Google has announced its own system-on-chip, Tensor and confirmed the SoC will debut later this year inside the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. Why, you ask? Google is making it abundantly clear that no third-party chip today is powerful enough to help it fully pursue its mission of making AI and machine learning (ML) core to the Pixel experience due to computing limitations. Tensor, which is named after the Tensor Processing Units (TPU) Google uses inside its data centres, has been custom built with that goal in mind.
CEO Sundar Pichai said the Google Tensor chip has been four years in the making which means, more or less, work on the SoC started soon after the launch of the first Pixel in 2016. Calling it its “biggest” innovation in Pixel to date, Pichai said Tensor will launch with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro later this fall – presumably sometime in September-October.
So excited to share our new custom Google Tensor chip, which has been 4 yrs in the making (???? for scale)! Tensor builds off of our 2 decades of computing experience and it’s our biggest innovation in Pixel to date. Will be on Pixel 6 + Pixel 6 Pro in fall. https://t.co/N95X6gFxLf pic.twitter.com/wHiEJRHJwy
— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) August 2, 2021
Today’s announcement is thin on technical details and high on jargon. A couple of things are a given though, like a “completely revamped camera system” and improved “speech recognition.” As always, Google is promising to “unlock specific experiences for our Pixel users” though it isn’t sharing more details just yet.
Speaking of which, Google is also briefly showing off the Pixel 6 Pro and Pixel 6 today. Both phones look exactly like the renders we’ve seen in leaks before which is to say that they look nothing like any Pixel phone from the past. Both Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro have been built from scratch to fully embrace the camera bump, or as Google is calling it, a “camera bar.” This was done because apparently, their “improved sensors and lenses are now too big to fit into the traditional square.”
The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, expectedly, also come in new finishes and use more premium build materials. While the Pro model has a polished aluminum frame, the vanilla version has a matte aluminum finish. Both phones have a hole punch cut-out at the centre.
Google has shared more hardware specifications with the Verge. The Pixel 6 Pro will come with a 6.7-inch QHD+ display with a fast 120Hz refresh rate. It will come with three cameras: wide-angle, ultrawide and a telephoto for up to 4x optical zoom. The Pixel 6 will meanwhile, have a smaller 6.4-inch FHD+ display with 90Hz refresh rate. It will have the same wide and ultrawide cameras as the Pro minus the telephoto.
While the Tensor chip is exciting, Google is keeping more granular details close to its chest for now. All we know is that it will pack a mobile TPU and Titan M2 security chip both made by Google. We still don’t know where its CPU and GPU are coming from though rumour has it, Google is working with Samsung for this.