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The Pixel 6a is Google's latest 'budget' smartphone release in 2022.
The 'a' series is usually the 'cut-down' version of their mainline Pixel phones, and it is no different for the Google Pixel 6a.
I have personally been using the Google Pixel 6 non-Pro as my daily driver since it was launched.
So what better way was there to compare the differences than by fully transitioning to the Pixel 6a for this review to see if the S$250 price difference between the phones is worth it?
I personally love the Pixel line of phones because of its simplicity. In the world of Androids, the Pixel line is one of the most straightforward smartphones out there.
While there are other phones that are super feature rich from the likes of Oppo and Xiaomi for the price, there are still little things that bug me about them, like the need to connect my Google account to the phone manufacturer's sign-in and what not for the phone to be fully functional.
Although usually not up to enthusiast specifications, the Pixel is great for those who want a phone that is an all-rounder and easy to use.
So, is the S$749 Pixel 6a able to match the Pixel 6's functionality, while being able to be much cheaper than its bigger brother?
Let's take a look at the main differences between both the phones first.
Battery: The Pixel 6a comes with a slightly smaller battery at 4410mAh vs the Pixel 6's 4614 mAh. The Pixel 6a also loses the ability to charge at above 18w, unlike the Pixel 6.
Camera: The Pixel 6a comes with a 12.2 megapixel main camera as opposed to the Pixel 6's 50 megapixel camera
RAM: The Pixel 6a comes with 6GB of RAM while the Pixel 6 comes with 8GB
Screen: The Pixel 6a comes with a 6.1 inch OLED 60hz screen while the Pixel 6 has a 6.4 inch OLED 90hz screen. Both have the same resolution of 2400 x 1080
Wireless Charging: Wireless charging is not present on the Pixel 6a. Because of this, the Pixel 6a also loses the ability to wirelessly charge another phone.
Size and weight: The Pixel 6a is slightly shorter than the Pixel 6, and is also slightly lighter.
Yes, those are all the differences. Is is worth paying S$250 more for the upgrades for the S$999 Pixel 6?
The processor of both the phones are the same, housing Google's Tensor chip to run the devices.
How do these changes affect the day to day usage? Should you save some money by buying the Pixel 6a, or should you spend extra for the features on the Pixel 6?
Let's start with the thing that affected me the most - wireless charging.
This is an extremely menial and simple comparison, yet it was the most prominent thing for me.
I have a wireless charger in my workspace. I use it to charge my phone while I do my things. Now I can't, and I have an unsightly wire dangling from my desk because I need to use it to charge the Pixel 6a.
This is a feature that you either need, or you don't.
If for some reason you use your phone to charge other people's phones wirelessly, you are also out of luck.
The only major difference between the phones are the 60hz refresh rate on the Pixel 6a and the 90hz on the Pixel 6.
The 90hz refresh rate makes the phone feel smoother while browsing on your phone, and gives the illusion that the phone is 'faster' and 'snappier', when it actually isn't.
That said, on my first two days with the Pixel 6a, the 60hz refresh rate was a little jarring coming from the 90hz of the Pixel 6. But after that, it became the norm.
It is just purely a quality of life change, and it shouldn't really affect anyone coming from a 60hz screen phone, and it is not that hard getting used to it anyway if you are coming from a higher refresh rate screen.
Now, it may be a combination of things (it is most likely because of the Pixel 6a's lower refresh rate screen), but the Google Pixel 6a's battery charge lasts longer than the Pixel 6, despite the reduction in battery capacity.
Playing a continuous 1080p Youtube video on the Pixel 6 at maximum brightness and 90hz made it last about 11 hours from 100 percent charge to it shutting off at 0 percent battery life. The same test with a maximum refresh rate of 60hz made the Pixel 6 last for about 13 hours.
The same test on the Pixel 6a managed a 14 hour uptime.
The Pixel 6a doesn't come with the Power Delivery 3.0 (PD 3.0) that's with the Pixel 6, and only charges at a maximum of 18w.
So it will charge much slower than the Pixel 6, but to be honest, the 18w is still plenty fast in this day and age, as long as you are not looking to rush your charge.
I do not feel any differences between the phones due to the lack of 2GB of RAM. The Pixel 6a is still as quick as the Pixel 6 with opening apps and running multiple programs.
This is something that is quite polarising in the world of smartphones. Some manufacturers love to chuck in large amounts of RAM into their phones, when it actually doesn't really matter that much beyond the 6GB mark.
For the Pixel line, 6GB of RAM is enough for the phone to run smoothly without hitches.
You'd think that a major reduction in megapixels from 50MP to 12.2MP would result in much, much more terrible pictures.
The funny story is, while I was trying to sort out which pictures to highlight for this review, I couldn't tell which were captured with the Pixel 6 or the Pixel 6a without looking at the title of the file.
The major feature of the past Pixel phones has always been the great pictures that the phone can capture, despite the lower megapixel cameras, while every other brand was touting cameras that can shoot the moon.
And until the Pixel 6, Google had always been using a 12MP camera in all their lines.
Google uses software and AI to fully touch up the pictures to look as crisp and natural as possible. This is why a Pixel, with a much lower megapixel camera, is still able to churn out pictures like they were captured on much better cams.
You are still able to get great pictures despite the megapixel reduction of the main camera. All the other camera features are intact in the Pixel 6a as well, like Night Sight and Magic Eraser.
The only thing that I would see as a problem is that you can't zoom in as much for a good picture, compared to the Pixel 6.
Based on the pictures shown above, if you can tell which is which without looking at the caption, I will give you a cookie.
Video recording is still pretty subpar, though. It has never been Pixel's strong suit, with or without a 50MP camera.
If you want my personal opinion, I would get a Pixel 6a if I didn't not already possess a Pixel 6, and if not for the lack of wireless charging. That's about it.
If wireless charging isn't a deal-breaker for you, S$250 less for essentially the same phone without a 90hz screen is really a good deal.
The reduction of RAM doesn't really degrade any kind of performance, while the reduction in camera megapixels really does not affect anything if you are a point-and-shoot person. The Google AI will balance it all the same anyway.
As a side note, the on-screen fingerprint sensor on the Pixel 6a seems much more responsive than the Pixel 6's, although on paper, it's supposedly the same sensor.
If you are looking for a moderately high-end phone without breaking beyond the S$800 mark, the Pixel 6a is really quite a good buy, especially when it is barely any different from Google's flagship Pixel 6.
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Dominic loves tech and games. When he is not busy getting bodied in games or watercooling anything he sees, he does some pro wrestling.