It’s been a couple of months now since Google announced the Pixel 5 – Unfortunately we didn’t quite get to a timely review of the device due to other important industry coverage. Today I wanted to revisit the phone in a briefer format review, revisiting some important aspects of the phone such as performance, battery life, and add a few comments about the camera capabilities.

The Pixel 5 is a change of tactic for Google, with the company opting to go the route of a lower-cost “premium” or high mid-range component configuration, rather than setting up the Pixel 5 as an all-out flagship phone. Given the company’s product release cadence over the years, always releasing new phones towards the end of the year, just around the corner of the spring next-gen releases. This schedule had always been a disadvantage for Pixel flagships, so maybe Google’s change of strategy here to go for the mid-range is a more sensible approach.

2020 Google Pixels
  Pixel 4a Pixel 4a (5G) Pixel 5
SoC Snapdragon 730G

2x CA76 @ 2.2GHz
6x CA55 @ 1.8GHz


Adreno 618
Snapdragon 765G

1x CA76 @ 2.4GHz
1x CA76 @ 2.2GHz
6x CA55 @ 1.8GHz

Adreno 620
DRAM 6GB LPDDR4X 8GB LPDDR4X
Storage 128GB UFS 2.1 128GB 128GB
Display 5.81" OLED
2340 x 1080 (19.5:9)

 
6.2" OLED
2340 x 1080 (19.5:9)

 
6.0" OLED
2340 x 1080 (19.5:9)

90Hz
Size Height 144.0 mm 153.9 mm 144.7 mm
Width 69.4 mm 74.0 mm 70.4 mm
Depth 8.2 mm 8.2 mm 8.0 mm
Weight 143 grams 168g (sub-6)
171g (mmWave)
151g
Battery Capacity 3140mAh (typical)

18W Fast Charging
3885mAh (typical)

18W Fast Charging
4080mAh (typical)

18W Fast Charging
Wireless Charging - - Yes
Rear Cameras
Main 12.2MP 1.4µm Dual Pixel PDAF
f/1.7 77° lens with OIS
Telephoto - - -
Wide - 16MP 1.0µm

f/2.2 107°
Ultra-Wide Angle
Extra - - -
Front Camera 8MP 1.12µm
f/2.0 84° lens; fixed focus
I/O USB-C
3.5mm headphone jack
USB-C
Wireless (local) 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 5.0 LE + NFC
Cellular Snapdragon LTE
Integrated X15

(LTE Category 12/5)
DL = 600Mbps
UL = 150Mbps
Snapdragon 5G
Integrated X52

(LTE Category 18/13)
DL = 1200 Mbps
UL = 150 Mbps

(5G NR Sub-6 + mmWave*)
DL = 3700 Mbps
UL = 1600 Mbps

*excludes non-mmWave model of 4a(5G)
*excludes mmWave in non-US markets
Other Features Dual Speakers Dual Speakers Dual Speakers
IP68 Rating 
Dual-SIM 1x nanoSIM + eSIM
Launch Price $349 / 349£ / 349€
 
$499 / £499 / €499
$599* (mmWave)
$699* / £599 / €629
 

Starting off with the SoC, as we’ve discussed it over the last few months, the big difference for the new Pixel 5 is that it comes with a “premium” range Snapdragon 765 chipset from Qualcomm, rather than using the contemporary Snapdragon 865 flagship SoC. This is undoubtedly a cost-cutting measure for Google to be able to achieve this new price point of $699 / €629.

The SoC should still be plenty performance for every-day usages thanks to the two Cortex-A76 big cores, with one of them clocking up to 2.4GHz and the other one at 2.2GHz, however it’s still going to be a notable downgrade compared to the flagship SoCs which employ both newer CPU cores as well as clocking them higher. The SoC’s Adreno 620 GPU is also going to be a key factor in the general performance of the Pixel 5, making some big gaming performance compromises that we’ll cover in more detail in the GPU section.

Google dons the Pixel 5 with 8GB of LPDDR4X memory and a singular storage option of 128GB, without any expandable storage.

The Pixel 5’s front design adopts the similar uniform bezel design introduced with the lower-cost Pixel 4a, and is a departure from the chin and forehead style of the previous generations, also avoiding the usage of odd camera notches. Instead, we have an in-screen camera cut-out in the top left corner, which works quite well. It’s definitely a much more modern design that we’ve seen in previous generation Pixel phones.

