It’s been a long time and I’ve been waiting a while, but Google has finally made the Pixel phone that I’ve always wanted. While the Google Pixel 6 Pro To some good teething problems, it still looks like a real flagship phone to meet the tastes of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
My fondness for Pixel phones is nothing new; last year, I noted the Google Pixel 5 was my favorite phone of 2020, and I’ve used every generation of Pixel since the very first XL phone. So it’s no surprise that I expected tender hooks for the Pixel 6 Pro, especially since Google had started teasing it months in advance.
I’m a big fan of the idealized version of the Android approach that Google took with the Pixels, as well as the technology they introduced; the original Pixel set the bar for computer photography and virtual assistants, the Pixel 2 had squeezable sides, the Pixel 3 offered dual front cameras, and the Pixel 4 had the Soli radar chip.
Granted, the Pixel 5 offered nothing special other than an affordable, high-performance Google phone with great cameras.
Despite all of this, there hasn’t been a Pixel that I’ve decided to stick with for long. And that’s because they always had missing features or flaws that caused me to switch to another phone.
The design and functionality of the original Pixel quickly aged. The Pixel 2 XL had a dull screen with the smaller handset sporting heavy bezels. The Pixel 3’s unique rear camera and the lack of an under-display fingerprint sensor started to seem basic when compared to Samsung Galaxy phones.
And the Pixel 4 felt more like a tech experiment for radar chips than a true flagship phone, despite its excellent cameras. Finally, the Pixel 5 was great, but it didn’t compete with the proper flagship specs.
But with a large 120Hz display, a trio of cameras, plenty of performance, and a striking design, the Pixel 6 Pro is an honest Android flagship for power users.
Pixel 6 Pro: a fast screen
While I recommend the standard Google Pixel 6 for most people, the Pixel 6 Pro feels right for me.
After about eight months of using the excellent Oppo Find X3 Pro, I’ve become one of those people who notices the difference between a 90Hz and 120Hz refresh rate display. It’s far from over. huge, but it’s there.
So Google’s decision to go 120Hz on the Pixel 6 Pro was music to my ears. And in use, the large 6.71-inch screen is a pleasure to see, mixing balanced colors with a smooth refresh rate.
Room to zoom in on the Pixel 6 Pro
Another reason the Pro model floats my boat is the addition of a telephoto lens. Dropped by the Pixel 5 after its debut on the Pixel 4 XL, it’s good to see a zoom make a comeback.
I understand why phone makers prioritize an ultra wide angle over a telephoto lens, but I find it much easier to get away from a subject than it is to get closer to it. It’s a godsend that the Pixel 6 Pro’s telephoto lens is also a 4x optical zoom and delivers solid close-up shots.
Google Pixel 6 Pro: raising the bar
Some may hate it, but I love the design of the Pixel 6 Pro. This large camera bar stands out from the crowd of pill-shaped or square-shaped camera modules.
And the deep black contrasts nicely with the white of my unit, looking a bit like a phone that a Star Wars Stormtrooper might use. To my eyes, the Pixel 6 Pro has a retro sci-fi look that’s both familiar and fresh.
I also really like the slightly curved edges of the screen, which, combined with the sharper rectangular shape of the phone, reminds me of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Galaxy Note 10 Plus, two smartphone design highlights for me.
The glassy back might feel slippery, but the camera bar offers a lip that I can put a finger against, providing a bit more grip. And the overall size and shape of the phone makes it ideal for doing things on the go, not least because having a clean and simple version of Android 12 is really a pleasure to use.
Meanwhile, inside, the custom Tensor chip might not keep pace with Apple’s A15 Bionic or beat the Snapdragon 888, but it looks smarter. It’s hard to say how many of the Pixel 6’s smart features depend on custom silicon.
But knowing how active Google is in adding functionality to its pixels after launch, I think it has a lot more to take from Tensor. While insufficient here, the Tensor chip just makes the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro feel like more interesting Android phones than the others available.
And that’s what I want from a Pixel – a phone that does the basics of the flagship very well, but also scratches the technical itch. I think Google has been successful with the Pixel 6 Pro.
Is it perfect? Absolutely not; a lack of fast charging and face unlock hold it back. There is a lot of competition on our best list of Android phones, many of which offer the same features as the Pixel 6 Pro.
But it’s the combination of everything I wanted in a phone with that clean Pixel finish and layer of intelligence that makes the Pixel 6 Pro the Android phone I’ve been waiting for. And I suspect it won’t be far on my side for the next 12 months. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra might prove me wrong, but it definitely has a fight.