Saturday, July 13, 2024

Google Pixel 5: Your complete buyer’s guide

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Google’s 2020 flagship remains relevant for anyone priced out by this year’s Pixel 6.

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Following 2019’s controversial Pixel 4, Google showed up to right its wrongs with the Pixel 5. The Pixel 4 introduced new ideas like a telephoto camera, face unlock system, and unique gestures, but it did so at the expense of battery life. So last year, Google tried something a bit different.

Rather than be concerned about having the highest-end processor or five cameras, Google designed the Pixel 5 to be a meat and potatoes Android phone that does everything you need it to do, has all of the core features you could ask for, and comes in at a much lower price than the latest flagships from Samsung and Apple.

This year, of course, everyone is eagerly anticipating the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, two powerful flagships with a more powerful Tensor chipset, improved screens, a larger battery, and a much higher price. Most new Pixel shoppers will look to buy Google’s new phone. But is the Pixel 5 still worth buying with the Pixel 5a, 6, and 6 Pro on the horizon?

Whether you want to learn more about its price, specs, accessories, or anything else, here’s everything you need to know about the Google Pixel 5 and how it holds up in 2021.

Snag the Pixel 5

Google Pixel 5

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$699 at Amazon

Still the best for stock Android today

Google packed a lot into the Pixel 5, including a 90Hz OLED display, dual cameras, and wireless charging. It’s also the cheapest flagship Pixel we’ve had in a long time, making it a great alternative to pricier options (like the Pixel 6). Plus, it’s getting the new Android 12 OS sooner than most other phones.

Jump to:

  • Price
  • Availability
  • Should you buy it?
  • Specs
  • Pixel comparison
  • Competition
  • Colors
  • Cameras
  • Software
  • XL model
  • Accessories
  • Pixel 6

Google Pixel 5 Price

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One of the most interesting things about the Pixel 5 is its price. In a world where top-of-the-line phones from most other companies cost upwards of $1,000, the Pixel 5 is refreshingly affordable at just $699. It’s worth noting that there’s just one storage configuration being offered, with the Pixel 5 coming with 128GB of space for your apps, games, and movies. Compared to the $899 Pixel 4, the Pixel 5 offered a much better deal.

On the other hand, the more powerful Galaxy S21 now costs only $100 more, while the superb OnePlus 9 costs just $30 more — and both frequently get discounted. Of course, its price was more competitive at launch, but Google hasn’t discounted it over time like other OEMs.

According to rumors and hints from Google, the Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are expected to cost over $1,000. Compared to that, the Pixel 5 will save you a solid chunk of money, especially if Google unveils some new Pixel 5 deals closer to launch.

Google Pixel 5 Availability

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After being unveiled on September 30, 2020, Google officially launched the Pixel 5 a month later, on October 29. It’s available in Just Black and Subtle Sage colors. You can usually pick up a new Pixel 5 directly from Google, most U.S. carriers, and major retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, and Walmart.

So far, the Pixel 5 has started going out of stock at some retailers, just like the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL both went out of stock in early August 2020. And with the Pixel 6 and 5a on the way, Google may not stock its older flagship much longer.

Google Pixel 5 Should you buy it?

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Yes, we have a Google Pixel 5 review. And to be blunt, the phone is really darn good. Of course, this isn’t the absolute best Android handset you can buy in 2021, but as noted in our written review, it is the best Pixel ever…for now.

Unlike the Pixel 4 series from 2019, the Pixel 5 nails all of the fundamentals. It’s fast and responsive, has excellent cameras and top-notch battery life, and it’s sold for a very reasonable price. Unfortunately, extra features like Motion Sense and face unlock are gone, but the core aspects remain strong.

Google’s decision to bow out of the flagship spec race last year was an interesting one, and for the most part, it paid off. That being said, should you buy it with the Pixel 6 (a proper flagship) on the horizon?

That’s tricky to say. The Pixel 5 will be a year old in October, at which point it will have the new Android 12 OS. But Google only promised to support it with 3 total years of software and security updates, taking you through Android 14 in late 2023. By comparison, the Pixel 6 will get five years of support through 2026. Even if the Pixel 6 costs more upfront than the Pixel 5, it’ll cost less per year if you plan to use it that long.