The actual display is a 2340 x 1080 OLED screen with a 90Hz refresh rate. This year, I’ve not seen any issues with the display panel as it’s quite high quality even though the specifications aren’t exactly up to par with 1440p 120Hz competitors.

At 6.0” diagonal and only 70.4mm phone width however, the 1080p resolution isn’t an issue as the pixel density is very viable.

The camera setup on the Pixel 5 is quite simple, but Google made some important changes in the secondary module compared to last generation, replacing the dedicated telephoto module with an ultra-wide camera. It’s always possible to pinch-to-zoom to get closer to your subject (although with quality drop), however it’s not possible to pinch out to get a wider field of view if you don’t have the camera hardware for it. This was a large criticism of the previous generation Pixel phones as they had been the only relevant devices in the market not actually using a UWA module. The camera here is a 16MP 1.0µm unit with an f/2.2 aperture and a 107° FoV – not the widest out there, but still plenty competitive and very usable.

The main camera module continues to be a 12.2MP 1.4µm sensor module with f/1.7 optics and OIS – it’s the same module we’ve seen in the Pixel 4 and an overall camera formula we haven’t seen changed in many generations of Pixel phones. Google this year advertised improvements in the HDR algorithms – although you can’t say that the overall camera experience is as ground-breaking as it was a few years ago.

The one regard where the Pixel 5 really differentiates itself from almost any other contemporary phone in the market is its build materials and build-quality. Unlike the usual glass sandwiches of recent years, the Pixel 5 uses an aluminium unibody. It’s not naked aluminium as it has a special plastic coating on it, which gives it a grippy feel, but also isn’t exactly the same as a full plastic phone.

The special thing about the aluminium body is that Google still managed to employ wireless charging though a cut-out in the frame, which of course is invisible to the user due to the plastic coating on top of it.

Generally, I found the design of the Pixel 5 to be pretty good and it had excellent ergonomics. It’s very rare to have good small phones nowadays, and at only 70.4mm width and 151g weight, the Pixel 5 does quite well to address this part of the market. Google opted not to release a Pixel 5 XL this year, so you don’t really have a choice if you prefer a larger variant of the phone – you’d have to go with the Pixel 4a XL, or another competitor device.

System Performance
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  • DocDAT2 - Friday, January 29, 2021 - link

    Agreed. I wouldn't use a Samsung, even if I were given a top model. Reply
  • Questor - Thursday, January 28, 2021 - link

    Just say NEVER to Apple. Degoogle my phone. That's my primary concern. Other than that, does it work? Yes? Good. Reply
  • Fritzo - Friday, January 29, 2021 - link

    Feel Google screwed it up not releasing an XL version, and there wasn't much benefit getting the Pixel 5 over the 3XL I currently have (in fact- there are downsides: the sound on the Pixel 5 is a lot worse). 4G is plenty fast for my area, so don't really care about 5G compatibility.

    With the deals being offered, I ended up upgrading to the Samsung S21 Ultra. Got it for less than the Pixel 5 after offers from Verizon, and it's a giant upgrade from what I have. I really wanted to give Google my money (I'm a Nexus, Pixel, Pixel 2, Pixel 3XL, and Pixel 4a owner), but they just plain weren't selling anything I wanted to buy this time around.
    Reply
  • morello159 - Friday, January 29, 2021 - link

    My Pixel 4a creaks when you squeeze it near the power button, and the haptic buzz rattles the case. Kind of a bummer - otherwise, not a bad phone for the price. Definitely slower on a daily basis than my old OnePlus 6T, but it also works most of the time, unlike that phone. Reply
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  • Findecanor - Wednesday, February 3, 2021 - link

    It's not actually a small phone though. This was considered medium only a few years ago.

    Manufacturers are only increasing the size of their mainstream to fit a larger battery for 5G.
    Reply
  • mrbofus - Thursday, February 4, 2021 - link

    "hey have the same SoC, the same camera system, the 4a 5G actually gains a 3.5mm headphone jack, and only trades in the 90Hz screen and IP68 water resistance in return, for only $499."

    Don't forget that the Pixel 5 also has more RAM and wireless charging. For me, the better screen, more RAM, bigger battery, water resistance, and wireless charging are worth the extra $100-$200.
    Reply
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  • RobJoy - Thursday, February 11, 2021 - link

    Why do they even bother selling this piece of crap if it is priced as top mid range on Snapdragon 888?
    Seriously?
    THIS phone is worth $250-$300 MAX.
    Reply

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