Google Pixel 6a test: our opinion


Since the generation Pixel 3, Google has undertaken to decline its high-end Android smartphones in a more accessible version, offering a very sharp quality-price ratio. After a Pixel 3a who corrected the defects of youth of his elder, a Pixel 4a convincing, a Pixel 5a which hit the mark but which we unfortunately did not see in France for lack of sufficient production, here comes the Pixel 6a. Little brother of Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, he inherited the distinctive design, the Tensor processor, the fingerprint reader under the screen, an 8-megapixel front camera as well as 5G compatibility. With this DNA, and a photo part that makes the high quality of its predecessors, the 6a is an alternative to the Pixel 6, more compact and 200 euros cheaper.

© Marc Zaffagni

The trappings of a premium smartphone

Filiation obliges, the Pixel 6a takes up exactly the design inaugurated by the Pixel 6, with a two-tone back separated by the headband which occupies the entire width of the smartphone and accommodates the double photo module and its flash. Our test copy of the Pixel 6a was carbon black, taking up the finish of the Pixel 6 Pro which it looks like like two drops of water, in a reduced version. Granted, the 6a’s screen isn’t curved around the edges and the feel of the back isn’t as silky (it’s plastic while the 6 Pro’s is glass), but the feeling of a plush finish is there. A first good point. For those looking for a bit more cheerfulness in tones, the Pixel 6a is also available in Pebble White and a nice Sage Green.


The Pixel 6 Pro (right) and Pixel 6a (left) look exactly the same. © Marc Zaffagni

In terms of size, Google has opted for a more compact format than that of the Pixel 6, with a screen of 6.1 inches against 6.4 inches. As a result, one-handed use of the Pixel 6a is a little easier and it is a little more discreet in a pocket.. Another positive point, certified water and dust resistance IP67.

The Pixel 6a’s 6.1-inch FHD+ (2400 x 1080p) Oled display is quite fast and responsivebut it lacks a bit of punch, compared to the Pixel 6. The Galaxy A53 5Gwhich ranks as one of its main opponents, offers a more spacious (6.5-inch) and smoother Super Amoled FHD+ screen thanks to 120 Hz refreshment where the Google smartphone panel tops out at 60 Hz. direct from 6a, the Nothing Phone (1) also uses a 6.5-inch FHD+ Oled screen whose refresh rate can vary from 60 to 120 Hz. The fact remains that in use, the display of the Pixel 6a does the job well by being sufficiently sharp and colorful to comfortably watch videos, photos, surf the Internet, play games and view beautiful wallpapers.


The Oled FHD+ screen of the Pixel 6a does honor to the superb image of the Carina nebula taken by the James-Webb telescope which we have made our wallpaper. © Marc Zaffagni

Performance and autonomy at the rendezvous

The Pixel 6a has the power to deliver smooth use for most daily tasks. No latency to deplore when starting or running applications, as well as for browsing the Android interface. games like call of duty and Asphalt 9 spin without a hitch.

The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro’s in-display fingerprint sensor has come under fire for being unresponsive, and even recalcitrant. A software update is supposed to have improved things, but we must admit that on the Pixel 6 Pro that we have been using since its launch, the detection of our thumb is sometimes still laborious. The 6a’s fingerprint sensor is supposed to have fixed this issue. We have actually seen that it is quicker to unlock the screen. But we still had to try several times to make it work when our finger was correctly positioned.

Google advertises more than 24 hours of battery life and ” up to 48 hours with ultra battery saver “. Let’s say that we can approach it with very moderate use. On the other hand, when we use the Pixel 6a more routinely, with calls, music and video streaming, Internet browsing and a little photography, we are more secure. a big day of autonomy, which is quite correct. Small flat on the side of the “fast” recharge which caps at 18W against 30 W for the Pixel 6. Count 1h45 to refuel. In addition, the AC adapter is not delivered with the smartphone. It is sold separately for 29€.

Photo: a reference in its category

The Pixel 6a is equipped with a dual rear photo module, with a 12.2 megapixel wide-angle main sensor opening at ƒ / 1.7 and an ultra wide-angle 12 megapixel ƒ / 2.2 with a field of view of 114 °. This is the same configuration as last year’s Pixel 5a. However, the presence of the SoC Tensor gives the Pixel 6a more elaborate photographic features. At the front, we find an 8 megapixel ƒ/2 sensor identical to that of the Pixel 6.

Overall, the Pixel 6a is an excellent photophone, probably the best in its class. We find all the know-how of Google in the optimization of image processing which gives sharp and vibrant photos. The sharpness of the image of the main sensor does not have much to envy to the 50 megapixel sensor of the Pixel 6.


Photo taken with the Pixel 6a’s main wide-angle sensor. © Marc Zaffagni

The ultra wide-angle is identical to that of the Pixel 6 and the observation we made during our test of this model applies here. By day and with good lighting conditions, it delivers crisp, detailed shots. On the other hand, it is less and less comfortable as the brightness declineswith more noise and smoothness.


Photo taken with the Pixel 6a’s ultra-wide-angle main sensor. © Marc Zaffagni

Night vision mode works with an efficiency that never ceases to amaze us with the level of detail it manages to achieve.


Photo taken at dusk with Pixel 6a’s Night Vision mode. © Marc Zaffagni

For selfies, the 8-megapixel sensor is identical to that of the Pixel 6. It produces vivid, colorful and well-detailed images. In video mode, the Pixel 6a films in 1080p or 4K up to 60 frames per second from the rear module and in 1080p 30 fps from the front. The image stabilization is effective, the videos fluid and detailed.


The Pixel 6a’s portrait mode is just as effective as the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. © Marc Zaffagni

The presence of the Tensor processor brings to the Pixel 6a several advanced functions present on the 6 and 6 Pro. The most spectacular is undoubtedly the Magic Eraser. Integrated into the Google Photos application (Edit icon), it detects unwanted objects in the background of a snapshot and offers to erase them automatically. Very practical, for example, when you have taken a picture of a monument and you want to make the onlookers who crowd around it disappear. You can also perform the operation manually by surrounding the objects or subjects to be erased.

Also noteworthy are the Real Tone (more accurate rendering of skin tones) and Anti-Blur (freezes a subject’s face when there is movement in the frame). And let’s not forget the astrophotography mode, which allows you to take beautiful shots of the starry sky. So many options that make the specificity of the Pixel range, just like the premiere of new versions of Android. The Pixel 6a comes with Android 12but he will be among the first to receive Android 13 when the update becomes available this fall.

© Marc Zaffagni

Against competition

In the Android galaxy, we see the Galaxy A53 5G (459€) and Nothing Phone (1) (469€) as the two most threatening competitors for the Pixel 6a. The first has for him a more fluid and bright screen but its graphics performance is a little less good. The Nothing Phone (1) enjoys the appeal of novelty with an original design and very good technical bases. But it doesn’t have the Pixel 6a’s photo versatility.

Conclusion

Generation after generation, Google is refining its recipe for the declension of its high-end smartphones. The inevitable compromises that have been made to make the Pixel 6a more affordable than its big brothers are absolutely not a deal breaker. The level of finish is very good, as is the performance. The main technical advantages and features that make the strength of Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are there.

Cover image: Marc Zaffagni

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