Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 3: Should you upgrade?

Google Pixel 5
Google Pixel 5 (Image credit: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

Google Pixel 5

Google Pixel 5

The Pixel 5 is the latest and most powerful offering in the Pixel lineup, and if you're coming to it from the Pixel 3, you're in for a much better phone. Key upgrades include the faster refresh rate for the display, a larger battery, and an ultra-wide camera on the back — not to mention better update support. With a retail price of $700, it's also a darn good value.

Google Pixel 5

Tons of improvements

90Hz display with thinner bezels
5G connectivity
Ultra-wide camera
Much larger battery
Longer update support
Doesn't have a "flagship" processor

Google Pixel 3

Google Pixel 3

First released back in 2018, the Pixel 3 is definitely showing its age these days. It still takes great photos and its OLED display looks nice, but it's hindered by poor battery life and a small amount of RAM at just 4GB. You're still promised another year of software updates if you want to keep it a little bit longer, but the Pixel 5 has so much to offer.

Google Pixel 3

Showing its age

Takes excellent pictures
Dual front-facing cameras
OLED display still looks great
Running Android 11
Poor battery life
Limiting 4GB of RAM

The Pixel 3 isn't an unusable phone at this point in its life, but if you can afford to get the Pixel 5, it's a worthy purchase with a lot of welcome changes. It has a better screen, 5G connectivity, a larger battery, and improved cameras. It's a better phone than the Pixel 3 in just about every regard, and it won't break the bank should you decide to upgrade.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 3 Price and availability

The Google Pixel 5 is currently available for purchase and has a retail price of $700. That's particularly impressive when you remember that the Pixel 3 launched with a starting price of $800 back in 2018.

Google doesn't officially sell the Pixel 3 these days, but you can still buy it pretty easily from most major retailers. Some continue to sell it for that same $800, though it's easy to pick it up on Amazon for about $370. However, if you're reading this article, there's a good chance you already own it.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 3 Everything new you get with the Pixel 5

Given that there are two years separating the Pixel 3 and Pixel 5, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the Pixel 5 has quite a few advantages over its older sibling. There's a lot to talk about, so let's dive right in.

It all starts with the display, and the Pixel 5 has a couple of big improvements here. Not only are the bezels considerably smaller compared to the Pixel 3, but you also get a much nicer 90Hz refresh rate. High refresh rates weren't exactly the norm when the Pixel 3 came out, but in 2020, it's a great feature to have.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Google Pixel 5Google Pixel 3
Operating SystemAndroid 11Android 11
Display6-inch OLED2340 x 108090Hz refresh rate5.5-inch OLED2160 x 108060Hz refresh rate
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 765GQualcomm Snapdragon 845
Storage128GB64 or 128GB
Rear Camera 112.2 MP primaryf/1.7OIS12.2MP primaryf/1.8OIS
Rear Camera 216MP ultra-widef/2.2
Front Camera 18MP primaryf/2.08MP primaryf/1.8
Front Camera 28MP ultra-widef/2.2
Battery4,080 mAh2,915 mAh
Charging18W wired15W wireless5W reverse wireless18W wiredUp to 15W wireless
Water ResistanceIP68IP68
Dimensions144.7 x 70.4 x 8 mm145.6 x 68.2 x 7.9 mm

Around back, you'll find two rear cameras on the Pixel 5 while the Pixel 3 has only one. The 12.2MP primary camera is mostly the same between both phones, though the Pixel 5's is slightly improved. As for its secondary sensor, it's a 16MP ultra-wide camera that allows for photo possibilities you simply can't get on the older Pixel 3.

Google Pixel 5

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

The upgrades continue as we start to look under the hood. The Snapdragon 765G is a more efficient chip compared to the 845, the Pixel 5 has double the RAM compared to the Pixel 3, and it offers a much larger battery. The 2,915 mAh unit inside the Pixel 3 was troublesome at the time of release, and two years on, it's not going to win any awards for endurance. Comparatively, the 4,080 mAh battery in the Pixel 5 should be more than enough to get you through a full day of heavy use (and potentially two days if you're not on your phone as much). In other words, the Pixel 5 has all the makings for one of the best Android phones of the year.

And, finally, we have the software situation for both phones. Google is one of the best in the business when it comes to Android updates, as it rightfully should be. The Pixel 3 shipped with Android 9 Pie, but it's already on Android 11 and should get updated to Android 12 when it comes out. By comparison, the Pixel 5 comes with Android 11 out of the box and should keep getting updates through Android 14. The benefit of upgrading to a new Pixel is more years of guaranteed updates, and that's a big factor to consider if timely updates are important to you.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 3 What the Pixel 3 still does well

Google Pixel 3

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

It shouldn't come as any surprise that the Pixel 5 is the better of the two phones, but if you're still rocking the Pixel 3 and aren't sure if you need to upgrade, it's worth noting that the phone is still a decent performer. It's OLED display still looks really good, it continues to take really great pictures, and you have one more major update to look forward to next year.

The Pixel 3 also has one feature the Pixel 5 does not, and that's dual front-facing cameras. The ultra-wide selfie camera on the Pixel 3 is something Google hasn't offered since the phone came out, and it's a great feature to have if you take a lot of group photos with friends/family.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 3 A worthy upgrade

Here's what all of this ultimately comes down to. If you have the Pixel 3 and are impressed with everything that's offered by the Pixel 5, go ahead and upgrade. The phone has a bunch of new stuff to check out compared to the Pixel 3, and thanks to things like more RAM and a larger battery, day-to-day performance should be a lot more enjoyable.

If your Pixel 3 is still working fine for your needs and you don't feel compelled to get the Pixel 5 right now, that's fine, too. You still have that Android 12 update to look forward to in 2021, but after that, you'll really want to consider getting something new.

Joe Maring

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.