The Pixel 7 series made its debut in the fall and it's an especially great upgrade if you have an older Pixel phone. But if you're not after Google's latest and greatest lineup, then you're probably eyeing the Pixel 6 series -- and for good reason.
Google didn't make a great deal of changes to the Pixel 7 after it overhauled the Pixel 6 lineup, which means the latter will still generally offer an up-to-date experience. (The Pixel 6 Pro also made CNET's list of best smartphones for 2021.) This year you can snag either the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro for much less. In fact, the Pixel 6 series hit all-time lows in price post Pixel 7 launch.
If you're considering a new Pixel phone, you may be wondering what's the difference between 2021's Google phones. The two devices had each come with a collection of similar upgrades including Google's own Tensor chip, but each one also has a few noteworthy differences from the other.
One of the biggest differences during launch was price. There was a $300 difference between the base and pro models when they launched. However, that price difference may be a bit different today, depending on where you buy it from and if you're snagging the phones on a discount. For ponying up the extra cash for the Google 6 Pro, you get a slew of added features including a larger and higher-res screen, a bigger battery, support for both sub-6 and millimeter-wave 5G (the ultrafast but less reliable flavor of 5G) and the third rear camera, a telephoto lens with 4x optical zoom. As a reference point, that's higher than the iPhone 13's 3x optical zoom.
Read more: Google Pixel 6 vs. Pixel 6 Pro: Which Camera Takes Better Photos?
How does Pixel 6 compare to the Pixel 5 and 5A?
With the Pixel 6 lineup, Google seems to have course-corrected from the Pixel 5. Out went Pixel 5's midrange processor, in came the company's years-in-the-making Tensor chip. Out went the generic, tried-and-tested hardware design. In came a statement device with a signature camera bar running across the width of the chassis, which is available in splashy colors including sorta seafoam (green) and sorta sunny (orange).
At the heart of the Pixel 6 series is that aforementioned Tensor system-on-a-chip. Tensor promises up to 48 hours of battery life, better "real-time language translations, highly accurate voice transcription and high-end camera features like the ability to unblur the face of a person in motion," according to a report from CNET. This was the first time Google built its phones without a Qualcomm chipset, endeavoring instead to build its own chips in-house. And because Google created Tensor, it extended security and OS support for Pixel owners to five years, which is among the best Android update policies available.
By comparison, the Pixel 5 and 5A sit squarely in the midrange category. The Pixel 5 was Google's flagship phone in 2020, but its midrange position marked a departure from the pricey Pixel phones of years past. The Pixel 5 launched at $699 (£599, AU$999) and included 5G connectivity along with the fantastic cameras that have become the line's main selling point. But with that lowered asking price, Google chose to scale back on some features including the processor -- it went with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 765G.
Like all phones in Google's A series, the 5A is a stripped-down version of the flagship Pixel 5. Again, you can see how these phones stack up against each other in the specs chart below. You can also check out more on how the Pixel 6 and Pixel 5 compare here.
Pixel 6 series vs. Pixel 5 series
||Google Pixel 6 Pro||Google Pixel 6||Google Pixel 5||Google Pixel 5A 5G|
|Display size, resolution||6.7-inch LTPO OLED; 3,120x1,440 pixels; 10-120Hz||6.4-inch OLED; 2,400x1,080 pixels; 60 or 90Hz||6-inch OLED; 2,340x1,080 pixels||6.34-inch OLED, (2,400x1,080 pixels)|
|Pixel density||512 ppi||411 ppi||432 ppi||413 ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6.5x3.0x0.4 in||6.2x2.9x0.4 in||5.7x2.8x0.3 in||
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||163.9x75.9x8.9 mm||158.6x74.8x8.9 mm||144.7x70.4x8.0 mm||156.2x73.2x8.8 depth mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||7.41 oz; 210g||7.3 oz; 207g||5.33 oz; 151g||6.45 oz; 183g|
|Mobile software||Android 12||Android 12||Android 11||Android 11|
|Camera||50-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 48-megapixel (telephoto)||50-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide)||12.2-megapixel (standard), 16-megapixel (ultrawide)||16-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (wide)|
|Video capture||4K 30, 60fps (rear), 4K 30fps (front)||4K 30, 60fps (rear), 1,080p 30fps (front)||4K||4K|
|Processor||Google Tensor||Google Tensor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G||Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G|
|Storage||128GB, 256GB, 512GB||128GB, 256GB||128GB||128GB|
|Battery||5,003 mAh||4,614 mAh||4,000 mAh||4,680 mAh|
|Fingerprint sensor||Under display||Under display||Rear||
|Special features||5G Sub-6 and mmWave support, Wi-Fi 6E, Ultrawideband, 30W fast charging, Magic Eraser, Motion mode, Real Tone, Face Unblur, Cinematic Pan, 5 years OS and security updates, IP68 dust- and water-resistance, Gorilla Glass Victus (front and back)||5G Sub-6 (some carrier models also have 5G mmWave) support, Wi-Fi 6E, 30W fast charging, Magic Eraser, Motion mode, Real Tone, Face Unblur, Cinematic Pan, 5 years OS and security updates, IP68 dust- and water-resistance, Gorilla Glass Victus (front), Gorilla Glass 6 (back)||5G enabled; IP68 dust- and water-resistance; 90Hz refresh rate display; dual SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); reverse wireless charging; fast charging||5G-enabled, Titan M chipset (security chip), dual main camera, IP67 water-resistance, dual SIM, stereo speakers; 18W fast charging|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$899 (128GB)||$599 (128GB)||$699||$449|
|Price (GBP)||£849 (128GB)||£599 (128GB)||£599||£330 (converted)|
|Price (AUD)||AU$999 (128GB)||AU$1,299 (128GB)||AU$999||AU$610 (converted)|
Google's Pixel 6 is one of the best Android phones you can get for the money. In terms of design, power, features and performance, the Pixel 6 is a big step up from its predecessor, the Pixel 5. It offers improved cameras, Android 12 and the company's in-house Tensor chip.
The Google Pixel 6 Pro's unique design, great software additions, superb camera quality and solid all-around performance have already earned the phone an excellent rating in our full review. With performance that's every bit as good as its design, it showed that Google levelled up on its phone-making capabilities. Read our Google Pixel 6 Pro review for more insights.