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

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Google Pixel 7 on white background

  • Google Pixel 7

    A great upgrade

    $533 $599 Save $66

    Despite being over a year old, Google still sells the Pixel 7, which is one solid indication it’s still worth getting. The performance and battery life don’t exactly wow, but the cameras are great, and it’s an especially great choice if you can find it on sale.

    Pros

    • Excellent camera performance
    • Bright, 90Hz display
    • Many of Google’s AI features
    Cons

    • Middling battery life and SoC
    • Tends to run hot
    • The Pixel 8’s better

  • google-pixel-5-front-and-back

    Google Pixel 5

    In the rearview

    Google’s Pixel 5 was a great phone in its heyday, but it’s getting long in the tooth. With the final security patches offered in August 2024, it’s high time to consider upgrading to something more robust and actively supported.

    Pros

    • Good battery life
    • It should technically still work
    Cons

    • Done receiving Android updates
    • Subpar performance
    • Dated design


Experts and average consumers consider the Google Pixel family one of the best lineups of high-end smartphones, year in and year out. And, it makes sense that Google goes all out on its flagship handsets, showcasing its streamlined Android implementation, novel hardware considerations, and class-leading picture-taking abilities. Our Google Pixel 7 review clearly showed that the 2022 release lived up to that hype.



With the Pixel 7 launch party solidly in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look back at the Google Pixel 5 to see how much of a difference those extra two years make.


Price, availability, and specs

We were unhappy with the Pixel 5’s $700 price at launch. Since then, more manufacturers have charged that much and more for high-end smartphones. Despite the general increase in the cost of top-of-the-line models, Google came through with a $600 price on a high-performing phone in the Pixel 7. Where the Pixel 5 was underpowered and overpriced, the Pixel 7 offers plenty of firepower at a surprisingly reasonable price.


In terms of availability, things are pretty bleak for the Pixel 5. While you might be able to find a decent deal on a refurbished or used model, you’ll find similarly priced deals on the newer Google Pixel 6a or even the full-blown Pixel 6. If you really don’t want to shell out for Google’s newest flagship, either of those is a better choice than the 5, which we generally advise avoiding at this point.


  • Google Pixel 7Google Pixel 5a
    SoCGoogle Tensor G2Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
    RAM8GB6GB
    Storage128GB, 256GB128GB
    Battery4,355mAh4,680mAh
    PortsUSB-CUSB-C
    Operating SystemAndroid 13Android 14
    Front camera10.8MP, f/2.28MP, f/2.0
    Rear camera50MP, f/1.85 main; 12MP, f/2.2 ultrawide12.2MP, f/1.7 main; 16MP, f/2.2 ultrawide
    ConnectivityNFCNFC
    Dimensions155.6 x 73.2 x 8.7mm156.2 x 73.2 x 8.8mm
    ColorsObsidian, Snow, LemongrassMostly Black
    Display typeOLED, 90HzOLED, 60Hz
    Weight197g183g
    Charge speed20W wired, 20W wireless18W wired
    IP RatingIP68IP67
    PriceFrom $599From $449
    StylusNoNo
    Display dimensions6.3″6.34″
    Display resolution1080 x 24001080 x 2400
    Charge optionsWired, WirelessWired
    SIM supportDual SIM (Nano SIM and eSIM)Nano SIM/eSIM
    Cellular connectivity5G, mmWave, LTELTE, 5G
    Wi-Fi connectivityWi-Fi 6EWi-Fi 6
    BluetoothBluetooth 5.2Bluetooth 5.0

Design

An entirely different language

We noticed the first glaring differences between Google’s flagship generations by simply holding each device. The Pixel 5 feels like plastic due to the less-than-ideal body coating. It’s not exactly clunky or uncomfortable to grasp, but it never really felt like a truly premium device. That’s despite the fact that it was overpriced at launch, and now feels decidedly dated.


The Google Pixel 7 held in left hand with lock screen visible.


