The new Pixel 6 series phones and Google TensorSupported by the latest Android 12 OS, Google’s latest phones look and feel like premium flagship phones.
Following in Apple’s footsteps, many big technology companies are working on their in-house chips. Microsoft seems to be working on their chips for their servers and Surface computers while Amazon has also been reportedly working on their chips to power their networks. With the recent release of the Pixel 6 series, Google has released their in-house chips called ‘Google Tensor’ in partnership with Samsung. Why are all of these companies suddenly working on their own chips, and what benefits does a custom chip like the Google Tensor provide users? Let’s talk about Google’s new system-on-a-chip (SoC) and how they work with their new phones.
Disregarding Google’s implementation of their in-house SoC on these phones, the Pixel 6 series has brought some of the most significant changes to the Pixel line since its release in 2011. The 12MP camera modules that have been a staple on Pixel phones since the first device now gets an upgrade to 50MP on the 6 series. The visor-like camera bump in the back and the bold duo-tone design also bring a nice update to the phone’s aesthetics. The Pixel 6 series launched with two devices: the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro, and while both of these devices are powered by the Tensor chip, they come with some distinct hardware differences. The Pixel 6 is smaller with a 6.4-inch Full HD (1080x2400 pixel) resolution 90Hz screen with a 50MP (f/1.85) primary camera and a 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide camera. The screen on the Pixel is also flat compared to the Pro’s waterfall-like curved edges. The Pixel 6 is also limited to 8GB of RAM but can be configured for either 128 or 256 GB of internal storage. A 4614 mAh battery powers the device.
For the Pixel 6 Pro, the hardware gets a bit more premium with a larger 6.7-inch UHD (1440x3120) resolution 120Hz screen. It also has a higher 12GB of RAM and comes in 128, 256, and 512 GB storage options. The primary 50MP camera and the 12 MP ultrawide are supported by an additional 48MP (f/3.5) telephoto lens that offers 4x of optical and 20x Super Res digital zoom levels. The front-facing camera also gets a bump up on the Pro version to an 11.1 MP (f/2.2) wide 90-degree field of view compared to the Pixel 6’s 8MP (f/2.0) 84-degree field of view lens. A slightly larger 5003 mAh battery powers the Pro.
Supported by the latest Android 12, the Pixel 6 series look and feel like premium flagship phones. The phone has a hybrid aluminium body with two glass panels on the front and the back, with a visor-like camera bump spanning the width of the body—being one of its major identifying designs. Google has also used some of the best glass on these devices with Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and Gorilla Glass 6 on the back. These build quality updates finally ascertain that the Pixel line stands toe-to-toe with other flagships from Samsung or Huawei. Because of its build, the phones are quite delicate even with the strong glass and tend to be very slippery, so a case on this would be a definite recommendation.
While the Pixel line has always struggled with an identity crisis of being somewhere in the middle of mid-range and flagship phones, the implementation of the new Tensor SoC firmly cements it as a major flagship phone. With the Tensor, we don’t see major performance bumps as we saw with Apple’s M1 chips. But what we do see is an early implementation of Google machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) focused Tensor Processing Unit. The chip is still made by Samsung and has many designs from Samsung’s own Exynos line of ARM processors, but Google has helped design the SoC. The Tensor chip is designed with a 2x2x4 core architecture, two high-performance Cortex-X1 (2.8GHz) cores, two midrange A76 (2.25GHz) cores, and four efficient A55 (1.8 GHz) cores. The SoC also comes with an Advanced Image Signal Processor, Tensor Security chip, Context Engine, and a GPU core. The Tensor has an ultra-powerful 20-core Mali-G78 MP20 graphical processing unit. The Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) is the most special part of the silicon here and it comes from Google’s ambition for ‘Ambient Computing’, always available technology. The TPU is specially designed to undertake AI and ML tasks locally on the phone, making technology like live translation, computational photography, and voice recognition better and more accessible. Apart from enhancing photos through AI and ML, the new Tensor chip can also intelligently remove people and objects from photos, much like Photoshop’s content-aware fill. There are also plenty of new photo features like motion-blur, HDR, and improvements to night photography that come with the new chip. Live transcriptions have also gotten better with improved punctuation and faster voice recognition. Live voice translations have also gotten slightly better with the Tensor but still retain some quirks and slowdowns.
While the Tensor chip does not boast incredible speeds or groundbreaking benchmarks, it is a monumental step forward for Google in its integration of more complicated AI and ML tasks. We already see great improvements in services that rely on AI and ML technology with the Tensor chip, and with time, these technologies will shape how we use technology to interact with the real world. The Tensor chips hint at a future where the phone can be more autonomous without relying on powerful servers for their computational needs.
But Tensor SoC or not, the new Pixel 6 phones are very good and provide exceptional value-for-money. The Pixel 6 goes for $599, whereas the Pixel 6 Pro runs for $899. At half of what other flagships usually cost, the Pixel phones are a great option to look at if you’re looking for a new phone. Google’s Pixel phones have always been some of the best Android phones you could get, and the Pixel 6 is no exception to that. And with more flagship-grade hardware onboard, the Pixel experience is only getting better with the Pixel 6 series.