Google Pixel 6 vs Pixel 5: Everything is new!

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Google officially announced the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro (for the second time) during the Pixel Fall Launch event, and this time around we got all the details needed. The Pixel 6 turned out to be one pretty exciting device, especially if we compare it to its predecessor – the Pixel 5. And that’s what we’re doing today! With so many new things onboard, the Pixel 6 looks like a clear win over its older sibling but let’s dive in deep and find all the differences.

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Google Pixel 6 vs Pixel 5: Design

  • Tri-tone glass sandwich vs solid color bioresin/metal design

From the get-go, the Pixel 6 design is radically different compared to the Pixel 5. The previous generation Google flagship featured a hybrid aluminum body with a thin bio resin plastic skin on top, giving it a very distinct look and feel.

The Pixel 6, on the other hand, is using the more traditional glass sandwich design, with Gorilla Glass Victus over the screen and Gorilla Glass 6 covering the back. The Camera Bar stretches through the whole width of the phone’s body. The color scheme is a three-tone one, as opposed to the solid color design from the last generation, and there’s an eye-catching colorful element above the camera system, accentuating the pastel nuance of the bigger element below the camera system.

The frame of the Pixel 6 is made of matte aluminum for a cool and soft touch when handling it. In comparison, the Pixel 5 is a bit warmer, but also feels quite… unique to the touch. It’s very grippy and reassuring.
Another design change concerns the fingerprint reader. While the Pixel 5 relies on a capacitive sensor on its back, the Pixel 6 steps into the modern “under display” era with its biometry solution.

Google Pixel 6 vs Pixel 5: Display

  • 6.4-inch flat Full-HD+ 90Hz vs 6-inch flat Full-HD+ 90Hz
  • 411ppi vs 432ppi

The Pixel 6 features a 6.4-inch OLED panel with a 90Hz display refresh rate and Full HD+ resolution (1080 x 2400 at 411 ppi). For comparison, the Pixel 5 comes equipped with a 6.0-inch OLED panel with the same 90Hz display refresh rate. The resolution is the same once again – Full HD+ (1080×2340) but the smaller diagonal translates in a higher pixel density of 432ppi.

Just like the Pixel 5, the Pixel 6 features a flat display but the bezels look thinner in the new model. Fans of curved displays and 120 Hz refresh rates should shift their attention toward the Pixel 6 Pro, as this model comes with the aforementioned specs.

Google Pixel 6 vs Pixel 5: Hardware and performance

  • Custom made Tensor chipset vs Snapdragon 765G

The hardware side of things brings another twist to the story. Google decided to divorce Qualcomm and develop its own silicon named Tensor. It uses two Arm Cortex-X1 CPUs at 2.8 GHz to handle processing-heavy tasks, two 2.25 GHz A76 CPUs, and four efficiency cores – ARM Cortex  A55.

The Pixel 5, on the other hand, has been criticized for using a midrange chipset – the Snapdragon 765G to be exact. And while this SoC offers decent performance, it’s not on par with top-tier silicon found in “real” flagships.

And (drumroll) here are the official test results. Behold the Tensor chip. The results are a mixed bag – in some tests the Tensor manages to hang with the big boys but in others the performance clearly isn’t there. Synthetic benchmarks can only tell you so much, and we need to spend some time with the Pixel 6 to evaluate its real-life performance. Nevertheless, here are some numbers for you geeks out there.

But, with Google phones, it’s not always about performance. The Google Tensor allows the Pixel 6 and the AI Assistant on board to perform more tasks, entirely on-device. This means they are faster, much faster in fact, but also more secure… presumably.

The Pixel 6 has just insane speech recognition — it gets grammar, intent, and intonation. So, you can really dictate your messages or even notes to the phone. Also, the new implementation of Live Translate is just next class with its speed and accuracy.

In other words — if you are buying a Pixel to get that “Google experience”, a Pixel 6 makes much more sense than a Pixel 5 purchase.

Google Pixel 6 vs Pixel 5: Camera

50MP (Wide) + 12MP (Ultra wide) vs 12.2MP (Wide) + 16MP (Ultra wide)

The Pixel 5 comes equipped with two main cameras – a 12.2 MP main shooter (1/2.55″ sensor, 27 mm-equivalent (standard-wide) f/1.7-aperture lens, dual pixel PDAF, OIS), and a 16 MP ultrawide camera (1.0µm sensor, 107-degree field of view f/2.2-aperture lens). The main camera uses the IMX363 sensor from Sony, and it’s pretty outdated hardware. Thankfully, Google image processing software algorithms are pure magic, and image samples taken with the Pixel 5 look amazing.

