If you’re a hardcore Android fan, or an avid mobile photographer, then the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are likely to be top of your tech wish-list – and for good reason.
But with spec sheets and marketing comprising more buzzwords and complex numbers than most engineering white papers, you may justifiably be struggling to figure out which handset is best for your specific needs.
This is an early comparison based on the technical data Google has provided. We’ll update this page with our real-world impressions and lab performance data when we get the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro in for testing.
Visually, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro look similar, both featuring striking designs with an almost visor-like rear camera housing. Build quality is similar, too, with both handsets coming with IPX8 dust- and water-resistance ratings. This means they’ll happily survive being used in a downpour – but you wouldn’t want to drop them in the bath or kitchen sink.
On the inside, however, is where their differences show. Starting with screen tech, the Pixel 6 Pro has an LTPO variable refresh rate panel, which is a great step forward for the Pixel line. This enables the screens to offer variable refresh rates, which optimise how many images per second are displayed based on what the handset is doing. Effectively, it can ramp up the refresh rate when there’s a benefit – when you’re gaming, for example – and then drop it to conserve battery when there isn’t.
However, the Pixel 6 Pro’s screen is larger, measuring in at 6.7 inches. It has a sharper 1440 x 3120 resolution, and a higher 120Hz max refresh rate. By comparison, the Pixel 6 screen measures 6.4 inches; it has a 1080 x 2400 pixel resolution and max 90Hz refresh rate.
Specs never reveal the full story, though. You need to check key areas such as colour accuracy and contrast ratio as well. Nevertheless, on paper the Pro is far more on par with other flagship phones such as the Galaxy S21 Plus/Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro. Based on our experience with similar panels, though, the majority of buyers will be more than happy with the Pixel 6’s resolution, with the only big drawback being its lower max refresh rate. Trust us, you will notice the difference moving from a 120Hz to 90Hz panel.
Performance and battery life should also be better on the Pixel 6 Pro, despite the fact that both new devices run using Google’s new Tensor chipset. The Tensor is Google’s first own-brand mobile chipset, replacing the Qualcomm chip seen in older Pixel handsets. It offers a number of perks, including better AI capabilities, which enable the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro to offer features such as real-time translation services. The difference is that the Pixel 6 Pro’s chip is supported by 12GB of RAM, over the 8GB in the Pixel 6, which could make it better at things such as multitasking.
To deal with its larger screen, the Pro model also includes a bigger battery and faster charging than the base Pixel 6. Specifically, the Pro’s 5000mAh cell can accrue 50% of its charge in just 30 minutes, while the base Pixel 6’s 4614mAh cell can power up by just 30% in the same time.
You can see a detailed breakdown of the two phones’ specs in the table below.
Google has made big upgrades to both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro’s camera; however, there are a couple of key differences.
For starters, the Pro is the only one of the two with a 48-megapixel telephoto lens for zooming. This lets it offer 4x optical zoom. Although this doesn’t match the 100x zoom capabilities of competing phones, such as the Galaxy S21 Ultra, it’s a nice touch that in our experience will prove useful day to day.
The two phones’ rear camera setups are identical, with both featuring a new 50-megapixel “Octa PD Quad Bayer” main sensor that’s backed up by a secondary ultra-wide. Google claims the new main sensor is an exponential upgrade on the Pixel 5’s, offering radically better low-light performance. We can’t confirm this until we get the phones in for testing, but considering how good past Pixel cameras have been, we’re taking the claims fairly seriously.
The Tensor’s AI prowess also adds a few post-production capabilities to the mix. These include a new Magic Eraser and Face Unblur functions. These are intended to let you remove unwanted photo bombers from shots and fix blurred faces using the chip’s AI powers.
The Pro also has a better front camera, featuring a 11.1-megapixel sensor that can shoot wider-angled selfies than the Pixel 6’s 8-megapixel offering, and can record 4K video.
Both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro will launch on 28 October, in a variety of territories including the US and UK.
The Pixel 6 Pro carries a starting price of $599. This makes it significantly cheaper than the Pixel 6 Pro, whose starting price is $899.
The Pixel 6 Pro looks like a solid upgrade on the Pixel 6, despite both featuring the same core Tensor chip and sporting very similar designs. Improvements to the Pro’s screen refresh rate, faster charging and a third telephoto camera sensor on its back are all key additions that improve its core offering. The only question is if the handsets live up to what they promise on paper – which we’ll find out when we get the two Pixels in for testing.