Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro revisited – (after the January 2022 firmware update)

The Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are two of the most significant phones of 2021, and it is fitting that we revisit them both since their launch in October 2021.

Why? Well, two reasons. First, they are up there with the best, yet they did not receive the review scores they deserved at launch due to numerous early firmware issues.

Second, the firmware updates (December and January full of critical fixes) have addressed many of the known bugs, so we wanted to rerun many of our 70+ tests to see if the results were very different. Most are – in a positive way, and some are not.

So forget what you may have read in past reviews – it is almost a completely different phone. Is it better? Google still has a lot of work to do, and we are sure it will succeed!

Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro sim and eSIM Model GB7N6 (G8VOU)

This is a combined review as apart from a $300 price difference, the primary differences are screen size (6.4″ 90Hz versus 6.7″ 120Hz), ram (8/12), rear camera (Pro has a periscope zoom), front camera (8/11.1MP) and battery (4614/5000). The Pro adds 5G mmWave support that has a long way to go before being usable here.

Australian websiteProduct range page, Pixel 6 Product Page, Pixel 6 Pro Product Page
Price$999/1299 Pixel 6 8/128/256
$1129/1499/1599 Pixel 6 Pro 12/128/256/512GB
Colours6: Stormy Black Kinda Coral, Sorta Seafoam
6 Pro: Stormy Black, Cloudy White, Sorta Sunny
From *Google Online or Telstra, JB Hi-Fi, Optus, Vodafone, Harvey Norman and Officeworks
Warranty2-years
Country of OriginChina
CompanyGoogle is an American multinational technology company specialising in Internet-related services and products, including online advertising, a search engine, cloud computing, software, and hardware. It is considered one of the Big Five US tech companies with Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft.
MoreCyberShack Google news and reviews

* Grey market – no Australian warranty

We issue a strong warning that you must buy a genuine model with Australian firmware, specifically models GB7N6 and G8VOU.

It is easy to identify the Australian version – under Settings, About Phone, Regulatory Labels, there is an Australian RCM C-tick mark. There is also an RCM C-Tick on the box. They use unique Australian 5G sub-6Ghz and 5G low-band frequencies and require local activation first.

If you buy grey market

  • Likely won’t be able to use 5G here as Australian 5G IMEI numbers are registered with Telcos
  • Not get local warranty
  • No Australian over-the-air OS and security updates
  • Can’t make a 000-emergency call without a sim.

Please read our guide Don’t buy a grey market phone.

Launch impression – very Google’esque

Our first impression at the October launch was “nice phones – shame about the bugs!” But we understood that these phones were vastly different to previous Pixels. And there may be bedding in issues. Why? Its Google Tensor System-on-a-Chip (SoC) needed widespread use to identify any problems, and Android 12 needed more work too. So we put the devices in the cupboard with a diary note to revisit them.

Today impression

Cute names, design cues and colours – Kinda Coral, Sorta Seafoam. These are big phones at 207/210g (OPPO Find X3 Pro 193g and Galaxy S21 Ulta 229g). A prominent landscape camera bar houses a dual-LED flash and LDAF (laser detect auto-focus) sensor. When placed on a table, it does not rock and has raised edges to protect the lenses.

The Pixel 6 has flat front glass and a matt alloy frame, and the 6 Pro has 3D Edge glass and a polished alloy frame.

We will indicate 6 Pro differences in (brackets); if there is nothing, they are the same.

Screens

Size6.4″ 20:9 centre top selfie O-hole6.7″ 19.5:9 centre top selfie O-hole
Type90Hz OLED (or 60Hz)Adaptive 120Hz LPTO OLED
Resolution2400x 1080, 411ppi3120 x 1440, 512ppi
Colours
Brightness
Contrast
Delta E
sRGB
DCI-P3
HDR
Response
PWM
16.7m
855 nits max (475/845 typical max)
Infinite contrast
1.4 (<4 is excellent)
>100% (Test 99.8%)
(Test 68%)
HDR10 and HLG
6.8ms GtG, 3.2ms BtW
Yes – evident 367.6Hz
same
900 nits max (497/860 typical/max)
same
1.1
Same
(71.5%)
same
7.2ms GtG, 3.2ms BtW
Same
DRMWidevine L1  1080p HDRSame
ProtectionCorning Gorilla Glass VictusSame
FingerprintOptical under glass – Test: 10/10Same

While our tests confirmed most specs, the Pro is noticeably brighter and more colour pure due to its use of LTPO OLED. But other brand flagships have 1.07 billion colour capability, so it is not class-leading. It also does not fully support Wide Colour Gamut – it is not 100% DCI-P3.

