Google Pixel 6 Pro review

GSMArena Team, 3 November 2021.

Android 12 and Tensor-exclusive features

We've recently posted our full review of Android 12 so for this review, we'll focus on the features that are debuting with the Pixel 6 phones leveraged by the new Tensor chip including Voice Typing, Live Translate, and Calling Assist. There's also deeper integration with apps that use the camera.

Google Pixel 6 Pro review

Let's look at a couple of new hardware nuances that are specific to the new Pixel 6 Pro's software. There's an optical in-display fingerprint scanner now for both the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro models. You can see its placement in the screenshots below.

In-display fingerprint - Google Pixel 6 Pro review In-display fingerprint - Google Pixel 6 Pro review In-display fingerprint - Google Pixel 6 Pro review
In-display fingerprint

The other change comes with Google's built-in keyboard app. Now that the 6 Pro's display has curved edges, there's cushion space on either side of the keyboard as to improve the typing experience. Otherwise, palm rejection is present throughout the UI, and it doesn't seem to get in the way.

It was always possible to input text using voice with Gboard, but the Tensor chip brings Assistant Voice Typing: a far better way to type by voice. This will even work without an internet connection since the language model is on-device and processes language near-instantaneously.

To start typing with voice, you can press the microphone button or say "Hey Google, type" and start yapping away. You'll be able to reply with your voice far more naturally since the Assistant will take care of punctuation, so you don't even have to say things like "period" or "question mark".

Voice Type into any text field - Google Pixel 6 Pro review
Voice Type into any text field

If you tap on a dictated word, suggestions will now show alternatives that are phonetically close to what you are saying, versus suggestion words that are meant for text Input. You can also say "Clear" to delete the last thing you entered with voice, "Send" (in supported apps), "Clear all" to wipe the entire text field, or "Stop" to discontinue voice input. You can tap on a word and re-speak it to correct it, or you can move the cursor prior to inserting more text, all without having to press the voice button again. Some emojis can be inserted by voice too like "smile with teeth emoji" and you can spell out words that Assistant may not understand.

Voice Typing: Settings - Google Pixel 6 Pro review Voice Typing: Commands - Google Pixel 6 Pro review Voice Typing: Commands - Google Pixel 6 Pro review Voice Typing: Commands - Google Pixel 6 Pro review
Voice Typing: Settings • Commands

The new language model enables much quicker and more reliable transcription of voice to text, thus speeding up Google Assistant's turnaround times for voice queries. Translation is added to the mix as well, which improves Google's Interpreter mode when you need help speaking to someone in their native language, or if you are using a supported messaging app. If you wanted to carry on a text conversation with someone in another language, you can do so, and Google will translate both directions on the fly.

Google Pixel 6 Pro review

Live Translate worked well enough, except for a couple of bugs. This feature is hidden away in the System Settings and you have to manually download the language that's to be translated from. The translations were okay, and results will depend on whether the other person writes in complete sentences. Even still, after setting everything up, the feature works as advertised and beats having to manually translate each message you send and receive.

Live Translate via Instagram DM - Google Pixel 6 Pro review Live Translate via Instagram DM - Google Pixel 6 Pro review Live Translate via Instagram DM - Google Pixel 6 Pro review Live Translate via Instagram DM - Google Pixel 6 Pro review Live Translate via Instagram DM - Google Pixel 6 Pro review Live Translate via Instagram DM - Google Pixel 6 Pro review
Live Translate via Instagram DM

Live Translate for messaging is currently only supported on a dozen or so messaging apps, and in the following languages: English, French, Japanese, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, Hindi, Polish, and Russian.

Live Translate also works to translate spoken-word content, so long as it's in English, French, German, Italian, or Japanese (Beta). Sound coming from a video or audio source can be transcribed and translated in real-time.

