Skip to main content

Google Pixel 6 vs Pixel 5: Biggest upgrades to expect

Google Pixel 6
(Image credit: Future)

The Google Pixel 6 will be almost unrecognizable as a sequel to the Google Pixel 5, except for the "G" badge on the back. Some of these differences are aesthetic, but many more will be notable hardware upgrades that Google itself and several other independent sources have mentioned.

Previous rumors combined with Google's official word on the new Tensor chip and some of the camera tech paint a really exciting Pixel 6 picture. There's still some we don't know about the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, but what we do know (or have heard) means that the 2021 Pixel will be a notable upgrade over the Pixel 5.

Read on to find out the most important changes known or rumored for the Pixel 6, and how they compare to the Pixel 5.

Google Pixel 6 vs Pixel 5: All-new design

After refreshing the design from the Pixel 4 to the Pixel 5, Google's making even bigger changes for the Pixel 6. The most notable change would be the addition of a large horizontal bar towards the top of the phone's back.

This area will house the new camera array, a departure from the simple square camera bump from the Pixel 5. The official renders also show a tri-color design with different options for both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.

Google Pixel 6 Pro colors

(Image credit: Google )

This body is getting larger too. The Pixel 5 was a 6-inch handset, which is on the small side for modern Android flagships. The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are said to measure 6.4 and 6.7 inches respectively, which are more conventional sizes for 2021 flagships.

Google Pixel 6 vs Pixel 5: Display and refresh rate

The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro's displays are reportedly getting larger, with the Pixel 6 sporting a 6.4-inch panel and the Pixel 6 Pro featuring a 6.7-inch screen. The Pixel 5 has a 6-inch display.

More interestingly, Google is also boosting the refresh rate from 90Hz on the Pixel 5 to 120Hz on the Pixel 6 Pro — the smaller Pixel 6 will remain at 90Hz. Hopefully, this is an adaptive or variable refresh rate, which will let users access 90Hz or 120Hz smoothness when needed, but otherwise keep the refresh rate low to preserve battery.

Google Pixel 5

The Google Pixel 5. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Pixel 6 Pro is getting a QHD+ resolution, instead of FHD+ like the basic Pixel 6 or Pixel 5. Add this to the presumed return of AMOLED display technology, and the Pixel 6 series should offer some class-topping visuals.

Google Pixel 6 vs Pixel 5: More cameras

Google used to be the phone maker that assured everyone only needed one rear camera to be competitive with hardware-packed rivals. But the Pixel 5 was the second generation of Pixel to use two rear cameras: a 12MP main sensor and a 16MP ultrawide sensor, plus an 8MP selfie camera.

Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro

(Image credit: Google )

The basic Pixel 6 will reportedly boost the main camera up to 50MP. In keeping with the Pro title, the Pixel 6 Pro will get an extra camera on top, which will likely be an 8MP telephoto sensor based on the rumors. Google has, however, confirmed that the Pixel 6 Pro will feature 4x optical zoom on its telephoto shooter. It's important to keep in mind that the megapixel counts are just rumors right now, since Google has not confirmed them yet.

Currently, there's precious little word about the selfie camera, so we can't evaluate the rumors fully. But given how good Google's photography already is, we're interested to see where the extra hardware will take the Pixel 6.

Google Pixel 6 vs Pixel 5: Specs and a new Google chip

Google broke with precedent last year when it offered the Pixel 5 with a non-flagship chip, the Snapdragon 765G. It looks like it might be about to do it again with the rumored Whitechapel chip, designed by Google itself. We now know the new chip is called Tensor, and it could be a massive game changer.

Google Pixel 6

(Image credit: Google)

This chip could, just like Apple manages with the A Series chip and iOS, allow Google to more tightly integrate Android into the Pixel 6, making for more responsive and more powerful performance. The Pixel 5 already offers one of the best Android experiences around, so we're excited to see what the Pixel 6 could do.

Tensor could unlock the true smartphone potential for AI and machine learning applications. That means faster and better computational photography, computational video recording, simultaneous live transcription and translation, and much more. In fact, the Pixel 6 could feel much faster than the Pixel 5 and not just because of more raw power. Instead, with a chip built from the ground up for AI/ML applications, the Pixel 6 could absolutely shine in just about every department. We obviously don't know for sure just yet, however.

It seems a given that the Tensor chip will be 5G-compatible too. The Pixel 5 was the first 5G flagship Pixel, with mmWave and sub6GHz support, so it will likely be the same with the Pixel 6 series.

Google Pixel 6 vs Pixel 5: Battery and new Pixel Stand

In keeping with its below-average size, the Pixel 5 used a 4,000 mAh battery. The base Pixel 6, however, is tipped to have a 4,614 mAh battery, which should help support the larger display. The Pixel 6 Pro's battery size is reportedly 5,000 mAh.

Google Pixel 5

The Google Pixel 5. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We don't know if anything will change about Google's 18W wired charging system that the Pixel 5 (and earlier Pixels) used, but the Pixel Stand wireless charger may be receiving upgrades. A rumor says that the next-gen Pixel Stand features cooling fans, which implies it would use a much faster charging speed than the current Stand's 10W.

Google Pixel 6 vs Pixel 5: Outlook

With so many features getting upgrades, or outright replaced, according to the current crop of news and rumors, the Pixel 6 looks to be a huge improvement over the Pixel 5. We're particularly intrigued to see what Google does with the Pixel 6 Pro, and if the extra hardware that's said to be packed into it will give Google a handset capable of rivaling or even beating the best Android phones from Samsung and OnePlus.

With Tensor, Google stands to offer a true competitor to the iPhone 13, which will likely make waves this year. It's not a large task to make a phone better than the mediocre Pixel 5, but it looks like Google is going all out this year with the Pixel 6. October can't come soon enough.

Richard Priday

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, gaming, audio and whatever else people need advice on. He's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.