Google Pixel 6a review: Very smart phone that’s refreshingly cheap

Google Pixel 6a review

Google Pixel 6a review (Image: GOOGLE • GETTY)

Pixel 6a: 60-Second Review

If you are after a very smart phone at a cheaper price you can’t really go wrong with the Pixel 6a. This mid-range device comes packed with many of the intelligent features found on its more expensive siblings including the brilliant Transcript dictation function that turns spoken words into editable text and Live Translate for understanding foreign languages in real-time. There’s also the mind-boggling Magic Eraser which deletes photo bombers from your pictures via a simple tap on the display.

Under the hood, you get Google’s speedy Tensor processor (that’s the same brain that powers the £849 Pixel 6 Pro) and a very good dual-lens rear camera that uses clever AI to make sure every shot looks like it’s been snapped by a pro.

There’s plenty to like about the 6a especially as it only costs £399 but we do have some niggles. Rival Android devices at this price point now include fast 120Hz screens, triple-lens cameras and bigger 5,000mAh batteries (the 6a includes a smaller 4,400mAh power pack).

Although we actually like the unique style of the 6a, it does feel a tad cheap when you get it in your hands and there are other missing features such as wireless charging.

That said, if you want a very clever Android device on a budget you won’t find much better than the Pixel 6a.

Pixel 6a: Full review

Google really impressed when it unveiled its flagship Pixel 6 phones late last year and now fans can get many of the premium features found on those devices at a much cheaper price.

That’s all thanks to the launch of the £399 Pixel 6a which has just arrived in stores across the globe. Google has packed this mid-range phone with plenty of smart upgrades and it even gets the same Tensor processor that powers the £849 Pixel 6 Pro.

So, is the 6a any good and is it worth your money? has been putting it to the test and here’s our full review

Google Pixel 6a review

The Google Pixel 6a costs just £399 (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Pixel 6a: Design and Display

The Pixel 6a gets the same unique styling as its more expensive siblings and that’s no bad thing. We actually like what Google has done with these latest smartphones as the two-tone colour schemes and camera bar that stretches across the rear case give them a truly unique identity. Not everyone adores this look but at least the Pixel 6 range looks different from all the other Android devices that have flooded the market in recent years.

Another bonus of that camera bar is that, unlike every other phone we’ve tested, the device doesn’t rock about when bashing out a message whilst it’s placed on your desk.

Although we don’t mind the 6a’s styling we’re definitely not sold on the way it feels. Despite its glass and metal build, there’s just something slightly cheap about it with everything, including the buttons, feeling a tad plasticky.

Spin things around and there’s a very nice 6.1-inch OLED display which looks bright, colourful and packed with detail.

Visuals look great and you’ll have no problem bingeing on boxsets and enjoying the odd movie.

The only thing that slightly lets things down is the 60Hz refresh which does feel pretty sluggish. Other phones in this price range, including the new Nothing Phone (1), now pack speedy 120Hz technology for faster scrolling and it’s a shame Google couldn’t find a way to bring this upgrade to its cheaper smartphone.

Google Pixel 6a review

The Pixel 6a features a 6.1-inch OLED screen (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Pixel 6a: Power and Battery

Google made a massive change in 2021 with the tech firm ditching the usual Qualcomm brains that powered all of its previous devices. Instead of a Snapdragon tucked inside, the flagship Pixel 6 and 6 Pro got their power from a new Tensor chip which was designed and made in-house at Google. We were left impressed by this silicon on those models and that very same brain features in the mid-range 6a.

That’s great news as it means even those on a smaller budget get a device that can cope with all the usual digital demands.

Comprehensive tests have shown that Google’s Tensor chip can’t quite match the power of the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 silicon but it still blasts through tasks with undeniable ease.

That great performance continues when it comes to battery life with the 6a lasting all day without needing to go near a plug.

For those times when you need things to last a little longer, there’s an Extreme Battery Saver mode which brings up to 72-hours of life before a refill is needed.

