One of the biggest issues that Google’s Pixel 6 series has suffered over time has been the unreliable modem. Compared to other Android devices, the Samsung modem used with Google Tensor was not up to the task. How does Google Tensor G2 compare in the modem department? We put the Pixel 7 and Pixel 6 head to head to see how they compare with signal strength and speed to find out.
Pixel 6 used Samsung Exynos 5123b modem on Google Tensor chipset. Samsung modems are rarely used in the US market where Qualcomm generally dominates. In last year’s comparison pitting the Pixel 6 Pro against the Galaxy S21 Ultra and its Qualcomm devices, the Pixel was woefully behind when it came to both signal strength and the speeds it was able to pull from the cellular network.
On the Pixel 7, Google is using the new Tensor G2 chipset which uses an Exynos 5300g modem.
In anecdotal results over the past few months, the consensus has been that this upgrade has brought about a stark improvement in both signal strength and speed. Most early buyers and reviewers, ourselves included, found that the Pixel 7 series sticks to the network more easily and tends to have respectable speeds and power consumption that are improved over the original on-chip Tensor modem in the Pixel 6 series devices.
Related: Pixel 7 Pro review: Google finally catches up on flagship phones
Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been able to do some side-by-side testing with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 7, both using the AT&T network, to see how much of an improvement this new modem actually does to your device. cellular signal.
How we tested the Pixel 7 modem
Our testing methodology for this comparison was to run three Ookla Speedtest speed tests back-to-back on both machines at the same locations and average those results. We chose to exclude mmWave 5G from our testing because it wasn’t available in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the surrounding areas we tested, but we did use both Sub6 5G and LTE networks, because those are all AT&T offers in the areas we tested.
We also brought the Galaxy Z Fold 4 which uses the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 and Qualcomm modem for testing along with the Pixel, but we ended up excluding the device from our speed test results. why? For whatever reason, our device saw very inconsistent results through all of our speed tests. This was eventually partially resolved after we performed a network settings reset, but to keep things consistent we’ve excluded the Fold from our speed tests below.
For the signal strength test, which we’ll get to later, we used NetMonitor Pro.
Is the Pixel 7 faster in speed tests?
My first test site was simply my neighborhood in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where the results were somewhat predictable. The Pixel 6 with Tensor was slightly lower than the Pixel 7. This was in an area that’s not particularly rural, but also not near any “downtown” areas.
The second location was a public park in High Point, North Carolina (about 20 miles from Winston-Salem) which was fairly close to some network towers – I’m not sure it was the AT&T towers directly, but the signal was strong at this location with about Both phones reported maximum signal strength. Here, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 saw nearly identical results.
My next location was in downtown Winston-Salem, where signal strength is strong, but speeds are usually under 50mbps. I only saw a 3-5Mbps difference between the two Pixel devices, but the Pixel 7 was more consistent with its results when looking at each of the three tests.
Finally, I took both phones to a more rural location. This final site—a park in Kernersville, North Carolina, 20 miles from Winston-Salem—was chosen on purpose for its poor signals from all carriers. I had 1-2 bars of 5G on both devices and speeds under 5Mbps on average – if I’m lucky. Most tests saw barely 1 Mbps. Here, the Pixel 7 clearly pulled a little more than the Pixel 6, while my Fold 4 couldn’t complete a speed test at all. I wasn’t able to complete the usual three tests on each due to a lack of signal strength, but the tests I could run showed a clear trend that the Pixel 7 was having more success staying connected and using it.
This is perhaps the most important test of the three. In my experience with the Pixel 6, I didn’t have much trouble keeping my connection in well-covered areas. In rural areas I always felt like my phone was struggling and I could actively see it disconnecting before phones I had from Samsung and others. With the Pixel 7, I noticed a clear uptick, and this test helped put some actual numbers behind it.
Of course, speed tests don’t necessarily tell the whole story.
Will the Pixel 7 get better signal reception?
After running those speed tests, I took the three phones around the downtown Winston-Salem area, which has strong 5G coverage on AT&T maps. Using NetMonitor, I measured the Received Signal Strength Index (RSSI) of the three phones. On this scale, closer to zero indicates a stronger signal, but you rarely get close to that number.
Comparing the Pixel 6, Pixel 7, and Galaxy Z Fold 4 (note: while a network reset improved my Fold’s performance, it still had issues), I found that the results were pretty much what I expected. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 led the pack, and it usually has the strongest connectivity in any given location. The Pixel 7 was almost on par with this device, but it came out of the green a lot. Meanwhile, the Pixel 6 usually had the weakest connection of the three. The results below are excerpts from more than 1,000 side-by-side samples taken while driving from downtown Winston-Salem toward Wake Forest University for about 15 minutes.
Experiences will always vary by region and carrier—we’ll look to update these results with testing on Verizon and/or T-Mobile if given the chance—but there’s a clear trend I’ve noticed in all of these side-by-side comparisons. Pixel 7 is an ultimate improvement. Signal strength tends to be at least marginally stronger, and speed tests are often better, too. Google’s partner Samsung has stepped up this time around, and the numbers show it.
what do you think? Did you upgrade to Pixel 7 and notice a better signal? Have you had issues with your Pixel 6 series device? Let’s discuss!
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AT&T provided test lines for this article but did not have input on our methodology or test results.
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