Processor – A tense moment for Tensor

The Google-designed Tensor Chip is based on a Samsung Exynos 2100 (the same as the Galaxy S21 series) using Samsung’s Exynos 5123 modem. It is heavily optimised for Google’s AI and ML (artificial intelligence and machine learning) mobile applications. These include speech recognition, language translations, computational photography, power efficiency, security and Google’s claim of up to 80% faster than Pixel 5.

SoCGoogle Tensor 5nm
2 x 2.8Ghz (X1), 2 x 2.25Ghz (A76), 4 x 1.8Ghz (A-55)
Titan M2 security co-processor
Samsung 5123 5G Modem
Test: Geekbench 5 single/multi-core 892/2159 (1043/2778)
Single-core and Multi-core are about 10% below the Samsung Exynos 2100. These figures are less than the original test 1039/2950 (1044/2957) and probably reflect new tuning algorithms.
GPUMali-G78 MP20 848Mhz
Test: GeekBench 5 Compute Open CL:   Would not run this test (no change from the original test)
Vulcan: Would not run this test (ditto)
RAM8GB LPDDR5X (12GB)
Storage128 (98GB free) or 256GB (512GB option) UFS 3.1 – no Micro-SD
Test: MBps sequential read/write (tests run three times)
Internal: 773/197 (615/155) These are lower than the original test of 1242/234 (1336/224)
External USB-C 3.1 Gen 1: Would not run this test, but the drive was visible in Files after formatting. External SSD cannot be mounted for use as live storage.

The external storage (SSD or USB) will not return a test result, and this means it cannot be mounted as live storage, only for content moved from internal storage. If this is the case, it is useless to videographers and vLoggers.

CPU Throttle

The original throttle tests were unsatisfactory, and we suspect the new lower Geekbench scores are for better thermal management. The Pixel 6 had 20%-32% throttling, and the 6 Pro from 29-45%.

TestPixel 6Pixel 6 Pro
Max GIPS259,199237,810
Average221,355195,955
Minimum202,175174,076
% Throttle19%24%

Google has addressed throttling (by slowing down the SoC), but it is still at the upper end of the scale for a premium device. The OPPO Find X3 Pro (SD888) is 245,858/240,499/228,156 GIPS with 0% throttling and the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos 2100) is 209,431/210,472/178,435 and 5% Throttling.

Comms – Wi-Fi 6E is fast with the right router

Wi-FiWi-Fi 6E AX 2×2 MIMO 2.4GHz, 5GHz and 6GHz VHT 160
 Signal Strength 5Ghz – distance from Netgear RAX200, AX11000, 12 stream router
-dBM lower is better, and Mbps higher is better
2m:  -24/2400 (-26/2400)
5m: – 49/1152 (-52/1152)
10m: -63/866 (-67/866)
15m: -66/433 (68/433) Both phones perform similarly and have good Wi-Fi 6 AX connectivity
BluetoothBT 5.2
GPSDual-Band GNSS accuracy <4M GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, BeiDou (No NacIC)
NFCYes
Ultra-widebandPixel 6 Pro only
USB-CUSB-C 3.1 Gen 1 5Gbps
External storage is not mountable as internal storage.
It does not support USB-C ALT DP video/audio output to an external monitor
 And the cable supplied is only USB-C 2.0. You can Chromecast to a compatible device.
SensorsProximity, Ambient light, combo Accelerometer/Gyrometer, e-Compass, Barometer

We express concern that this device is limited for professional users. It lacks USB-C Alt DP connectivity, microSD expansion, and the apparent inability to mount external storage for video.