The Pixel 7, by comparison, looks and feels like a refined version of the heavily redesigned Pixel 6. Instead of the Pixel 5’s camera bump, which made it a touch wobbly when lying on a flat surface, the 7’s visor-style camera housing looks better and makes for more convenient geometry when used without a case. Furthermore, the camera housing is made from the same rugged aluminum as the frame, so there’s no worry of cracking should you drop it on the table a little too hard.


While we did like the Pixel 5 at release, there’s no denying that Google’s smartphone lineup has progressed to an entirely new design philosophy at this point. Looking at and using the Pixel 5 makes it obvious this is an old phone, flagship or not, and the Pixel 7 feels immensely more polished (literally and figuratively).


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


Compared to the Pixel 5’s questionable surface feel, the Pixel 7’s nearly all-glass exterior knocks it out of the park. The finish and design are so top-notch that we don’t blame anybody who’s hesitant to hide it in a protective case. Although, if you want to be safe, you’ll find plenty of great Pixel 7 cases. Either way, you won’t doubt for a second that you’re holding a top-quality smartphone in your hand.


If there’s one thing we don’t love about the newer flagship’s design, it’s the weight. The Pixel 7 is a whopping 46 grams heavier than the Pixel 5, which is especially noticeable when you compare the two. In terms of the overall design and build quality, though, it’s evident that the Pixel 7 is a big upgrade over the Pixel 5.

Display

One place where the Pixel 5’s actually still OK

pixel-7-screen-green-1


We had almost nothing to complain about when viewing the Pixel 5’s screen. Its resolution, bold colors, deep blacks, and high refresh rate were everything we expected from a flagship smartphone. The Pixel 7 sports 0.3 inches more real estate diagonally and is otherwise similar to that of the Pixel 5, which is a good thing. The newer one also gets nearly twice as bright, which significantly increases usability in all conditions, especially bright sunlight.


The only minor quibble we had was Google’s continued refusal to deliver 120Hz panels on anything but the Pixel Pro. The Pixel 7 wins out in the display category, mainly because it’s a touch larger and much brighter.

Software

Generations ahead, years of potential

Google’s own Android skin was fine when the Pixel 5 hit the market, but it won’t receive any new Android versions. The Pixel 7 comes with a promise of updates through Android 16 in 2025, with two more years of security patches after that. On top of everything else, that’s a huge benefit to upgrading to the 2022 Pixel.


Android version notwithstanding, the software sports one other big difference. The Pixel 5 was the last Google phone to use a Qualcomm chip, and Google broke the mold with its later Tensor lineup by adding a slew of machine learning features that the older chipsets aren’t as savvy at running, if they’re capable at all. And as Google continues to drop new AI features, don’t expect many of them to hit the Pixel 5.


So, even though its end-stage Android 14 implementation is just fine, the Pixel 5 can’t compete with the 7 once you take into account two more operating systems and a whopping four more years of security patches. And security might be one of the most important features to keep a relatively recent phone in your pocket.

Performance

A vast difference

Here’s where Google’s new handset pulled ahead of the fifth-generation model in a big way. The Snapdragon 765G in the Pixel 5 did not deliver the processing power we hoped to see. Inside the Pixel 7, you’ll find the second-generation version of Google’s in-house Tensor chipset.


White colored Google Pixel 7 being held in left hand


While the Tensor G2 isn’t the same heavy-hitting powerhouse as Apple or Qualcomm’s most recent chipsets, its novel three-tier CPU core configuration does deliver a smooth experience. Apps are snappy and responsive, with minimal noticeable lag as long as you’re not expecting top-of-the-line performance. In this way, the Pixel 7 improves on one of the Pixel 5’s biggest faults.


As far as connectivity goes, the Pixel 7 offers marginal improvements over the Pixel 5. It adds the minor upgrades of Bluetooth 5.2, the increased bandwidth of a USB 3.2 Type-C connector, and Wi-Fi 6e support compared to the Wi-Fi 5 of the Pixel 5. These aren’t massive enhancements. Still, they ensure a bit more future-proofing, making the Pixel 7 a good alternative to the absolute best 5G phones, many of which are pretty costly.

