Review: Google Pixel 6 Pro – Australia’s first 5G smartphone

The Google Pixel 6 Pro is the latest flagship smartphone from Google and takes a dramatic step forward from previous years. Pixel 6 Pro and its baby brother the...

The Google Pixel 6 Pro is the latest flagship smartphone from Google and takes a dramatic step forward from previous years. Pixel 6 Pro and its baby brother the Pixel 6, both run the latest in Google’s software, in Android 12.

While there’s lots to love about the Google Pixel 6 Pro, I want to start with the thing that makes it the most unique. The Google Pixel 6 Pro is the first mmWave compatible handset available in Australia. mmWave offers dramatically improved mobile speeds.

While mmWave signal only travels a few hundred metres it is being deployed in dense locations like transport hubs, shopping districts and even sports stadiums or tourism hotspots. If by some miracle, this year’s New Year’s Eve celebrations look something like a normal year, the Pixel 6 will have no problem streaming or upload photographs, along with tens of thousands of other people thanks to mmWave.

Telstra has already begun rolling out mmWave 5G with 65 sites currently live and plans to nearly triple that number before the end of the calendar year. The QVB, Opera House and Darling Harbour in Sydney, the MCG and Flinders Lane in Melbourne and Fortitude Valley in Brisbane are all examples where mmWave is already active, so if you live or work in these locations, pay attention, this could be your next phone.

After living with the Pixel 6 Pro for the last week and change, it is clear this hardware and software combination is a match made in heaven. What Google engineers and designers have assembled here is a mobile experience that is extremely fast and intuitive, fun to use and looks great while doing it.

 

DESIGN

Curves in all the right places

The front of the Pixel Pro 6 is an uninterrupted slab of glass, a 6.7” QHD+ display running between 10-120Hz refresh rate, which provides a smooth scrolling experience and silky smooth gameplay. Embedded in that screen is a fingerprint reader which is fast and responsive and illuminates under your finger to help the system read your thumb. The only interruption to the display is the very small pinhole front-facing camera at the top, there’s definitely no sign of a camera notch that’s now found its way into a MacBook Pro.

As impressive as the display is, it’s perhaps the rear design of this phone that will get the most attention here. The camera system strip runs the full width of the device and actually serves as a design feature, breaking up an otherwise boring back to this phone. In the coloured varients, this effect is on full display, while much more subtle in the black unit reviewed.

This camera array is often something manufacturers struggle with, however this design by Google to integrate everything into a single strip is really well resolved. By taking this approach, Google avoids one of the modern pitfalls which is common with camera bumps, which is having the phone rock when on a flat surface.

Included in that camera ribbon is a 50MP Main sensor, 12MP Ultrawide and 48MP Telephoto featuring 4X optical zoom. While we’ve seen digital and hybrid zooms reaching up to 100x, practically optical zoom (which maintains quality) is far more useful day-to-day. These all combine for a serious range of photography and videography options.

PERFORMANCE

How do it perform ?

There are a few ways to evaluate the performance of a new smartphone and while some try to run benchmarks, I prefer to actually use the device and provide details on what the phone feels like, just like you’ll experience days 1-7 and beyond, just as you will if you decide to own the Pixel 6 Pro.

Performance

Google is very proud of its new SOC known as Google Tensor. Like all good modern mobile architectures, this chip includes a combination of CPU, GPU and Tensor Processing Unit aka TPU for processing AI workloads, combined with a bunch of cache and security hardware.

What I can tell you is that this phone is bloody fast, like regardless of what I threw at it, the phone was always super fast and responsive in launching apps, performing tasks like compressing video and playing games.

To give you a very basic example, my daily phone until now had been the best from Samsung, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G.In a side-by-side test, the Pixel 6 Pro launches Pokemon Go multiple seconds faster which may just be a single example but is representative of most operations.

This overall feeling of speed is achieved not by one single change, but rather the aggregate of a lot of effort and collaboration between the Google hardware and software teams. That said, it’ll be really interesting to experience Android 12 on the S21 Ultra and see how they compare then.

Battery Life

Part of the decision to design your own chips is to pursue an effort of efficiency which translates to battery life. Included in the Pixel 6 Pro is a now fairly standard 5000 mAh battery. What’s not standard and was a complete shock to see, was the prediction this battery would last 2 days and that was with a remaining % sitting at 87%. In reality, your battery life experience will vary considerably based on your usage.

