The Pixel line moved away from the mundane design of the Pixel 5 with the most recent Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. Google also left those that prefer a smaller device out in the cold as both flagships are on the large side. The company has restored that option with the new addition to the budget Pixel 6a.

We’ve been testing this model thanks to AT&T and will share our full experience in this review.

Design

The design of the Pixel 6a brings the a-series in line with the rest of the 6th generation of Pixels. You get the glossy finish and new camera hump shade that you will find on its premium siblings. The device’s left side is void of buttons and houses just the SIM tray.

The right side houses the power button and volume rockers. The bottom of the Pixel 6a provides a USB-C charging port and two speaker grills. The other speaker is found just above the screen. The bottom encases the speaker grills and USB-C port.

The screen is a 6.1-inch OLED with a 1080 x 2400 resolution. The size makes it the smallest in the latest gen Pixels. It’s the perfect mix of media consumption and portability in my opinion.

The display has great viewing angles and is bright enough for any task. Could it have a higher refresh rate versus the default 60MHz? Maybe, but in this market category, it’s not a deal-breaker. Overall, I have no issues with the Pixel 6a screen tech that Google has chosen.

Internally, we see some familiar components. This is the first Google a-series to include the Google Tensor M2 chip which adds both performance and security features over the previous generations. Pair that with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage you have a great powerhouse at the price.

Software

The Google Pixel 6a includes the latest Pixel launcher and Android experience. The phone arrived from AT&T with Android 12 but has since been updated to Android 13. This is more of a maintenance update but the overall experience Google presents with very little change to stock Android is still my preferred variant of the mobile operating system.

The Pixel software is fast, clean, and efficient. Menus are easily accessible without layered options in Settings. The launcher is quick and offers great Search features to still showcase that’s Google’s jam. The new widgets from Google are quirky and fun.

Pixels have always been my favorite, but I’d argue they’ve evolved into the best user experience for Android when Google isn’t botching updates. This is worth a mention while on the subject. Google is still somehow struggling with OTA and quality control of updates. The initial Android 13 rollout saw Android 12 being pushed back to Pixels for some reason.

Camera

The rear main shooter is the same 12MP sensor we’ve seen for years on the Pixel line. It’s tried and true, and while dated, Google has tuned the processing for this camera for over five years. This makes it still one of the best performers in the space and the king of this more budget sub-$500 segment.

Joining the main camera is another 12MP ultrawide lens adding options for larger shots. This Pixel 6a sensor also performed very well. I was able to zoom out and get a much better range of photos when needed on larger subjects.

Rounding out the camera lineup is the front-facing 8MP camera. This is more than acceptable for selfies and the occasional video call. Personally, I think it’s one of the better front cameras from any phone maker.

Overall, the camera performance is great. The 12MP main shooter is still one of the easiest point-and-shoot options available. I even think the video processing is better on this model than on the previous 5a-series. My guess is Google is leveraging the Tensor coprocessor to help manage to smooth the frames.

Battery life

Endurance is excellent on the Pixel 6a. With the smaller screen not chugging thru wattage as much as its massive cousins, the 4410mAh battery had no problems. I consistently get thru my day without having to reach for a charger.

Mixed-use has seen up to 18 hours of use with me while I probably averaged 12-15 of normal use with percentages to spare before going to bed. I would project that most users will have no issue with the capacity of the Pixel 6a.

One knock on the battery pack is that while USB-C charging is there with fast charging up to 18Watts, wireless charging is not. Google pits the Pixel 6a in direct competition with Apple’s iPhone SE series and those models have had wireless charging for years. It’s time for Google to put its big boy pants on and make this standard across all its models. Even the Pixel 6a.

Conclusion

Google has created an amazing value with the Pixel 6a. If you have less than $500, and don’t want a giant screen, this is the phone you’ve been looking for. The smooth experience, software updates for up to 5 years, and the price make this the king of the budget market.

You can currently snag the Pixel 6a in two colors from AT&T for only $2 per month and AT&T Enterprise customers for just 99 cents! The phone comes in Charcoal or Sage with single 6GB and 128GB combinations for RAM and storage. If you’re not a fan of payment plans, the Pixel 6a is just $470 from AT&T. Either way, this is an amazing device for that investment.

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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design
Software
Performance
Battery
Price
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Andrew is tech nerd and Linux geek who loves to experience the latest in mobile technology. When he's not glued to the web, he's a husband, father, and pit bull lover.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I would not consider the 6a a “small” phone. the iPhone minis are small in today’s market. I actually trashed my iphone mini for the Pixel 6a as an affordable way to get back onto Android… after a refurbished s10e let me down, like Samsung phones always had. 🙃

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