on our battery test when we had the Pixel 6 surfing the web over a 5G connection, numbers on the test conducted over LTE were much faster. That happened a lot when we tested phone batteries in early 2020, again suggesting that the Pixel is using an older modem.

The Pixel 6's battery life has been inconsistent

Speaking of battery life, neither the Pixel 6 nor the Pixel 6 Pro performed well in that battery life test. The Pixel 6 lasted an average of 8 hours and 13 minutes when its screen was set to its maximum 90Hz refresh rate. The Pixel 6 Pro fared even worse, lasting less than 8 hours whether its screen was refreshing at 120Hz or 60Hz.

Both times are below average, and not close to what we've seen from other recent flagships. While you should be able to get through the day on a charge, if you want worry-free battery life, the Pixel 6 may not be your most consistent option.

Pixel 6 outlook

Android fans who want a good-looking phone that takes great pictures and offers lots of interesting new experiences and capabilities should jump at the chance to get the Pixel 6. It nails all of those requirements. But if battery and 5G performance are high on your list of must-have features, you may want to consider other possibilities for your next phone.

Philip Michaels
Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.
  • TekWreck
    Google does not appear to be as impressed with all the 5g Hype as Tom's Guide has been over the past year. And Google is right.
    Good question on this modem. But if it is rated to handle wi-fi 6e it likely must be quick enough for paltry, practically nonexistent, overhyped 5G- RIGHT?
    Battery harder to gauge and depends on specific usage. Other users reports say battery is great.
    Overall the Pixel 6 phone line is the biggest market disruptor this year - Pixel 6 "Phone of the year."It re-establishes Google while destroying OnePlus, damaging Samsung and challenging Apple.
    Google is already winning the price software and usability wars, while standing strong on hardware.
    All Google need do for the Pixel 7 is come out with a new Tensor CPU chip that meets/beats Apple.
    Ominous signs for those in the dubious paradise AKA "Apple's land of the $14 polishing cloth"
    Google has disrupted the cellphone value proposition in one deft, thunderous stroke.
    Reply
  • SmgUk
    Haha hilarious your deluded 5G is overhyped because you don’t have it lol, Pixel has been overhyped still losing to iPhone in pretty much all areas including photography / battery / video / performance etc and this has made zero dent on Samsung who will soon be bringing out the S22 series which will make the Pixel look dated by comparison
    Reply
  • TekWreck
    So the phone is just about sold out worldwide -- by accident in your view?
    Why are all the other handsets repricing? Coincidence?
    Samsung does not come out until March of next year - they will take a lot of damage in the meantime.
    By March Pixel 7 and it's massive advertising budge and network will be already waiting in the wings and clipping Samsung's thunder.
    Your reply only proves my point.
    Reply
  • Ryrynz
    Examples of repricing? S22 should be out in February and will I think easily best the Pixel 6 being an actual next gen device.
    Was pretty pumped for the 6 but it seems a bit flawed.. Might take a look at it again next year after a couple of feature drops and
    see if it's any good then but I'm pretty unimpressed as it stands.

    They need to do more to the 7 than just make a new chip they need to give this a proper polish, lots of software work required.
    Watch Mr Whosetheboss's camera review and Booredatwork gaming review.

    Was really expecting more from the GPU but my 4XL is about the same performance and looks like they haven't improved the thermals and throttling either.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/moorinsights/2021/10/28/google-tensor-soc-and-pixel-6-benchmarks-show-googles-intentions-for-building-its-own-soc/
    Reply