Google did it. The company released the “flagship” Pixel phone hardware tech junkies have been begging to see. Finally, the best camera software has great camera hardware, and all the other trimmings are there, too. On paper, it’s the perfect phone. And in practice? Well, the devil is in the details.
If you’re sold on Android and have money to spend, let’s get the truth out of the way: this is the best Android phone you can buy unless you insist on a screen that folds. That’s saying a lot because the other flagships out there cost more than this Pixel 6 Pro. At just $899, this phone lands flagship hardware for $100 less or more than every other flagship phone.
But the odd thing is it’s not Samsung or even Apple that provides the real competition against the Pixel 6 Pro. It’s Google—specifically the regular flavor of Pixel 6. Even though the Pro model is “more affordable” than the other flagships, it feels too expensive, thanks to the $600 Pixel 6. But I’m getting ahead of myself—let’s get into what makes this phone special.
Past Pixel hardware has been, to be generous, lackluster. Nothing about the Pixel line truly stood out as unique compared to all the other candy bar phones on the market. With the Pixel 6 Pro, it’s clear Google decided to create a unique look. The sort of thing that, just as you recognize an iPhone or Galaxy phone on sight, will scream “I own a Pixel” when you pull it out in a crowd. That said, when I had my Pixel 6 Pro out next to a Galaxy Z Flip, I still got more questions about the Flip than the Pixel.
Most strikingly, of course, is the camera bump—a look that many reviewers call “the visor.” That fits because it does resemble Geordi’s visor from Star Trek or a Cylon eyescanner. Therein lies the upgraded camera hardware. Let’s get into that and all the other specs:
- Display: 6.7-inch (170 mm) 1440 x 3120 (512 PPI)
- Processor: Google Tensor
- RAM: 12 GB
- Storage: 128GB (reviewed), or 256 GB
- Cameras: 50 MP wide, 48 MP telephoto, 12 MP ultrawide
- Ports: USB-C
- Headphone Jack: No
- Battery: 5003mAh
- Fingerprint Sensor: In-Display
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6e, Bluetooth 5.2
- 5G Compatibility: 5G mmWave & Sub-6 GHz, UWB
- Android version: Android 12
- IP Rating: IP68
- Colors: Cloudy White (reviewed) Sorta Sunny, or Stormy Black,
- Price: $899 (reviewed), or $999
For $899, you get pretty similar specs to the Samsung Galaxy Ultra, which is $300 more. If it seems like I’m comparing the price a lot, it’s because the Pixel 6 Pro is aggressively priced. It packs flagship specs, and finally, it even feels like a flagship on the outside.
That’s down to the Gorilla Glass front and back, along with the aluminum sidebars. The Pixel 6 Pro feels nothing less than premium between high-end materials and the giant display. It’s hefty in the hand, and the humongous camera visor acts as a natural resting place for your index fingers.
Or at least it would if you don’t put a case on your Pixel. But let me tell you this right now—you need a case for this phone. You shouldn’t even take it out of the box without immediately slapping a case on your Pixel 6 Pro. If you wait, I can almost guarantee you’ll drop the thing. Between the curved display (seriously, companies, please stop it with the curved displays) and all the glass, holding the Pixel 6 Pro feels like grasping a wet bar of soap after covering your hands in butter. It’s that slippery.
Overall, I like the look of the phone. The visor is growing on me, though obviously, it won’t fit everyone’s taste. It feels like the Pixel line finally has a distinct look. But I have one complaint (besides the fingerprint sensor, which we’ll get into later): the volume and power button placement. The phone is super tall, thanks to that 6.7-inch display. And the volume up button falls where I expect the power button to be. I end up hitting the volume button all the time when I want to lock or unlock the phone, and weeks later, I still haven’t adjusted.
I’ve already hinted at it, but the Pixel 6 Pro’s display is enormous. At 6.7-inches, we are talking small tablet territory. With that comes problems, like the volume and power button placement. But it’s also unwieldy at times to use—even with a case on, I’ve dropped the phone more than once because I held it in an awkward position due to the sheer size.
But the display itself is a good experience. The dynamic 120 Hz refresh rate works well, and content scrolls in a buttery smooth fashion with almost no lag. While it may not be the brightest or most vibrant screen, it IS bright and vibrant. I prefer where Google landed, as the colors look more natural to my eyes. One thing that does drive me nuts is the adaptive brightness feature. It’s too quick to adjust, and I often find myself squinting because it inexplicably dimmed due to some shifting shadows. Every phone does this sometimes, but the Pixel 6 Pro does it often.
As for the cameras, I find myself somehow impressed and underwhelmed at the same time. Phone manufacturers like to boast about the fantastic photos devices can take in the hands of a trained photographer, but that’s not what matters to me. Show me how the camera does in the hands of “Bob,” the guy who struggles to get a shot in focus on a bright and sunny day.
