Hands-on: Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are an entirely new take on Google phones – for better or worse

By Ben Schoon

October 19th 2021

The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are the first smartphones with Android 12, the Google Tensor chipset, and Google’s brand new camera system. But they don’t really feel like Google phones anymore, at least not at a first impression. Why is that?

Starting with the design, Google has certainly put out a unique look. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro both adopt this funky visor design on the back with dual-tone colorways. I think it looks better in person than pictures make it out to be, but it’s a look that will be loved by some and hated by others. After about a day, it’s certainly growing on me, but the materials still give me pause.

The Pro model has polished aluminum rails around the sides and curved glass on the front. The standard Pixel 6 has a flat display with bigger bezels and a matte black finish on the sides. Especially after using both phones in person, I’m a much bigger fan of the look of the Pixel 6 over the Pro model.

Google opted for a glossy finish for both phones in all colors – it is a blast from the past in a bad way. Glossy designs went by the wayside years ago, and Google had by far the best matte finish on its Pixel 4 series back in 2019. Now, we’re taking a step backward with phones that, while not fingerprint magnets, are ridiculously slippery.

Addressing the elephant in the room, these phones are both big. Going from a Pixel 5 to either Pixel 6 model is a jarring experience. Even coming over from a Galaxy Z Fold 3, I felt put off by the width of the Pro model. However, the sizes here really aren’t all that different from the latest Galaxy flagships, and those are the devices selling en masse, so it makes sense for Google to target that market.

The displays, too, leave a great first impression. The 6.4-inch 1080p panel on the Pixel 6 is good, offering enough brightness and solid overall colors, but the QHD+ display on the 6.7-inch Pro is truly stunning. Speaking completely anecdotally and with barely 24 hours of use, I can say confidently this is the best display on a Pixel to date by a long shot.

Everything about the Pixel 6 series on a hardware level, especially the Pro, leaves the same first impression as any other flagship Android phone. From the front, they look like Samsung or OnePlus devices and don’t have that signature Google design language.

That said, Google may have made the right call, even if longtime fans disagree. Starting at $599, these phones feel like by far the best value you can get in a flagship smartphone today, Android or otherwise.

Because not only are you getting excellent hardware, but also long-term software support. Google has committed to supporting the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro for the next 5 years, quite literally the best you can get on Android. With that in mind, the standard Pixel 6 costs barely over $100/year.

Stay tuned for more soon...