Live Caption with translation - Google Pixel 6 Pro review Live Caption with translation - Google Pixel 6 Pro review Live Caption with translation - Google Pixel 6 Pro review
Live Caption with translation

The downside to using this feature is that the actual translation is still a bit slow and clunky. Since the words begin to appear as they are said in their native language, the text you read in the translated language morphs the whole duration of its recital until the sentence is completed and the punctuation is added. This can make reading Live Translated subtitles disorienting and difficult to understand.

Live Captions translated from French and Japanese content - Google Pixel 6 Pro review Live Captions translated from French and Japanese content - Google Pixel 6 Pro review
Live Captions translated from French and Japanese content - Google Pixel 6 Pro review Live Captions translated from French and Japanese content - Google Pixel 6 Pro review
Live Captions translated from French and Japanese content

You may not be able to use Live Translate for apps with copyrighted content. For example, Live Translate wouldn't work for captioning a Japanese TV show on the Netflix app as the feature was disabled for the app. While the feature works as advertised and the concept is quite useful, it seems like it needs another few years before it's fully fleshed out.

Performance

The Pixel 6 Pro comes with Google's first-generation Tensor chipset. Co-developed and manufactured by Samsung, you can expect 80% faster CPU performance, and 370% faster GPU performance with Google Tensor compared to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G that ran in the Pixel 5.

Since 2017, Google has been working on creating a custom chipset for Google Pixel that would place it ahead of the competition in terms of what could be achieved using Google's machine learning and advances in computational photography. Google took a different approach with the Tensor chipset, integrating different processing units that handled different instructions from the software simultaneously and harmoniously. For example, the Google Lens app needs to send instructions to the CPU, GPU, ISP, and TPU (Tensor Processing Unit) to return a query.

Google Pixel 6 Pro review

Google's approach to this chipset is different with its 2+2+4 core layout. This is made up of two powerful Cortex-X1 cores maxed out at 2.8GHz, a pair of Cortex-A76 cores at 2.25Ghz, and a low-power quad-core cluster of Cortex-A55 cored clocked at 1.8GHz. Google's Tensor is optimized for the dual X1 cores to handle medium-level tasks by using a portion of the workload more efficiently rather than maxing out the mid-cores. For graphics, there's a 20-core Mali G78 MP20.

This TPU inside the Tensor chip has a machine learning engine that is built for "where ML engines are heading, not where they are today." This component of the Tensor chip handles new camera features, including the new HDRnet algorithm for shooting video, and an updated language model used by Google Assistant that enable improved translation speed and accuracy.

Google Pixel 6 Pro review

This model also enabled the new Live Translate features built into Pixel 6 Pro. The Tensor chip is able to perform with other parts of the chipset like the ISP or the CPU to perform tasks while using less power. There's also a "Context Hub" which handles background tasks or "ambient experiences" like the always-on display and Now Playing features without draining power.

Quoted from Google's press event: "As software applications on mobile phones become more complex, they run on multiple parts of the chip. This is heterogeneous computing." Google's aim with the Tensor chip is that all the components inside work together efficiently rather than optimizing for peak speed.

Google's Tensor chip is designed for more efficient performance of simultaneous app tasks, language transcription, and translation. This improves the speed of voice queries with Google Assistant and processes information to and from Google more efficiently. Although Google Tensor is an advanced chipset by today's standards, it does not mean that it will be breaking benchmark charts.

Starting with Geekbench 5, the Pixel 6 Pro fared well in the single-core test, showing scores sitting between devices using the Snapdragon 870 and Snapdragon 888. Multi-core scores placed Tensor right around the Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G's Snapdragon 778G and the OnePlus Nord 2's Dimensity 1200 5G. Otherwise, it scored behind other devices with the Snapdragon 865, Snapdragon 870, and Snapdragon 888.

