Google Pixel 6a review | Best Android phone under $500

Takeaway: Google’s $449 Pixel 6a is a powerhouse for a funds cellphone, with a vibrant OLED show and a pointy digicam that processes pictures with best-in-class synthetic intelligence. All the pieces is powered by the corporate’s proprietary Tensor chip, which is optimized for max efficiency and the longest battery life out of your Android cellphone. Within the week I spent utilizing it as my main cellphone system, I’ve discovered that the synergy between Google’s {hardware} and software program offers clean visuals in demanding 3D video games and seamless multitasking—with out the crashes which can be frequent even on mid-range Android smartphones.

Trying past the Android scene, the Pixel 6a competes with the $429 iPhone SE (2022). These two smartphones below $500 do not feel like entry-level, as they pack flagship-level processors — making them aggressive with mid-range telephones for twice the value. The Pixel 6a does on a regular basis duties higher and is the very best cellphone of the yr.

Google Pixel 6a smartphone

Pixel 6a smartphone

Google Pixel 6a smartphone

Now 13% off

Key Specs

Monitor: 6.1 inch OLED (2400 x 1080)
CPU: Google Tensor
storage: 128 GB (not expandable)
RAM: 6 GB

Ergonomic design with a big vibrant display

The Pixel 6a’s compact physique measures 6 x 2.8 inches and weighs simply 0.4 kilos. Its sweet bar-like form makes it simple to carry and function with one hand whereas offering loads of vertical area for extra data on the prime. The sides are curved to raised suit your hand—a welcome addition within the age of sq., cramped steel iPhone instances. From the entrance, solely the OLED show and aluminum body bezels are seen. Google minimize prices by swapping the again glass on the Pixel 6 for a plastic cowl.

Popular mechanics preview all sections

On the left aspect, you will solely discover a single gap for the SIM tray, and on the precise is an influence button simply above the quantity button. The flip of the cellphone reveals the Pixel’s distinctive digicam bumper, which is extra compact than its costlier counterpart. Throughout my time with 6a, I survived falls off tables and pockets of my pants with out staining or scratching. And I had no bother typing texts or making calls after submerging it within the tub to check its IP67 water and dirt resistance score. Whereas its supplies could also be much less sturdy than the costlier Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Professional, the 6A remains to be a stable cellphone.

Call of Duty on Google Pixel 6 A

Trevor Rabe

The 6.1-inch coloration OLED show pushes a mean brightness of 750 nits — greater than most telephones at this worth level. This massive, excessive distinction display brings environments to life with vibrant coloration, whether or not you are viewing a photograph you have taken or watching movies. With none distracting slits of display area, I may focus extra on no matter recreation I used to be enjoying. This meant that in top-down video games like Stardew Valley, I may see a bigger portion of the map, and my area of view in Name of Responsibility was good and huge. Whereas the iPhone SE drops the notch of its large sibling to provide you a full-screen image, it feels misplaced on a ripped 4.7-inch display with a decision of 1334 x 750 pixels (non-HD) that is noticeably uninteresting at most brightness of 625 nits. The Pixel 6a’s 1080 x 2400, 60Hz show beats an OLED show, and on the floor, it is nearly on par with the bottom $799 iPhone 14, apart from the truth that it may possibly’t be as vibrant.

There’s loads of room to go across the Pixel bloat-free Android launcher. Mixed with gesture navigation, the expertise is friction-free; Swipe left to see the Google Information feed, swipe as much as view all of your apps, and swipe down from the highest for a fast listing. Though the Pixel is proscribed to the identical 60Hz refresh fee because the iPhone SE, it felt sooner when opening the app drawer or scrolling pages. Whereas different funds Android telephones just like the Samsung A53 have a 120Hz display, its processing energy cannot match that of Google Tensor.

Google Tensor offers highly effective Android efficiency

Whether or not on paper or in use, the octa-core Tensor chip that powers the Pixel 6a (the identical chip on the $899) flagship Pixel 6 Professional is a beast. I skilled no slowdowns and fewer than a couple of crashes when switching between demanding apps. Modifying movies was quick, and I performed graphics and useful resource demanding video games at excessive visible settings with out a noticeable drop in body fee. The Pixel makes use of this additional computing energy to not solely enhance playback, but additionally unique options like stay textual content or audio translation in addition to Play Now, which passively limits which songs the system performs within the background with out draining the battery.

This is a picture

Each Google and Apple share the identical highly effective chips of their flagship telephones with their entry stage fashions. This brings Tensor head-to-head with the A15 Bionic, probably the most highly effective cellular chip within the cellphone. Within the Geekbench 5 job processing take a look at I used, the iPhone SE’s A15 Bionic put 1722 single scores and 4546 multi-core scores to the Pixel’s 1052 and 2946. So whereas the Pixel 6a judges its closest Android competitor, the Samsung Galaxy A53 (which scores 681 and 1778), Apple nonetheless has a a lot stronger chip. However in most on a regular basis makes use of, the distinction is sort of imperceptible.

