The 2020s have been good years for smartphone lovers, for gone are the days when affordable or budget phones meant laggy software, poor cameras and storage. Many budget devices today even match or surpass the performance of flagship devices of old, which brings us to the 2022 Google Pixel 6a.
The Pixel 6a falls in the market segment that caters for people who seek a device that won’t break their wallet, but which also comes with decent specs. Developed as an affordable sidekick to the larger and more powerful flagship Google Pixel 6, the Pixel 6a cuts a few corners to achieve its lower price tag. However, it’s still an impressive device, as we’ll note in the ensuing paragraphs in this review.
Google Pixel 6a Specs
The device comes with a 6.1-inch OLED display with a resolution of 1080 x 2400 pixels. It runs Android 12 by default, with Google promising five years of software updates and support. Google’s Tensor processor is present here, alongside six gigabytes of RAM and non-extendable 128 gigabytes of storage. It has two rear cameras, a 12.2 MP wide and a 12 MP ultra-wide, and an 8MP selfie camera with wide angle capabilities. The rear cameras can shoot videos in 1080p up to 240 frames per second (fps), with a maximum of 60 fps in 4k. The front camera shoots 1080p videos up to 30 fps. A 4410 mAh battery powers the Pixel 6a, which Google says can achieve over 24 hours of life. The device has an optical fingerprint sensor, NFC capabilities, and stereo speakers.
Pixel 6a Design, Screen, Loudspeakers
The Google Pixel 6a resembles the Pixel 6 in design, with a flat display and slim screen bezels. The device is sleek and slender, with an aluminium frame housing USB-C and loudspeaker ports on the bottom. The front camera is centred at the top-end of the screen, right below another loudspeaker doubling as an earpiece. Sadly, there’s no headphone jack. The loudspeakers are loud at full volume and have little sound distortion, meeting our expectations.
The rear camera bump is mostly made of plastic, though the camera lenses are glass. Google also used a glossy plastic panel for the Pixel 6a’s rear instead of the Pixel 6’s glass back. The plastic back panel isn’t scratch-proof, and can easily be smudged by fingerprints. It’s advisable to use a case to keep it pristine. Despite this, the Pixel 6a is tastefully designed to look more expensive than it actually is.
Its 6.1-inch screen is compact, with HDR 10+ support, Gorilla Glass 3, and a 60hz refresh rate, which is fine for a budget device, if not satisfactory. The display is still impressive, with pleasing colours and enough brightness, when set to adaptive brightness mode, to ensure sunlight legibility.
Google Pixel devices are famed for their camera quality, and the Pixel 6a carries on the tradition. Though it only has 12 MP rear cameras, and an 8 MP front shooter, the camera results were crisp and well detailed, with colours being especially excellent on brighter days. Google included a myriad of machine learning tools, like Magic Eraser, Face Unblur, and True Tone to help with picture taking, and these tools make for an exciting experience.
The Pixel 6a runs a stock version of Android 12 by default, though Google’s promised five years of software updates and support. Given that Google develops Android, the Pixel phones are consistently among the first to receive the latest updates. Performance is smooth on the Pixel 6a, largely due to the Google Tensor chip which also powers the flagship Pixel 6, and lack of bloatware apps. The Google Tensor chip, comparable to the older Snapdragon 888 flagship processor, is hardly the fastest processor today, but it’s more than adequate for the Pixel 6a. The Tensor chip gives respectable gaming performance and stable performance even when the device is stressed, though it does get warm when stressed.
Google advertised a battery life of over 24 hours on the Pixel 6a. This is achievable, but it depends on how the phone is being used. Light to moderate usage can fetch you over a day of battery life, while intensive usage will see you seeking a charger before the day’s over. That said, battery life is great on the Pixel 6a, even beating the Pixel 6. The Pixel 6a also has fast charging, which, in 30 minutes, can propel the device to over 40% from a dead battery.
The Pixel 6a is a solid device. Though inferior in some aspects, it captures the aesthetic of the flagship Pixel 6. It’s not perfect, lacking a headphone jack, extendable storage and a screen refresh rate over 60hz, but the Pixel 6a is worth considering for users who don’t care about those features. With snappy performance, a great display, stock Android, good battery life, and stellar cameras, all for a price less than $300, the Pixel 6a is well worth the price.
By Derrick Deti Kafui – Digital Economy Magazine