Google Pixel 6a vs Nothing phone (1): Which Should You Buy

Which smartphone under 500 USD is better for your needs, the Google Pixel 6a or the Nothing phone (1)? Check out our point-by-point comparison to find out which of these two phones is right for you. It’s time to compare!

The battle rages on in the $500 smartphone segment. Two new challengers have recently entered the ring. On my left, the Google Pixel 6a, and on my right, the Nothing phone (1). Two quite different visions of the smartphone face off against each other in a tough duel. Which of the two smartphones is better for you? We will try to answer this question in this comparison.

Pros and Cons

Google Pixel 6aNothing phone (1)
Five years of security updatesFour years of security updates
Solid battery lifeVivid 120Hz OLED display
Smooth performanceDecent performance
IP67 ratingsWireless charging
Fingerprint sensor is slowBattery life could be better
Only 60Hz displayNo charger included

Specification

ModelGoogle Pixel 6aNothing phone (1)
OS versionAndroid 12Android 12
Manufacturer interfaceAndroid StockNothing OS
screen size6.1 inch6.55 inches
Definition2400 x 1080 pixels2400 x 1080 pixels
Pixel density429 dpi402 dpi
TechnologyOLEDOLED
SoCsTensorSnapdragon 778G+
Graphics chip (GPU)Mali-G78 MP20Qualcomm Adreno 642L
Memory (RAM)6 GB8 GB, 12 GB
Internal memory (flash)128 GB128 GB, 256 GB
Camera (back)Sensor 1: 12.2 Mpx
Sensor 2: 12 Mpx
Sensor 1: 50 MP
Sensor 2: 12 MP
Camera (front)8 MP8 MP
Video recording4K@60 FPS4K
WirelessWiFi 6EWi-Fi 6 (ax)
Bluetooth5.25.3
5GYesYes
NFCYesYes
Fingerprint sensorUnder the screenYes
Ports (inputs/outputs)USB Type-CUSB Type-C
Battery4410mAh4500mAh
Dimensions71.8 x 152.2 x 8.9mm75.8 x 159.2 x 8.3mm
Weight178 grams193.5 grams
ColorsBlack, White, GreenWhite

Design

As soon as you lay your eyes on them, you realize that the two smartphones were not designed with the same idea in mind, but each has its own little peculiarity. On the side of the Google Pixel 6a, it is sobriety that prevails. The device takes the same look as the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro and offers it in a very measured format: 152 x 2 mm high, 178 grams. It’s not really a big phone; people with small hands might be tempted. On the other hand, it stands out from the crowd with its photo block, which does not protrude very much but crosses the back in its entire width. This is simply a trademark of Google phones.

On the other hand, the Nothing phone (1) wants to be noticed. It is the first smartphone of the new brand of Carl Pei, and it must mark the minds. He found a great way to do so with the “Glyph”. This is the term by which we will designate the luminous bands that come to life when we receive a notification. They illuminate a relatively transparent back (only a few components can be seen under the glass plate) to offer a real boost compared to the traditional designs we are used to. Otherwise, far from being a giant, this new competitor is still significantly larger than its opponent of the day (159.2 mm), and its grip is marked by flat edges and very rounded corners, reminiscent of the aesthetics of the iPhone 13.

In short, the Google Pixel 6a is deliberately all-purpose when the Nothing phone already wants to be iconic. So everyone will have to find something to suit his or her tastes. For more objective criteria, we have to mention some elements here and there. For example, the Nothing phone (1) is a little more premium with a Gorilla Glass 5 coating on both sides, while the Google Pixel 6a opts for Gorilla Glass 3 on the front and a “3D thermoformed composite material.”  It’s plastic that feels good in the hand.

Finally, the Google Pixel 6a has an IP67 certification that guarantees total resistance to dust and water with an immersion of less than one meter for 30 minutes. On the other hand, the Nothing phone (1) is IP53: it is therefore a little less serene in the face of dust and can only cope with drops of rain.

Screen

Oled on both sides. Whatever your choice, you will have nothing to complain about in terms of contrast. On the other hand, you’ll have to decide between a rather small 6.1-inch screen in the Google Pixel 6a and a rather classic 6.55-inch diagonal in 2022 for the Nothing phone (1). In all cases, you will be entitled to Full HD+. If size is just anecdotal for you, then let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?

