Google Pixel 6a Review: Google Proves It Makes the Best Budget Phones of 2022

Google Pixel 6a Review Featured
John Velasco | SPY

If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, SPY.com may receive an affiliate commission.

Inflation isn’t helping any of us to save money. We’re all adapting and making cuts wherever we can. For some folks even, that means ditching the pricey $1,000 flagships that make up the best smartphones we’ve all been spoiled by the last several years. Don’t think choosing a lower-priced phone means you’re compromising many things. That’s far from the truth.

I’ve been using the Google Pixel 6a for over three weeks and I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed using it. I’ve been a staunch supporter of these sub-$500 phones, like the iPhone SE (2022), but using the Pixel 6a is yet another reminder that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

Keep reading for SPY’s full Google Pixel 6a review.

  

Google Pixel 6a Review: At a Glance:

Google Pixel 6a Courtesy of Amazon

Pros:
  • Under $500 price tag
  • Compact size
  • Access to latest Android updates and features
  • An excellent camera
Cons:
  • Camera performance lessens under low light
  • Battery life is short for power users
Specs:
  • Dimensions: 6 x 2.8 x 0.35-inches
  • Weight: 6.3 ounces
  • Display: 6.1-inch FHD+ (1080 x 2400) OLED
  • Rear Cameras: 12.2 MP f/1.7 dual pixel wide camera, 12 MP f/2.2 ultrawide camera
  • Front Camera: 8 MP f/2.0 front camera
  • Operating System: Android 12
  • CPU: Google TensorTitan M2 security coprocessor
  • RAM: 6 GB LPDDR5 RAM
  • Storage: 128 GB storage UFS 3.1 storage
  • Battery: 4,410 mAh
  

Google Pixel 6a Design: Premium Feel, Budget Price

Right out of the box, here’s what you’ll get with Google’s new budget smartphone:

  • Google Pixel 6a
  • USB-C to USB-C cable
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Quick Switch Adapter
  • SIM tool

There’s no denying the striking similarities between the Pixel 6a and the Pixel 6 Pro. Fusing a glass-meets-brushed-metal trim bezel design, it’s distinctively a Pixel smartphone — even down to the raised glass strip over its rear cameras. As I’ve detailed in my time with the Pixel 6 Pro, this raised glass area is susceptible to damage. Therefore, I highly recommend getting a camera cover case.

Google Pixel 6a Review John Velasco | SPY

Despite its substantially lower cost, the Pixel 6a looks and feels like a premium phone. Even more remarkable is its comfortable size, which at 2.8-inches wide makes it one of the easier phones to use one-handed. I wish more phones were this size!

Google Pixel 6a Review John Velasco | SPY

While I appreciate that it’s been treated to an IP67 rating for protection against light splashes, it’s missing wireless charging. Sure, phones in this price range rarely offer it, but Apple’s iPhone SE (2022) does.

  

Google Pixel 6a Display: A Gorgeous OLED Display

What can I say about the display? It’s good but nothing spectacular. The Pixel 6a’s 6.1-inch FHD+ (1080 x 2400) OLED has all the qualities that make it an attractive display, like its saturated color tones and wide viewing angles.

Google Pixel 6a Review John Velasco | SPY

However, the panel’s brightness output peaks at a meager 885 lux. That’s weak compared to the 1,200+ lux output of the OnePlus Nord N20 I recently reviewed. Under sunny outdoor conditions, it becomes challenging to see what’s onscreen.

  

Google Pixel 6a Review: Software & Performance

Diehard Android purists know why Pixel smartphones are so prized: They run the stock Android experience and are treated first to the latest software updates over other phones. All of these points are valid with the Pixel 6a, which was running Android 12 during my testing.

Android 12 on Google Pixel 6a John Velasco | SPY

It’s a simple, intuitive interface. Even if this is your first time checking out Android, the Pixel 6a’s vanilla Android experience is manageable and easy to understand. Your standard gestures are used to perform functions, such as accessing notifications by swiping down from the top at any time.

Armed with the Google TensorTitan M2 security coprocessor and 6GB of RAM, the Pixel 6a runs smoothly for the most part. However, it doesn’t achieve the same buttery responses I’ve seen with flagship phones like the Google Pixel 6 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.

Google Pixel 6a Review John Velasco | SPY

It’ll handle some gaming, but its 2,299 multi-core GeekBench score is well below what the greats in the space can achieve. Despite this, it did manage to handle light gaming without much compromise, but most people would find its performance sufficient with basic stuff.

  

A Fantastic Camera for the Price

I’ve always been pleased by the cameras in all of Google’s Pixel phones; this one is no exception. Not surprisingly, it’s adorned with a dual-camera system in the back (12.2 MP f/1.7 dual pixel wide camera and 12 MP f/2.2 ultrawide camera) — with a single 8 MP f/2.0 camera around the front.

Google Pixel 6a Review John Velasco | SPY

When there’s plenty of light, the Pixel 6a captures pleasant-looking photos and videos rich with color and detail. I got the best results with the main cameras, but there’s the extra utility of capturing more of the scene with the ultrawide cam— though that does cause the outer edges to warp.

Here are some of the photos I captured with my Google Pixel 6a:

Google Pixel 6a Camer Sample. John Velasco | SPY

Google Pixel 6a Camer Sample. John Velasco | SPY

Google Pixel 6a Camer Sample. John Velasco | SPY

Unfortunately, low light performance is its biggest weakness because the results are mushy-looking details and noise. Yes, night mode helps brighten the scene, but fine details are impacted the most. I found the same qualities when capturing video footage at night.

Google Pixel 6a Camer Sample. John Velasco | SPY

Google Pixel 6a Camer Sample. John Velasco | SPY

Google Pixel 6a Camer Sample. John Velasco | SPY

  

Google Pixel 6a Battery Life

I love its compact size, but that means you’re getting a smaller battery. That’s certainly the case with the Google Pixel 6a and its 4,410 mAh battery, which can’t compare to the 5,000 mAh battery in the Pixel 6 Pro.

Google Pixel 6a Review John Velasco | SPY

By the end of most nights, I found its battery around the 15% mark. It’s still something that requires nightly charges, but power users will find themselves frequently trying to top it off throughout the day. It took 124 minutes to completely charge.

Honestly, that’s average for a phone at this price point, but nowhere near the less than 60 minutes it takes most flagships.

  

The Verdict: Should You Buy Google Pixel 6a?

There’s more to like than dislike about the Google Pixel 6a. Again, it’s another fantastic low-cost option to consider at $449 — which, I might add, is still a fraction of the cost of buying a flagship at around $1,000. The camera’s still pretty good, just as long as there’s enough light out. On top of that, I always love getting access to the latest Android updates and features before other phones.

If you’re on a budget and aren’t already committed to the Apple ecosystem, then this is well worth the money.

Google Pixel 6a Courtesy of Amazon


  

The Best Budget Android Phones Prove You Don’t Need to Spend a Fortune for a Quality Smartphone