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Review

Pixel 6a in test: The smallest Android smartphone with update guarantee

Jan Johannsen
Jan Johannsen
14.09.2022

The Pixel 6a is the smaller and cheaper variant of the Pixel 6. While the software is identical, differences can be seen when looking at the display and the photos.

The Pixel 6a begs comparison with the Pixel 6. Where did Google save on the cheaper smartphone and what impact do these savings have?

In the dark, the different image sensors become noticeable

. There are some changes to the components of the main camera, but the software in the background remains identical. The Pixel 6a works with a resolution of 12.2 megapixels. With 50 megapixels, the Pixel 6 nominally offers a significantly higher resolution, but by default it pulls four pixels together into one. This so-called pixel binning gives the images a real resolution of 12.5 megapixels.

Der Kamerastreifen als Designelement ist auch beim Pixel 6a vorhanden.
Der Kamerastreifen als Designelement ist auch beim Pixel 6a vorhanden.

The Pixel 6a's aperture is even slightly faster - f/1.7 instead of f/1.85 - and the individual pixels on the sensor slightly larger - 1.4 µm instead of 1.2 µm. These are both key figures that lead us to hope for better photos on the cheaper smartphone. The smaller field of view of 77 degrees compared to the 82 degrees of the Pixel 6 is more a matter of taste than a quality feature.

Whereby the smaller viewing angle can prove to be an advantage on closer inspection. I sometimes have the feeling that the Pixel 6a's images are sharper in some details. But since this never extends over the entire image and is not visible during the shot, I suspect it is because the 6a is a bit closer to the subject with its small frame. .

Pixel 6a
Pixel 6a
Pixel 6
Pixel 6
Schwer einen Unterschied zu erkennen.
Schwer einen Unterschied zu erkennen.

I would also attribute slight differences in colour reproduction to the different viewing angles. These then cause slightly different decisions by the software when processing the files. A tendency does not result from this. Sometimes I like the Pixel 6 and sometimes the 6a a little better. But on average, it doesn't matter.

Pixel 6a
Pixel 6a
Pixel 6
Pixel 6

When it gets dark, the pictures in night mode look good on both smartphones. However, when I look at the pictures in their original size, more details are visible on the Pixel 6 than on the Pixel 6a. This seems to be where the higher resolution proves to be an advantage - if only by providing more information for the AI to use when creating the images.

Pixel 6a
Pixel 6a
Pixel 6
Pixel 6
Vor allem am Mast der Hochspannungsleitung und den Graffitis unter der Brücke sieht das Pixel 6 besser aus.
Vor allem am Mast der Hochspannungsleitung und den Graffitis unter der Brücke sieht das Pixel 6 besser aus.

No differences in ultra-wide-angle and front-facing cameras

. The ultra-wide-angle and front cameras of the Pixel 6a and Pixel 6 are identical. No comparison is needed here. While the ultra-wide-angle camera takes photos at twelve megapixels with a 114-degree field of view, there are eight megapixels and 84 degrees available for selfies.

With the ultra-wide-angle camera, I get even more green in the picture in front of the Landungsbrücken. There is no distortion at the edges, colour reproduction is decent and strong contours in the form of shadows are no problem .

Pixel 6a
Pixel 6a

In the dark, unlike the main camera, there is no noticeable difference in quality compared to the Pixel 6. The Pixel 6a achieves the same level .

Pixel 6a
Pixel 6a

Not surprisingly, the Pixel 6a and Pixel 6 are also on a par when it comes to selfies. They look decent, but there is still room for improvement in terms of detail and colour reproduction. They look too artificial and processed. The black of the T-shirt should also be darker.

Pixel 6a
Pixel 6a

One new feature of the Pixel 6, however, is missing from the 6a when it comes to taking photos: the motion mode. In this mode, the AI captures movements and ideally photographs a person in the foreground, for example, while the vehicle in the background can be seen in motion blur. Interesting as an artistic component in photography, but in everyday life this has not been relevant for me with the Pixel 6.

Smaller display with fewer hertz

The Pixel 6a is slightly smaller than the Pixel 6 with its 6.1-inch screen, but the resolution remains the same at 2400 × 1080 pixels. As a result, there is just as much information on the small OLED display as on the larger display of the Pixel 6.