If you’re looking for a screen that’s perfectly sized for true-to-life colors and a good level of brightness, you should look at the Google Pixel 6a… but don’t rush into anything! The latter suffers from a major flaw: it is limited to a 60 Hz refresh rate. No problem for those who have never tasted better fluidity on a smartphone or who simply don’t care.

Otherwise, turn to the Nothing phone (1) and its 120 Hz mode, which will delight your pupils. Unfortunately, it, too, is not without its faults. It has a significantly lower maximum brightness and a perfect colorimetric calibration.

Software

Both smartphones natively take advantage of Android 12 and promise a long software follow-up: the Pixel 6a is guaranteed a 5-year follow-up on security patches and should receive 3 major updates; the Nothing phone (1) is guaranteed a 4-year follow-up on security patches and 3 years on major updates.

Regarding major updates, we know in advance that the Pixel 6a will be among the first to receive Android 13 and future versions. The Nothing phone (1) being the first smartphone of its brand, it should set the tone for its successors. On this point, we can be hopeful, the speed of deployment has always been an important issue for Carl Pei.

Beyond that, the Pixel experience and NothingOS share many common points, the latter being designed on a very similar basis to the former. Namely: offering a simple to use navigation, rather uncluttered, but not without special features.

Let’s start with the Pixel 6a. Here, we are in familiar territory. This is Android 12 as conceived by the Mountain View giant, which loves to highlight the intelligence of Google Assistant. It can recognize music playing nearby so you can find it and listen to it again later at your leisure. There’s also the “Preview” option, which displays a small batch of information depending on the time of day, predicting what will be most relevant to you. On Google Photos, you can take advantage of the Magic Eraser option to erase elements on an image.

NothingOS also has a few features to discover and is thus quite up to the task despite its young age. You can change the size of an application icon or try out some home-made widgets, but it’s quite anecdotal. We will more easily remember the option still in experimental phase allowing to connect to a Tesla car to control the air conditioning for example or check the battery level. But obviously, the center of attention is the famous “Glyph“. The Nothing phone (1) allows you to customize the light animations on its back depending on the notification you receive. The LEDs also play the role of a warning light if you are in completely silent mode and are even relevant to replace the flash for night photos.

On the negative side, there are a few bugs here and there on the Nothing phone (1), but the Google Pixel 6a is not a model student either.

Camera

On the photo too, there are similarities. The two phones do not try to multiply the cameras. Two each on the back.

Google Pixel 6a:

12.2-megapixel main sensor (f/1.7);
ultra wide-angle 12 megapixels (f/2.2).

Nothing phone (1):

50-megapixel sensor (f/1.88);
50 megapixels ultra wide angle (f/2.2).

Let’s say it right away, you won’t be disappointed, on either side. Simply, if the Nothing phone (1) is a good phone for photography at less than 500 $, the Google Pixel 6a is a good step above the competition on the same price segment. This will really be felt on two points: portraits and night mode.

Portrait: Google has always been impressive when it comes to handling portrait mode and the Pixel 6a does justice to its lineage. The faces are very well highlighted, the blur in the background is very intelligently managed. It emerges from the shots on which we immediately recognize the touch of the Californian giant. And it is a very nice touch.

Google Pixel 6a LM portrait mode Google Pixel 6a KM portrait mode Google Pixel 6a GM portrait mode Google Pixel 6a H portrait mode
However, don’t think that the Nothing phone (1) has nothing in its belly. On the portraits, it is really satisfactory, but the photos are a little more classic in terms of bokeh effect and it is sometimes necessary to take several times to get a good result.

Night Mode: These are the same comments that could be made for night photos. There is a real big plus in terms of lighting the scene and clearing the shadow areas on the Pixel 6a. 

Google Pixel 6a night mode on 5Google Pixel 6a night mode on 2Google Pixel 6a night mode on 4 Google Pixel 6a night mode on 6Google Pixel 6a night mode on 3

Here again, the Nothing phone (1) comes out with the honors: the pictures you get are of good quality, but the slightly too long exposure time may make your pictures blurred if, like the vast majority of people, you don’t walk around with a tripod.

By the way, the Google Pixel 6a and the Nothing phone (1) are rather equal on classic shots taken in good light conditions. Between 400 and 500 euros, missing out on this exercise would be prohibitive. The smaller of the two smartphones is perhaps less inclined to the big saturation of the blue of the sky or the green of the leaves compared to its rival.

