The Google Pixel 6 is one of the best camera smartphones on the market. It offers the same primary camera sensor and the processing package as its more expensive sibling, Pixel 6 Pro, while being $300 cheaper. But with the introduction of the affordable Pixel 6a, the regular Pixel 6 has some serious competition. The Pixel 6a is essentially a watered-down version of the Pixel 6, offering the same general design and Tensor chipset for $150 less. But which one is the better buy? We try to find an answer in our Pixel 6 vs Pixel 6a comparison.
Google Pixel 6a vs Google Pixel 6: Specifications
|Specification||OnePlus 10 Pro||Google Pixel 6|
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|Security||Optical in-display fingerprint sensor||Optical in-display fingerprint sensor|
Google Pixel 6a vs Google Pixel 6: Design & display
It’s easy to mistake the Pixel 6a for the Pixel 6 as they share a common design and look quite similar. Both feature a two-toned back with a striking black camera visor at the top that covers the width of the phone. Both have a two-toned back with a prominent black camera visor that spans the width of the phone. The Pixel 6a features a smaller camera bar and protrudes less than the Pixel 6. Nevertheless, a case is necessary for both phones to protect the camera bump. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6a are among the most unique-looking phones on the market. They stand out from the crowd due to their distinct personalities and will undoubtedly turn heads.
Being an affordable offering, the Pixel 6a opts for fewer premium materials. It has Gorilla Glass 3 on the front and a plastic back with a finger-resistant coating. The Pixel 6 has Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and Gorilla Glass 6 on the back, along with an aluminum frame.
Both phones are dust and water-resistant, although their IP rating differs. The Pixel 6a has an IP67 rating, whereas the Pixel 6 has a slightly higher IP68 rating. Neither phone has a microSD card slot nor a 3.5mm audio port.
The Pixel 6 flaunts a 6.4-inch AMOLED display with full HD+ resolution, while the Pixel 6a has a smaller 6.1-inch FHD+ OLED panel. While both are OLED panels with the same resolution, the Pixel 6 panel has an edge as it can refresh at up to 90Hz, offering a smoother scrolling experience. The Pixel 6a panel, on the other hand, tops out at a 60Hz refresh rate. Both devices support HDR10 and HDR10+ content.
The biggest difference between the Pixel 6 and the affordable Pixel 6a is the camera setup. While earlier Pixel A series came with the same camera setup as the flagship Pixel lineup, things are different this time. The Pixel 6a is a downgrade from the Pixel 6 in terms of camera hardware.
While the Pixel 6 gets the brand new 50MP Samsung GN1 sensor, the Pixel 6a uses the same 12.2MP primary sensor that has been used on previous Pixel phones, including the Pixel 4 series and Pixel 5.
Despite having older camera hardware, the Pixel 6a still provides amazing camera performance due to Google’s excellent image processing and the new image signal processor. However, as we noted in our review, the smaller sensor can struggle with low-light and night shots and lags behind the Pixel 6’s superior 50MP camera. Both phones can shoot 4K 60fps videos, but the Pixel 6 delivers better quality footage.
We have attached camera samples from both phones in the galleries below.
Pixel 6a camera samples
Pixel 6 Pro camera samples
Note: The samples below are from a Pixel 6 Pro. Because the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro have the same primary shooter and processing package, there isn’t any difference in image quality.
The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6a are powered by the same in-house Tensor SoC. Although not quite as powerful as the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, the Tensor is still a capable chipset that delivers flagship-level CPU and GPU performance. It features an octa-core CPU setup consisting of two Cortex-X1 cores, two Cortex-A76 cores, and four Cortex-A55 cores. In addition, the Tensor also has several other components for machine learning and image processing tasks, such as a dedicated Tensor Processing Unit, a low-power Context Hub, a Titan M2 security chip, and an image signal processor (ISP).
Both phones are susceptible to heating and thermal throttling when playing graphics-intensive games such as Genshin Impact for extended periods.
Although both phones have similar horsepower, the Pixel 6a performs worse than the Pixel 6 in real-world use. This is mainly because the Pixel 6a packs less RAM (6GB vs. 8GB). In our review, we found that the phone struggled to keep apps in memory for a long time and would sometimes even kill apps that are actively in use when there’s not much room. Furthermore, due to the 60Hz refresh rate, the Pixel 6a will not feel as smooth and fluid as the Pixel 6, which can reach 90Hz.
All in all, the Pixel 6 is superior in terms of day-to-day performance, thanks to extra memory and a higher refresh rate display. The Pixel 6a is not a bad performer per se, but don’t expect to perform like a true flagship smartphone.
As for configurations, the Pixel 6a only comes in a single variant which packs 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Meanwhile, the Pixel 6 gives you two options: 8GB/128GB and 8GB/256GB.
Battery life, fingerprint reader, and more
The Pixel 6 packs a 4,614mAh battery, while the Pixel 6a has a slightly smaller 4,410mAh cell. You can expect both phones to deliver an all-day battery life, although the Pixel 6a may do a little better thanks to its smaller screen size and lower screen refresh rate. While there’s not a huge difference in the battery capacity, charging speed is a different story. The Pixel 6 offers 30W fast charging compared to the Pixel 6a’s 18W charging. Another notable difference is that the Pixel 6 offers wireless charging support while the Pixel 6a doesn’t.
The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6a both come equipped with an in-display optical fingerprint scanner. This is an area where the Pixel 6a is actually superior to the flagship Pixel 6. Google did the right thing by giving the Pixel 6a a new fingerprint scanner, which is quick and more reliable than the Pixel 6’s finicky fingerprint scanner.
On the software front, both phones run a near-stock version of Android 12 with Pixel Launcher and Material You theme. Software support is also similar, with Google promising up to three years of OS updates and five years of security updates.
Google Pixel 6a vs Google Pixel 6: Which one should you buy?
One of the biggest draws of the Pixel A series has always been that you can get the same camera hardware as the regular Pixel smartphone for less. That’s not the case with the Pixel 6a. Instead of the new 50MP GN1 sensor that’s inside the Pixel 6, the Pixel 6a recycles the old 12.2MP sensor that’s been around for many generations. It’s still a capable shooter that gets the job done, but there’s nothing extraordinary about the overall camera performance. It’s better than many other similarly priced mid-rangers on the market. But in case you were expecting massive camera improvements over the Pixel 5a and Pixel 4a, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s also a shame that the Pixel 6a still uses a 60Hz display while almost every other phone in the mid-range segment now has a high refresh rate display. The Pixel 6a retains the same flagship SoC as the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, but it’s not as good of a selling point as one would think. Other mid-range SoCs will give you similar levels of performance, and the complete experience that you would get out of a similarly priced phone would be better rounded.
The Google Pixel 6 offers a 90Hz AMOLED display, Tensor chipset, and a powerful camera system.
The Google Pixel 6a offers a 6.1-inch display, Tensor SoC, and a capable camera at an affordable price.
If you can spend $150 extra, the Pixel 6 is a better buy, in our opinion, as it offers a higher refresh rate display, better everyday performance, and superior cameras. And the phone regularly sees discounts and price slashes, so you can grab it for even less. In our eyes, the $150 or less price difference is worth making the jump for, especially since you get camera hardware that remains more capable for longer.
But if you’re on a tight budget and want a phone with a capable camera and clean software, then you can’t go wrong with the Pixel 6a. It’s a great device and one that is great value-for-money too. But it just can’t beat the value proposition that the Pixel 6 brings to the table.