The Pixel 6 sports the same dual-camera setup on the back but the main camera has been upgraded with a 50 MP 1/1.31 sensor with 1.2-micron pixel size, and f/1.85 aperture. According to Google, this new sensor now gathers 150% more light than the main camera found in the Pixel 5. The ultra-wide camera in the Pixel 6 has been upgraded as well – it’s a 12 MP shooter with 1.25 μm pixel width, ƒ/2.2 aperture and 114° field of view, quite a bit wider than the ultra-wide camera on the Pixel 5.

That’s a lot of words. Let’s look at some pictures!

At first glance, the photos seem very similar. It is when we begin pixel-peeping that we see small differences — the Pixel 5 is sharpening pictures digitally and details just seem a bit more jagged. The Pixel 6’s sensor retains sharpness, but it looks more natural. Also, depending on scene, the Pixel 6 handles dynamics a bit better, with more natural midtones, where the Pixel 5 seems to make colors a bit colder.

The Portrait Mode seems to be the same hit-and-miss performance on both phones. It’s worth noting that the Pixel 6 can go in to 2x crop for Portrait Mode, the Pixel 5 is limited to 1.3x, which is barely a zoom.

Neither phone is a zoom monster. They both tap out at 7x zoom — and none give us outstanding results. But, it’s fair to say, with the massive software sharpening that’s going on in the background, both give you a useable picture at 7x. We’d just avoid it unless absolutely necessary.

On the selfie side, we have 8 MP sensor on both these phones. They can both take wide selfies and crop in for a more of a closeup. They look pretty identical, though we do notice some more fringing around the edges with the Pixel 6 — just look at the tree leaves and the light coming through.

Moving on to night shots — and yeah, Pixels are popular for their Night Sight. The Pixel 6 does improve on an already working formula with less noise, better colors, and a lot more exposure. It does take a while for a Night Sight photo to develop, so take a breath and don’t move. Also, for some scenes, I kind of preferred Night Sight off — the Pixel 6’s massive sensor can handle it.

Zooming in at night time with the Pixel 6 also provides much, much clearer results. The Pixel 5 allows you to try it… but kind of tabs out — check out the samples below.

The same can be observed with portraits at night — the Pixel 6 held it together better and the faux bokeh is still passable. The Pixel 5’s Portrait Mode picture here came out… ruff!

The selfie cameras, again, perform very similar on both phones:

Google emphasised that it worked to improve the video capture on its new Pixels. And yeah, even from a quick test, we can see that the Pixel 6 is better than the Pixel 5 — dynamics are handled better, the video is brighter but with no burnouts, colors are more accurate and the overall picture is a bit warmer and livelier. Stabilization seems to perform similarly on both phones and details seem to be pretty close, too.

The Pixel 6 microphone is also doing a better job at capturing a fuller range of audio, while the Pixel 5 is on the tinny side.

Google Pixel 6 vs Pixel 5: Battery

The Pixel 5 comes with an ample 4,000 mAh battery on board, a significant step-up, compared to the Pixel 4. It’s worth mentioning however that the Snapdragon 765G chipset is not exactly power hungry and contributes to the good battery life seen throughout benchmarks. 

The battery inside the Pixel 6 has been upgraded to a capacity of 4,614mAh, which is a substantial upgrade compared to the Pixel 5. We did our homework and performed all the necessary battery testing on the new Pixels, and here are the results.

Web browsing test:

On the charging front, the new Pixel 6 is supposed to be able to fast charge with up to 30 W of power, but seems to cap out at 22 W. The Pixel 5 on the other hand charges at 18W wired, so charging times should be reduced in the new model. Oh, also, the Pixel 6 doesn’t come with a charger in the box, while the Pixel 5 did, but that’s neither here nor there.

Google Pixel 6 vs Pixel 5: Price

The Pixel 5 price at launch was $699, making the phone kinda affordable, especially compared to other flagship phones, but still a bit on the pricey considering the hardware.

The Pixel 6, on the other hand, launched at $599 with already better specs than what the Pixel 5 — I mean even by equivalent 2020 vs 2021 standards.

Of course, the price of the Pixel 5 will go down significantly — Google doesn’t officially sell it anymore, but you can probably find new old stock somewhere at retailers. But considering all the new features baked into the Pixel 6, this starting price of $599 is a killer. There’s almost no reason to even think about the old Pixel 5. And many fans would prefer they didn’t.

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