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Google Pixel 6 Pro Long Term Review: Leaps, Bounds And Bugs – Forbes



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Once future historians have finished sifting through the rubble of the pandemic, hopefully they’ll be able to make sense of why Google consistently launched phones with problems. Or maybe Google Assistant will be sentient enough to tell us in 10 years. Either way, I want some answers because this is the 6th phone in the line and the fourth Pixel with launch issues.
Google’s Pixel 6 Pro has an excellent display.
Google’s revamped flagship has lit up support forums and Reddit with early adopters spotting problems, including issues with connecting to cars, the refresh rate, a slow fingerprint scanner and 5G problems. Google is however rolling out updates this month to fix those issues and more.
But that isn’t the full Pixel 6 story because it is also an impressive handset, as David Phelan pointed out in his initial Pixel 6 Pro review. As someone who has reviewed every Pixel phone—and almost every Nexus handset before that—I can see how this is a departure from predecessors. My review unit isn’t the buggy mess like I’ve read elsewhere; or, at least, it isn’t facing a long list of extensive issues that are noticeably worse than any other phone I’ve reviewed recently. Like much of Google’s hardware, your experience may be a bit of a lottery. 
Best Buy
Google’s Pixel line goes through a yearly makeover with the vim of a divorcee downloading Tinder. The Pixel 6 Pro looks wildly different to the Pixel 5, which was a dramatic departure to the Pixel 4… and so on. I’m still not sure the oblong camera bump is quite my thing, but I understand the increasing difficulty in fitting larger and more technically complex components into an ostensibly small piece of technology. It is at least balanced across the whole back of the phone. 
The Pixel 6 Pro is yet another total redesign for the Pixel line.
The Pixel 6 Pro does however look decidedly more premium than its predecessor. The all-glass design replaces the aluminium body of the Pixel 5. It’s also substantially bigger with a slightly larger screen.
The display has been a real highlight over the last month. Google has done a good job in the brightness department, with the screen being clearly visible on (rare) sunny days in January. It also hits a level of dimness I haven’t seen on any other phones, which can be dimmed further in the accessibility settings. As a bed-time doom scroller, this has been a real boon.
A small thing that I have appreciated over the last month is the enlarged brightness slider. This is easier to handle for my clumsy fingertips than the smaller version on Samsung’s S21 Ultra. The 120Hz refresh rate is buttery smooth, as are the new Android 12 animations. The 1440 x 3120 resolution, with an impressive 521 ppi density, looks great with UHD content, although I have noticed that the OLED panel has a warmer hue to it than I prefer. Up against Samsung’s S21 Ultra it looks slightly yellow. 
The fingerprint reader, however, has been a let down. It’s so achingly slow that it almost feels manual, like there’s a little dishevelled guy behind the screen, swamped with fingerprint verification requests and racing to clear his inbox backlog. Under-screen fingerprint readers are broadly not good, so Google isn’t alone here. But the Pixel fingerprint scanner seems slower than recent competitors.
I will say that it is accurate though. I’m getting more correct reads than the S21 Ultra, and the phone readying itself for unlocking when it’s picked up is a nice touch that reduces misreads. 
Android 12 is really well represented on the Pixel 6 Pro. This is part of why Google’s inability to flush out problems is so frustrating: the promise of stock Android on the Android phone is enticing. Some of the updates in Android 12 are really nice. Material You looks great, particularly the new customisation options.
New updates like quick access to your smart home products in the quick settings, blocking camera access, tapping the back of the phone to take a screenshot, and Now Playing history (a repository of songs the phone has identified) really smooth out the experience. 
Android 12 is a huge improvement and dovetails perfectly with the Pixel 6 Pro.
I also really like the new privacy dashboard that gives you a breakdown of which apps have accessed your camera, microphone and location. Broadly there are a lot more privacy options to tinker with, like toggling microphone or camera access (rather than replying to a prompt in-app) and easier access to toggling what Google tracks on your phone. 
I can’t say the Tensor chip is obviously advantageous in terms of performance. It has felt as fast as any top-end phone in 2021. But some AI-powered tasks can now be performed without an internet connection, like real-time language translation and text-to-speech.