GeekBench 5 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    1741
  • Apple iPhone 13
    1727
  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro
    1709
  • nubia Red Magic 6S Pro
    1140
  • Sony Xperia 1 III
    1130
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    1126
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)
    1109
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    1107
  • vivo X70 Pro+
    1106
  • Google Pixel 6 Pro
    1042
  • OnePlus 9R
    969
  • Oppo Find X3 Pro
    926
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
    906
  • OnePlus Nord 2
    814
  • Realme GT Master
    785
  • Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G
    771
  • Google Pixel 5
    594
  • Google Pixel 4 XL
    591
  • Google Pixel 5a 5G
    574
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro
    398

GeekBench 5 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    4706
  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro
    4687
  • Apple iPhone 13
    4645
  • nubia Red Magic 6S Pro
    3660
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    3636
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    3518
  • Sony Xperia 1 III
    3515
  • vivo X70 Pro+
    3469
  • Oppo Find X3 Pro
    3316
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
    3296
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)
    3244
  • OnePlus 9R
    3117
  • Realme GT Master
    2917
  • Google Pixel 6 Pro
    2831
  • Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G
    2801
  • OnePlus Nord 2
    2792
  • Google Pixel 4 XL
    2267
  • Google Pixel 5
    1647
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro
    1517
  • Google Pixel 5a 5G
    1337

Antutu 9 ranked the Pixel 6 Pro just below the Snapdragon 888, but ahead of the Snapdragon 870, Dimensity 1200 5G, and the Snapdragon 778G.

AnTuTu 9

Higher is better

  • nubia Red Magic 6S Pro
    866437
  • vivo X70 Pro+
    837833
  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    801691
  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro
    794348
  • Apple iPhone 13
    775519
  • Sony Xperia 1 III
    749132
  • Google Pixel 6 Pro
    719815
  • OnePlus 9R
    676913
  • OnePlus Nord 2
    598022
  • Realme GT Master
    529263
  • Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G
    506432
  • Google Pixel 5
    386220
  • Google Pixel 5a 5G
    373168

The 20-core Mali-G78 MP20 GPU keeps the Pixel 6 Pro on its toes. Graphic-intensive tests showed the Pixel 6 Pro's performance was on par with other devices running the Snapdragon 888 in the offscreen tests, bested only by the Snapdragon 888+.

Meanwhile, onscreen tests show a noticeable advantage over the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, both the Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100 versions. This makes a good reference for comparison since both the Pixel 6 Pro and the S21 Ultra have identical resolutions.

GFX Manhattan ES 3.1 (offscreen 1080p)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro
    181
  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    178
  • Apple iPhone 13
    150
  • nubia Red Magic 6S Pro
    127
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    119
  • Oppo Find X3 Pro
    113
  • Sony Xperia 1 III
    111
  • Google Pixel 6 Pro
    110
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)
    109
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    107
  • vivo X70 Pro+
    105
  • OnePlus 9R
    93
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
    89
  • OnePlus Nord 2
    75
  • Google Pixel 4 XL
    69
  • Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G
    56
  • Realme GT Master
    56
  • Google Pixel 5a 5G
    37
  • Google Pixel 5
    22
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro
    20

GFX Manhattan ES 3.1 (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • nubia Red Magic 6S Pro
    107
  • Sony Xperia 1 III
    91
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
    77
  • Google Pixel 6 Pro
    65
  • Apple iPhone 13
    60
  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    60
  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro
    60
  • OnePlus 9R
    60
  • vivo X70 Pro+
    58
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    58
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)
    58
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    57
  • OnePlus Nord 2
    57
  • Oppo Find X3 Pro
    55
  • Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G
    49
  • Realme GT Master
    46
  • Google Pixel 4 XL
    34
  • Google Pixel 5a 5G
    33
  • Google Pixel 5
    22
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro
    17

GFX Car Chase ES 3.1 (offscreen 1080p)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    121
  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro
    119
  • Apple iPhone 13
    98
  • nubia Red Magic 6S Pro
    74
  • Google Pixel 6 Pro
    70
  • Oppo Find X3 Pro
    70
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    70
  • Sony Xperia 1 III
    68
  • vivo X70 Pro+
    66
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)
    66
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    64
  • OnePlus 9R
    57
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
    52
  • OnePlus Nord 2
    46
  • Google Pixel 4 XL
    41
  • Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G
    33
  • Realme GT Master
    33
  • Google Pixel 5a 5G
    21
  • Google Pixel 5
    13
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro
    7.3

