Should you upgrade to the latest Pixel?

Google’s mid-range smartphones have historically delivered excellent value, and the new Pixel 7a is no different. While it may look like an incremental update on the surface, we’re actually getting several big upgrades under the hood. That’s especially true if you skipped the last generation and are looking to upgrade your Pixel 5a. What are these improvements and how much impact do they have on the overall user experience? Let’s find out in this Pixel 7a vs Pixel 5a comparison.

Google Pixel 7a vs Pixel 5a: At a glance

Want to make a quick purchase decision? Here’s a quick rundown of the key differences between the Pixel 7a and Pixel 5a.

  • The Pixel 7a has a slightly smaller 6.1-inch display vs the Pixel 5a’s 6.34 inches.
  • The Pixel 5a weighs less than the Pixel 7a, even though it sports a larger display.
  • Unlike prior Pixel A-series phones, the Pixel 7a’s display features a faster 90Hz refresh rate.
  • The Pixel 7a’s Tensor G2 chip is significantly faster than the 5a’s Snapdragon 765G. The newer phone also packs an additional 2GB of RAM, taking the total up to 8GB.
  • The new design of the Pixel 7a has done away with the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. It’s now placed under the display instead.
  • With its new 64MP primary sensor, the Pixel 7a’s cameras are far superior to the ones on the Pixel 5a.
  • Google has added wireless charging to the Pixel 7a, a first for Google’s A-series Pixel smartphones.
  • The Pixel 7a lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack, which was included on the Pixel 5a.

Keep reading to know more about how the Pixel 7a differs from the Pixel 5a, including in more areas like connectivity and ergonomics.

Google Pixel 7a vs Pixel 5a: Specs

Google Pixel 7aGoogle Pixel 5a

Display

Google Pixel 7a

6.1-inch OLED
FHD+ resolution (2,400 x 1,080)
20:9 aspect ratio
90Hz refresh rate
HDR support
Gorilla Glass 3

Google Pixel 5a

6.34-inch OLED display
FHD+ resolution (2,400 x 1,080)
20:9 aspect ratio
60Hz refresh rate
Corning Gorilla Glass 3

Processor

Google Pixel 7a

Google Tensor G2

Google Pixel 5a

GPU

Google Pixel 7a

Arm Mali-G710

Google Pixel 5a

RAM

Google Pixel 7a

8GB LPDDR5

Google Pixel 5a

6GB LPDDR4x

Storage

Google Pixel 7a

128GB UFS 3.1

Google Pixel 5a

128GB

Battery and charging

Google Pixel 7a

4,385mAh battery
18W wired charging
5W wireless charging
No charger in the box

Google Pixel 5a

3,800mAh
18W fast charging
No wireless charging
Charger in the box

Cameras

Google Pixel 7a

Rear:
64MP wide primary sensor
80-degree FoV
1/1.73″ image sensor size
Super Res Zoom up to 8x

Secondary:
13MP ultrawide
ƒ/2.2
120-degree FoV

Front:
13MP
f/2.0

Google Pixel 5a

Main:
12.2MP dual-pixel
Optical + electronic image stabilization
ƒ/1.7 aperture
77° field of view

Secondary:
16MP ultrawide
ƒ/2.2 aperture
117° field of view (107° after distortion correction)

Front:
8MP
ƒ/2.0 aperture

Audio

Google Pixel 7a

Stereo speakers
No 3.5mm port

Google Pixel 5a

Stereo speakers
3.5mm headphone jack

Security

Google Pixel 7a

In-display fingerprint
Titan M2 chip
5 years’ security updates

Google Pixel 5a

Titan M Security Module
Fingerprint (rear-mounted)

Connectivity

Google Pixel 7a

Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
Wi-Fi 6E (6GHz) in selected markets
Bluetooth 5.3
NFC support
GPS

Google Pixel 5a

Wi-Fi 5 (2.4GHz + 5GHz)
Bluetooth v5.0 + LE, A2DP7
NFC
GPS

Software

Google Pixel 7a

Android 13 with Pixel UI

Google Pixel 5a

Android 11 with Pixel UI. Upgradeable to Android 13

Materials

Google Pixel 7a

Gorilla Glass 3 on the front
Aluminum frame
Polycarbonate back

Google Pixel 5a

Gorilla Glass 3 on front
Plastic frame/rear

Dimensions and weight

Google Pixel 7a

152.4 mm x 72.9 mm x 9.0 mm
178g

Google Pixel 5a

156.2 x 73.2 x 8.8mm
183g

Colors

Google Pixel 7a

Arctic Blue, Chalk, Charcoal

Google Pixel 5a

Mostly Black

Google’s budget phones have taken various different approaches to reach their low price points over the years. The Pixel 5a struck a good balance when it launched in 2021, but it was largely based on its predecessor. The Pixel 7a, meanwhile, does come in at a higher price but has plenty to show for that. Let’s start with the design, which is a radical departure from the Pixel 5a.

