This is a quick review companion to the joint Google Pixel 4a 5G and Google Pixel 5 5G review.
The Google Pixel 5 5G review here scored a combined 4.1/5 – a respectable, not a stellar mark. While that means it PASSed all 70 tests (bar USB-C 3.1 gen 1) it did not EXCEED any of the parameters to earn a higher score.
I admit to surprise when we tallied up the scores. The score is accurate. But there are some mitigating circumstances for the Pixel 5 5G that you should keep in mind.
The Google Pixel 5 5G is its vision of the perfect Pure Android phone – a reference device
That means the hardware meets or exceeds the needs of Pure Google Android. And that is both the unique selling proposition and the problem.
After writing about and reviewing so many phones (over 120 articles and reviews this year), you get a real feel for Pure Android, OPPO ColorOS, realme UI, vivo FuntouchOS, Motorola My UX, Samsung One UI, LG UX Thin Q, …
For example, most UIs these days are quite light touches over Pure Android. They limit tweaks to improvements in things like screen, camera, sound, games modes, gestures, apps etc. These generally exploit the hidden features of the hardware.
Let’s call these improvements that Google dare not build into Android. Why? Because they won’t work with every Android 10 or 11 device.
Are the improvements a) necessary or b) worth the effort by smartphone makers?
Yes, they are necessary as they give an otherwise vanilla Android phone added capabilities and different personalities. Given my experience, modern UIs are amazing at what they can tweak out of the hardware.
The current crop of Qualcomm SD765G 5G phones is evidence. Google Pixel 5 is good at everything. But it is severely outclassed in Android tweaks by OPPO/realme/vivo, LG and Motorola.
The trade-off is that Google Pixel has three years of OS Updates and Security patches. There are shorter upgrade limits for other makers phones.
The Google Pixel 5 5G is all about work
Google’s design style is plain, utilitarian, and functional – absolutely no bling. Now I kind of like it but there is a lot not to like about another black, glass slab. OK, Sorta Green is nicer but in no way spectacular.
OPPO/vivo/realme are masters in design style and colours. I mean the Orange and Green Vegan Leather (oxymoron I know) are spectacular. The Google Pixel 3XL in orange was different. The vacuum paint deposition under glass or polycarbonate creates distinctive phones.
And eye-appeal is 50% of the purchase process. I reviewed the vivo X50 Pro 5G (SD 765G), and its elegant, classic Alpha Grey frosted glass back blew me away with its style. I have the OPPO Reno4 on the testbed, and its Galactic Blue glass back is eye-catching. Samsung’s Mystic Bronze is not my style, but it is the best seller. LG’s Velvet 5G Aurora White glass back with a highly polished alloy frame and curved edge P-OLED screen look terrific.
They say that beauty is skin deep, but what skin! It is easy to see why these phones rate far higher on ‘design’ than Google Pixel 5 5G. But remember you are buying a smartphone first and looks second, so Google is a strong contender.
The Google Pixel 5 5G is all about doing more with less in the camera department
Google is about computational photography. For Joe and Jane Average, who ‘point and shoot’ that is terrific. The fact remains that others have far better rear and selfie cameras with way more flexibility than the Pixel 5.
In reviewing our test shots, it is a good all-around camera. When compared to the vivo X50 Pro or LG Velvet you realise there are cameras capable of better results.
So, it depends on how you value a phone. Is it a phone first and a camera second? If so the Google Pixel 5 is great. If its vice versa then look elsewhere.
Update: DXOMark has given the Pixel 5 120 points. That is excellent. Read more at our mates AusDroid here.
The Google Pixel 5 5G has passable sound quality
Google uses an under-glass actuator as the top earpiece speaker. It is perfect when you have your ear glued to the phone. But as a hands-free and stereo music device, it is barely passable.
Now I applaud innovation. Although LG had a “Crystal Sound OLED” in the G8. It went to great lengths (and failed) to artificially process sound with a Quad DAC to match the bottom speaker. That is why we never saw the G8 here. We got the G8s with an earpiece speaker san the Quad DAC.
Google needs to put a decent EQ and some tuning devices into Pure Android. Then it may have addressed the issue of the obvious speaker imbalance.
But you are like most and listen to music via BT or USB-C cabled earphones then this is not an issue. But if you like to listen to podcasts and music via the speakers then OPPO et al., have nailed it with decent Dolby Atmos processing/decoding and closely matched speakers. These are UI tweaks.
The Google Pixel 5 5G has a good screen – not a great one
It is nice to see 90Hz – something that others have been doing for a while – and 120Hz as well. But the lack of screen colour/gamut/temperature adjustment in Pure Android means others are well ahead on-screen brightness, gamut and overall viewing pleasure.
Here is where the UI tweaks let you do so much more.
The Google Pixel 5 5G has an all-day battery
To be fair, it has a 4000mAh battery, 18W charger and AI to learn your habits. You can extend life for 2-3 days by enabling different levels of battery savers.
But other brands match or beat that. And then you have phones with 33 or 65W fast charge that can charge 0-100% in about 30 minutes.
GadgetGuy’s take – Google Pixel 5 5G is a fine smartphone
If you are after a 5G phone (and we must question why at present), then you can’t go wrong with it. Even though it scores 4.1/5 and others are higher, its worthy of your consideration.
Google usually updates models every six months. There will be no 5XL (larger screen) this time. We should see a 5a and perhaps with user feedback we may see some of the things that could make a good phone great.