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Google Pixel 5a vs Pixel 5: What's the difference and which should you buy?

It's the battle of Google's 2020 flagship versus the new budget phone in town.
By
May 25, 2022
the google pixel 5a on a bench compared to the pixel 5 and pixel 4a 5g with back panels showing
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
Left to right: Google Pixel 5, Pixel 5a, Pixel 4a 5G

The Pixel 5a comes with great specs considering its $449 MSRP. However, you can still pick up the older Pixel 5 if you know where to look. It offers a bit more overall, but it also costs more. So what are the differences between these two phones, and which one is the better buy? That’s what we will find out in this Google Pixel 5a vs Pixel 5 comparison.

Our thoughts: Google Pixel 5a review | Google Pixel 5 review


Specs

Pixel 5a (2021)Pixel 5 (2020)
6.34-inch OLED display
2,400 x 1,080 resolution
413ppi
20:9 aspect ratio
60Hz refresh rate
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
6-inch OLED display
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
432ppi
19.5:9 aspect ratio
90Hz refresh rate
Corning Gorilla Glass 6
6GB of RAM (LPDDR4x)
8GB of RAM (LPDDR4x)
USB-C 3.1 Gen 1
Volume controls
3.5mm headphone jack
USB-C 3.1 Gen 1
Volume controls
No headphone jack
4,680mAh
18W fast charging
USB-C 18W adapter with USB-PD 2.0
4,080mAh
18W fast charging
12W wireless charging
5W reverse wireless charging
USB-C 18W adapter with USB-PD 2.0
4G LTE
Sub6 5G
4G LTE
mmWave 5G
Sub6 5G
IP67
IP68
156.2 x 73.2 x 8.8mm
183g
144.7 x 70.4 x 8mm
151g
Metal build
Plastic build
Mostly Black
Just Black, Sorta Sage

Design and display

The Pixel 5 and Pixel 5a are almost identical when it comes to looks. Both have the same rounded design that’s been a staple of the Pixel phone lineup for some time. Both also have the same square camera bump on the back, with a fingerprint scanner sitting below it. You’ll find a punch-hole in the display’s top left corner, which houses the selfie camera. Both phones have metal backs, though the “bio-resin” on the Pixel 5 gives it a more premium feel in hand.

Protect your phone: The best Google Pixel 5a casesThe best Google Pixel 5 cases

The Pixel 5a also has a more prominent display. It comes in at 6.34 inches, while the one on the Pixel 5 measures 6 inches. Both are OLED and have Full HD+ resolution, but the Pixel 5’s display has a higher refresh rate (90Hz vs 60Hz) for a smoother scrolling experience. It’s also protected by the newer Gorilla Glass 6, while the 5a uses Gorilla Glass 3.

Also, the Pixel 5 has IP68 water and dust resistance rating, while the Pixel 5a has a slightly lower IP67 rating — see the difference between the two here.


Hardware and cameras

the google pixel 5a camera module and fingerprint sensor
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

The Pixel 5a and Pixel 5 share much of the same hardware. Both sport a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor and 128GB of non-expandable storage. However, the Pixel 5 has 8GB of RAM compared to just 6GB on the Pixel 5a, although that’s still good enough for most people.

Snapdragon SoC guide: All of Qualcomm’s smartphone processors explained

When it comes to batteries, the Pixel 5a has a bigger one at 4,680mAh, compared to the 4,080mAh cell found in the Pixel 5. The 5a also comes with a headphone jack. However, if you want wireless charging, the Pixel 5 is the one to get, as the Pixel 5a doesn’t support this feature. Both are 5G-enabled devices, but only the Pixel 5 supports mmWave.

If you want wireless charging, the Pixel 5 is the one to get.

The camera hardware is the same on both phones, with a 12.2MP primary rear sensor, a 16MP ultrawide rear camera, and an 8MP front-facing camera. Both phones ship with Android 11 out of the box, with Google promising at least three OS updates.


Price and colors

Money Stock Photo 1
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
  • Google Pixel 5a: $449 MSRP
  • Google Pixel 5: $699 MSRP

The Google Pixel 5a has a $449 MSRP. It only comes in the Just Black color option. The Pixel 5 launched in October 2020 for $699 in Just Black and Sorta Sage colors. Both devices are getting older and harder to find these days.

Both are cheaper now, but the price difference seems to be getting smaller as the Pixel 5 is significantly older. Not to mention the Pixel 6 series has already replaced the Pixel 5, while the Pixel 5a is still the latest budget Google phone. That is until the Pixel 6a launches on July 28th.

Google Pixel 5a Unlocked
Google Pixel 5a
Water resistance comes to the Pixel A-series
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 5 taking a photo 4 1
Google Pixel 5 (New)
Google's first 5G smartphone
The Google Pixel 5 may not be the high-end Pixel we were expecting, but it's a pretty compelling mid-range option. Google is going back to basics with the Pixel 5, ditching higher-end features like face recognition and the quirky Motion Sense gestures.
$500.10 at Amazon
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Google Pixel 5a vs Pixel 5: Which should you buy?

the google pixel 5a home screen showing a close up of the google search bar
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

The Google Pixel 5a is an excellent phone, offering great specs at a reasonably low price. It’s similar to the Pixel 5 but also comes with a bigger battery and a larger display.

The Google Pixel 5a is the better buy.

On the other hand, the Pixel 5 has more RAM, a display with a higher refresh rate, and wireless as well as reverse wireless charging. It also sports better water protection with its IP68 rating and supports mmWave 5G technology. However, since it costs more and is now a bit harder to get your hands on, we think that the Pixel 5a is the better buy at this moment. However, the final decision comes down to which extra features of each phone you value more.

It also goes without saying that those who already have the Pixel 5 shouldn’t get the Pixel 5a, since the two phones are too similar. If you’re looking for an upgrade, it’s better to wait for the Pixel 6a, which will launch later this year. Or you could go all out and upgrade to the Pixel 6.

Would you pick the Pixel 5a or the Pixel 5?

747 votes