The Pixel 6 Pro marries “flagship” lenses to Google’s excellent camera software, and that means you get incredible photos—sometimes. And other times, the pictures are just fine. It’s confusing, to be honest, because past Pixels almost guaranteed terrific images every time. And that’s not quite the case here. At its best, the Pixel 6 Pro takes some of the best pictures found in a camera phone, perhaps even better than the iPhone 13. But just as often, other pictures aren’t on that same level and leave you wanting a little more. Like so many things Pixel, it lacks consistency.
And I’m going to blame at least some of that consistency issue on the display itself. The Pixel 6 Pro is so dang tall that sometimes it’s just awkward to hold the phone and take a picture. The weird grips you’re forced to use will likely lead to unsteady camera shots, ruining the final result.
One of the benefits of grabbing a Pixel phone is earlier access to the latest and greatest version of Android and Pixel exclusive features. Pixel has multiple superpowers, not least of all, which is better phone call management. You’ll get assistance when navigating customer service phone prompts and an honest-to-goodness solution for spam calls.
The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro come with Android 12, and it’s a dramatic departure from Android 11. Gone is the power menu, which I consider a tragedy. But not everyone is deeply invested in smart home tech, so the loss may not be as noticeable to everyone.
Still, that’s the story of Android 12, in a way. For every new welcome feature, it seems like Google removed another or changed a look in a bad way. On the Pixel 6 series, the OS will now change dominant colors to match your wallpaper. It’s a nice touch that brings a cohesive look to Android 12. But can I be honest? I’ll probably give that feature up because it’s not worth dealing with Google’s home screen. You can’t remove the Google search bar from the bottom of the screen, nor can you remove the At a Glance widget, which frankly can’t justify its permanent presence.
The new quick settings toggles in the notification panel are hilariously enormous, and you could argue that means you’ll tap the right button every time, but I call it wasted space. I also wish the Google Pay toggle didn’t broadcast the last four digits of my credit card, also known as the answer to a security question for some services. But at least as a whole, Android 12 on the Pixel 6 Pro looks cohesive. That’s not something Android could always say.
And getting down to Pixel 6 specific features, the magic eraser tool is honestly magical—as long as you use it sensibly. No, you shouldn’t expect it to erase a person in the foreground perfectly. But if you want to erase that dirty spot on a dog bed, or an errant person deep in the background, magic eraser works wonderfully and quickly.
Thanks to the custom Tensor processor, that and other exclusive camera features are possible. But the new processor also means growing pains. You may find apps that don’t work, for instance. When Rocket League Sideswipe launched, it initially crashed on Pixel devices. You’ll have to use a workaround if you want to play Rocket League on your phone. Oh, and let’s not forget the fingerprint sensor, which works well enough for me, but it sounds Iike I’m the exception and not the rule.
As for battery life, it will likely be fine for most people. I run at my phone pretty hard, playing a mix of games, email checking, Slack and Twitter use, and more. I’m also reading news on it all day long, and sometimes I begrudgingly watch videos on my phone. Every day, without fail, I find my Pixel 6 Pro sitting at 30% as I head to bed. That’s pretty good, considering I get up at 7 AM each day and head to bed around 1 AM.
But that’s just me: when I looked around, I saw figures wildly all over the place with complaints about epically short battery life or praises about a battery that won’t die. Consistency is the bane of Pixel.
So what do I think of the Pixel 6 Pro? Well, it’s everything we’ve come to know and expect from Pixel hardware, but with a proper flagship feel. On the one hand, that means this is the most “premium” Pixel yet. On the other hand, you’ll still deal with the weird quirks that are practically part of the Pixel brand.
But, at least for now, I intend to use the Pixel 6 Pro as my daily driver. That in itself should say a lot. Whether you should, though, is a more difficult question to answer, and that’s because of the price. At $899, this is a flagship phone for less than flagship prices. Comparing the Pixel 6 Pro to equivalent flagship brands makes it a winner on budget questions alone.
However, you can’t just compare to the high-end flagships. Not while the standard Pixel 6 exists, which is a good $300 cheaper. And what do you give up for $300? Not much. You’ll lose the telephoto lens, the larger and higher resolution screen size (is that a benefit?), 120Hz refresh rate, “better” 5G, and that’s about it.
That’s not a lot of benefit for $300, which is a problem. Without a doubt, the Pixel 6 Series is Google’s finest achievement in flagship hardware yet. If you’ve ever been on the fence about a Pixel phone, now is the time to get off the fence and buy one already. But unless you have money to spare and you absolutely want the best possible specs, I’d steer you towards the Pixel 6. The Pixel 6 Pro is best for Google enthusiasts and reviewers who love carrying the best of the best.
Here’s What We Like
- Premium feel
- Flagship camera hardware
- Exclusive Pixel features
And What We Don't
- Slippery as soap
- Curved extra-tall display
- Awkward pricing