Google Pixel 6a

When was the last time you bought a smartphone that costs under CAD 600 (USD 449) and it works as good if not better than most flagships that cost double? If you answered never, we would have to agree with you. You see, when it comes to smartphones, sacrifices are usually made when the cost comes down but with the new Google Pixel 6a, they seem to have created a phone that hits on all the important things most people need from their cellular device – its affordable, has a good battery, is easy to navigate and has a very good camera and all of this is wrapped up with an eye-catching design that punches above its weight in quality. The Google Pixel 6a is the budget phone you need to know about now.

For the unaware, Google has stepped it up in 2022 with the release of not one but three new smartphones that are receiving a lot of attention. The Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, although having a little rough start at launch, are still getting a lot of attention with the value-to-cost proposition they offer consumers. Offering a smart AI-based approach to the Android OS and bringing some groundbreaking features, a stellar camera experience, and fluidity to the Android space that has not been seen for some time. Now, Google has returned with a successor to their very popular A-series line of phones with the Google Pixel 6a which offers all the features discussed above in an affordable package for the everyday consumer.

The 6.1-inch Pixel 6a features an OLED screen and is paired with 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM and is powered by the very latest Android 13 operating system. The first thing you notice about the 6a is just how nicely it fits in your hand; we have said time and time again that 6 inches is the sweet spot when it comes to single-hand smartphone use and here again the Pixel proves that. The front of the phone is also protected with Gorilla glass and a thermoformed composite back features the same striking two-tone design and horizontal camera bar separating the brighter top portion from the more expansive muted color. In the case of the Pixel 6a, you get to choose from a Chalk, Charcoal, or Sage colorway and we must say they continue to look great and there is also IP67 water resistance for peace of mind. The screen of the 6a looks great for this “budget” offering, offering punchy vibrant colors and a respectable amount of brightness even outdoors. It is only a 60 Hertz panel which means nothing if you consider the fact that the $900 iPhone 13 also is, so let’s just move on.

Powering the 6a is Google’s Tensor chipset, the very first chip built in-house by Google, and it is the star of the show. After using the 6 pro this past 6 months, we have often remarked on how powerful and energy efficient the chip is. With the focus on AI and machine learning, it handles everything you can throw at it in its stride and keeps the Android OS virtually lag-free and very smooth, some may even say iOS smooth which is the biggest compliment we could give. This chipset also helps with battery life, the 4410 MAh battery gave some respectable numbers over the time we tested the device often delivering 6-7+ hours of screen on time which could mean 2-day battery life depending on your usage. The Pixel 6a also features 18-watt fast charging (brick not included) which is OK, but many rivals offer a quicker power up experience, and we would love this to see improved in the next iteration.

Lastly, there are the cameras. Google has always had a reputation for having some of the best still cameras on a smartphone and this year is no different. The Pixel 6a maintains the two rear camera setup from last year with a 12.2MP main (f/1.7) and 12MP ultrawide (f/2.2) paired with and 8MP (f/2.0) selfie shooter. New this year is that the main camera uses a physically larger sensor which does help in things like low light performance. The thing with Google is that the hardware doesn’t matter because it is their computational photography prowess that brings the magic. The quality of photos the Pixel 6a takes are so good that we would easily rank it in the top 10 for smartphone camera of the year, bested only by its older siblings the 6 and 6 pros.

Both the main and ultrawide lenses produce some very pleasing results in standard point and shoot mode. Delivering lightning-fast focus, accurate colors, very good dynamic range, and excellent highlight control. Portrait mode continues to best the likes of the iPhone and Galaxy in terms of object separation and Google Night mode delivers some of the brightest and virtually noise-free shots in often unfavorable poorly lit conditions. The front-facing camera also delivers some quality shots but, in our opinion, needs a much-needed spec bump in resolution to stay competitive in the budget category.  Don’t just take our word for how good the cameras are, look at the gallery below.

Lastly is the little bit of extra sprinkled magic on this package from Google. Features like on-device translation and dictation features are incredible and will change the way you text; AI features like a magic eraser that allows you to delete objects and people from photos effectively. Then there is the exclusive Camouflage mode, one that allows you to reduce distractions in an image without distortion or object removal. Instead, this tool makes it easy to change the color of anything in the shot, all to better blend into the backdrop or foreground. Not to mention, Google real tone technology, where they have vastly improved their camera tuning models and algorithms to highlight the nuances of diverse skin tones more accurately.

To sum up, the Google Pixel 6a is a powerful AI-centric smartphone with a beautiful svelte design, powerful processing smarts, and a stunning camera that won’t cost you an arm and leg to get it. This offering from Google cements the company as a true contender to the iPhones and Galaxies of the world and could be the budget phone of the year in our books.

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