LTE and 5G – city phone only

SIMNano-SIM and eSIM (one active at a time)
Samsung 5123 5G modem
Ring toneSingle
SupportVoLTE – carrier dependent – generally yes
Wi-Fi calling – ditto
DL/ULTest:  20.3/15.2Mbps/44ms (17.2.14.8Mbps/49ms (average)
LTE BandB1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 32, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 46, 48, 66, 71 (same) This is a world phone
5Gn1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 12, 14, 20, 25, 28, 30, 38, 40, 41, 48, 66, 71, 77, 78 (same)
This covers all Australian 5G sub-6Ghz and low bands.
(6 Pro mmWave n257, 258, 260, 261) for the foreseeable future will have minimal coverage and no inside coverage.
TestsUsing a Boost Mobile (Telstra retail network) sim at 1km line-of-sight from Telstra tower.
Expressed as -dBm (lower is better) and Femtowatts (fW) or picowatts (pW or 1000fW) where higher is better.
Tower 1 readings
Pixel 6 from -81 to -90dBm and from 1-7.9pW (-89 and from 1.3pW to 7.9pW
Pixel 6 Pro from -90 to -94dDm and from 398fW to 1pW (-90 500fW to 1.6pW)
2: – No (No)
3: – No (No)
4: – No (No)

While the results are relatively similar to launch (allowing for atmospheric variances), the poor result reflects the Samsung 5123 5G Modem (used in Samsung phones with the Exynos 2100 SoC). It simply does not have the same antenna signal strength as Qualcomm X55 and X60 modems. For example, the OPPO Find X3 Pro with the Qualcomm SD888 is for the city, suburbs, regional, and rural use.

  • Tower 1: -81dBm and from 6.3pW to 7.9pW
  • 2: -88 and from 1 to 1.3pW
  • 3: -90 and from 570fW to 1pW
  • 4: – 100 and 20fW to 50fW

The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are city/suburbs phones where you can get strong coverage from multiple towers.

Battery

Battery mAh4600 (5000) rated for 21 (23W) charging
ChargerType: Not provided, but Google recommends its Model G411 30W – 5V/3A/15W, 9V/3A/27W, 15V/2A/30W and 20V/1.5A/30W that also supports PPS maximum 11V/3A or 16V/2A or 21V/1.5A. You can use any USB-C PD charger over 30W Test:
 % – 50 – 34 minutes (45 minutes)
0-100% – 1 hr and 39 min (1hr and 55  minutes)
Using 5V/3A standard USB charger and cable – 5 hours (same)
QiThe Pixel 6 supports up to 21W, and the 6 Pro 23W ONLY on its fan cool assisted Stand Gen 2 $119 and using Google’s 30W charger $45. If you don’t use these devices, it charges at a maximum of 12W (typically less) on standard Qi charge pads. Using a Belkin 15W Qi, we achieved 5V/2A/10W, but placement is critical as the camera bar can interfere with flat pads. We cannot recommend passive, older or lower wattage Qi pads as these charge at 5V/1A/5W or less and don’t have a cooling fan.
Reverse chargeIt supports a 12W reverse wireless charge, but the maximum we could get was 5V/500mA/2.5W.
Tests – at an adaptive screen rate100% load everything on, battery drain: 4hrs 37 minutes  (4hrs 49 minutes)
PC Mark Work 3 battery test:
Pixel 6 – 13.15 hours (was 15 hr 54 minutes)
Pixel 6 Pro – 12.15 hours (was 15 hr 52 minutes)
GFX Benchmark T-Rex:
Pixel 6 90Hz: 330 minutes 5.5 hours, 4944 frames
Pixel 6 Pro 120Hz: 195 minutes 3.25 hours, 5155 frames)
GFX Benchmark Manhattan 3.1: Would not run – out of memory error (same)

Battery life is down

We reran the most important tests, and there was a significant difference – this time, not in the right direction. PC Mark Work 3 is a reasonable indication of a mix of general use. The Pixel 6 was down by three hours and the 6 Pro by four hours. We ran the tests three times with the same results.

The bottom line is that battery life is nowhere near the 48-hour claim. However, that is made based on ‘testing using a mix of talk, data, standby, and limited other default features in Extreme Battery Saver mode, which disables various features, including 5G’.

You will need to charge these daily and buy the genuine charger or suffer significantly longer charge times.

Sound

SpeakersStereo – earpiece forward/up-firing and down-firing bottom speaker. These are reasonably well-matched with a slight preference for the bottom speaker.
Sound stageReasonable – it’s a little wider than the unit in landscape mode.
AMPUnknown
BT codecsCodecs are SBC (standard), AAC, and LDAC
It is not a Qualcomm chip and does not support any aptX codecs, and these are greyed out in Developer options. This is the same as any Samsung based Exynos SoC.
Pre-setsNo EQ or pre-sets
MicThree with noise-cancelling, stereo recording and audio zoom. Take care not to block the mics with your hand. Also, with Bluetooth microphone support.
3.5mmNo, and no USB-C to 3.5mm DAC cable either
Tests dB
Anything over 80dB is excellent
Media – 70 (70) music can reach 76.2dB (77)
Ring – 79.8 (80.1)
Alarm – 66 (65)
Earpiece – 56.2 (55)
Handsfree – adequate volume and clarity
Bluetooth HeadphonesBluetooth drove our reference Sony WH-1000xM4 in SBC.
Hearing aidM3/T3 HAC Rating

The maximum volume is a tad low but fit for purpose.

