We’re only a day into the public, post-embargo cycle for the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro and, so far, the impressions are quite glowing. For Google, that’s a good thing as their phones have had a tendency over the years to be a bit less than impressive to the flagship phone review crowd. It’s not that they’ve been bad per se, it’s just that they’ve all had glaring issues that users have had to look past to decide on buying a phone with that vaunted Pixel camera.
This time around, especially with the Pixel 6 Pro, there aren’t really many things to complain about. The build quality, screen, aesthetic, feel, speakers, battery life and cameras are all top-notch and I find little to really complain about. On top of that, both phones are Pixels, and that means they get Google’s version of Android, longer updates, and what amounts to a better overall software experience than other Android phones offer.
But what about performance?
If you’ve checked out performance benchmarks like Geekbench 5, you’ll note that the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro aren’t the fastest phones out there in terms of sheer processor speed. They actually fall somewhere between the Snapdragon 865 and the 888 even though the core layouts are actually a little beefier. With 2 of the larger Cortex-X1 cores versus the single X1 setup in the 888, you’d think Tensor would have more raw power. I have a hunch that Google is likely governing Tensor’s top speed a bit to make battery life better and steer clear of overheating issues. I’d hope that over time we’ll see both Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro open up that horsepower a bit.
One thing Geekbench doesn’t test very well is GPU performance. For that, other benchmarks are much more helpful. Where we thought that Tensor might edge out the Snapdragon 888 in sheer speed (because of that core configuration), I freely assumed the GPU would struggle to keep up with Qualcomm’s Adreno. Google opted for the Mali GPU in Tensor, and it generally falls behind Adreno in most benchmarks. But not with Tensor.
Instead, it seems the GPU in Tensor is quite the beast. Thanks to some benchmarks posted over on Reddit, we know – on paper, at least – Tensor’s GPU looks to be up to the tasks of the modern flagship smartphone. And it doesn’t just get the job done: it posts better scores than all it’s Android peers. In the photos below, you’ll see the results for devices with Tensor, Snapdragon 888, Kirin 9000, and Exynos 2100 SoCs.
As you can see, while not a slaughter, Tensor wins out versus all the major Android SoCs currently on the market. To me, this was a huge surprise and one that I’m very happy with. Again, the core configurations in the Tensor SoC possess all the necessary power to be very, very fast. With the big question of performance coming down to GPU, I think it is safe to say that Tensor has the chops to compete on the highest levels.
Does that mean Pixel 6 is the fastest phone on the market? Not really. Benchmarks only give us a guide as to the max power of a device. While the processor benchmarks mentioned above don’t feel like class-leading performance, I really don’t think we’re seeing the full power of Tensor just yet. With a few tweaks here and there to the underlying software, I really do expect Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro to simply get faster over time, and it looks like the hardware is there to support whatever it is Google chooses to do over the coming months. Ideally, Tensor could simply get better at ramping up performance when under load. The horsepower is clearly there. Now it’s up to Google to fully let those horses run.