Google has just revealed its upcoming Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro smartphones. Reveal might be a bit of a stretch though, as it’s really more of a preview, with much of the specs still hidden from the public.
But one big feature that the Pixel 6 lineup will be powered by the Google Tensor system-on-chip, a custom built chip by Google.
The Tensor SoC is named after the Tensor Processing Units (TPU) that Google has in their data centers. According to Google, the Tensor chip was built for the future. With AI and machine learning powering more of the smartphone than ever before, the Tensor comes in to make Google’s Pixel 6 devices even more capable than before. Hardware-wise, the Tensor SoC has both a mobile TPU for AI computations and a Titan M2 chip for security.
As for what its huge AI and machine learning capabilities actually are like, during Google’s first showcase of the Pixel 6 they showed off the Tensor’s chip capability in photography. The Google Tensor managed to take a blurry picture of a kid and sharpened the image back to quality via machine learning on the mobile TPU.
Essentially, when you take a photo with the Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro, it’ll actually take a bunch of pictures with the main sensor and combine them into a HDR image. Then the ultrawide sensor takes another sharper image, with the TPU then working to combine the images into a final product.
Those who were at Google’s showcase also saw the Pixel 6 beat the Pixel 5 and iPhone 12 Pro Max in a battle of video. Here, the mobile TPU began putting in the work to keep the lighting in the video nice and balanced without artificially brightening shadows which the iPhone 12 Pro Max did. It also didn’t over-sharpen the video, unlike its predecessor. Seeing as this test was done with 4K footage, the Google Tensor SoC certainly impressed.
As for the rest of the Google Tensor SoC, well that is still a mystery. The Google Tensor system-on-chip has a mix of parts, with the AI and machine learning stuff being their own designs. But as for the rest of the SoC, some rumours indicate that Samsung provided the technical know-how for the CPU and GPU designs.
There’s also been word that it’ll be an eight-core ARM CPU built on the 5nm process. Google themselves aren’t providing benchmarks just yet, but have said that the ‘standard stuff will be competitive’, with the AI stuff being where it separates itself from the rest. Based on what’s revealed so far, the performance should be within the same league as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or Apple A14 Bionic.
Going to the actual devices themselves, while the internal specs remain under wraps, we do know that the Pixel 6 has a flat 6.4-inch FHD+ display capable of a 90Hz refresh rate. It’s bigger brother, the Pixel 6 Pro, has a 6.7-inch QHD+ display with a 120Hz refresh rate. The Pixel 6 Pro also has a slightly curved display, with the edge of the glass curving into the aluminum chassis on the side. On the back, you’ll find the previously leaked camera bar going across the device.
Of course, the Google Tensor chip can only get you good images if there’s good cameras in the first place. Again, the full details aren’t available just yet, but reports state that the Pixel 6 Pro will have a triple camera setup on the rear; a wide-angle main sensor flanked by an ultrawide sensor and a 4X optical-zoom telephoto lens. The Pixel 6 though loses out on the telephoto lens.
One advantage Google Pixels have always had is that Google is also in charge of Android, the operating system on the phone, often leading to a better user experience. This looks set to continue, with Google having previously boasted about Android 12 and their Material You design philosophy back at the Google I/O event. Material You is Google’s way of combining colour science with interaction design and engineering, culminating in new animations and UI updates on the Pixel 6.
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