The Pixel 6’s Tensor processor promises to put Google’s machine learning smarts in your pocket

Google's Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro have officially arrived, along with the official debut of Google's new Tensor chip. Google finally released more details about the new SoC, which will allow for faster Pixel phones.
The Pixel 6 and Tensor chips were first revealed. Its AI-focused TPU (Tensor processor unit) was the focus of the initial unveiling. Google wanted to differentiate itself from its competitors using the custom hardware.

Google's announcement today is still focused on this: Tensor, which the company called a milestone in machine learning, was co-designed with Google Research to enable it to translate AI and machine learning advances into consumer products. Google claims that Tensor will offer the best Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR), both for quick Google Assistant queries as well as longer audio tasks such live captions and Recorder.

Tensor allows for new Pixel 6 features such as Motion Mode, which is more accurate at detecting faces, and live translations, which can translate text into a different language as fast as you can type it. Google claims that the Tensor chip can handle machine learning tasks more efficiently than other Pixel phones.

There's more to a smartphone than just its AI capabilities. With the unveiling of the Pixel 6, we now have more information about the rest of it, including the modem, CPU, GPU and major components that make Tensor tick.

According to rumors, Tensor chips use a unique combination CPU cores. The custom TPU (Tensor processing Unit) is used for AI. It has two Cortex X1 cores that are high-power and two cores that are midrange. Two cores that are rumored to have been older Cortex A76 cores. Finally, it uses four cores with low power efficiency (likely Arms' Cortex 55 designs). A 20-core GPU is available for graphics. The context hub powers ambient experiences such as the always-on display, private computer cores, and a new Titan M2 security chip. A dedicated image processing core is also available to support the Pixels trademark photography.

It is not clear why Google chose to use Cortex-A76 cores over the more powerful Cortex-A78 cores (which are more efficient and power efficient). It is worth noting, however, that the Pixel 5s Snapdragon765G also used two Cortex A76 cores as its main CPU cores. This suggests that Google may be sticking to what it knows.

Google promises that the new Pixel phones will still be the fastest Pixel phones, with 80 percent faster CPU performance than the Pixel 5 and 370% faster GPU performance.

However, the real question is how Pixel 6 and its Tensor chips compare to other Android flagships. Google's CPU configuration is unique compared to other major Qualcomm and Samsung chips that use four high-performance cores and four efficiency cores.

Google offers twice the number of X1 cores in its most powerful Arm design, the Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100. These devices use a single Cortex X1, three Cortex A78 cores, and four Cortex A55 cores. Google will also replace the two high-end cores by midrange ones. This may increase battery life or performance, but may make the device less powerful overall. We'll soon have the opportunity to test the Pixel 6 and Tensor.