The Radio Times logo
We may earn commission from links on this page. Our editorial is always independent (learn more)

Google Pixel 6a review: the littlest Pixel punches above its weight

The Google Pixel 6a offers Google's slick, appealing user experience in a compact and affordable package.

Google Pixel 6a
Published: Thursday, 25th August 2022 at 3:49 pm
A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.
Our Rating
GBP £399 RRP

Our review

If you want a small phone that packs a punch then the Google Pixel 6a could be perfect. We loved its camera and overall user experience, but its place as Google's value option has been slightly undermined by discounts on obvious alternatives, the Samsung Galaxy A53 and the standard Google Pixel 6. We can still recommend the Google Pixel 6a on the strength of its performance, software and intuitive UI. Overall, it ranks among the best lower mid-range phones out there right now, despite one or two small flaws.

Pros

  • Compact form factor
  • Powerful and slick to use
  • Solid camera
  • Google's Tensor Chip performs well again

Cons

  • Not much cheaper than Pixel 6
  • No fast-charger included and max charge speed 18W
  • No wireless charging
  • 60Hz display

While it's arrived a little later in the lifecycle of the Google Pixel 6 than we perhaps expected, the Pixel 6a is still a tempting value proposition for bargain-hunting smartphone buyers looking at the lower mid-range market.

Advertisement

Occasional stand-out deals on the standard, more powerful Google Pixel 6 have undermined that pricing appeal slightly, but finding those deals does need a small slice of luck and good timing. The 6a is a great budget-friendly alternative.

Of course, the Google Pixel 7 release date isn't likely to be too far away either, but in the meantime the 6a is offering the Google experience that smartphone fans love at a very reasonable £399.

We've taken the 6a for a test drive — using the camera, testing out features, functionality and more — to see if it's worth your cash.

Google Pixel 6a review: summary

Pick up the Google Pixel 6a and the first thing that will strike you is its unusually compact shape. We really like it, but it's rare in the current smartphone market that manufacturers opt for a smaller handset. In this case, it sits in the hand wonderfully and is very pocketable.

On the back it's rocking the same Robocop-esque styling of recent Pixels, with two camera lenses and a flash incorporated into a protruding rectangular bar. It stands out nicely against the lighter coloured backing options. We tested the white version of the phone and thought the styling was impactful enough to stand out from the crowd, without being garish.

When it comes to performance, the littlest Pixel punches above its weight, offering a typically smooth user experience which makes the most of Google's software and offered no performance issues during our tests.

Thankfully, the phone also offers 5G, which wasn't the case last time a Pixel a series phone made it to the UK.

Key features:

  • 5G connectivity
  • Android 12 (soon to be updated to Android 13)
  • Google Tensor processor

Pros:

  • Compact form factor
  • Powerful and slick to use
  • Solid camera
  • Google's Tensor Chip performs well again

Cons:

  • Not much cheaper than Pixel 6
  • No fast-charger included and max charge speed 18W
  • No wireless charging
  • 60Hz display

What is the Google Pixel 6a?

The Pixel 6a is the essentially the little brother of Google's popular Pixel 6 smartphone. It's cheaper because one or two compromises have been made on the specs sheet, but crucially it still comes with that same Google Tensor chip and Google software, making for a smooth and intuitive user experience.

You won't get the same camera, storage options and display, but otherwise the differences aren't always too conspicuous.

How much is the Google Pixel 6a?

One of the stand-out appeals of the Google Pixel 6a is its relatively low price. It's just £399.

That compares well to a lot of the competition, but the appealing pricing has been slightly undermined by the fact you can now get some very good deals on the standard Pixel 6a, bringing it down to around £450 if you time your purchase right. Take a look at the latest Google Pixel 6 prices below.

That price-point also puts the Pixel 6a in direct competition with the Samsung A53, which we gave 4.3 stars in our full Samsung A53 review.

