Notebookcheck Logo

Mediocre Pixel 6a: 3 older flagship phones that pummel Google's newest midranger

The Pixel 6a is a great phone when considered in a vacuum — unfortunately it does not exist in a vacuum. (Image source: Google - edited)
The Pixel 6a is a great phone when considered in a vacuum — unfortunately it does not exist in a vacuum. (Image source: Google - edited)
Google's latest stab at a midrange phone is lackluster at best — sure, it has Google's custom SoC, but the camera system is a rehash of last year's Pixel 5 and 5a, it only has a 60 Hz display, and now it's arguably less durable than the Pixel 5 and 5a — especially considering the price. So what can be had used or refurbished for around the same or less?
Article compiled by Julian van der Merwe
The choices and comments made on this list belong solely to the author.

1. The Google Pixel 5 5G

Google's previous flagship is an obvious choice for a Pixel 6a competitor. Google's compact Pixel 5 5G is equipped with the same camera system as the Pixel 6a, 8 GB of RAM, and a 6-inch, 90 Hz OLED display. Sure, it's bound to stop getting Android updates sooner than the Pixel 6a, since the Pixel 5 is only guaranteed to get Android updates until late 2023. You can get around the software update issue by rooting the Pixel 5 and flashing a custom ROM if you really want the latest and greatest beyond Android 14. 

The main differences between the Pixel 5 and Pixel 6a are the size, materials, and the SoC. The Pixel 6a is designed around Google's Tensor SoC — for better or for worse — whereas the Pixel 5a is based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G. The Pixel 5 uses an aluminium frame with a bioresin coating as opposed to the Pixel 6a's Gorilla Glass-and-aluminium sandwich. 

You can get an unlocked, refurbished Google Pixel 5 for around US$380 on Amazon, and probably less on sites like Facebook Marketplace or eBay (caveat emptor). Prices will also continue to drop once the Pixel 6a launches, so keep an eye on those as well. 

Nobody can argue that the Pixel 5's Sorta Sage colourway isn't sublime. (Image source: Google)
Nobody can argue that the Pixel 5's Sorta Sage colourway isn't sublime. (Image source: Google)

2. Samsung Galaxy S20

The Samsung Galaxy S20 may have been released two years ago, but that doesn't make it any less capable now than it was at launch. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 and Exynos 990 are both excellent performers — though the Snapdragon variant is definitely a cut above its Exynos sibling — and the 8 GB of RAM is still plenty for pretty much anything you need.

The Galaxy S20's AMOLED panel is about as bright as anyone would realistically need, and 120 Hz makes it twice as fast as the one we'll see on the Pixel 6a. The camera system on the Galaxy S20 does not disappoint, either — the massive 12 MP, 1/1.76-inch, optically-stabilised main sensor and 12 MP ultra-wide unit perform wonderfully, while the 64 MP 3x zoom effort performs about as well as you can expect from a digital zoom setup. 

Unfortunately, the Galaxy S20 will receive its final Android update in 2023 but, as with the Pixel 5, there are plenty of custom ROMs out there and Android updates are pretty iterative nowadays anyway.

A refurbished Samsung Galaxy S20 can be had on Amazon for around US$400, and microSD expansion means you don't have to worry about skimping and buying the cheapest version available. 

It's a shame Samsung has moved away from bold colours in recent years — the Galaxy S20 had some real visual flair for a glass rectangle. (Image source: Notebookcheck)
It's a shame Samsung has moved away from bold colours in recent years — the Galaxy S20 had some real visual flair for a glass rectangle. (Image source: Notebookcheck)

3. Apple iPhone 11

The iPhone 11 is a really solid device for anyone who doesn't want to spend an arm and a leg for a flagship experience. The Apple A13 Bionic in the iPhone 11 is still plenty powerful for 2022 and beyond. Just like the Pixel 6a, the iPhone 11 features a 1/2.55-inch main camera sensor and a 12 MP ultrawide unit, and Apple's camera smarts put the setup on pretty much even footing — with the exception perhaps being night mode — with what we're expecting from the Pixel 6a. The iPhone 11 will almost undoubtedly run circles around the Pixel 6a when it comes to video performance, despite having a similar sensor array. 

Everyone even roughly in the know is aware of Apple's legendary iOS update history. If you are unaware, Apple still supports the iPhone 6s — a device from 2015 — in 2022. The iPhone 11 will likely continue to receive iOS updates long after the Google Pixel 6a receives its last Android update. 

You can often find a renewed iPhone 11 on Amazon for around US$350

The iPhone 11's rounded edges are much less of an ergonomic nightmare than subsequent releases. The pastel colours are pleasant, too. (Image source: Apple)
The iPhone 11's rounded edges are much less of an ergonomic nightmare than subsequent releases. The pastel colours are pleasant, too. (Image source: Apple)
Read all 10 comments / answer
static version load dynamic
Loading Comments
Comment on this article
Please share our article, every link counts!
> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2022 05 > Mediocre Pixel 6a: 3 older flagship phones that pummel Google's newest midranger
Julian van der Merwe, 2022-05-15 (Update: 2022-05-15)