We are reader supported. When you buy through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Google Pixel 5a vs 5 (2021): Is There Even A Difference?

While the flagship smartphones from Apple and Samsung are impressive, they’re not exactly affordable and can definitely take a toll on your savings. Fortunately, Google’s lineup of Pixel phones are just as capable but with price tags that aren’t as hefty. Two examples of this are the Pixel 5 and Pixel 5a which are currently Google’s most premium models before the new Pixel 6 and 6 Pro arrive later on this year. To help you decide which one’s the better pick for you, here’s an in-depth comparison of the Pixel 5 and 5a, covering their design and performance.

Google Pixel 5a vs 5 Comparison Chart

ModelGoogle Pixel 5aGoogle Pixel 5
 Pixel 5a chartPixel 5 chart
PriceCheck Price at GoogleCheck Price at Amazon
Display6.34-inch OLED panel6-inch OLED panel
Display Resolution2,400 x 1080 pixels2340 x 1080 pixels
Refresh Rate60Hz90Hz
RAM6GB8GB
Storage128GB128GB
Cameras12MP, f/1.7 wide-angle lens, 16MP, f/2.2 main camera, 8MP, f/2.0 punch-hole selfie camera12MP, f/1.7 wide-angle lens, 16MP, f/2.2 main camera, 8MP, f/2.0 punch-hole selfie camera
Battery Capacity4,680mAh4,080mAh
5G ConnectivityYes (nommWave 5G support)Yes (withmmWave 5G support)
Dimensions6.3 x 2.9 x 0.35 inches5.7 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches
Weight6.46 ounces5.3 ounces

Design

The Pixel 5 and Pixel 5a look very similar but have different finishes and water-resistance ratings.

Pixel 5a vs Pixel 5 design
The Pixel 5a (left) has an IP67 rating while the Pixel 5 (right) has an IP68 rating.

If you were to look at the Pixel 5 and Pixel 5a side by side, you’d have a tough time setting these two apart. They’re pretty much identical, both sporting the same rounded rectangular silhouette, the same fingerprint sensor at the back, and the same rounded square camera module. But as similar as they may seem at first glance, they feel noticeably different. The Pixel 5 is unlikely to slip out of your hands because its recycled aluminum exterior offers a rough and grippy texture. As for the Pixel 5a, it has a smoother and softer finish which feels extra nice to the touch. But it’s grippy as well and is just as easy to clasp.

The Pixel 5 and 5a are neck and neck at this point but the gap between them starts to widen when it comes to water resistance. The Pixel 5 has an IP68 rating which means it can survive being submerged in up to six meters of water. The Pixel 5a is less indestructible, its IP67 rating only able to handle up to three meters of water. However, you can say that the Pixel 5a sort of makes up for this by having a 3.5mm headphone jack. This should come as good news to those who still prefer the wired experience.

Displays

The Pixel 5a has a larger screen but the Pixel 5’s screen has a higher refresh rate and is brighter and more colorful.

Pixel 5a vs Pixel 5 display
Both the Pixel 5 and Pixel 5a have edge-to-edge displays.

When it comes to screens, both the Pixel 5 and Pixel 5a have edge-to-edge displays which make them look extra sleek and modern. This is made possible by the punch-hole camera on the upper left hand corner which takes up practically zero space. While both OLED screens are nice and bright, take note that the Pixel 5a’s display is slightly bigger at 6.34 inches with a resolution of 2,400 x 1080 pixels. The Pixel 5’s is only at 6 inches with a 2340 x 1080 resolution. But despite being smaller, the Pixel 5’s screen actually has a couple of advantages over the Pixel 5a’s.

For starters, you get to enjoy a 90Hz refresh rate with the Pixel 5 which makes videos and game animations so much smoother. If this makes you worried about battery life, you don’t have to be because the Pixel 5 is able to switch between 90Hz and 60Hz depending on the kind of content you’re watching. With the Pixel 5a, you’re stuck with the basic 60Hz which is quite disappointing considering that other budget models are able to go beyond this. In addition, the Pixel 5’s screen has more colors under its belt, able to support 91% of the DCI-P3 color range while the Pixel 5a only covers 84%. Also, the Pixel 5 can go brighter at 610 nits while the Pixel 5a maxes out 510 nits.

Hardware

The Pixel 5 and the Pixel 5a are powered by the same processor and make use of the same camera hardware.