The Pixel 7a features a two-tone design on the rear, with a color-matched aluminum frame surrounding the whole phone. The frame also blends seamlessly into the camera visor just like it does on the higher-end Pixel 7. At a glance, the Pixel 7a looks every bit as premium as Google’s flagship phones. It’s only once you inspect it closely that you’ll notice the plastic back and display bezels, which are larger even when compared to the Pixel 5a.

Aesthetics aside, we’re happy to report that the Pixel 7a’s display itself got a major upgrade this year. At 6.1 inches, it’s slightly smaller than the Pixel 5a’s 6.34-inch display. However, the newer Pixel is the first in the series to get a 90Hz panel. This faster refresh rate translates to a perception of smoothness when scrolling and even swiping around the general interface. Once you get used to 90Hz, you may find standard 60Hz displays, like the one on the Pixel 5a, almost sluggish by comparison.

The Pixel 7a’s 90Hz display feels much smoother than older phones in the series.

Another area in which the Pixel 7a has a definitive lead over the 5a is in terms of performance. Google’s 2023 budget phone ships with the company’s own Tensor G2 chip, which is a lot better than the mid-range Snapdragon 765G in the Pixel 5a. In fact, the more expensive Pixel 7 and 7 Pro use the same chip as well. All in all, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better chip in a $500 smartphone.

Besides delivering flagship-grade performance, the Tensor G2 in the Pixel 7a unlocks a whole host of machine learning and camera features. More on that in a later section. If you’re a power user, you’ll be happy to know that the Pixel 7a’s extra 2GB of RAM vs the Pixel 5a should help with multitasking as well.

the google pixel 5a display with app icons on the pixel launcher home screen

Connectivity is an often-overlooked section of the spec sheet, but the Pixel 7a’s improvements are worth highlighting. Compared to the Pixel 5a, it adds support for Bluetooth 5.3 LE and Wi-Fi 6E. You can also buy carrier variants with faster mmWave 5G too, but that’s comparatively less important. Besides ultra-wideband (UWB), the Pixel 7a ticks every single smartphone connectivity spec out there. Unfortunately, however, the series dropped the headphone jack between the release of the Pixel 5a and Pixel 7a.

The Pixel 5a will not get software updates beyond 2024. The Pixel 7a has five years of support ahead of it.

Finally, let’s talk about software. The Pixel 5a will turn two years old later this year. That puts it on track to get just one more year’s worth of updates, including security patches. This is because the Pixel 5a was the last Google phone to receive just three years of updates.

Modern Pixel devices now enjoy five years of support, with three software updates and an additional two years of security patches. So if you pick up a Pixel 7a, you won’t have to worry about your phone’s security until 2028. That’s a long support commitment and makes the Pixel 7a extremely compelling when compared to the Pixel 5a.

Google Pixel 7a vs Pixel 5a: Size comparison

Even though smartphones have become larger over the years, the Pixel 7a is notably smaller than the Pixel 5a. A 0.2-inch difference in display size may not sound like much, but it can make quite a difference in terms of ergonomics. In fact, our review found that the phone’s narrow design makes it rather comfortable to use one-handed.

Having said that, the Pixel 7a did also gain some weight compared to the Pixel 5a. At 193g, it’s 10g heavier than the Pixel 5a and almost matches the Pixel 7. The latter sports a larger display and glass back, so we’re not sure how Google spent all of its weight budget on the budget phone. Regardless, if you’re fond of compact phones, you will like the Pixel 7a just as much as the Pixel 5a as it’s still very comfortable in the hand.

Google Pixel 7a vs Pixel 5a: Cameras

pixel5a vancouver 1

When the Pixel 5a launched, many reviews claimed that you couldn’t find a better set of cameras on a sub-$500 smartphone. That part remains largely true to this day and the Pixel 7a only improves things further.

Google tends to stick with the same camera hardware for multiple generations, but this year is different. The Pixel 7a packs a 64MP primary shooter, which is a step up from the Pixel 5a’s 12.2MP camera. The image sensor is considerably larger too, allowing for better performance in low-light shooting conditions. Finally, we get an expanded ultrawide camera on the Pixel 7a, with a 120-degree field of view instead of 107 degrees.