Google Pixel 6a review

There’s a very good dual-lens camera on the rear case (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Pixel 6a: Camera

We really like the Pixel 6a’s camera as it takes all the stress out of snapping photos. Simply point, shoot and Google’s clever AI does the rest with most of the images we snapped on the device looking good enough for any Instagram post.

The dual-lens set-up offers a range of options including wide-angle photos and 2X zoom.

There’s also Google’s clever Night Sight mode which snaps images in total darkness without the need for a flash and the usual Portrait option for adding some DSLR-style depth of field to images.

However, our favourite feature has to be the Magic Erase tool which rids images of unwanted photobombers via a simple tap on the screen. It’s incredibly clever and works perfectly almost every time.

Along with pin-sharp images, the 6a can also shoot video in full 4K and there’s the usual Slo-Mo mode should you need it. There’s nothing flash about the 6a’s camera but we like its simplicity and it will cater for everything most people need and want when it comes to snapping shots for the family album.

Google Pixel 6a camera

Google Pixel 6a camera samples (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Google Pixel 6a camera

Google Pixel 6a camera samples (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Google Pixel 6a camera

Google Pixel 6a camera samples (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Pixel 6a: Smart Features

One of the biggest reasons for buying a Google phone is the access to all of those very clever smart features. The Pixel 6a might be cheaper but it still arrives with plenty of intelligent upgrades that are incredibly useful. Our favourite function has to be the Transcript dictation feature which magically turns spoken words into editable text – Google even manages this with very few errors.

There’s also the brilliant Live Translate feature which will help anyone heading away on their summer break understand the local lingo.

Of course, this device also gets full access to the unrivalled Google Assistant which can even now tell you things such as when a call centre is at its busiest before you call.

All of these features make sure the Pixel 6a is a very smart little phone and one that’s pretty tough to beat.

Google Pixel 6a review

The Google Pixel 6a comes in three colours (Image: GOOGLE)

Pixel 6a: Extras

Despite its pretty low price, there are a bunch of extras on the 6a including an under-screen fingerprint scanner and full access to the latest 5G data speeds for fast downloads on the move.

Google has also promised that Pixel owners will get feature drops every few months with software updates that will send new features, tricks and wallpapers to these devices.

The Pixel 6a also comes with three months of YouTube Premium and Google One free of charge. Plus these Google-made phones always get the next generation of Android upgrades before any other devices.

Sadly, it is missing a few things such as wireless charging, that 120Hz screen and, like most new phones, there’s no charger in the box. The fingerprint reader is also a bit slow to respond and the stereo speakers definitely aren’t the best when it comes to audio quality.

Pixel 6a: Price

The Pixel 6a costs £399 but that’s not the whole story. Google and Amazon are currently offering this phone with Pixel Buds thrown in for free and there are also some very cheap deals on contract. Three has a deal that includes free Pixel Buds with prices starting from £30 per month. There’s also a deal from EE that offers this device for just £25 per month which is pretty cheap.

If you don’t want a network contract then Google is also offering interest-free credit when buying the 6a which means you’ll pay just £16.63 per month to own it.

Google Pixel 6a review

Google Pixel 6a review (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Pixel 6a – at a glance

What We Loved

  • Solid performance
  • Great camera
  • Unbeatable smart features
  • Good battery life
  • Bargain price

What We Didn’t

  • Design still divides opinion
  • No 120Hz display
  • Wireless charging is missing and no plug in the box

Pixel 6a Verdict:

There’s plenty to love about the 6a and if you want a device that’s smarter than an Oxford graduate you won’t find much better. Thanks to the power of Google there’s a swathe of clever features tucked inside this phone and all for under £400 – that’s over half the price of the Pixel 6 Pro.

The screen is bright, battery life good and the camera will snap decent shots no matter how bad your photography skills are.

Although we like this device it’s not perfect and other phones at this price point do offer better features such as more rear lenses, bigger batteries, 120Hz displays and wireless charging.

That said, it’s unlikely the Pixel 6a will ever let you down and Google’s promise of regular updates and new features is a tempting proposition.

The 6a isn’t madly exciting but if you want a solid, reliable and super smart phone then it’s definitely one to consider.

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