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Google Pixel 6a Review: Serious Bang For Your Buck

Rating: 8/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $299
Pixel 6a held in person's hand
Justin Duino / Review Geek

The Pixel A-series is back, and Google has another winner on its hands. The new Google Pixel 6a is arguable the best bang for your buck and easy to recommend. If you’re on a budget, buy this phone. However, I also have mixed feelings, mainly because Google’s regular Pixel 6 is already so affordable.

Don’t get me wrong. The Pixel 6a looks great and does just about everything well, considering it’s only $449. On the flip side, the Pixel 6a has a smaller battery and screen than the previous Pixel 5a, which we loved, and is only $150 less than the flagship Pixel 6 from late last year.

It’s a killer phone that’s not crazy expensive. You get the same updated design, Tensor processor, and software as the Pixel 6. However, being a budget phone, there are shortcomings. The screen is smaller and only 60Hz, it offers an IP67 rating instead of an IP68 rating, the back is plastic, and there’s no wireless charging. We’re also getting the same 12MP camera Google used since the Pixel 3, not the latest and greatest.

Still, there’s plenty to like about the phone, so don’t count it out yet.

Here's What We Like

  • Great value
  • Solid specs and performance
  • Typical Pixel experience

And What We Don't

  • Smaller battery than its predecessor
  • No wireless charging
  • Older cameras

Review Geek's expert reviewers go hands-on with each product we review. We put every piece of hardware through hours of testing in the real world and run them through benchmarks in our lab. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product and never aggregate other people’s reviews. Read more >>

Hardware, Design, and Build Quality

Pixel 6a sage color
Cory Gunther

  • Dimensions: 152.16 x 71.8 x 8.85, 178g
  • Colors: Charcoal, Chalk, and Sage color options
  • Design: IP67, In-display fingerprint sensor

With the Pixel 6a, we’re getting the same overall look, feel, and design as the flagship Pixel 6 series. Meaning Google delivered the same minimal yet modern style with the huge camera visor on the back. At first, I didn’t like the camera bar look, but it allows the phone to lay flat on a table without wobbling, which is a big plus. It’s almost flat and not nearly as pronounced as the Pixel 6.

The thought behind the “A” series is delivering the basics of a phone at an affordable price tag while keeping the Pixel experience. A watered-down Pixel, if you will. In that sense, the Pixel 6a is perfect.

You’ll still enjoy the same overall style, but Google made a few adjustments to keep the price down. This phone has a plastic back, not glass, but you wouldn’t notice just by looking at it. And while that’s a downgrade for some, it means you won’t have to worry about cracking the back glass.

Taking a look around the phone, you’ll find a USB-C port and dual speaker ports on the bottom, but only one is an actual speaker. On the right side of the Pixel 6a, we’re getting the power button and volume rockers, while the left side houses the SIM slot. It’s a clean, slim, and minimal look, but we do have antenna lines on both sides of the otherwise aluminum housing and a pinhole microphone at the top. The fingerprint sensor is inside the screen, and so far, it’s arguably better than the Pixel 6, but more on that below.

Just like the bigger Pixel 6 series, this is a slippery phone. That’s ok, though, because most people use a case anyway. The smaller 6.1-inch screen is not massive, so whether you use a case or not, it’ll be easy to hold and operate one-handed.

The 6 Best Cases For Your New Google Pixel 6a

Extra Strong
Spigen Tough Armor Case
Clearly Pixel
Google's Pixel 6a Case
Caseology Nano Pop
Get a Grip
dbrand Grip Case for Pixel 6a
Rugged Vibes
UAG Black Scout Case
Double Up
Speck ImpactHero Case

My only real complaint regarding the design is sometimes you can feel where the aluminum sides meet the plastic back, which is bothersome. It’s not a sharp edge, but it’s noticeable enough that I feel it whenever I use the Pixel 6a without a case.

That said, the hardware, design, and build quality are all pretty great at this price point.

The Display

One of the biggest differences between the Pixel 6 and the new Pixel 6a is the display. Google gave the Pixel 6a a smaller 6.1-inch FHD+ screen with a 60Hz refresh rate. The bezels around the screen are relatively large, colors are vivid, but the brightness could undoubtedly be better. As for protection, this screen has Gorilla Glass 3 to prevent scratches and damage, compared to the durable Victus glass on the Pixel 6.

