Following the Google Pixel 6 series launch in October 2021, the company announced its mid-range Pixel 6a at Google I/O 2022. Despite its lower price, the Pixel 6a packs many of the same features and specs as the Pixel 6. So, should you buy the Pixel 6a and save some money instead? Or is the bigger Pixel worth the additional $149? Here’s how the two phones match up.
|Google Pixel 6a
|Google Pixel 6
|Tensor GS 101
|Tensor GS 101
|128GB UFS 3.1
|6.1″ FHD+ (1080×2400) OLED, 60Hz, Gorilla Glass 3, Always-on Display, High brightness mode, In-display fingerprint scanner
|6.4″ Flat FHD+ (2400×1080) 90Hz OLED, Gorilla Glass Victus, Always-on Display, In-display fingerprint scanner
|4,410mAh, up to 18W wired charging
|4,614mAh, up to 23W wired fast charging, up to 21W wireless charging
|12MP f/1.7 primary, OIS, 1.4μm pixel width; 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide with 114° field of view and 1.25μm pixel width; Camera features: Night Sight, Top Shot, Magic Eraser, Real Tone, Face Unblur
|50MP wide f/1.85 with OIS; 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide with 114° FoV Camera features: Night Sight, Top Shot, Magic Eraser, Real Tone, Face Unblur
|8MP f/2.0, Fixed focus
|10MP f/2.2, Dual Pixel Autofocus
|5G (Sub-6GHz/mmWave exclusive to Verizon), Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, USB Type-C, NFC
|5G (Sub-6GHz/mmWave), Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, USB Type-C, NFC
|152.16 x 71.8 x 8.85, 178g; IP67 certified
|158.6 x 74.8 x 8.9 mm, 207g, IP68 certified
|Android 12, up to five years of security updates
|Android 12, up to five years of security updates
|Charcoal, Chalk, Sage
|Stormy Black, Kinda Coral, Sorta Seafoam
Pixel 6a vs. Pixel 6: Design
The Pixel 6 debuted with a new design in 2021, and the upcoming Pixel 6a will sport a similar look. Both feature a rear camera bar housing the dual camera sensors that gives the duo a distinct look compared with other smartphones on the market.
The two Pixels differ in their build quality. The Pixel 6 uses a Gorilla Glass Victus panel at the front and Gorilla Glass 6 at the rear that sandwiches an aluminum chassis in an IP68-certified body. As for the Pixel 6a, it sports a Gorilla Glass 3 display panel, and the rear is made of a “3D thermoformed composite back” with a fingerprint-resistant coating. The phone is also dust- and water-resistant but carries a lower IP67 rating.
Despite packing a 6.4-inch display, the Pixel 6 is a relatively large phone, thanks to its massive bezels. If you want a more compact-sized phone, the Pixel 6a would be the ideal choice.
Pixel 6a vs. Pixel 6: Display
The Pixel 6 and 6a differ in a big way in the display department. The Pixel 6 packs a 6.4-inch FHD+ OLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate.The 6a has a smaller 6.1-inch 60Hz OLED panel. Both OLED panels feature High brightness mode—a feature that boosts dislay brightness in direct sunlight.
Many users might prefer the smaller display of the Pixel 6a; however, its 60Hz refresh rate is a bummer. High refresh rate displays are common in mid-range Android phones, and its omission from the Pixel 6a is an odd choice on Google’s part.
Both phones also feature an in-display fingerprint scanner. Google uses a different sensor on the Pixel 6a, but it is not yet clear if it is better than the Pixel 6’s buggy and slow fingerprint sensor.
Pixel 6a vs. Pixel 6: Camera
The Pixel 6 and 6a are miles apart in the camera department. This is an area where Google’s cost cutting on the cheaper Pixel 6a shows. The phone uses the same 12MP Sony IMX363 primary sensor that first debuted on the Pixel 3, which launched in October 2018, and was then used on the Pixel 4 and Pixel 5 in the following years.
The Pixel 6 uses a newer and bigger 50MP Samsung sensor with an f/1.8 aperture that absorbs more light and offers better dynamic range. It makes use of pixel-binning to output detailed 12MP photos. An LDAF sensor helps to quickly focus on the subject, even in challenging conditions.