GFX Car Chase ES 3.1 (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • nubia Red Magic 6S Pro
    62
  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    60
  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro
    60
  • Apple iPhone 13
    59
  • Sony Xperia 1 III
    54
  • OnePlus 9R
    49
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
    45
  • Google Pixel 6 Pro
    39
  • OnePlus Nord 2
    38
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    36
  • vivo X70 Pro+
    33
  • Oppo Find X3 Pro
    33
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    33
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)
    33
  • Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G
    28
  • Realme GT Master
    27
  • Google Pixel 4 XL
    21
  • Google Pixel 5a 5G
    19
  • Google Pixel 5
    12
  • Oppo Reno3 Pro
    7.4

In 3DMark, the Pixel 6 Pro ranked highest amongst Android smartphones, besting even the Snapdragon 888+.

3DMark Wild Life Vulkan 1.1 (offscreen 1440p)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
    9751
  • Apple iPhone 13
    8986
  • Google Pixel 6 Pro
    6602
  • nubia Red Magic 6S Pro
    5865
  • Sony Xperia 1 III
    5807
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    5701
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    5691
  • Oppo Find X3 Pro
    5653
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)
    5547
  • vivo X70 Pro+
    5332
  • OnePlus Nord 2
    4224
  • OnePlus 9R
    4154
  • Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G
    2491
  • Realme GT Master
    2481
  • Google Pixel 5a 5G
    1674
  • Google Pixel 5
    1033

The Google Tensor's raw performance numbers show that it isn't best in CPU tasks, but it does fare very well in graphics-intensive situations thanks to its 20-core GPU. Proverbially, we shouldn't take these numbers to heart. With Google Tensor, we experienced excellent day-to-day performance, and you can expect the same.

Games run well on the Pixel 6 Pro. If you are expecting to play high-performance video games like Genshin Impact or Call of Duty Mobile, you should know that the phone will be prone to getting very warm. We played a 20-minute session of Genshin Impact without a case in an air-conditioned room and the CPU temperatures reached upwards of 150 F/65 C. Battery temperature was around 110 F/43 C.

Rocking two Cortex-X1 cores is no small feat, not to mention alongside two Cortex-A76 ones. This is a power-hungry setup with plenty of potential for heat output, which shows in the thermal throttling behavior of the phone. Granted, a sustained all-core load is not really a viable real-world scenario, but it does clearly showcase that the Pixel and its cooling system can't sustain peak performance on the tensor chip for long at all.

Performance stability test graph - Google Pixel 6 Pro review Performance stability test graph - Google Pixel 6 Pro review Performance stability test graph - Google Pixel 6 Pro review
Performance stability test graph

On the plus side, even if the drops in performance are aggressive, they are not sudden but rather controlled and likely implemented deliberately at a CPU governor level. The important bit is that a gradual ramp down shouldn't result in stutters in games or heavy apps. We guess it's the best Google could manage with the hardware at hand.

While the Pixel 6 Pro will handle the occasional high-end game session, there are other smartphones better suited for playing graphic-intensive games for hours at a time. Ones with better in-game settings, active cooling, and advanced performance optimizations.

Otherwise, daily use of the Pixel 6 Pro fared well. The phone barely warmed up after a 20-minute editing session on Cap Cut. The phone can handle day-to-day tasks with ease, but situations that require peak performance sustained for longer periods are where the Pixel 6 Pro shows weakness.

Reader comments

Yeah... sad. Soon they will stop complaining about no charger in the box.

that would imply the pixel 6 is a mid range, no? yes it has mid range hardware but it's priced and featured as a flagship.

  • Anonymous

google tensor is in a mid range phone, it's in a pixel 6