Sound quality

Note: Frequency response is from 20Hz to 20kHz

Deep Bass: 20-40HzNilNil
Middle Bass: 40-100HzNilNil
High Bass: 100 to 200HzStarting at 129Hz and very slowly buildingNil
Low-mid: 200-400HzSlowly buildingSlowly building
Mid: 400-1000HzSlowly building to flatten at 1kHzFlat
High-mid: 1-2kHzFlatFlat
Low-treble: 2-4kHzFlatFlat
Treble:4-6kHzFlatFlat
High Treble: 6-10kHzDescending to 8kHz  and then flat to 10kHzDescending to 10kHz
Dog whistle: 10-20kHzFlat to 12kHZ and then plummets off the cliffQuick peak to 12kHz then falls off the cliff

The sound signature verges on analytical (bass/mids recessed, treble boosted), which is crisp but overly harsh and unpleasant for most music. You can read more about How to tell if you have good music (sound signature is the key).

There is no EQ, pre-sets, or support for Dolby Atmos or other spatial music.

Build

Size/Weight58.6 height x 74.8 width x 8.9 depth (mm) x 207g
(63.9 height x 75.9 width x 8.9 depth (mm) x 210g)
BuildGlass – Gorilla Glass Victus
Frame – Alloy (polished alloy)
Back – Gorilla Glass 6
IP68
In the boxBumper cover
1m USB-C to USB-C 2.0 cable

I understand that Foxconn makes these and assembles the Apple iPhone. Build quality is excellent.

Android 12 – secure and upgradable

AndroidGoogle Android 12
Security patch date 5 January 2022
UINone
GoogleAll standard apps, Google Lens. Maps, Assistant and YouTube.
Google Assistant by pressing the power key
BloatwareNone
Update PolicyThree Android OS upgrades
Five years of security patches from data of launch
SecurityOptical under glass Fingerprint reader
Google Titan M2 security chip

Google calls the Android 12 UI ‘Material You’, which is chock full of themes and styles. You can retain the old three-button navigation if you wish.

Several exciting features revolve around voice and translation. You can voice type (Hey Google, Type) and send a message. It can live translate from a foreign language (Live Caption) or a camera image. It has 55 offline and 104 online languages. Or it can be an interpreter between two languages both ways.

A new Privacy dashboard helps you identify what apps have permissions and control them. A security hub offers all device security tools in one place. Emergency settings determine a car crash and can send an SOS.

Missing

3.5 mmNo 3.5mm nor a USB-C to 3.5mm DAC adapter
MicroSDNever has and never will be, but it’s a concern that you cannot mount external storage to direct record video and large files
USBA lost opportunity to implement USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 with ALT DP and mountable external storage
SoundDolby Atmos, Qualcomm aptX, EQ and pre-sets
ChargerEspecially as 30W charging only works with the Google Charger!

Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro Camera

DXOMARK has tested the Google Pixel 6 (here132) and Google Pixel 6 Pro (here 135), and on the whole, we agree with their very technical methodology. It is only a few points behind the iPhone 13 Pro Max (137), similar to the OPPO Find X3 Pro (131 )and considerably up on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (121) and Google Pixel 5 (120). We suggest reading the DXO Tests only if you are serious about buying the devices.

While both scored well, noise was evident in all shots and detail in low light was lacking. Again we concur, and the firmware updates have addressed this to a degree.

 Camera Primary
50MP bins to 12.5MP
(same)
Wide
12MP
Periscope
48MP
(6 Pro only)
Selfie 8MP
(11.1 – 12MP)
SensorSamsung GN1Likely
Sony IMX386 or
OmniVision OV12A10
IMX586see note *
FocusLaser Detect AF to 4m  see note **FFPDAFFF
Aperture f-stop1.852.23.52.0 (2.2)
Pixel size um1.2 bins to 2.41.25.8 bins to 1.61.12 (1.22)
FOV° and [cropped]82 [71.4]11423.584 [72]
(94 in ultrawide)
StabilisationOIS to 30fps   
Flash LED   Screen
Zoom7X digital 4X optical
20X digital
10x digital
Video Max4k@60fps no OIS
(Locked video stabilisation crops image)
4K@30fps OIS
  1080p@60/30fps (4K@30fps)
Features    

Selfie *

Pixel 6: The standard selfie is 6MP (1836 x 3264), and the so-called wide selfie is 8.1MP (2464 x 3280). We are reasonably confident it is a Sony IMX219, 8.1MP, 1.12um.  