That being said, we do think the Pixel 5 still holds up as a solid mid-range phone today. If you can snag it on sale, it’ll give you a couple of years of quality specs and performance. It’s still one of the best Android phones today, after all.

Google Pixel 5 Specs

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Here are the Google Pixel 5 specs:

Display 6-inch OLED Full HD+ 90Hz refresh rate 19.5:9 aspect ratio Gorilla Glass 6
Operating System Android 11
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
Rear Camera 1 12.2MP primary camera f/1.7 aperture OIS
Rear Camera 2 16MP ultra-wide camera f/2.2 aperture
Memory 8GB of RAM
Storage 128GB
Battery 4,080 mAh
Charging 18W wired charging 15W wireless charging 5W reverse wireless charging
Security Fingerprint sensor
Colors Sorta Sage, Just Black

The Pixel 5 has an amazing price. But how in the world did Google pull it off? A quick look at the spec sheet makes it clear why the Pixel 5 is able to cost as little as it does.

The main takeaway here is that Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor. All previous Pixels (not counting Pixel a devices) have shipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800-series chip — the highest-end option offered by Qualcomm.

Compared to the Snapdragon 888 found in most 2021 flagships, the 765G focuses more on efficiency and day-to-day tasks and has performed exceptionally well in phones like the Pixel 5 and Motorola Edge. In other words, don’t get too hung up on the lower number. This chipset can still handle high-end games at a silky-smooth 90Hz and performs well in benchmark tests.

Along with the fast refresh rate, the Pixel 5 offers an OLED panel with great colors and deep blacks — though it is only 1080p. The 4,080 mAh battery is also substantially larger than the 2,800 mAh unit the Pixel 4 shipped with, and it showed in our tests. It’ll last you all day with battery life to spare, and it has an Extreme Battery Saver mode for when you need to make it last.

Overall, these specs won’t blow you away, but anyone shopping for a Pixel 5 likely doesn’t need to waste money on flagship specs. This phone will do just fine for most people.

Google Pixel 5 Compared to other Pixels

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The Pixel 5 isn’t the only phone Google released in 2020. Earlier that summer, the Pixel 4a shipped for half the price, though this translated into losing even more premium features we take for granted in other phones. It runs a slower Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 chip, has a modest 3,080mAh battery, a 5.8-inch display, and only a single rear camera. Plus, it loses waterproofing or wireless charging. Despite that, many people willingly accepted the trade-offs for the lower cost.

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In between the Pixel 4a and the Pixel 5 is the Pixel 4a 5G. It packs the more powerful Snapdragon 765 platform and the same dual-camera setup as the larger Pixel 5. But when you compare the Pixel 5 vs. the Pixel 4a 5G, you’ll see that while the 6.2-inch screen is the largest of all the Pixels this year, it doesn’t get as bright as the Pixel 5’s, nor does it share the same 90Hz panel. Its 3,885mAh battery is also slightly smaller than the Pixel 5’s, and the bezels around the display are ever-so-slightly thicker. Of course, as suggested by the name, it also has 5G, like the Pixel 5.

Then, of course, you have the upcoming Pixel 6. Like the Pixel 5, it has a FHD, 90Hz screen, except it’s larger at 6.4 inches. The ultra-wide and selfie cameras have the same MPs, but the main camera jumps up to a 50MP sensor.
It slightly upgrades the battery at 4614mAh and starts with the same 8GB/128GB standard. Last-but-not-least, it sports the new Google Tensor chipset.

Are these upgrades worth spending a few hundred extra compared to the Pixel 5? That’ll be for you to decide. If you prefer a more compact phone, the 6-inch Pixel 5 will save you money while still offering solid battery life and camera quality. Then again, the Pixel 4a 5G will save you even more money if you can accept further downgrades.

Google Pixel 5 Competition

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Moving beyond the Pixel family, there are plenty of non-Google phones going toe-to-toe with the Pixel 5. Right now, one of the top battles is the Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE. The FE offers a more powerful Snapdragon 865 chipset, 120Hz display, a larger battery, and three cameras instead of two — and is now discounted below the Pixel 5 in price.

