Pixel 6 pro vs Pixel 6: Which of Google's new phones is best?

Asia's Tech News Daily

We’ve weighed them up in four critical areas (The Independent)

Google launches two new phones on 28 October. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 pro are a couple of high-end Android smartphones, and mark a departure from the company’s long-held strategy of producing cheaper, mid-range devices.

Where the Pixel 5 slinked into the party unannounced, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 pro kick down the doors and come smashing in through the skylight. These are statement phones with top-end specifications, a striking camera bar across the back, upgraded camera sensors, 5G capability and improved screens.

Both are powered by Google’s new Tensor processing unit, a system-on-a-chip that the company says can more efficiently handle machine-learning tasks without needing to connect to Google’s cloud brain. Things like live speech translation, voice recognition and complex photo processing can be done right on the device.

So what’s the difference between the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 pro? Not as much as you might think, surprisingly. The Pixel 6 pro has a more elegant design, a larger screen with a higher resolution, a smoother refresh rate, an extra camera lens, a little more RAM and a bigger battery to power everything.

We’ve been testing out both phones to see how they compare in four critical areas, and whether the extra £250 is worth the upgraded features.

    Google Pixel 6 pro: From £849, Google.com

    The Pixel 6 pro in “cloudy white” (Google)

    • Weight: 210g

    • Dimensions: H 163.9mm x W 75.9mm width x D 8.9mm

    • Display: 6.7in, 1,440 x 3,120 OLED

    • Battery: 5003mAh (24-hour battery life)

    • Camera (rear): 50MP f/1.85, 12MP f/2.2, 48MP f/3.5

    • Camera (front): 11.1MP f/2.2

    • Storage: 128GB built-in

    • Memory: 12GB (RAM)

    Google Pixel 6: From £599, Google.com

    The Pixel 6 in ‘slightly coral’ (Google)

    • Weight: 207g

    • Dimensions: H 158.6mm x W 74.8mm x D 8.9mm

    • Display: 6.4in, 1,080 x 2,400 OLED

    • Battery: 4614mAh (24-hour battery life)

    • Camera (rear): 50MP f/1.85, 12MP f/2.2

    • Camera (front): 8MP f/2.0

    • Storage: 128GB built-in

    • Memory: 8GB (RAM)

    Size

    The most obvious difference between the two phones is their comparative size. The Pixel 6 has a 6.4in display, measures 158.6mm x 74.8mm x 8.9mm and weighs 207g. That’s taller than the iPhone 13 pro, but about as wide.

    The Pixel 6 pro has a larger 6.7in display, measures 163.9mm x 75.9mm x 8.9mm and weighs 210g. It’s taller and very slightly wider than the Pixel 6, and clocks in at the same size as the iPhone 13 pro max. To make use of all of that extra real estate, the Pixel 6 pro has a higher resolution screen and a more crisp display.

    If you’re upgrading from a phone with a screen size of 6in or less, both of these phones will feel hefty in the palm. The Pixel 6 phones are relatively light for their size, shedding a few grams over their Apple rivals, and feel evenly balanced when held. That camera bar doesn’t make the phone feel top-heavy, as you might expect.

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    The Pixel 6 pro feels especially large, an effect that’s enhanced by its huge edge-to-edge screen. At 3in wide, the Pixel 6 pro is just about small enough for this writer to use with one hand, though we really wouldn’t risk it when standing over any hard surfaces.

    The Pixel 6 pro is a big, bold, luxury phone, so the usual caveats apply: it’s not very pocket friendly (if you have pockets), being just the right size and shape to slide out of your trousers and onto the floor, and using it one-handed can strain your muscles if have a habit of using your little finger as a makeshift anchor. These are Big Phone Problems, and they’re nothing new, but they’re always worth keeping in mind when shopping around.

    If you have smaller hands, you might consider going for the more petite Pixel 6. However, despite having a smaller screen, it’s only very slightly smaller than the Pixel 6 pro overall. With a 6.4in screen, the Pixel 6 could not be described as compact, and is almost the same width as the Pixel 6 pro. If the size of your phone is a big concern for you, there might not be enough of a difference here to help you decide.

    Design

    The Pixel 6 is more colourful and fun than its bigger, more austere sister.

    The smaller phone is available in “sorta seafoam”, “kinda coral” and “stormy black”. Whichever option you choose, the black camera bar separates out the two colour tones, creating a distinctive appearance that’s unlike any other phone out there.

    The Pixel 6 in “kinda coral” (Google)

    We weren’t too sure about that conspicuous bar when the Pixel 6 phones were first revealed, but now that we’ve had hands-on time with the devices we’re into how bold and unapologetic they look. And unlike phones with traditional offset camera bumps, the symmetrical bar means your phone doesn’t rock when placed on a flat surface.