Pixel 6a display on outside
Cory Gunther

  • Display Size: 6.1-inch FHD+ 1080×2400 OLED
  • Refresh Rate: 60Hz
  • Scratch-Resistance: Corning Gorilla Glass 3

The Pixel 6 packs a 6.4-inch FHD+ OLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate. And the Pixel 6 Pro is even bigger and sports a 120Hz screen. If those are too big, the Pixel 6a will be refreshingly compact. And while it makes sense that Google’s affordable phone drops things down a notch when it comes to size and specs, we’ve seen high refresh rate displays in several midrange devices.

Going from a 120Hz display on my daily phone to the Pixel 6a made the refresh rate highly noticeable. If you’ve never owned a 90 or 120Hz phone, this won’t matter, but it’s still a bummer.

Google went with a flat display on the Pixel 6a, and I prefer it over the curved glass on many other phones. The look and feel are great, especially while using Android 12’s gesture navigation controls.

Like previous phones from Google, the Pixel 6a has a warmer natural look, rather than the oversaturated colors you’ll find on something from Samsung. The colors are nice and vibrant, the blacks look great, and my only real complaint is the brightness, which is a reoccurring problem. Even the more expensive Pixel 6 had brightness issues, and the glitchy auto-brightness certainly doesn’t help.

The screen is a bit dim indoors. During daily use, I have it set around 70% brightness. That’s far more than my regular setting on other phones. Thankfully, things are better outdoors, as Google still has its high brightness mode to boost display brightness in direct sunlight. That’ll drain the battery, though, so use it sparingly.

About Those Cameras

Google Pixel 6a's rear camera bar
Justin Duino / Review Geek

  • Rear Cameras: 12.2MP f/1.7 main with 77° view, 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide rear camera 114° view
  • Front Camera: 8MP fixed f/2.0 with an 84° wide field of view

What about the camera, though? The other significant cost-saving change Google made was reusing the old 12MP Sony IMX363 primary sensor from the Pixel 3-5 in this new Pixel 6a. It doesn’t have the 6’s 50MP camera, but that’s not a deal-breaker. It did, however, get the same 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide camera as its more expensive sibling, and they both perform great.

As expected, the Pixel 6a has a fantastic camera thanks to all of Google’s computational photography magic. And because it’s running the Tensor chip and upgraded ISP, all of Google’s fancy features are along for the ride. We’re talking about Google Photos Magic Eraser, Real Tone, Portrait Light, Face Unblur, Top Shot, Portrait Mode, SuperRes Zoom, and Live HDR.

We’re all well aware of what Google’s camera hardware and software can do. Unfortunately, this old camera needs software help in dim-lit environments, and moving subjects could be a little better. However, I did snap quite the excellent photo of my pup in a dark room, which you can see in the gallery above.

The Pixel 6a cameras are capable, but they’re not quite as good as the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. Even the front-facing camera is still 8MP instead of 10MP, but it’ll certainly get the job done. As for video, you’ll get both 1080p or 4K video recording at 30/60 FPS, slow-mo up to 240 FPS, and 5x digital zoom. And again, many of the Pixel 6’s video features are here, thanks to the processor on the inside.

Pixel 6a cameras
Cory Gunther

Basically, the affordable Pixel 6a has the same solid camera experience we’ve all come to know and love. It might not be the absolute best considering the aging sensor, but this phone produces consistent results.

That does bring me back to those mixed feelings I mentioned at the beginning. The Pixel 6a is solid, but for only $150 more, you could get the Pixel 6 (or less on sale) with things like a better screen and camera—two important aspects of a smartphone.

Software and Battery Life

Pixel6a software and homescreen
Cory Gunther

  • Software: Shipped with Android 12
  • Processor: Google Tensor SoC
  • Storage & RAM: 128GB storage (UFS3.1) with 6GB of RAM
  • Battery: 4,410 mAh with 18w fast charging (no wireless charging)

The Pixel 6a comes with Android 12 (for now), and it’s one of many strong suits of the Pixel line. You’ll always have the latest and greatest version of Android, Google drops exclusive features constantly, and we can’t forget things like phone call management to kill spam or sit on hold for you. Being a Pixel, you’ll get five years of security updates and three years of OS updates. The Pixel 6a will still be chugging along in 2025 with Android 15.