I still charged the Pixel 6 Pro each night on the wireless charger on my bedside table, but any concern about making it through day with even high usage can well and truly be put to bed. Would it possible with an extreme workload (5G most of the day) to end it early, sure, but most days of the year this won’t be your experience.

Having battery life on tap thanks to an efficient operating system and a SOC that just sips power when it needs it, really does result in a mobile experience that lets you forget about the battery and just enjoy using it.

 

Photography and Videos

Google has joined the rest of the industry in moving from a more simple hardware and relying on software, to now go all out with a full camera array while also still working their software magic (and AI) to deliver you some absolutely stunning photos and videos. In my experience, the camera is fast, really fast and impressing me the most is the speed and clarity in low-light performance.

There are plenty of cameras in flagship smartphones in 2021 that still require you to be incredibly still when shooting after 5PM. Thankfully the Pixel 6 Pro is incredibly capable at night, helped by the triple-camera array and software smarts to ensure your photos remain sharp.

On the back camera strip, you’ll find the main lens is a 50MP Wide camera, capable of capturing 82 degrees with a fast f/1.85 lens, sending light to the 1/1.31″ sensor. Adding to this is also a 12MP Ultrawide and 48MP Telephoto lenses. Shifting between these is fairly seamless, although there is the occasional time I noticed the switch to the ultrawide and back, far more than the telephoto.

When it comes to video, the Pixel 6 Pro is capable of 4K60 which looks amazing and what’s really impressive is that the phone is ready to record again, almost instantly after ending a capture. There’s been plenty of times in the past where I’ll stop recording, only to have some action happen at an even like a car show, that I want to record, but my phone’s busy processing the previous recording. Thankfully that doesn’t appear to be an issue with the Pixel 6 Pro, it eats 4K for breakfast.

 

Networking

Also noteworthy in this phone is its networking capabilities. The Google Pixel 6 Pro is the first phone in Australia with the ability to leverage both parts of the 5G spectrum – 5G Sub 6 and mmWave. If you don’t follow this stuff closely, you’ll be wondering what the fuss is all about and the answer is quite simple.

5G is made up of two components, a longer-range broadcast which gives it a range comparable (and even better) than 4G, while the real benefit comes from the ultrafast mmWave spectrums, but these are incredibly short-range and directional. This means telcos need to install 5G mmWave radios on office buildings to enable the signal to transmit to 5G devices in almost every city street and certainly in the block.

With mmWave support, you’ll see the crazy fast speeds previously only available on 5G mobile hotspots. This means hundred of Mbps and if you’re lucky, maybe in excess of 1Gbps. Obviously, almost nothing you’ll do on a smartphone will need that kind of bandwidth, outside uploading long YouTube videos.

What would be possible is that your phone could be enabled to be the hotspot to power a mobile office for your whole department. Even as a backup should you have your primary connectivity drop, this is an incredible option for connectivity and will only continue to see availability increase in the coming months and years.

Using this extra speed does come at a cost to battery life, which means the OS needs to be very smart about when it uses 5G (particularly mmWave) and switch back to 4G when that speed isn’t necessary. This is where some of the Google smarts come into play, with their analysis of the kinds of tasks being performed on the phone and adapting the connectivity dynamically without you having to think about it.

FEATURES

Stand out features of this device

There’s a lot of features packed into the Google Pixel 6 Pro. One of the more unique features is an AI-powered magic eraser in photos. This works by visiting a photo, slide over to the Tools menu, then select Magic Eraser.

The phone then analyses the image and identifies objects (often people) and suggests that you can remove them. Alternatively, you can circle a section of the image and the same magic will be applied. If you confirm, the algorithm does the best job it can to perform a content-aware fill on the image.

Using this feature, you can remove people in the background of your photo, or random objects like trees etc that spoil an otherwise perfect shot. I was really impressed with how well this new feature works and is likely just a window into new and exciting software magic Google will deliver in future updates.

ISSUES

Not everything’s perfect

I have very few complaints about the Google Pixel 6 Pro. The phone offers a great design, great features, great cameras and battery life. It offers great performance helped not only by their own silicon, but also their latest software smarts.

