Google Pixel 6a vs Google Pixel 5a 5G: Is 6 really all that greater than 5?

Google Pixel 6a vs Google Pixel 5a 5G: Is 6 really all that greater than 5?

The Google Pixel 6a made its retail debut towards the end of July and has seen some incredible deals in recent weeks. The mid-range Android smartphone offers a unique design, powerful processor, and the latest edition of Android. While there are plenty of reasons to pick up a new Pixel 6a, sometimes it might be a good idea to pick up its predecessor. So which phone is right for you? We can help you decide by breaking down the overall details of each phone, discussing things you might already know, and giving you insight into some things that you don’t. This is the Google Pixel 6a versus Google Pixel 5a 5G.

XDA VIDEO OF THE DAY

Navigate this article:


Google Pixel 6a vs Google Pixel 5a 5G: Specifications

Google Pixel 6a Google Pixel 5a 5G
Build
  • Aluminum mid-frame
  • Gorilla Glass 3 front panel
  • IP67 water/dust resistance
  • Plastic back panel
  • Aluminum mid-frame
  • Gorilla Glass 3 front panel
  • IP67 water/dust resistance
  • Aluminum back panel
Dimensions and Weight
  • 152.2 x 71.8 x 8.9 mm
  • 178 g
  • 154.9 x 73.7 x 7.6 mm
  • 183 g
Display
  • 6.1-inch OLED
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • 1080 x 2400 pixels
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • 6.34-inch OLED
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • 1080 x 2400 pixels
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3
SoC
  • Google Tensor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G 5G
RAM and Storage
  • 6GB / 128GB internal storage
  • 6GB / 128GB internal storage
Battery and Charging
  • 4,410mAh battery
  • 18W Fast Charging
  • No wireless charging
  • 4,680 mAh battery
  • 18W Fast charging
  • No wireless charging
Security
  • Fingerprint sensor (In-display)
  • Fingerprint sensor (rear)
Rear Camera(s)
  • 12.2 MP, f/1.7 Main (with OIS)
  • 12 MP, f/2.2 Ultra-wide
  • 12.2 MP, f/1.7 Main (with OIS)
  • 16 MP, f/2.2 Ultra-Wide
Front Camera(s)
  • 8 MP, f/2.0
  • 8 MP, f/2.0
Ports
  • USB Type-C
  • No headphone jack
  • USB Type-C
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
Connectivity
  • 5G
  • LTE
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6e
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • 5G
  • LTE
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • Bluetooth 5.0
Software
  • Android 12 (default)
  • Android 11
Price
  • $449 MSRP
  • $449 MSRP

Build and Design

Regarding the design of the Google Pixel 6a and Google Pixel 5a, things couldn’t be any more different. The Google Pixel 6a looks unique and stands on its own, thanks to a complete redesign from its predecessor. The Pixel 6a borrows its looks from the Pixel 6 series of phones, featuring its distinct camera bar and dual-tone color design. The front of the device has an OLED display protected using Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3. The handset’s frame is made from aluminum, with slightly curved edges, and although the rear panel looks like glass, it is actually made from plastic. Overall, a nice and tight design that looks different from the other smartphones.

Google Pixel 6a in hand with blurred background.

The Google Pixel 5a takes its design inspiration from the Pixel 5, with the Pixel 5 taking its design from the Pixel 4. So you can see that the design language might not look as sleek as something released in 2022, but it still has its charm. The phone has an OLED display protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3. Perhaps the most eye-catching part of the Pixel 5a is its square camera bump. While Huawei was the first to do it, the trend followed in many other handsets during that time, even popping up in Apple’s iPhone. The Pixel 5a is a bit unique when it comes to its construction, having a frame and rear that are made from aluminum. Now, the unique bit, as you can see from the image below, is that the phone does not look like it is made from metal at all. That’s Google has coated the aluminum surface with a plastic-like material, giving the phone its distinctive look and feel. Best of all, the coating provides an extra layer of protection from bumps and drops.

