Google’s Pixel 6 Tensor chip is holding its own in the benchmarks

I review a lot of smartphones and, performance wise, it can get a bit samey. That’s because if you’re reviewing a flagship phone, it likely uses one of two chips: Qualcomm’s best, or Apple’s best. 

Yes, there’s also Huawei and its Kirin chipset, but ever since Trump’s trade embargo set in, the company hasn’t been able to use any Google apps, which means interest has, somewhat unfairly but understandably, dropped off a cliff.

But there’s a new player in town: Google. The company’s own Tensor chipset launched with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, and it’s actually holding its own against Android’s current big hitters.

The handset is reaching early adopters’ hands right now, and for a certain type of owner loading up Geekbench is the first act. Sure enough, there are plenty of Geekbench scores for the Pixel 6,  with a single-core score of around 1,000 and a multi-core score around 2,850. For comparison’s sake, the OnePlus 9 — which uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 — fairs only slightly better, with scores of around 1,100 and 3,300

(The iPhone 13’s Apple A15 chip, meanwhile, crushes both with scores of around 1,700 and 4,800… but that’s what you get when you design the software and hardware together.)

But there’s an area where the Pixel 6 has an unexpected advantage: graphical performance. A redditor got their Pixel 6 delivered early, and discovered that in 3DMark’s Wild Life graphical test, the phone outperformed the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, the Exynos 2100 (Samsung’s own chipset used on flagships in some regions) and the Kirin 9000 (Huawei’s chip). These scores have since been verified by professional reviewers.

There’s a couple of caveats here. The first is that these benchmarks are more about bragging rights than actual performance: you might not notice the difference in the real world. The second is that Qualcomm is likely to release a new chip before the year is out, and that could leave the Pixel 6 in the dust just in time for the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.

All the same though, the fact that Google’s Tensor chip is competitive on its first attempt is hugely impressive, and promises great things for the Pixel 7 when it pops up in a year’s time. If nothing else, it certainly makes reviewing flagship phones a bit more interesting in the interim.

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