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Google Pixel 5 Review – Solid But Not Groundbreaking

I have always been a fan of Google’s Pixel devices, they are always the first Android phone to get updates and they also run Android as Google intended. How does Google’s last flagship perform? Read on to find out..

Design & Performance

When it comes to the design of the Google Pixel 5, there isn’t that much to say. In the usual Pixel fashion, Google have kept the design simple. The Pixel 5 comes in either Just Black or Sorta Sage. The back of the Google Pixel 5 is made from aluminium, however, it also has a layer of material bio-resin. This feels different to the touch to previous pixels and reminded me of a Pumice Stone.

Google has not offered an XL variant of the Pixel 5 which means you have to settle for a 6-inch display. The Pixel 5’s display is Full HD and has a 90hz refresh rate. This may not be up there with Samsung’s latest and greatest, however, it is perfectly adequate with great colours and solid viewing angles. Google has opted to remove the notch that was previously on the Pixel 4 series, the Pixel 5 has a hole-punch camera and minimal bezel. The Pixel 5 does not feature any method of face unlock, relying on a fingerprint sensor on the back which is fast, however, it cannot be accessed if you are using the device flat on a table. The Pixel 5 is only available with 128GB storage and this is not expandable.

Performance on the Pixel 5 is snappy and smooth which is the trademark of Pixel devices, however, not everything is great in this area. Google opted for a Snapdragon 765 in the Pixel 5, this is a mid-range variant from Qualcomm. The chip does allow smooth performance for browsing and social media apps, however, you won’t be able to push 60FPS in something such as Fortnite. Don’t get me wrong, this is a solid processor and is perfectly sufficient for most people. However, I would have liked to have seen the 865 to add another benefit over the already solid Pixel 4a. The Snapdragon 765 is a 5G processor which means you are future-proofed in that regard.

The speakers on the Pixel 5 leave somewhat to be desired, the top speaker is quieter than the bottom one which results in an uneven experience. The speakers will be adequate for watching a movie or an internet video but I wouldn’t want to use them for a lengthy music session.

Battery life has been good on the Pixel 5 in my short testing, other users on Twitter are reporting near 8 hours screen on time which is great for an Android device. I found myself to be getting closer to 5-6 hours, however, it may be that Google’s battery optimisation takes a few days to work out your usage habits. This is one area where the Pixel 5 can excel due to its midrange processor.

Cameras

Pixel phones are up there with the very best when it comes to mobile photography. This is somewhat down to Google’s magical software and image enhancements rather than the hardware its self. Google has still opted for the same 12.2-megapixel sensor that has served them so well since the Pixel 2. The Pixel 5 also features an ultra-wide camera with an  f/2.2, 107˚ field of view. I do feel that an ultrawide camera is more beneficial than a telephoto if push comes to shove, however, this is now 2020 and some alternative flagships have both. I really wish Google would introduce a new sensor, the Pixel 5 captures some superb shots already so imagine how good it could be with newer hardware. The Pixel is still fantastic at selfies and portraits, the front camera can now capture night sight portraits too.

Google have also made some improvements to video capture on the Pixel 5, along with a variety of stabilisation modes. These are Locked, Active and Cinematic Pan. Video results are good from the Pixel 5, however, the iPhone is still far ahead in this category.

Pixel 5 “Active” Stabilization
Pixel 5 “Cinematic” stabilization

Software

The Google Pixel 5 is the first phone to launch with Android 11 (Closely followed by the OnePlus 8T). As always the pixel comes with Android at its purest, without any bloatware. Android 11 comes with various improvements and new features, including conversation notifications taking priority (Whatsapp, SMS, Messenger etc). The media player will move to your quick settings panel which is a nice touch and there is a new power screen when holding the power button which allows you to choose your payment card on the fly and access your smart devices. Android 11 also follows a similar route to iOS 14, focusing on privacy features, Android 11 now lets you choose if you wish to give permissions permanently or just for that session upon opening a newly installed application.

One annoyance I have found with Android 11 is with third-party launchers. This may not bother normal users but it will definitely affect die-hard Android users that wish to customise their devices. I have had issues when swiping home via gestures, there is a slight delay and after several attempts, it will revert to the stock launcher. This is happening on both the Pixel 5 and my OnePlus 8T. I did reach out to the developers of Nova Launcher, they advised that they are unable to do anything regarding this issue and it is up to Google and the OEM’s.

Google has promised 3 years of software updates on the Pixel 5 which is great, however, I am not sure how well the hardware will hold up in 3 years time due to its mid-tier processor.

Final Thoughts

The Pixel 5 is a solid but uninspiring flagship from Google. Google has already released some superb budget phones with the 3a, 4a and 4a 5G. With the midrange processor featured in the Pixel 5, it is hard to see many benefits over the cheaper Pixel 4a 5G. The Pixel 5 still captures fantastic photos, even with its ageing camera sensor thanks to Google’s fantastic software, video capture has also been improved. Battery life is also a strong point on the Pixel 5, outlasting many of its competitors. Google now faces a lot of competition in this midrange market, the Samsung S20 Fan Edition and the OnePlus 8T are higher spec and are available for a similar price. I for one wish Google had released a Pixel 5 XL or Pro, a higher specification version for those who wish to pay for it.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pros

  • Stock Google Software offering a polished experience with no bloatware.
  • Cameras are capable of fantastic photos due to Google’s excellent software.
  • Fastest Android updates.
  • Great battery life.

Cons

  • Midrange processor may feel old within 12 months.
  • 128GB storage that isn’t expandable.
  • 6 inch display (Small for some).
  • No face unlock.
  • Weak speakers.
MobileMadeSimple
Hi all, I'm Alan and I am the main writer at MobileMadeSimple.co.uk. I have a huge passion for technology and I am experienced at using both iOS and Android. I have previously worked for a major UK mobile network in a technical support role and I also represented Samsung at major product events such as IFA and MWC. I have decided to restart my blog during the COVID-19 lockdown and it is also a great opportunity to share my passion for technology with all of you.

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