With its faster hardware, the Pixel 7a delivers excellent results with less processing delay vs the Pixel 5a. That’s especially true when the sun goes down. Night Sight only ever takes three seconds or so to gather enough detail on the newer phone. In our Pixel 7a review, we praised the excellent camera performance across both lenses and believe that it’s one of the phone’s biggest selling points. Check out some of the samples we captured with both phones below.

You also get a host of new software features that make the Pixel 7a’s camera significantly better from a less obvious perspective. Features like Real Tone and faster Night Sight make the imaging experience far more consistent from shot to shot. The older phone missed out on most of these Pixel-exclusive features as Google’s semi-custom Tensor G2 does a lot of heavy lifting. The same applies to the selfie camera, which also got a spec bump from 8MP to 13MP.

Google Pixel 7a vs Pixel 5a: Battery and charging

Google Pixel 7a USB C charging

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Battery life hasn’t ever been a strong point of the Pixel series. But the Pixel 5a’s efficient Snapdragon 765G chip paired with a decently-sized battery translated to decent endurance. During our review period, we found that the phone could make it through a full day with over half of its charge still intact. That’s phenomenal runtime from any smartphone, Pixel or otherwise.

Unfortunately, Google’s winning streak in the battery life area was rather short-lived. The Pixel 7a has returned to the series’ average, providing just enough battery life to satisfy casual users. You can thank the flagship-grade Tensor G2 chip here as it’s far more power-hungry than the Pixel 5a’s Snapdragon 765G. Likewise, the new 90Hz display is an incredible upgrade, but it comes at a power and battery cost.

The Pixel 7a doesn’t last anywhere as long as the Pixel 5a between charges.

To be clear, the Pixel 7a offers decent enough battery life for most use cases. But if you were hoping for chart-topping endurance, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Moreover, Google hasn’t improved charging speeds in the two years since the Pixel 5a’s launch. The Pixel 7a still charges at just 18W, placing it behind the already-slow Pixel 7. In our testing of the Pixel 7a’s charging, we found that it takes nearly two full hours to go from 0 to 100%. In other words, don’t expect an improvement if you’re coming from an older Pixel A-series phone.

That said, the Pixel 7a does add wireless charging, which is a first for the series. However, the phone only accepts 7.5W of power, which stretches the charging time beyond three hours. So while the feature is a welcome addition, it’s rather impractical outside of quick top-ups.

Google Pixel 7a vs Pixel 5a: Price

 

When the Pixel 5a launched in 2021, Google increased the starting price relative to its predecessor from $349 to $449. However, that generation brought a host of improvements like 5G support, a larger battery, and IP67 protection. In many ways, the Pixel 5a was the spiritual successor to the Pixel 4a 5G rather than the base Pixel 4a. With that context in mind, the Pixel 5a’s $449 price was actually lower than the Pixel 4a 5G’s $499 tag.

With the release of the Pixel 7a this year, Google has returned to that $499 price point. But with so many upgrades in tow, we believe that the 11% upcharge is justified. It’s still rather affordable in the context of other mid-range smartphones. And if you’re not looking to spend that much, the last-gen Pixel 6a will stay on shelves for just $349.

Google Pixel 7a vs Pixel 5a: Should you upgrade?

Google Pixel 7a back with box

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Google opted to discontinue the Pixel 5a a year after its launch, so you won’t find one on sale anymore. But what if you picked one up earlier in its life? The Pixel 7a offers massive improvements in just about every area, from its 90Hz display to a more capable camera setup. However, that does come at a $50 higher starting price.

Still, if software support matters to you, the Pixel 5a will only get updates until August 2024. Meanwhile, Google’s five-year update policy means that the Pixel 7a will be supported well into the future.

Would you upgrade from the Pixel 5a to the Pixel 7a?

9 votes

Ultimately, you’ll have to decide whether the Pixel 7a’s new features justify the price of admission. From looking at the spec sheet alone, it looks like one of the biggest year-over-year upgrades the series has ever seen. But if you’re currently using the Pixel 5a and don’t feel the urge to get a new phone, you can always wait for the final software update and re-evaluate next year. Will you make the switch?

$349.00 at Amazon

Google Pixel 5a

10%off

Google Pixel 5a

Killer battery life
Versatile cameras
Three years of updates

$499.00 at Amazon

Google Pixel 7a

9%off

Google Pixel 7a

The best sub-$500 camera phone
Solid performance and plenty of RAM
Improved 90Hz display

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