Camera

Leaps and bounds ahead

We’re not shy about how much we’ve loved the Pixel lineup’s image quality for the last few years. The Pixel 5 took good pictures for its time, but the Pixel 7 makes massive improvements. First, the newer model offers significantly better hardware, like a higher-resolution sensor and dual-LED flash. Add in the ever-improving state of signal processing and imaging software, and it’s no surprise that the Pixel 7’s pictures look even better than those of its predecessor.


Pixel 7 Pro back, held in hand, with a Google Nest Hub behind it


Speaking of software, improved brightness algorithms and manual controls make low-light images look much better. There are even more user-friendly touches, including a specialized Night Mode and a countdown timer that lets you know how long a low-light image will take to capture fully. And if you’ve ever imagined Minority Report’s “enhance” function coming to the real world, Google’s exclusive unblur tool can bring mildly out-of-focus images back into true.


It wasn’t uncommon to hear about the Pixel 5 taking the best pictures of any smartphone, and you’ll find similar sentiments regarding the Pixel 7. Thanks to the improved Tensor G2 chipset inside, the Pixel 7 also takes those snaps more quickly. And now that Google’s gone all-in with its ever-expanding AI feature set, the Pixel 7 offers yet another advanced, user-friendly reason to ditch the Pixel 5.

Battery life

Just OK all around

The Pixel 5’s battery lasted long enough for an entire day of use. The Pixel 7 sports an almost 10% larger battery and takes advantage of the Tensor chipset’s unique architecture that delivers more efficient operation across the board. While its 4,355mAh battery isn’t huge, the actual battery life is passable, and it should last all day with moderate use, no top-ups needed. In addition, several Pixel 7 tips and tricks can improve performance and battery life.


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


The Pixel 7 also boasts improved charging capabilities compared to the Pixel 5. It promises 50% charging from empty in 30 minutes using 30W fast charging. Wireless charging fans will appreciate the jump from the Pixel 5’s moderate 12W wireless charge speed to the new 20W charging rate. Neither of these comes anywhere close to what today’s top phones for battery life can do, but if you don’t use resource-intensive apps all day or forget to plug in until it’s too late, the Pixel 7 lasts long enough for most people.

Should you upgrade from the Google Pixel 5 to the Pixel 7?

If you own a Pixel 5 and like it, the answer is a clear and definite “yes.” The Pixel 7 improves upon what the Pixel 5 did well, throws out what it did poorly, and serves up the final product on a glass-backed platter for $100 less at launch. It’s a no-brainer. The Pixel 7 is a huge upgrade, especially if you like to skip a year before upgrading to the latest-generation Google flagship smartphone

Google Pixel 7 on white background

Google Pixel 7

Much better

Newer, faster, more novel, and longer-lasting

$533 $599 Save $66

The Pixel 7 helped Google turn a new corner in terms of processing power and novel software implementation and stands to make an excellent smartphone with a borderline flagship experience throughout its security patch lifespan, which ends in October 2027.

If you want to upgrade to something newer but aren’t sold on the Pixel 7, consider one of today’s many great midrange smartphones, especially the Pixel 7a, which has similar specs and software to the 7. It has a $100 lower MSRP and makes a particularly great choice if you can find it on sale.

google pixel 7a, front and back views

Google Pixel 7a

Quite capable

Not quite a flagship, but still feels fantastic

$374 $499 Save $125

The Pixel 7a has many of the same features as its more expensive sibling and an even longer Android and security update lifespan. If you want to save a couple of bucks, it’s an even better choice than the Pixel 7.

We don’t recommend it, but if you really want to buy a Pixel 5, make sure you spend as little as possible. Even if you’re still rocking your old 5 and it runs fine, consider an upgrade for the sake of security support alone.

google-pixel-5-front-and-back

Google Pixel 5

Needs upgrading

Pretty outdated, and it shows

We didn’t hate the Pixel 5 at release, but there are tons of better options these days. Nonetheless, if you insisting on still buying one, make sure you look for a major discount.

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