When you get a Pixel, you’re getting pure, unbloated Android, and it’s amazingly refreshing coming from a Samsung phone. And starting with Android 12, Google put effort into options and customization. The software can quickly match the standout colors of your wallpaper, then apply them throughout the OS, and the widgets are vastly improved.

However, Android 12 isn’t perfect, and there are certain changes I don’t enjoy. The quick-setting tiles in the notification bar are massive, but at least we have tons of tiles to choose from.

Pulling down the notification shade twice to access the frustrating brightness slider seems silly, as does ditching the power menu and putting that button in the pulldown bar. I also hate that I can’t put the Google search bar at the top or remove the weather widget. I guess I’ll need to download a 3rd party launcher.

This is Google’s hardware running on Google’s software, so it’s certainly smooth and seamless. However, I have experienced a few times when it gets hot, especially while out and about using 5G, and the phone seems to throttle performance a little bit. During daily use though, it runs solid and handles all my tasks.

Surprisingly, the in-display fingerprint sensor works better than I expected. While it’s still not an ultrasonic sensor, it’s fast and rarely fails to unlock my phone. Judging by all the Pixel 6 fingerprint sensor drama, I’d say Google managed to find a better solution here. It still struggles with dirty or wet fingers, but for the most part, I didn’t dislike it.

Pixel 6a fingerprint sensor
Cory Gunther

The Pixel 6a is fast, fluid, and runs great. I won’t bore you with benchmark results, as those don’t indicate real-world usage. Just know that Google put the same high-performance Tensor chip from the Pixel 6 Pro in the budget-friendly Pixel 6a, and performance shouldn’t be an issue.

When it comes to battery life, I’ve had a mixed bag. The Pixel 6a battery is “fine” but not great. The battery pack is smaller than what’s in the Pixel 5a, which is frustrating, but it’s enough to last an entire day usually.

On a typical day of scrolling Instagram reels, checking Twitter, trying to ignore emails, getting Slack notifications and endless texts from friends and family, or watching a YouTube clip or three, I’ll usually get around 5-7 hours of screen-on time and end the day with about 30-35% remaining. It’s not great, but I’m not super worried I’ll need a charger either. The smaller 60Hz display is probably helping here, so that’s a plug.

If you’re a moderate to heavy user, you can absolutely crush through the battery before the end of the day. I did once or twice, but that was an exception, not the norm. On the flip side, on a lighter day, when I forgot to charge it overnight and started around 80%, after an hour of social media, some texts, streaming music, and using Google Maps, I ended the day around 44%. That’s pretty solid, but obviously, your mileage may vary.

It’s worth noting that Google’s software could still be learning my habits, even after over 10 days of use. Plus, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro had wildly different battery life results depending on the user or reviewer. So again, it’s fine, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Final Thoughts

Pixel 6a rear
Cory Gunther

So should you buy the Pixel 6a? Probably! It’s one of the best budget phones and follows the same recipe as previous A-series phones. It looks good, runs fast, takes sweet photos, and you know it’ll always have the latest software. It’s a Pixel A experience through and through.

Yes, the screen could be brighter, and I’d love a higher refresh rate, the latest cameras, or wireless charging, but this is still a solid package. Someone that constantly buys budget devices likely won’t miss those extras.

I don’t have any major complaints about the Pixel 6a for $450. If you’re on a budget and still want an excellent Android phone, this is the one for you. The only problem is that Google’s better Pixel 6 is only $150 more. If you can swing a few more bucks, get the flagship phone with high-end cameras and a fancy screen.

Then again, these days, $150 is a big deal, and for 25% less than Google’s flagship phone, this Pixel will let you enjoy much of the same experience. Overall, the Pixel 6a delivers some serious bang for your buck.

Be sure to give How-To Geek’s Pixel 6a review a read for additional insight on Google’s latest budget-friendly smartphone.

Rating: 8/10
Price: $299

Here’s What We Like

  • Great value
  • Solid specs and performance
  • Typical Pixel experience

And What We Don't

  • Smaller battery than its predecessor
  • No wireless charging
  • Older cameras

Cory Gunther Cory Gunther
Cory Gunther has been writing about phones, Android, cars, and technology in general for over a decade. He's a staff writer for Review Geek covering roundups, EVs, and news. He's previously written for GottaBeMobile, SlashGear, AndroidCentral, and InputMag, and he's written over 9,000 articles. Read Full Bio »