The ultrawide camera is the same on both devices: a 12MP f/2.2 shooter with a 114° field of view and 1.25μm pixel width.
Despite its aging hardware, the Pixel 6a’s camera should deliver slightly better image quality than the Pixel 5a, thanks to the Tensor’s more powerful ISP. It also packs almost all the camera features that you will find on the Pixel 6, including Magic Eraser, Real Tone, Portrait Light, and Face Unblur. This means that the camera experience will be similar on both devices. However, expect a gap in image quality, especially in low light, where the Pixel 6a’s old image sensor will show its limitations.
The Pixel 6 should be able to take better selfies courtesy of its newer 10MP f/2.2 sensor vs. the 8MP f/2.0 snapper on the Pixel 6a.
Pixel 6a vs. Pixel 6: Performance
Google’s first in-house Tensor chip ticks inside both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6a. The Tensor GS101 chip is fabricated on Samsung’s 5nm LPE process and packs two high-performance Cortex X1 cores, two medium A78 cores, and four high-efficiency A55 cores. On the GPU front, there’s a 20-core ARM Mali-G78 MP20 unit.
While it’s not the fastest, the Tensor chip is among the most powerful chipsets on the market. The Tensor’s CPU is up to 80% faster than the Pixel 5a’s Snapdragon 765G mobile platform, and the Pixel 6a’s custom GPU outpaces its predecessory by up to 370%.
However, Google’s Tensor is special not due to its performance but because of the various custom bits that the big G has developed specifically for it. This includes the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) for AI and ML tasks, which is behind many of the Pixel 6-exclusive features like Magic Eraser, Face Unblur, and live language translation. The enhanced ISP is another highlight of the Tensor chip and enables features like Real Tone and HDRNet. Since the same chip powers the Pixel 6a, it also packs these functionalities.
It is impressive to see Google use the same Tensor chip across the Pixel 6 range. This will ensure the same performance level across the lineup and simplify software update support.
The Pixel 6 offers more RAM and storage than its younger sibling. It comes with 8GB RAM and is available in 128GB and 256GB storage configurations. The Pixel 6a is only available with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage — there’s no microSD card slot or 256GB variant available here.
Connectivity is another area where the phones differ. The unlocked Pixel 6a has sub-6GHz 5G only—though the Verizon version ships with mmWave support—while the more expensive Pixel 6 supports multiband 5G. NFC and Wi-Fi 6 is available on both models.
Pixel 6a vs. Pixel 6: Updates
Google guarantees five years of security updates for the Pixel 6 and 6a. The latter is launching six months after its more expensive sibling, but since both devices are powered by the same Tensor chip, their software support should end around the same time.
As for Android updates, Google guarantees OS updates until October 2024 for the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. The Pixel 6a will also receive at least three major OS updates.
Pixel 6a vs. Pixel 6: Battery life
The Pixel 6 and 6a pack the same Tensor chip. However, the latter comes with a smaller 6.1-inch 60Hz display that’s not going to be as power hungry as the 90Hz panel of the Pixel 6.
Despite its slightly smaller battery—4410mAh on the Pixel 6a vs. 4614mAh on the Pixel 6—the Pixel 6a should offer similar or slightly better battery life. That’s not a high benchmark, though, because we found the Pixel 6’s battery life to be lacking in our review, averging full day between charges with moderate use.
The Pixel 6 does have two advantages in the charging department. It supports up to 23W wired fast charging as well as wireless charging. It also has reverse wireless charging, so you can use the device to top off your Bluetooth accessories and even another phone when in a pinch.
The less expensive Pixel 6a supports 18W wired charging. Neither Pixel comes bundled with a power adapter in the box, so you’ll probably want to pick up a solid power adapter if you don’t have one lying around.
Pixel 6a vs. Pixel 6: Pricing
The unlocked Pixel 6a will be available for $449, while the Pixel 6 starts at $599. The Pixel 6 has a bigger 90Hz display, notably better primary camera, and better build quality than the 6a. The camera performance alone should make the Pixel 6 worth upgrading to. After all, there’s a reason why the Pixel 6 is among the best Android phones on the market.
If you don’t care about having the best camera, or if you simply want to save some money, the Pixel 6a is solid alternative.
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