When both screens are side by side, I can see the different refresh rates when playing games or scrolling. On the Pixel 6, everything runs slightly smoother at 90 hertz than with the 60 hertz of the Pixel 6a. Without the direct comparison, however, I would still be satisfied with the 60 hertz - especially because the advantages of the higher refresh rate are still not noticeable in all apps.

6,1 Zoll großes OLED-Display.
6,1 Zoll großes OLED-Display.

If you are one of those people who expect a lot from their smartphone, you should be a little more careful with the Pixel 6a. Its touchscreen is only covered by scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3. According to the manufacturer, the Pixel 6 is much more resistant with Gorilla Glass Victus. We're not just talking about scratches here, but already a drop height of two metres.

Minimal sacrifices without effects in everyday life

In the Pixel 6a, Google also installs its own chipset called Tensor. This also plays out its AI functions in Google's cheapest smartphone and offers live translations, among other things. The 6a only has six gigabytes of RAM - the Pixel 6 has eight gigabytes - but the smartphone never seems slow to me. The benchmark comparison with Geekbench 5 confirms this impression. In the CPU test, they are very close together, only in graphics does the 6a perform slightly worse.

Geekench 5Single- / Multi-CoreVulkan
Pixel 61038 / 2862 Punkte7598 Punkte
Pixel 6a1051 / 2931 Punkte7004 Punkte

If you need a lot of storage space, it might matter more to you that the Pixel 6a is only available with 128 gigabytes of capacity. Google only offers a 256 gigabyte variant on the Pixel 6.

The battery of the Pixel 6a has a low power consumption.

The battery of the Pixel 6a is slightly smaller with 4410 mAh - Pixel 6: 4614 mAh - but also gets me through the day without any problems. However, you have to do without wireless charging on Google's cheaper smartphone.

Die Tasten an der Seite.
Die Tasten an der Seite.

The housing of the Pixel 6a is IP67 waterproof. This puts it nominally in a slightly worse position than the Pixel 6 with IP68. In everyday life, however, this should not result in any disadvantages, as both devices are not intended to be used under water for minutes at a time, but only to protect them from accidents.

The Pixel 6a is waterproof.

Pure Android is the best Android

The software is one of the strongest arguments for Google's Pixel devices. The same goes for the 6a. It is set to receive three major Android updates and five years of security updates. The first major update is already out with Android 13, and the monthly security updates are also reliably arriving.

I like pure Android without annoying bloatware - that is, pre-installed apps that I don't need at all. Even if other manufacturers keep adding individual features to their user interfaces that are good, I wouldn't want to trade the speedy updates over the long haul for that.

Summary: The cheap way to fast and guaranteed Android updates

. If you want a good smartphone, with update guarantee and sufficient performance as well as sometimes impressive image quality, the Pixel 6a is worth a look. Yes, the Pixel 6a is cheaper than the Pixel 6. But the sacrifices you have to accept for this are quite bearable. Unless you want to take a lot of photos in the dark, have already fallen for higher frame rates than 60 hertz or need more than 128 gigabytes of memory.

Google Pixel 6a (128 GB, Say Green, 6.10 ", SIM + eSIM, 12.20 Mpx, 5G)
353.–

Google Pixel 6a

128 GB, Say Green, 6.10 ", SIM + eSIM, 12.20 Mpx, 5G

132
Google Pixel 6a (128 GB, Charcoal, 6.10 ", SIM + eSIM, 12.20 Mpx, 5G)
Showroom
353.–

Google Pixel 6a

128 GB, Charcoal, 6.10 ", SIM + eSIM, 12.20 Mpx, 5G

132
Google Pixel 6a (128 GB, Chalk White, 6.10 ", SIM + eSIM, 12.20 Mpx, 5G)
370.–

Google Pixel 6a

128 GB, Chalk White, 6.10 ", SIM + eSIM, 12.20 Mpx, 5G

132

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Jan Johannsen
Content Development Editor
jan.johannsen@galaxus.de

When I was but a young student, I'd sit in my friend's living room with all my classmates and play on his SuperNES. Since then I've had the opportunity to test out all the newest technology for you. I've done reviews at Curved, Computer Bild and Netzwelt, and have now arrived at Galaxus.de. 


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