Left: Pixel 5a | Right: Pixel 5

When it comes to the design, both phones have something unique to offer. Those that want a more modern look might want to stick to the Pixel 6a. The added benefit of the Pixel 6 design is that it will look identical to the upcoming Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. Because of this, it will keep the design looking fresher for longer. The Google Pixel 5a 5G has a beautiful design that borrows heavily from the first Pixel launched in 2016. Despite that, it still looks modern in 2022. It offers a minimalistic design that pops thanks to Google’s unique color choices. Of course, each phone has unique points, so when it comes to the design, you just have to choose what speaks to you on an individual level.


Display

The Pixel 6a has a 6.1-inch OLED display with a resolution of 1080 x 2400 pixels. The display is flat and offers punchy colors and deep blacks. Since it has a mid-range panel, it isn’t the brightest option and can often look a little washed out under extremely bright conditions. The OLED display has an in-display fingerprint reader, which some report is a little slow to register sometimes. As far as refresh rate goes, you’re looking at 60Hz, with support for HDR10 and HDR10+. Overall, not a bad screen for a mid-range device, giving exactly what you need most of the time and punching a little above its weight thanks to its support for HDR.

The Pixel 5a 5G has a 6.3-inch OLED display with a resolution of 1080 x 2400 pixels. The display is flat and also offers bright colors and deep blacks. Like the Pixel 6a, the panel isn’t of the highest quality and tends to get washed out under bright conditions. The OLED display has a refresh rate of 60Hz, which is expected from a mid-range device in 2021. If there is one thing, it would probably be the hole punch cutout for the front-facing camera in the top left-hand corner. While not huge, there is a noticeable black bezel around the camera, making it larger than it needs to be.

Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 5a side by side

Left: Pixel 5 | Right: Pixel 5a

Neither option is terrible, with both results being equal in day-to-day use. Both offer good colors and have reasonably sized displays. While the Pixel 5a 5G screen is just a tad bigger, it’s not by much. As mentioned before, there might be issues with the size of the camera cutout and their placement. The Pixel 5a 5G proudly has its cutout in the top left-hand corner, while the Pixel 6a has it right in the top center. This is a matter of preference and shouldn’t be a big deal once you get used to it. But as stated before, both displays are solid options without any significant drawbacks when compared to each other.


Performance

This is where the Pixel 6a takes an edge over the Pixel 5a. The Pixel 6a is powered by Google’s Tensor processor, which also powers the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. The SoC is Google’s first attempt at building its own chip; for the most part, it has succeeded. The Google Tensor processor has enough power to be classified as a top-end SoC, competing with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 and Samsung’s Exynos 2100 processors. But, there is one caveat that comes with pairing the Pixel 6a with Google’s best processor, the chip just doesn’t quite perform at its best. There are several reasons why this could be, but in our testing, there is the possibility that the 6GB of memory found in the Pixel 6a is insufficient when paired with the Tensor processor. This can lead to small hiccups when pushed, but, for the most part, it shouldn’t be a problem as long as you manage your expectations for this mid-range device.

Google Tensor chip

The Pixel 5a is equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G processor. This processor was developed with mid-range devices in mind. It’s efficient and powerful, capable of handling anything that you can throw at it. Perhaps most surprising is that it has roughly the same power as a top-tier Qualcomm chip from a few years ago. While the performance won’t knock your socks off, it certainly isn’t a slouch either. Rest assured that for daily use, games, and some more intensive tasks, it will get you through them.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 765

Regarding Geekbench scores, the Tensor SoC beats the Snapdragon processor hands down in the single and multi-core tests. The same can be said for other tests that can be run on the processors. But I think both chips will be good enough when it comes to real-world use. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G offers more than enough power for daily tasks and can even do some heavy lifting when necessary. Of course, the Google Tensor processor is an entirely different beast, but due to its 6GB memory pairing, it can’t quite take advantage of all its power. You’ll want to think about how you will use this phone and what is important to you, then decide. But I don’t think there will be a wrong choice here.


