In 2021, smartphones have matured to the point where most phones are good. I still hold the view that Google's A series of phones is the best value and the best phone for the majority of people. The Google Pixel 5 is more of a Pixel 4a plus. It is a great blend of enthusiast features and generalist features. It hits the mark for someone who doesn't want to pay a grand on a new phone but still wants some of the "nice to have" features of the market.
Disclaimer: I purchased all devices reviewed in this article. I did not receive any review units from Google. I am NOT sponsored or affiliated with Google in any way. I do not accept copy approval from Google or any other organization. All opinions are mine and mine alone.
- 📺 6.0" OLED 1080 x 2340 HDR 90 Hz
- 🧠 Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
- 🗃️ 8GB RAM 128GB Storage
- 📷 Two Rear Cameras, One Selfie Camera
- 📷 12.2 MP, f/1.7, 27mm (wide), 1/2.55", 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS
- 📷 16 MP, f/2.2, 107˚ (ultrawide), 1.0µm
- 📷 8 MP, f/2.0, 24mm (wide), 1/4.0", 1.12µm
- 🔋 4080 mAh
- 📐 144.7 x 70.4 x 8 mm (5.70 x 2.77 x 0.31 in)
- 🎁 IP68, 5G, Reverse Qi, 18W Fast Charge
- 💸 $700 in the US
- 🎨 Just Black, Sorta sage
- 📅 2020.10.15
Even Bordered Bright 90Hz OLED screen
The Pixel 5 is one of the few phones that has perfectly even bezels all around the device. It is hard to appreciate the beauty of that unless you see it in person. The OLED screen is brighter than the Pixel 4 but not as bright as the Samsung flagships. Seeing the screen under direct sunlight has become slightly easier. The 90Hz screen makes the user interface feel snappy despite having a mid-range CPU.
The adoption of the punch-hole screen does present some challenges to everyday use. Applications will often time be off-center when being used in landscape use. Certain apps will allow you to full-screen their app (Netflix and Youtube being two of them), but it seems to be app-dependent. Samsung phones tend to have a universal toggle to expand apps to full screen. Stock Android does not seem to have this feature. You will have to settle on the offset screen for most apps(which ended up annoying me more than I expected).
Mid Range Processor is more than enough
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G is plenty fast. For most tasks, you won't notice a difference between your old flagship CPU. The only place that you might see a noticeable slowdown is with processing HDR shots. The Pixel 4 had the Pixel core that was dedicated to processing photos. That core is no longer present in the Pixel 5. You will wait an additional second for photos to process sometimes. Not the end of the world here.
Sure, if you are using your phone to render video or anything processor-intensive you will notice a difference. But if that is what your daily life requires you to do, you are looking at the wrong phone. This phone isn't designed for you.
Camera quality is still one of the best
Google's camera quality is still one of the best in the industry. The biggest problem is that most competitors have caught up to it. Add on the fact that the Pixel 5 is missing a telephoto camera, it is no longer the best camera in a smartphone (although it might still be the best compact camera phone). At the same $600 to $700 price range, it is still the best camera quality you can get.
Solid One to Two Day Battery
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G and 4080 mAh battery combination give this phone fantastic battery life. It is very hard to kill this phone in a day. Most of the time I can get 1.5 days of battery on this phone. When it is safe to travel again, I can see this as a wonderful phone to take on vacation.
Wireless charging, reverse wireless charging, and waterproofing are all here
The Pixel 5 does come with the "nice to have" features like wireless charging and reverse wireless charging. An official IP rating for waterproofing is here as well. Most of these features are for convenience and they won't dramatically change your day-to-day.
Unique Finish and Polycarbonate + Metal Design
The Pixel 5's body is recycled aluminum with a polycarbonate coating. The polycarbonate coating feels like that of an eggshell. If you have the Pixel Buds, I believe the texture is the same. This texture does make the phone less slippery compared to a glass phone.
There have been reports that consistent rubbing of the texture will cause the polycarbonate coating to become smooth and shiny. I have not had this happen to me yet. I suspect, like any plastic texture, it will eventually be rubbed off due to constant heat and friction. Mice and keyboard have a similar problem in this regard.
The speaker quality is lacking on the Pixel 5 because they are under the display. They often sound slightly muffled and off-balanced with the speakers on the bottom of the device. It is not bad enough for me to call it a dealbreaker. If your phone is your only way of enjoying music and you often use it to blast music, this probably isn't the phone for you.
By now you should know if you want the latest and the cleanest Android experience, the Pixel is the way to go. Pixels do have some exclusive features that often get pass down to the later generations of Pixel phones pretty quickly. The new additions this time are Extreme battery saver, Portrait Light, Portrait Night Sight, Hold for Me, and Advanced Video Stabilization. I am not going to go in-depth about these features. 9to5Google has a great article explaining what each of them does that I would recommend if you are interested.
The Pixel 5 is a great phone that most people would enjoy. We are getting into the price territory where the return on investment is low. I would advise anyone considering the Pixel 5 to think about whether or not the additional money is worth it coming from a Pixel 4a or Pixel 4a 5G. At the end of the day, the Pixel 5 is a great phone.