Monday, November 29, 2021

Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro launch with homebrew Tensor chip

Google is gunning for the flagship smartphone market once more with the release of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.

It’s been a while since Google phones were this exciting. The narrower bezel finally brings the phone up to date with modern designs, and the rear camera array now spans the width of the phone.

Device Google Pixel 6 Google Pixel 6 Pro
Processor Google Tensor Google Tensor
Display 6.4-inch, 2400×1080, 90Hz, AMOLED, Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 6.71-inch, 3120×1440, 120Hz, AMOLED, Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
Memory 8GB 12GB
Storage Up to 256GB Up to 512GB
Camera Main: 50MP, f/ 1.9

Ultrawide: 12MP, f/ 2.2

Front: 8MP, f/ 2.0

Main: 50MP, f/ 1.9

Ultrawide: 12MP, f/ 2.2

Telephoto: 48MP f/ 3.5, 4x optical zoom

Front: 11.1MP, f/ 2.2

Battery 4,614 mAh, 30W fast charge, no charger included 5,003 mAh, 30W fast charge, no charger included
Durability IP68 IP68
Biometrics Under display fingerprint sensor Under display fingerprint sensor
OS Android 12 Android 12
Price Starting at CA$799 Starting at CA$1,179

In a stark contrast to the company’s previously released mid-range Pixel 5 and 5a, the Pixel 6 Pro once again brings flagship-grade hardware to the Pixel series. But the spot where a Qualcomm chip used to sit now contains Google’s own Tensor system-on-chip (SoC).

Google's Tensor SoC
Credit: Google

In terms of processing cores, Google Tensor uses two Arm Cortex-X1 performance cores, two Cortex-A76 general cores, and four Cortex-A55 efficiency cores. The chip is built using 5nm transistors and uses a Mali-G78 MP20 GPU, a high end graphics processor also by Arm. 

Google’s Tensor SoC is the company’s first mobile chip designed in house. It’s no coincidence that the chip is called Tensor; in a blog post, Google said that this new chip can keep pace with the latest advancements in machine learning (ML). The company explained that the chip’s various subsystems work “better together” to drive new ML use cases.

Tensor is designed to enhance experiences in four key areas: speech, language, imaging and video. It will be used to power new ML-accelerated features such as motion mode, face unblur, speech enhancement videos and more. Some familiar technologies such as real-time translation and speech recognition have been greatly improved as well. To deliver on these promises, Tensor will be running more advanced ML models at lower power consumption compared to previous Pixel phones.

On the security front, the Tensor SoC carries the Tensor security core, a new CPU-based subsystem that works in tandem with the Titan M2, Google’s new dedicated security chip. Together, the two can fend off new and novel attacks such as electromagnetic analysis, voltage glitching and laser fault injection. It’s highly unlikely that everyday users would encounter these types of attacks but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Google Pixel 6 in various colors
Credit: Google

The camera system has seen a massive upgrade from the previous generations. The Pixel 6 Pro comes with a 50MP main camera, a 48MP telephoto camera, and a 12MP ultrawide camera. The Pixel 6 features the same main and ultrawide cameras, but lacks the telephoto shooter of the Pro. The upgraded main sensor, complemented by Tensor’s AI capabilities, should handily exceed the quality of the 12MP main camera on Pixel 5 which, despite its age, still manages to keep pace with the best.

The 6.4-inch AMOLED display on the Pixel 6 has a refresh rate of 90 Hz, but the Pixel 6 Pro’s 6.71-inch display kicks that up to 120Hz. Both phones use Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and back. The fingerprint sensor, placed on the rear of the Pixel 5, is now under the display.

Storage for both phones start at 128GB. The Pixel 6 maxes out at 256GB and the Pixel 6 Pro at 512GB. The Pixel 6 Pro also has 12GB of memory, 4GB more than the Pixel 6.

Another welcome change is the battery. The Pixel 6 Pro packs a whopping 5000mAh unit, while the Pixel 6 uses an equally respectable 4600mAh cell. Both phones support 30W fast charging that delivers 50 per cent charge in 30 minutes, but neither will include a charger in the box.

The pricing for the Pixel 6 series is surprisingly tame. The Pixel 6 goes for CA$799 and the Pixel 6 Pro CA$1,179. Moreover, Google is turning Pixels into a subscription service (currently only in the US), with the Pixel Pass, which costs US$45 per month for the Pixel 6 and US$55 for the Pixel 6 Pro. After two years, users will get the option to upgrade to a new Pixel.

Both phones are available for pre-order on the Google Canada store or at Best Buy, Rogers, Telus, Glentel, Freedom and Amazon, and will be on the shelves at all major carriers on October 28.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Tom Li
Tom Li
As an avid technology enthusiast, Tom loves to fix, break, and talk about electronics. Now he gets to write about them. Talk about a dream career.

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