Pixel 5 review: Taking on the mid-range with an excellent camera

The Pixel 5 is a great phone, as long as you don’t mind some compromises

Google Pixel 5 review

Bottom line

The Pixel 5 is a great phone, as long as you don’t mind some compromises. It offers one of the best camera experiences on a smartphone, so much so that it’s capable of producing DSLR-like photos without much effort. But its $699 price tag is simply too high when you consider that there are many competing phones out there that offer more impressive specs.

Overall
4.3

Pros

  • Excellent rear camera
  • Metal body doesn’t leave behind fingerprints
  • Great display
  • Solid performance
  • Clean Android experience with frequent updates

Cons

  • No telephoto zoom
  • Priced too high to be competitive
  • No XL option
  • No face unlock
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The Pixel 5 represents a shift in strategy for Google. Priced at $699, instead of targeting high-end flagships, the Pixel 5 is poised to compete with “affordable flagship” phones like the OnePlus 8T. Unfortunately, that lower price-point means that Google has cut back on specs, some of which are more forgiving than others.

The display on the Pixel 5 is a 6-inch FHD+ (1080 x 2340) flexible OLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate. It’s a very good display, that offers a nice improvement over its predecessor, but its 6-inches of screen real estate simply isn’t large enough for our taste. However, if you like compact phones, the Pixel 5 will probably hit the sweet spot for you – because it’s not too big and it’s not too small. Ultimately, we’re very disappointed by the lack of an XL option for the Pixel 5.

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The design IQ and form-factor of the Pixel 5 is not a drastic overhaul from the Pixel 4 series, but its build does feel more premium thanks to its 100% recycled aluminum enclosure, which is also IP68 water and dust resistant. In particular, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by its “Sorta Sage” color option. It makes the Pixel 5 have a fun retro look going for it, and because the body is made of aluminum and not glass, it’s not fingerprint prone the way most other phones are these days. It’s also very easy to grip and hold the phone.

The Pixel series has always been known for its leading class camera. That said, many Pixel users were not happy with video on the Pixel 4. Fortunately, video is one area which has been greatly improved on the Pixel 5. Videos are much smoother with improved stabilization and exposure. Lowlight video has been significantly improved too.

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Unfortunately, when it comes to cameras, the Pixel 5 feels like a case of one step forward and two steps backward. For starters, its selfie camera isn’t quite as good as the selfie camera on the Pixel 4 series. Also, on the rear camera, Google swapped out the telephoto lens with a wide-angle lens. If we had to choose, we’d definitely opt for the wide-angle lens, but why couldn’t we get both? That said, the digital zoom on the Pixel’s rear camera is quite good. Overall, the rear camera takes excellent photos, many of which look so good, you could easily assume that they were taken with a DSLR. In particular, the Pixel 5 camera shines with portraits, object photos, everyday shots and it also takes above average low light photos.

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Portrait photography on the Pixel 5
Portrait photography on the Pixel 5. Pictured – blacksmith: @kevzb7
Night Sight photography on the Pixel 5
Night Sight photography on the Pixel 5
The pixel 5 handles object photography really well
The pixel 5 handles object photography really well

Speaking of portraits, the Pixel 5 comes with a neat new Portrait light feature. After you’ve taken a portrait photo, you can drag a light on the face and adjust it as needed. It’s a wonderfully useful feature that helps take portrait photos to the next level without much effort. Night Sight mode can now be used for portraits, meaning you can take quite a good portrait photo at night, complete with a bokeh effect.

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The Pixel runs on a Qualcomm Snagdragon 765G chipset. It’s clear that this was a strategic way to keep the price down on the device, and we have no complaints in this respect, and that is because the 765G platform is very capable. Coupled with 8GB of RAM, the Pixel 5 runs smoothly and can handle pretty much whatever you throw at it. It’s just not nearly as fast as the likes of the OnePlus 8T and many other flagship phones.

Battery life was a pain point with the Pixel 4, fortunately, the Pixel 5 offers a vast improvement with its 4,000 mAH battery which offers a solid full day of battery life. Could battery life still be better? Yes, but it’s no longer a pain point. The phone also supports 18W fast charging and wireless charging. An 18W wired fast charger is included in the box.

Bottom line

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There is a lot that to love about the Pixel 5. Its rear-facing camera is one of the best out there. It also offers the absolute cleanest, and most natural Android experience, with updates rolling out regularly and new features being added all of the time. To that effect, if you’re an iPhone user looking to switch to Android, the Pixel is your best bet thanks to its clean, almost iOS-like user experience.

We love the recently released Pixel 4A, because it offers a ton of value for a low price, including a great camera. But the $699 price tag on the Pixel 5 is a tough pill to swallow when there are several other competing phones out there priced similarly that offer more impressive specs. We’re talking about the likes of the OnePlus 8T and the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE. We’re also disappointed by the lack of a larger screen option, face unlock, a telephoto lens, and the fact that the Pixel 5’s selfie camera isn’t as good as the camera on the Pixel 4 series. Ultimately, if Google would drop the price on the Pixel 5 to around $599, we’d say you should run to buy one at that price, but at $699, the competition is steep.


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The Pixel 5 was gifted to us by Google. All thoughts and opinions are 100% our own