Other improved AI features include mixing in commands with voice typing, isolating voices when recording videos or faster image identification via Google Lens. This all feels much more natural than before because these tasks are faster and more fleshed out. For me, though, the most important upgrade Tensor brings is the five years of security and OS updates, which finally adds some longevity to Android phones that had previously only been available on iPhones. 
The camera remains a highlight of Pixel phones. The 6 Pro’s ability to point and shoot while producing excellent images is almost unmatched. The new 50MP sensor picks up a surprising amount of detail, with good color accuracy and excellent HDR. I have taken some nice images in challenging lighting conditions indoors (aided by Google’s Night Sight technology) and the 6 Pro picked up small details when I zoomed into the picture. In very warm, medium light I have taken some excellent food shots, which is usually something that phone cameras fumble.
I’m showing you how good the Pixel 6 Pro camera is, but also flexing that I ate this elite meal.
Portrait images can be a mixed bag if there’s any complexity in the shot, with the software failing to properly blur out the background. Check out the image of the plant below. But the phone can take really nice, natural bokeh shots without portrait mode on anyway, so I recommend tinkering with that instead.
The AI struggled to blur out the areas between the plant leaves. The natural bokeh effect looks much … [+] better.
Outside on a bright day, I’ve found images well-exposed, with the sensor picking up and distinguishing between the bright sky and darker elements in pictures. Again, little tinkering is necessary here, which is part of the camera’s appeal. The addition of 4x optical zoom is good for magnifying without losing quality—although the HDR on the 48MP telephoto lens isn’t as good as the wide. Some detail is also lost with the ultra-wide, but that’s fairly standard. The 114-degree field of view is impressive and colors are as accurate as the wide lens.
Outside the images look well exposed, color accurate and detailed.
Google has added a new feature called “real tone” that adapts the camera to better handle darker skin tones, like mine. There is a noticeable difference here between the 6 Pro and other handsets, with images of myself and my friends looking better illuminated—almost like I’m facing the evening sun and capturing some perfect natural lighting. It can look a bit artificial at times, because a lot of the images have this very slight yellow spotlight effect. But my skin tone does look more accurately reflected in the pictures and the results are more consistent. On other phones, in darker environments with mixed skin tones, I’ve noticed some cameras freak out trying to expose the image properly. There is consistency here. 
rear camera on the left, selfie camera on the right. Both pictures illuminated my skin well.
My big gripe is the selfie camera, which can produce noisy, low detail images. It’s noisy enough that I suspect there might be a software quirk that can be fixed with an update, as it doesn’t always happen. It looks like others have spotted this too. If this is the final quality of the selfie camera, then it feels like a bit of an own goal considering new features like real tone. But I don’t think it is. Just look at the difference between the selfies above and below. Both were taken on the same day.
The selfie camera can take some terrible, noisy pictures.
An area that has clearly improved is the Photos app. When you think about its very limited functionality just two years ago—compared to the editing options available today—the journey the app has been on is truly impressive. I’ve had some fun with Thanosing people out of pictures with Magic Eraser, or trying to capture good long exposure images. Although impressive, I think Magic Eraser needs a few more updates because the blurred space left behind by disappeared objects or people is very noticeable. Outside of initially playing with these features, I can’t say they have made it into my regular picture repertoire, but real tone has made a big impact on my casual photography. 
The big question is: Does the Pixel 6 Pro represent good value for money? At $900 for a top-spec device it absolutely does. Don’t stop reading there though. You have to be aware of the issues other users are facing because there are many, as I mentioned earlier. Google is rolling out a January update, so keep an eye on how well that’s going down. If the patch solves these woes, then the runway is clear. 
If you’re put off by the possibility of problems, then I’d recommend taking a look at the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, which will be receiving a big discount when the S22 lands in the next month or so. The Samsung phone is comfortably one of the most stable and consistently good handsets I’ve ever used (check out my review here), so it is a solid Android alternative to the Pixel 6 Pro.


Abhinav Breathes and Bleeds Technology. He's a humanoid with a passion for Gadgets, Cars, Gaming. You can usually find him on PSN Blabbering about his FIFA skills.

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