Pixel 6 Pro: As far as we can find, there are no native 11.1MP, 1.22um camera sensors. Our diagnostic software shows it as an 8.3MP (2160 x 3840) image in 4:3 and 11.1MP (2880×3840) in 16:9 wide. We think it is a Sony IMX633 12.2MP, 1.22um with a crop to wide and standard selfie formats.

These sensors are not spectacular performers and must rely heavily on AI processing. In general, we found selfies to lack detail and were often out of focus if too close. When the shots were good, they were very good.

Laser Focus **

It uses an STVL53L1 Time-of-Flight (ToF), laser-ranging, miniature sensor with a range to 4m.

Laser focus shoots an infrared laser to calculate the distance between the object and the camera. It is very fast but has a maximum length of four metres; then PDAF kicks in.

Google Pixel tools – AI processing

  • Magic Eraser allows you to erase parts of the photo – people or objects – and replace it with Google’s estimation of the background. It is handy, but it works best when Google recognises the object to delete.
  • Face Unblur lets you sharpen faces by combining two lenses
  • Motion Mode adds creative blur effects, and then there is a truetone feature for diverse skin tones.
  • Real Tone (portrait) fixes skin tones and is always enabled.

Daylight, outdoors (Google Pixel 6 on left and 6 Pro on right)

Macro

Neither has a dedicated macro mode but can focus down to 10cm.

Indoors Office Light (400 lumens)

Bokeh is done via AI – there is no depth sensor

Low light (room with less than 100 lumens)

Rear Video (both using the 50MP rear OIS sensor)

The camera app has a choice of video stabilisation: standard (light movement), locked (to the horizon), active (heavy movement) and cinematic pan (half speed).

Both shoot at 4K@60fps in locked mode (Electronic image stabilisation crops a full-frame image to keep the horizon stable) and below that in OIS (optical image stabilisation), which moves the lens.

I cannot fault the video in day and office light – lively colours, great definition and low noise. OIS is excellent, particularly at 1080p@60fps. Audio zoom (follows the focus point) is impressive

The Pixel 6 has a .7 wide-angle and 2x zoom, and the 6 Pro has an additional 4X zoom.

Front video

The Pixel 6 takes up to 1080p@60fps, and the video is stable with accurate colours. The 6 Pro takes 4K@30fps, but it is not as stable, and the colours are not as vibrant. Both have 4X zoom.

CyberShack’s view – The Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are good phones that can be even better

Forgive me, Google, but the repeat tests don’t lie. The SoC has slowed down; battery life is shorter, and overall performance with Wi-Fi and phone signal strength is down too.

CPU throttling will affect videographers and gamers. Being unable to record video to an external SSD will affect videographers and vLoggers. The speaker sound is average with no EQ and no aptX support. And it is a shame that the USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 is not enabled for ALT DP video/audio out, although that is probably to enforce some digital rights management laws.

And that is before the hundreds of reported issues are addressed. Google, you still have a lot of work to do.

Competition

The Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are $999 and $1,299. No, they won’t beat the excellent Samsung Galaxy S21+ ($1549 and a new S22 coming in mid-February) and Ultra ($1849) or Cybershack’s best phone of 2021 – the OPPO Find X3 Pro with a new Find X4 Pro coming in February too.

Rating explanation

The good news is that Google Pixel offers a 2-year warranty, 3/5 years OS upgrades/updates.

But the Throttling, USB-C limited implementation, no charger and narrow range of BT codecs knocks some of the gloss off.

YouTube Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro

Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro

$999/1299 and $1499/1599
8.1

Features

9.0/10

Value

9.0/10

Performance

7.0/10

Ease of use

8.0/10

Design

7.5/10

Pros

  • Google unique style cues
  • Android 12, 13, 14
  • Great build quality and waranty

Cons

  • Firmware updates have not cured all the initial issues
  • Throttling (although improved)
  • Limited USB-C implementation (no Alt DP)
  • Average selfie camera and low light performance


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