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Wow! Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G get 50% GPU boost after April update

Pixel 5
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

One of the biggest criticisms of the Pixel 5 was its relatively weak performance. This was expected on some level due to the move to the mid-tier Snapdragon 765G processor that it shares with the Pixel 4a 5G, but the Google phones underperformed many other devices with that same processor.

That makes the news that the April update is having a considerable positive impact on the GPU performance of the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G a potential gamechanger for Pixel fans and prospective Pixel owners (via Engadget).

How significant of an impact are we talking about? Editors from Der Standard and Anandtech tweeted that their Pixel 5 units were seeing 30% to 50% improvements in benchmark tests when compared to previous results. While the April changelog includes "performance optimizations for certain graphics-intensive apps and games" that isn't an unusual claim with any update and doesn't typically show this kind of dramatic improvement.

I ran our standard battery of performance tests on my Pixel 4a 5G before and after installing the April update as well to see if it was showing similar improvements. I was blown away by the results; with the GFXBench 5.0 Aztek Ruins OpenGL test I saw a 48% improvement on the high-tier and 62% on the normal tier. Results on the Aztek Ruins Vulkan test were similar with a 47% boost on the high-tier and 58% on the normal tier. Finally, I ran the 3DMark Slingshot Extreme Open GL ES 3.1 test and once again showed an average of a 42% improvement. 

Pixel 4a 5G GPU Benchmark Testing Before and After April Update
Average Before UpdateAverage After UpdateAverage Improvement
GFXBench 5.0 Aztek Ruins OpenGL High Tier Off-Screen36453948%
GFXBench 5.0 Aztek Ruins OpenGL Normal Tier Off-Screen919148862%
GFXBench 5.0 Aztek Ruins Vulkan High Tier Off-Screen36954146%
GFXBench 5.0 Aztek Ruins Vulkan Normal Tier Off-Screen939148558%
SlingShot Extreme Open GL ES 3.12346333042%

It's worth noting that this is specifically a GPU improvement. There was no notable change in CPU performance: a series of Geekbench 5 tests before and after showed comparable results. We'll be conducting some additional testing with real-world applications to see how this has impacted day-to-day usage, but it's an astounding improvement to the GPU performance on these phones and could move the need for those considering a Pixel 5 as it can often be found for $599 now, which is exactly the $100 off that our reviewer said would be appropriate for the hardware.

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.