Nothing special to report on the ultra wide angle, even if it seems a little more recessed on the Nothing phone (1), especially at night, than on the Google Pixel 6a. But that’s not really what a smartphone choice can come down to.

In addition, it should be noted that the Nothing phone (1) offers a 50 megapixel mode. This is still a rather gadgety option, but it brings a little more sharpness to the image. What’s more, as mentioned, the LEDs on the back of the smartphone can replace the flash extremely effectively. These are two interesting (but not necessarily decisive) features that the Google Pixel 6a will be able to offer.

Finally, the Google Pixel 6a can shoot in 4K at 60 FPS when the Nothing phone (1) has to choose between 4K at 30 FPS or 1080p at 60 FPS.

Performance

Google Tensor vs Snapdragon 778G+

Inside the Google Pixel 6a, we find the in-house Google Tensor chip. It is the same as on the Pixel 6 or 6 Pro, but it is not used in the same way. On the top of the range, it was already not a monster of power and it is even less on this more affordable model. Clearly, the goal is not to let your hair down on greedy games. This does not prevent it from offering an “epic” quality on Fortnite, but at the cost of several coughs: the promised 30 FPS are not really stable.

On the other hand, the Nothing phone (1) is equipped with a Snapdragon 778G+ capable of better performance in game. For example, it handles a 30 FPS game with full graphics better on Fortnite (and even offers 60 FPS by lowering the quality, but it is much less successful). It also handles the heat better, without perfectly keeping its cool.

ModelGoogle Pixel 6aNothing phone (1)
AnTuTu 9566612568842
AnTuTu CPU114407154408
AnTuTu GPU249649172180
AnTuTu MEM83167116223
AnTuTu UX119389126031
PC Mark 3.0972614504
3DMark Slingshot Extreme53965512
3DMark Slingshot Extreme Graphics62675865
3DMark Slingshot Extreme Physics36304554
3DMark Wild Life59352819
3DMark Wild Life average framerate35.5 FPS17 FPS
GFXBench Aztec Vulkan/Metal high (onscreen / offscreen)39 / 27 FPS22 / 14FPS
GFXBench Car Chase (onscreen/offscreen)42 / 40FPS29 / 33 FPS
GFXBench Manhattan 3.0 (onscreen/offscreen)60 / 93 FPS72 / 80FPS
Sequential Read/Write1330 / 268 MB/s1637 / 1331 MB/s
Random read/write40701 / 49121 IOPS66279 / 68394 IOPS

The table above is for reference only, so don’t base your choice too much on it. You should also know that the Google Pixel 6a has 6 GB of RAM for 128 GB of storage versus 8 or 12 GB of RAM and 128 or 256 GB of storage in its opponent.

Battery life

4410 against 4500 mAh. There is little difference in the battery capacities of the Google Pixel 6a and the Nothing phone (1). This means that the Google Pixel 6a is designed for moderate use, while the Nothing phone (1) is better able to handle longer or more active days.

But it is on the charging that one of the big defects of the Google Pixel 6a appears. It only works with a maximum 18W charge. You will have to wait between 1:30 and 2 hours to get a full battery. On the other hand, the Nothing phone (1) is far from being the best with its 33W compatibility, but it’s already much better. Especially since it has the right to wireless charging, which is not the case with its opponent.

Connectivity

No worries, the 5G network is supported by both opponents of the day. There’s no reason to jump up and down, it’s now the norm. On the call side, both phones are good tools for… making calls. With a small advantage for the Google Pixel 6a, which is better at attenuating surrounding noise, while the Nothing phone (1) has a few failures in this area.

Which One to Choose?

At less than $500, these two phones fight a good battle and even share some common features (guaranteed long software tracking, two photo modules on the back). That said, you’ll have to determine your needs carefully, because you won’t get the same smartphone at all depending on the choice you make.

The Google Pixel 6a is aimed at those who want a smartphone with a rather small size and excellent photos for this price. The well-designed software is a serious bonus. It’s the perfect device for people who are not necessarily tech-savvy and want something very simple. Run away from it if you have an appetite for refresh rates above 60 Hz and fast charging.

On the other hand, the Nothing phone (1) seems more balanced. What it doesn’t have in the picture, it makes up for with an outstanding design with a back that lights up, a 120 Hz mode, good power, and better battery life. There are fewer sacrifices to be made for the user, but there is no point that totally sets this phone apart either, apart from its unique look, obviously.

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