    The Pixel 6 pro is available in more muted colours: one white, one black and one with the barest hint of gold. It has the same camera bar, only lowered slightly and packed with an extra lens. The frame of the Pixel 6 pro is made of a shiny, polished alloy, compared to the grippier matte frame of the Pixel 6, giving it a more luxurious appearance.

    Camera

    The Pixel 6 pro has an extra zoom lens, missing from the Pixel 6.

    This telephoto lens enables 4x optical zoom on the Pixel 6 pro, which can be extended up to 20x with digital zoom. (Optical zoom uses physical lenses to make faraway things appear closer, while digital zoom is essentially the same as cropping in on part of the photo using software, with some clever sharpening techniques applied.)

    On the Pixel 6 pro you get a slightly wider front-facing camera that supports 4K video recording, as well as 60fps recording at 1080p. This is compared to the Pixel 6 support for just 1080p and 30fps recording.

    The Pixel 6 is only slightly smaller than the Pixel 6 pro (Google)

    Both phones have more in common than they don’t. Besides the addition of the telephoto lens, the rear cameras are the same. They have the same 50MP main camera and 12MP ultra-wide camera, and come packed with premium specs such as laser autofocus and optical image stabilisation.

    They also run the same camera software with the same features. “Magic eraser” automatically detects strangers wandering around in the background of photos and deletes them from existence. “Night sight” uses long exposures and image stacking to create bright and detailed photographs in even the darkest places. “Face unblur” uses machine learning to spruce up any fuzzy faces in your photos.

    So is the extra telephoto lens worth it? At the risk of sounding glib, that really depends how often you take photographs of things that are far away. The quality of long-distance shots on the Pixel 6 pro is excellent, but we’ve found in our testing that the most exciting new camera features belong to both phones. Especially the Tensor-driven image processing tools, such as action pan and long exposure, which come into their own in standard and wide photography.

    Android 12’s new Material You, a unifying theme across every app (Google)

    Display

    The Pixel 6 has a 6.4in OLED screen, with a 1080p resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate. The Pixel 6 pro has a 6.7in curved OLED screen, with a 1440p resolution and a smoother 120Hz refresh rate.

    That means you’re getting a bigger screen on the Pixel 6 pro, one that runs right the way up to the edge of the device and curves gently away at the sides. The 120Hz refresh rate makes scrolling appear smoother and “feel” a lot nicer than on a 60Hz display, though you’d have to put both phones side by side to spot any difference between 90Hz and 120Hz.

    The Pixel 6 pro can dynamically change its refresh rate to conserve battery life, dropping it from 120Hz to as little as 10Hz – that is, updating 10 times per second – when nothing on the screen is moving. This is a battery preserving trick though, and has no effect on the user experience, bar helping the Pixel 6 pro manage an all-day battery life. It’s neat though.

    The resolutions of both Pixel 6 phones are near enough as to make no difference. Once you get to 1080p on a screen small enough to fit in your hand, you begin to see diminishing returns. Placed side by side, the Pixel 6 pro is just about identifiably sharper. But really, it’s the gorgeous curved finish and edge-to-edge display that makes the more expensive phone stand out.

    The Pixel 6 in “sorta seafoam” (Google)

    The verdict: Google Pixel 6 pro vs Pixel 6

    The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 pro are spectacular phones, the best features of which are shared across both devices. Both run Android 12 with its refreshing “Material You” design aesthetic, which unifies your phone’s colour themes across apps and menus. Both have Google’s new and much-vaunted Tensor chip powering things like live translation, language processing and photo editing. They both have in-screen fingerprint scanners and class-leading cameras.

    They’re also aggressively priced to undercut the rival iPhone. The Pixel 6 is priced from £599, while the Pixel 6 pro starts at £849. Whether the handful of differences between the devices are worth the extra £250 is down to you.

    Taken individually, these differences – a larger screen, smoother scrolling, a telephoto lens, slightly more RAM and a sharper front-facing camera – aren’t features that turn heads. But for Android fans who want to experience the first truly premium handset from Google – a high-end luxury smartphone to rival the best that Apple and Samsung can manage – the Pixel 6 pro is the powerhouse flagship fans have been waiting for.

    Google Pixel 6 pro

    Buy now £849.00, Google.com

    Google Pixel 6

    Buy now £599.00, Google.com

    Pixel 6 pro and Pixel 6 comparison

    Pixel 6

    Pixel 6 pro

    Screen size

    6.4in

    6.7in

    Weight

    207g

    210g

    Refresh rate

    90Hz

    120Hz

    Resolution

    2400 x 1080

    3120 x 1440

    Pixel density

    411ppi

    512ppi

    Cameras

    50MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 8MP selfie

    50MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 48MP telephoto, 11.1MP selfie

    Battery

    4614mAh

    5003mAh

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