Cameras

When it comes to cameras, the Google Pixel 6a has a 12MP primary sensor that is paired with a 12MP ultra-wide. While the camera sensor can produce pretty good photos during the daytime, the sensor found in the Pixel 6a is a bit dated, and it can sometimes show. Regarding night performance, the Pixel 6a does its best with what it has, leaning hard on its computational photography magic. Because of this, you get a camera that can take relatively good night photos, as long as there is just a tad bit of light to work with. Of course, like any other smartphone camera sensor, there is a limit. The darker it gets, the more grain the image will have.

While the Google Pixel line is known for its excellent photography, it is also known for its not-so-great videography. The Pixel 6a isn’t too bad regarding video quality during the day, but at night it can certainly leave something to be desired. If there is a bright spot for its video capabilities, that would be its ability to stabilize shots when walking about. Things consistently look rock solid, and it is impressive. The Google Pixel 6a is a solid performer, thanks partly to Google’s camera software prowess. This has and most likely, always will be Google’s bread and butter for smartphones. It has always matched or exceeded its competitors despite using weaker camera sensors. While it might not be the gold standard it once was, it is still very highly rated and should leave you feeling confident when shooting photos or videos.

Since the Pixel 5a and Pixel 6a share the same primary camera sensor, you can expect the same quality when shooting photos and videos. However, there is a difference in its ultra-wide camera, as the Pixel 5a 5G uses a larger 16MP sensor with smaller microns. That means that pictures and videos taken with the ultra-wide angle camera on the Pixel 5a 5G will look just a tad worse when compared to the Pixel 6a. If there is one thing to be concerned about with the Pixel 5a 5G, it is the fact that it has a bad reputation for overheating. This occurs when the ambient temperature is high, and the phone is putting in work. That means that while using the camera, there is a high chance that your phone will shut down.


Battery Life and Charging

Being a mid-range device, the Pixel 6a has high expectations regarding its battery. Thankfully, the device delivers, offering up all-day use under normal conditions. This is a deviation from the other handsets in the Pixel 6 lineup, as the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro both had disappointing battery life. As far as charging goes, the Pixel 6a can fast charge up to 18W, which, when compared to other devices, isn’t all that fast. But it should be enough charging speed for most users.

Now despite having a larger screen when compared to the Pixel 6a, the Pixel 5a 5G offers incredible battery life. The phone has a 4,680mAh battery and, when paired with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G processor, can get real-world multiple-day use. This is pretty rare, mind you. While stats like these are touted by manufacturers regularly, the Pixel 5a actually delivers and goes the distance. What makes this even more incredible is that it can achieve this feat even under a heavy load. If you are a person that needs excellent battery life, the Pixel 5a 5G might be for you. Also, I almost forgot to mention that both phones are not capable of wireless charging.


Google Pixel 6a vs Google Pixel 5a 5G: Which one should you buy?

Now that we have broken down most categories for both phones, we need to talk about price. The Google Pixel 6a has a retail price of $449. This phone can be purchased from several retail outlets since it was just released towards the tail end of July 2022. As for the Pixel 5a 5G, it’s a different story. The phone is harder to come by because it is no longer sold by Google or carried in retail stores. Because of this, most devices you will find will be through third-party vendors or pre-

While there is nothing wrong with this, it does mean that you will have to research the party you’re buying from, making sure they are a reputable vendor. The upside is that the price will likely be slightly lower than its suggested retail price. At the time of this writing, we have seen prices as low as $400 and as high as $470, which actually exceeds its MSRP. Of course, we have a few purchase suggestions below, and you can even check out what deals are available for the Google Pixel 6a. Deals for the Pixel 5a 5G are a little harder to pinpoint, so roam the internet and find one from a seller you trust. If purchasing a Google Pixel 6a, don’t forget to pick up a case.

About author

Timi Cantisano
Timi Cantisano

A member of the XDA team covering consumer technology news. My passion for technology started when I purchased my first phone, the Nokia 5190. If you have questions or want to chat, contact me at [email protected] or on Twitter at @timicant.

We are reader supported. External links may earn us a commission.