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Google Pixel 5a vs Google Pixel 6a: Should you upgrade?

The Tensor chip is only the beginning.
By
May 12, 2022
Google IO 2022 pixel 6a green front back
Google

The Pixel a series is a great way to get Google’s Android experience in your pocket for a little less money. While older versions, like the Pixel 3a and Pixel 4a, embraced the budget approach with open arms, recent editions have been closer to Pixel flagships than ever. Now, with the launch of the Pixel 6a, the line is even more blurred. It might be enough to tempt you to switch if you’ve been rolling with a Pixel 5a since last year. Should you make the leap? Let’s compare the Google Pixel 5a vs Google Pixel 6a to find out.


Google Pixel 5a vs Google Pixel 6a

Design and display

the google pixel 5a display with app icons on the pixel launcher home screen
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
Pixel 5a

The Pixel 5a and Pixel 6a are perfect examples of Google’s recent design evolution. The Pixel 5a looked right at home next to the Pixel 4 and Pixel 5 series, with a corner-mounted camera setup and a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. It sports a metal unibody construction, which feels solid in hand. Google also carried over its soft-touch coating from the Pixel 5.

However, the Pixel 6a lands as the perfect companion to Google’s Pixel 6 duo. It features the same camera bar across the back and a two-toned rear finish like its siblings, but with a separate section for the sensors, much like the Pixel 7‘s design. Google skipped the Gorilla Glass back panel for the Pixel 6a, instead adopting a 3D thermoformed construction with an alloy frame.

Moving to the Pixel 6 design means that the Pixel 6a suffers a few hardware sacrifices for the first time compared to previous a-series phones. Notably, the 3.5mm headphone jack has been retired, and the fingerprint reader has moved from the rear panel to an in-display unit.

The Pixel 6a has plenty of Pixel 6 details, but drops the glass finish.

Google also secured an IP67 rating with its Pixel 5a, which continues with the Pixel 6a. Water resistance has become an increasingly regular feature at the mid-range price point, so it’s good to see Google keeping pace.

The display size is one of the more noticeable differences between the Google Pixel 5a and Google Pixel 6a. While the Pixel 5a is significantly larger than its namesake at 6.34 inches, the Pixel 6a is the smallest member of the Pixel 6 family at just 6.1 inches. It’s not necessarily a small phone, but it’s more pocketable than the standard 6.4-inch Pixel 6. Both budget Pixels sport flat OLED panels, complete with Full HD+ resolutions and 60Hz refresh rates.

Protect your purchase: The best Pixel 5a cases

Hardware and cameras

pixel 6a back
Google

Both the Pixel 5a and Pixel 6a follow the hardware trends of their namesake models. The Pixel 5a packs Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G chipset — the same as you’d find on a Pixel 5 — with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. However, the Pixel 6a has adopted Google’s in-house Tensor chip, bringing more powerful machine learning and image processing capabilities. It also packs a Titan M2 security chip, another feature introduced in the Pixel 6 lineup.

The new Pixel 6a also features the smaller battery of the pair, which makes sense given the smaller overall footprint. It packs a 4,410mAh cell, which is a step back from the previous generation. Google’s new budget offering still packs just 18W wired charging, which is on par with the Pixel 5a. The older phone runs on a 4,680mAh battery — the largest of any Pixel when it launched. It’s also the last Pixel device to offer a charging block in the box. Google has dropped it from the Pixel 6a. Neither of the Pixel a-series devices support wireless charging.

See also: How to pick the right charger for your phone

the google pixel 5a on a piece of cement showing its back in mostly black color with a camera close up
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

When you flip both devices over, it’s impossible to miss the differences in the cameras. While the Pixel 5a has a traditional corner-mounted camera bump, the Pixel 6a features a camera bar that runs the width of the device. The Pixel 5a also carries over its pair of lenses from the Pixel 5, meaning that you get a 12.2MP primary lens with a 16MP ultrawide shooter for some extra flexibility.

The Pixel 6a is tapped to support most of Google's fan-favorite camera features.