Pixel 5a vs Pixel 5 hardware
Both the Pixel 5 and Pixel 5a run on the Snapdragon 765G.

Neither the Pixel 5 nor the Pixel 5a runs on the Snapdragon 888 or the Snapdragon 865+, otherwise known as the processors that power flagship Android smartphones. But of course, that’s expected given that these Pixel models are a fraction of the price. Instead, they’re both equipped with the Snapdragon 765G which delivers a commendable performance despite being a mid-tier processor. While they have this in common, the Pixel 5 takes this round because it has 8GB of RAM while the Pixel 5a only has 6GB.

However, the Pixel 5 and Pixel 5a are at a complete tie when it comes to camera hardware, both sporting the exact same set of cameras in the front and at the back. Both models will give you a 12MP, f/1.7 wide-angle lens, a 16MP, f/2.2 main camera, and an 8MP, f/2.0 punch-hole selfie camera. Even though their cameras aren’t the newest in the market, you can expect to capture amazing photos with these two models. Ones that have vibrant colors, accurate white balance, and excellent dynamic range. Also, the best thing about them is their Night Sight mode which remains as Google’s biggest edge over other smartphone brands.

Battery and Connectivity

The Pixel 5a has a bigger battery capacity than the Pixel 5 but both models have around the same battery life.

Pixel 5a vs Pixel 5 battery
The Pixel 5 can be charged wirelessly while the Pixel 5a can only be charged via USB-C.

If you were to look at their specs, the Pixel 5a should have the upper hand as it has a bigger battery capacity of 4,680mAh. The Pixel 5’s is only at 4,080mAh. But this doesn’t really translate in reality as they both have similar battery lives when put to the test. At 90Hz, the Pixel 5 is able to last around 9 hours and 30 minutes but manages an additional 20 minutes or so at 60Hz. As for the Pixel 5a, it’s able to deliver around 9 hours and 45 minutes which is within the Pixel 5’s range. In terms of charging, the Pixel 5 wins because it supports wired, wireless, and reverse wireless charging. With the Pixel 5a, you’re limited to just USB-C charging.

As for connectivity, both of these Pixel models are 5G-capable although only the Pixel 5 has mmWave 5G support. This isn’t much of a loss for Pixel 5a users though because themmWave coverage in the US is quite limited anyway.

Verdict

The Pixel 5a offers better value for money than the Pixel 5.

Google Pixel 5a

Better value for money

Google Pixel 5a chart

Google Pixel 5

Better specs

Google Pixel 5 verdict

Considering that the Pixel 5a is the much cheaper option of the two, we highly recommend it over the Pixel 5. Despite being a fraction of the price, the Pixel 5a shares the same camera hardware, processor, and battery life as its more expensive sibling. It’s even better in some aspects as it has a larger screen display and even comes with a headphone jack. While it’s true that the Pixel 5 has a bigger RAM, a higher refresh rate, and a more vibrant screen, these things still don’t quite justify why the Pixel 5 is $250 more expensive than the Pixel 5a. That said, the Pixel 5 is still more affordable than the flagship smartphones out there on the market.

If you want to know how the Pixel 5a fares against other Pixel models, you can check out our Google Pixel 5a vs 4a comparison.

FAQs

๐Ÿ“Œ Is the Pixel 5 worth it?

If you want 5G connectivity but don’t want to spend a hefty sum of money for a flagship smartphone, the Pixel 5 is worth considering.

๐Ÿ“Œ Is the Pixel 5 discontinued?

While Google has officially discontinued the Pixel 5, it’s still available on Amazon as of September 3, 2021.

๐Ÿ“Œ Does the Pixel 5a have 5G connectivity?

Yes, the Pixel 5a is 5G-capable but unlike the Pixel 5, it doesn’t have mmWave 5G support.

๐Ÿ“Œ Which one should you buy, the Pixel 5 or the Pixel 5a?

The Pixel 5a offers better value for money than the Pixel 5.Despite being a fraction of the price, the Pixel 5a shares the same camera hardware, processor, and battery life as its more expensive sibling.

RELATED  Google Wifi vs Nighthawk (2021): Which Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi System Wins?
Denise Jose

Senior Editor at Compare Before Buying. Researcher and yoga teacher passionate about article writing, photography, wellness, and mindfulness.