The Samsung offers a bigger, snappier display and good battery life, plus a similarly solid camera. However we reckon the Pixel 6a has a little more personality. They're closely comparably handsets though and for anyone prioritising a display over other factors, the Samsung is ahead.

Google Pixel 6a features

If you were drawn to the Google Pixel 6a because of its budget-friendly appeal, then the fact that Google has also promised five years of software updates will please you even further. There won't be any need to rush out and update your phone in a couple of years if this little Pixel is still going strong.

Elsewhere, that aforementioned Google Tensor chip does a wonderful job of the heavy lifting. It's the same 5nm chip you'll find in the standard Pixel and even the Pixel 6 Pro.

It's lower on power than the other Pixels, though, with just 6GB of RAM. Combine that with the display specs and it's worth noting that this isn't a phone suitable for gamers who want to fire up demanding titles like Genshin Impact, but for everyday use it's more than enough. If you are looking for more of a gamified phone, check out our full review of the Xiaomi Poco F4 GT.

Google Pixel 6a display

The small, compact, 60Hz display isn't going to wow anyone. We found it simple and enjoyable to use, but at this price-point there are much better displays out there, like the 120Hz AMOLED panel on the Samsung A53.

So, for streaming content or firing up basic games, the Samsung is going to have the edge. Seemingly, the display is one area in which Google made a compromise to bring down the price of the 6a and we don't necessarily mind. It's all about what your priorities are in a phone.

The 6.1-inch display is nice and compact and it's easy to use with one hand — which is increasingly rare.

Google Pixel 6a battery

Battery-life is pretty strong but charging is not. That's the long and short of it when it comes to the Pixel 6a's battery and it's clearly one of the areas in which Google has made sacrifices to bring this smartphone down to that £399 starting price.

If fast-charging is a huge selling point for you, it might be worth looking elsewhere, but during our testing the solid, dependable battery lasted well and we didn't find ourselves begrudging the lack of a fast-charge facility often.

If you're determined to juice up as quickly as possible though, check out alternatives like the £299 Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro, which comes with a 67W fast charger, or the Honor 50, which comes with a 66W fast charger.

Google Pixel 6a camera

The Pixel isn't going to outgun too many competitors on paper with its two 12MP rear cameras, but Google's powerful image processing means this smartphone can still deliver fantastic images.

The phone deals well with low light and delivers pleasing colour and details, despite that small amount of megapixels. We enjoyed testing the camera out and it continues a solid tradition of dependable cameras on Google phones, backed up with that stand-out image processing power.

Google Pixel 6a design

The camera array on the reverse of the phone — reminiscent of Robocop as it is — might divide option, but the overall look and feel of the phone scored well with us.

Pick it up and you will notice that the materials all feel a little cheaper and more plastic-y than Google's more up-market offerings, but that is to be expected. For £399, the 6a still feels like a good quality handset and has a nice, tactile hand-feel.

You'll notice slightly bigger bezels around the screen too but, again, this is a cost cutting measure and is often the case in this price bracket.

Our verdict: should you buy the Google Pixel 6a?

Had the 6a come out a little earlier, it would be getting very, very high marks from us. Now though, with time having moved on, there are discounts on both the Google Pixel 6 and the Samsung A53 which undermine the Pixel 6a's value proposition to some degree.

As far as we're concerned, it's a fantastic phone, but at time of writing, the closely comparably Samsung A53 is available £100 cheaper than the 6a and the jump from the 6a up to the 6 is smaller than might be expected.

Ultimately though, we loved the user experience of the Pixel 6a, all powered by that impressive Google Tensor chip — and the compact size will be a huge bonus for some that is hard to find elsewhere.

Where to buy Google Pixel 6a

The Google Pixel 6a is widely available right now at a range of UK retailers. Check out the links below for the latest on pricing and availability.

It's worth checking out the competition too, if you're in the hunt for a lower mid-range phone then the Samsung A53 is currently on sale and available for just £299.

Advertisement

For more on top tech, head over to our Technology section or check out our guide to the best smartphones to buy in 2022.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sponsored content