While the standard Pixel 6 now offers a 50MP primary shooter, the Pixel 6a sticks with the same 12.2MP wide lens as the Pixel 5a, though the 12MP ultrawide is carried over from the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro with its slightly lower resolution and a narrower field of view, but larger pixel size. We’ll have to wait and see how the image quality turns out, but at least the Pixel 6a is tapped to support most fan-favorite camera features. You’ll still get Face Unblur, Real Tone built-in, and Magic Eraser.

Although the placement varies slightly, the Google Pixel 5a and Google Pixel 6a each pack 8MP selfie cameras. While the Pixel 5a pushed its selfie camera to the corner, the Pixel 6a places it front and center, much like its Pixel 6 siblings.

Learn more: The best camera phones you can get

Price and colors

  • Google Pixel 5a (6GB 128GB): $449
  • Google Pixel 6a (6GB 128GB): $449

Google offers its Pixel 5a in a single configuration with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of non-expandable storage. You can only grab the phone in Mostly Black, and it will set you back $449. Unfortunately, the Pixel 5a is only available in the United States and Japan.

As for the Pixel 6a, the pricing and storage options are the same. It still costs $449 with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. However, Google is embracing a bit more color for its latest budget offering, adding Sage, Charcoal, and Chalk as options. Each one follows the trend set by the Pixel 6 series, with slightly different shades above and below the camera bar.

The Sage version is reminiscent of the Pixel 5, with lighter green above the camera. Google’s Chalk color is similar to the Pixel 6 Pro’s Cloudy White finish with white and gray panels, while the Charcoal version is similar to the Stormy Black of the Pixel 6. All three finishes come with the same matte black alloy frame, which is similar to the Pixel 6 design.

Google IO 2022 pixel 6a colors
Google

The Google Pixel 6a will be available for pre-order on July 21, 2022, with wider availability on July 28. It will be available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, the UK, and the US. Google has also announced that the Pixel 6a will arrive in India later in 2022.

Google Pixel 6a
Affordable Pixel phone • Same SoC as Pixel 6 Pro
Google Pixel 5a
Killer battery life • Versatile, easy-to-use cameras • Three years of updates • Solid performance
Just don't think of it as a successor to the Pixel 4a.
Google's Pixel 5a offers a few quality-of-life upgrades over its previous devices that may make you want to join Team Pixel. It has a metal unibody design, an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance, and a battery that just won't quit.

Google Pixel 5a vs Google Pixel 6a: Specs

Google Pixel 6aGoogle Pixel 5a
Display
Google Pixel 6a
6.1-inch OLED
20:9 aspect ratio
FHD+ resolution
1080 x 2400
429ppi
60Hz refresh rate
HDR support
24-bit depth
Gorilla Glass 3
Google Pixel 5a
6.34-inch OLED
20:9 aspect ratio
FHD+ resolution
1,080 x 2,400
413 ppi
20:9 aspect ratio
60Hz refresh rate
Gorilla Glass 3
Processor
Google Pixel 6a
Google Tensor
Google Pixel 5a
Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
RAM
Google Pixel 6a
6GB LPDDR5
Google Pixel 5a
6GB LPDDR5
Internal storage
Google Pixel 6a
128GB
UFS 3.1
Google Pixel 5a
128GB
Battery and power
Google Pixel 6a
4,410mAh (typical)
18W fast charging
USB-C 3.1 gen 1
Google Pixel 5a
4,680mAh
18W fast charging
USB-C 3.1 Gen 1
Cameras
Google Pixel 6a
Rear:
- 12.2 MP dual pixel wide camera, 1.4μm, ƒ/1.7, 77-degree FoV, 1/2.55-inch, OIS/EIS

- 12MP ultrawide, 1.25μm, ƒ/2.2 aperture, 114-degree FoV

Front:
- 8MP single, 1.12μm, ƒ/2.0, fixed focus, 84-degree FoV

Magic Eraser
Real Tone
Face Unblur
Night Sight
Super Res Zoom up to 7
Google Pixel 5a
Rear:
- 12.2MP dual-pixel
1.4μm pixel width
Autofocus with dual pixel phase detection
Optical + electronic image stabilization
ƒ/1.7 aperture
77° field of view

- 16MP ultra-wide
1.0μm pixel width
ƒ/2.2 aperture
117° field of view (107° after distortion correction)