Looking the net, opening pages, viewing animations, and launching apps is sort of the identical on telephones. The truth is, clearer textual content and visuals on the Pixel’s bigger 2,400 x 1080 pixel display look higher. However crack open a video editor and the ability hole will play. The place the Pixel can export an edited video in 46 seconds, the iPhone SE shows the identical clip in simply 22. And when offloading useful resource recordsdata for heavy apps like Diablo Immortal or Name of Responsibility Cell, the iPhone SE labored a mean of 5MB per 1MB on the Pixel for sooner installs.

Google Pixel 6 A . Screen

Trevor Rabe

Video games on the Pixel 6a are very clean and rating extremely on the 3DMark GPU Wildlife Take a look at. This tied the cellphone’s common 40.5fps to 89 p.c higher outcomes than all different gadgets. In Name of Responsibility cellular on excessive settings, there was occasional stutter when a number of animated results — like flying sparks and swaying coat tails — taxed the cellphone. Nevertheless, its in-game graphical efficiency was constant, with out main drops or artifacts, on par with mid-range Android gadgets. In the meantime, the iPhone SE averaged 46 fps in the identical take a look at. In my time with the iPhone, I did not see any of the occasional seen hiccups like on the Pixel. Whereas this cellphone’s smaller display might not be probably the most immersive, the energy of the SE is plain. As a participant, I did not cease in any respect due to this hole. On a bigger TV, I would anticipate 4K at 60fps. However the distinction is minimal in telephones with smaller screens. I most popular enjoying on the Pixel’s greater and brighter display, which affords a greater window into digital worlds.

As for battery life, the Pixel lasted a full 24 hours on my precise day-to-day messaging, mini-gaming periods, and shopping social media channels. However within the battery drain take a look at, which continuously streams stay movies and feedback on information at 20 p.c brightness, the Pixel lasted 8 hours and 43 minutes on a full cost.

The digicam for content material creators

The Pixel’s 12MP ultra-wide and huge rear cameras profit from Google’s image-processing expertise with thrilling, sharp colours. Within the photographs beneath, you possibly can see how the digicam highlights the richer pink tones within the pepperoni slice and the clearer background textual content on the cover within the background. The iPhone SE’s single digicam, then again, is not slack, however its hotter tones nearly appear like there is a filter in its pictures. Likewise, daytime pictures on the Pixel precisely convey life-like colours just like the darkish black of the T-shirt because the iPhone SE created a picture that made the T-shirt look grey. Switching to capturing in low mild, the SE’s lack of night time sensors left darkish pictures taken with out the flash too noisy to make use of. Evening Sight on the Pixel 6a comes out clear and brings out a pleasant quantity of coloration from an nearly black room.

→ Google Pixel 6a and iPhone SE digicam samples

Pepperoni pizza on an outside table

With Pixel, you may have extra selection and capturing modes. Tensor additionally extracts extra element from photographs, so that you’re much less more likely to lose it in shadows and vibrant highlights. And in contrast to the iPhone SE, it may possibly shoot in RAW format for extra enhancing freedom. The Pixel’s built-in enhancing instruments aren’t Photoshop, however the cellphone has comparable AI-assisted expertise as Magic Eraser. This software makes it simple to rapidly circle and take away objects with one click on. I used Affect to supply clear outcomes – eradicating distractions like wires, image spoilers, and litter on the ground. However each every so often, it would fill within the space you changed with a distracting sample or depart a visible pomp just like the reflection of a cropped object (as you possibly can see with the paper towel beneath). In different telephones, you want a 3rd occasion app to take away undesirable objects from the photograph, and it leaves you with a lot worse outcomes.

Using the eraser on the Google Pixel 6a

Trevor Rabe

Using eraser tool on google pixel 6a photos

Trevor Rabe

The Pixel captures video at as much as 4K at 60 fps or 1080p at as much as 240 fps, which is healthier than most funds telephones. Even nearer to $500, these beat round 4K 30. Nonetheless clips I took with out a tripod had been shake-free, however the Pixel has pan and pan choices — stabilization. I discovered these modes to be efficient, and so they even eradicated the nasty wobble of a clip I had picked up whereas jogging. However since this seize expertise works to stabilize your pictures, it compresses exports to 1080p decision. In the meantime, the iPhone affords a aggressive 4K 60 decision however with weaker zoom efficiency and fewer capturing modes.

judgment

Pixel 6a is the very best Android cellphone you will get for below $500. Its optimum dimension and well-balanced energy shrug off on a regular basis duties and energy the most recent video games. Google’s strategic cuts enable for a premium view and digicam so it would not really feel like a compromise. However in case you’re somebody who pushes graphics to their most settings and/or usually edits video, the pace and energy of the iPhone SE (2022) with the A15 chip is unmatched. For most individuals, the Pixel 6’s bigger display, smooth physique, and stronger dual-lens digicam make it a more sensible choice.