Usually, this is the place where I point out that a flagship phone is too expensive, but Google has really trimmed the price of modern flagship to be once again great value for money. It lands at around $500 cheaper than competitor products.

If I had one complaint, it’d be that Google don’t ship headphones with their Pixel phones which follows industry trends, but is something I miss. It’s not that I don’t have headphones, but there’s times where you want the new headphones, ones that haven’t been thrown in your pocket a hundred times or even worse.. been through the wash.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

How much and when can you get one ?

If you’ve read the review and are keen to buy one, perhaps the final decision is the price. Naturally being Google hardware, you can buy direct from Google online, or on a plan through one of the Aussie retailers or telcos.

The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro will be available for pre-order from October 20, and are coming soon to the Google Store, JB Hi-Fi, Optus, Harvey Norman and Officeworks. Pixel 6 starts at $999, while Pixel 6 Pro starts at $1,299.

For that money you’re really getting a bargain, sitting comfortably alongside competitor’s flagships priced at close to $500 more.

Telstra

The Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro will be available in a range of colours (including two exclusive colours) and memory sizes at Telstra from 28 October 2021. If you pre-order the The Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro between the 20-27th October 2021, you can score a special $200 off the price. reducing the cost of the phones to:

 Handset Memory Colours RRP Pre-order Price
Pixel 6 128GB Stormy Black,

Sorta Seafoam,

Kinda Coral [exclusive]

 

$999 $799 
Pixel 6 256GB Stormy Black

 

$1129 $929
Pixel 6 Pro 128GB Stormy Black,

Cloudy White,

Sorta Sunny* [exclusive]

 

$1299 $1099 
Pixel 6 Pro 256GB Stormy Black

 

$1449 $1249 
Pixel 6 Pro 512GB Stormy Black

 

$1599 $1399 

Pre-order pricing is available to those customers who purchase a Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro on an eligible plan

Vodafone

Vodafone is excited to announce the new Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro is available for pre-order from today in-store, online and via Customer Care. 

Customers can pre-order the Google Pixel 6 (128GB) with 40GB/month for just $67.75 a month (device cost + plan fees included) over 36 months on a $40 Lite Plan (total min cost $1039.00). Those who would prefer Google Pixel 6 Pro (128GB) can get it with 40GB/month for $76.08 a month (device cost + plan fees included) over 36 months on a $40 Lite Plan (total min cost $1338.88). 

Customers will also be eligible to redeem Google Pixel Buds A-Series(RRP $159)with the pre order of either phone in the Google Pixel 6 series on a Vodafone Infinite Plan when they sign up by 27 October 2021.  

The Google Pixel 6 also has an FHD+ 6’4-inch display, and retails for $999. Additionally, the Google Pixel 6  Pro boasts a QHD+ 6’7-inch display and retails for $1299. 

Vodafone’s Pre-sale goes live on 20 October 2021 at 4am. To pre-order, visit https://www.vodafone.com.au/hot-offers/google-pixel-6-series

OVERALL

Final thoughts

If you’re in the Android camp, buy this phone. It really offers an amazing device for amazing value and I couldn’t recommend this highly enough. This really is a great example of hardware and software designed and engineered by the same company, working together to create a brilliant user experience.

The phone looks great, works great and is so good that I am now considering moving from Samsung S21 Ultra that’s just a few months old.

Taking photos and videos on your phone is really so much of a part of the modern experience of phone ownership and a key purchasing decision for many buyers. The Pixel 6 Pro makes capturing life’s amazing moments quick, simple and reliable, followed by a bit of software magic.

As good as the hardware is, in terms of speed and battery life, it really is that new Android 12 that makes this phone a real standout. While some will be drawn to the outright speed available from the 5G mmWave support, for me, it’s the new software that shines the brightest with the Pixel 6 Pro.

Transitioning phones could be made easier, but what you get is definitely worth the hassle. Overall Google has done an amazing job with the Pixel 6 Pro and if you buy flagship phones, then this should definitely be the Android you buy in the tail end of 2021.

9.5
Review: Google Pixel 6 Pro
The Good
  • Design
  • Speed
  • Camera
  • Design
    9.8
  • Performance
    9.6
  • Value
    9.2
Categories
Reviews

Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021
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