Front:
- 8MP, 1.12μm pixel width
ƒ/2.0 aperture (fixed focus)
83° field of view

Video
Google Pixel 6a
Rear:
4K at 30/60FPS
1080p at 30/60FPS

Front:
1080p at 30FPS
Google Pixel 5a
Rear:
4K at 30/60FPS
1080p at 30/60FPS

Front:
1080p at 30FPS
Audio
Google Pixel 6a
Stereo speakers
Dual mics
Bluetooth 5.2
No 3.5mm port
Google Pixel 5a
Stereo speakers
2 microphones
Noise suppression
Bluetooth 5.0
3.5mm headphone jack
Security
Google Pixel 6a
In-display fingerprint
Titan M2 chip
5 years security updates
Google Pixel 5a
Rear-mounted fingerprint
3 years security updates
Sensors
Google Pixel 6a
Proximity sensor
Ambient light sensor
Accelerometer
Gyrometer
Magnetometer
Barometer
Google Pixel 5a
Proximity
Ambient light sensor
Accelerometer
Gyrometer
Magnetometer
Pixel Imprint
Barometer
Water resistance
Google Pixel 6a
IP67
Google Pixel 5a
IP67
Connectivity
Google Pixel 6a
Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
Wi-Fi 6E (6GHz)
Bluetooth 5.2
NFC support
Dual SIM (single nano-SIM and eSIM)
Google Cast
GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, BeiDou
Google Pixel 5a
Wi-Fi 2.4GHz + 5GHz
802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2x2 MIMO
Bluetooth v5.0 + LE, A2DP7
HD codecs: AptX, AptX HD, LDAC, AAC
NFC

US: GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS
ROW: GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, BeiDou
Software
Google Pixel 6a
Android 12
Pixel UI
Google Pixel 5a
Android 11
Pixel UI
3 years of Android updates
Dimensions and weight
Google Pixel 6a
152.2 x 71.8 x 8.9mm
178g
Google Pixel 5a
156.2 x 73.2 x 8.8mm
183g
Colors
Google Pixel 6a
Sage, Chalk, Charcoal
Google Pixel 5a
Mostly Black
In-box contents
Google Pixel 6a
1-m USB-C to USB-C cable (USB 2.0)
Quick start guide
Quick Switch adaptor
SIM tool
Google Pixel 5a
18W power adapter
1-m USB-C to USB-C cable (USB 2.0)
Quick start guide
Quick Switch adaptor
SIM tool

Google Pixel 5a vs Google Pixel 6a: Should you upgrade?

the google pixel 5a on a piece of cement showing its back in mostly black color
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Most years, we advise against upgrading from one Pixel a series model to the next. However, the gap is a bit wider this year, and it’s primarily down to the adoption of the Google Tensor chip. It adds some extra kick to the Pixel 6a, offering up to five-times better performance, according to Google. Compared to the Pixel 5a’s Snapdragon 765G chipset for the same money, the upgrade sounds like a no-brainer.

Our verdict: Google Pixel 5a review

Ultimately, your decision to upgrade may come down to which style you prefer. The Google Pixel 5a feels more traditional, with a corner-mounted camera unit, a headphone jack, and a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. However, the Pixel 6a lines up with Google’s future direction thanks to the hefty camera bar, in-display fingerprint reader, and two-toned design. Either way, you can expect Google’s superior image processing capabilities and regular feature drops.

Your choice may come down to whether you prefer Pixel 5 or Pixel 6 styling, but the Tensor chip is hard to pass up.

The Pixel 5a and Pixel 6a run on the light, smooth Pixel UI, which is currently based on Android 12. Of course, the Google Pixel 6a will see longer software support than its predecessor. According to Google, it’s listed with five years of Pixel updates, which likely means five years of security patches. The Pixel 6 series is guaranteed three years of Android updates, so we can expect a similar tally. As for the Pixel 5a, it offers three years of Android updates and three years of security patches, which carries it through to 2024.

The elephant in the room, though is the Pixel 6, which is only $150 more expensive than the Pixel 6a. If you can afford it, you might want to consider Google’s affordable flagship instead.

So, have you decided whether or not to upgrade? Let us know who wins your Google Pixel 5a vs Google Pixel 6a battle down below.

Which Pixel a series device is right for you?

223 votes