The Pixel 5 still has the advantage when it comes to camera quality, and if you prefer smaller phones, its compact design is more fitting. That said, the Galaxy S20 FE drives a hard bargain for anyone looking to get the absolute most bang-for-their-buck.

Speaking of Samsung, the fight between Samsung Galaxy S21 vs. Google Pixel 5 is another interesting mashup. For an extra $100, the Galaxy S21 gives you a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 888 processor, a 120Hz AMOLED display, and similar software support with three years of guaranteed updates. Camera and battery performance are also pretty good, though the Pixel 5 does take the edge in these two categories. Some shoppers may still prefer what Google’s offering with the Pixel 5, but if you want a more capable handset for not much more money, the S21 is hard to argue with.

A more recent battle, highlighted in the video above, is the Pixel 5 against the OnePlus Nord 2. The newer, mid-range phone has a larger, brighter screen with the same resolution, plus a more powerful Dimensity chipset with better graphical performance, faster charging, and a lower price. On the other hand, it lacks water resistance and will get much slower OxygenOS updates — though they will both be supported through 2023.

And, of course, we have Apple’s latest iPhones — including the Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12 and Pixel 5 vs. iPhone 12 mini. Comparisons like this ultimately come down to the differences in software more than anything else, but if you need a new phone and have around $700 to spend, they’re definitely worth considering.

Google Pixel 5 Colors

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Google doesn’t offer a ton of color options for its smartphones, but with every release, there’s usually one that stands out over the more generic black and white options. The Pixel 5’s colors are even more limited, with just two to choose from, including Just Black and Sorta Sage. In other words, the question of “what Google Pixel 5 color should you buy?” becomes pretty easy to answer.

Just Black is exactly what the name implies — a black paint job and nothing more. The matte aluminum finish is much preferred over the glossy glass we had for the Pixel 4 in Just Black, but there’s not much else to say outside of that.

On the other hand, we have Sorta Sage. It’s not nearly as bright or punchy as the Pixel 4’s Oh So Orange color, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It has a cool, earthy tone that looks really nice, and it’s definitely the color we prefer this time around.

Google Pixel 5 Cameras

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Camera quality is always the number one reason to buy a Pixel phone over anything else — that’s why the Pixel 4 XL, despite its problems, was one of the best Android phones you can buy — and for the Pixel 5, Google’s trying something it’s never done before.

The primary camera is the exact same 12.2MP sensor that we’ve had for years, but on the Pixel 5, it’s joined by a 16MP ultra-wide camera. This is the first time any Pixel phone has shipped with an ultra-wide lens, and the telephoto one introduced on the Pixel 4 is nowhere to be seen.

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Google made a big deal in 2019 about how telephoto was more important than ultra-wide, so it’s a bit funny to see the company correcting course one generation later. The telephoto camera on the Pixel 4 was very good, but the switch to ultra-wide is one we’re excited to see.

Overall, the photos taken with the Pixel 5 are excellent. There isn’t a dramatic difference compared to the Pixel 4, but it solidly establishes itself as the best smartphone camera available in 2021. Images turn out great regardless of whether it’s daytime or night, portrait mode continues to be a strong point, and the astrophotography mode continues to impress.

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Google’s also doing some new stuff on the video front, such as new stabilization features and support for 4K60. Per Hayato Huseman in our Pixel 5 review:

I think my favorite new shooting mode is Cinematic Pan, which automatically shoots in 60fps, then slows down and stabilizes your footage to create an ultra-smooth 30fps clip. It’s a trick I used to do all the time when I had a 4K60-capable camera since it allows you to create longer, steadier footage in a short amount of time. The results look great — just remember that not everything needs to be slow-mo. Use this mode sparingly.

Ultimately, the Pixel 5 still isn’t going to top phones like the Xperia 1 II, LG V60, and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra when it comes to video. These phones have far more manual controls than Google offers, including the ability to shoot in various picture profiles and set manual focus. But considering how far behind previous Pixels have been, this is a huge step in giving the Pixel 5 a more well-rounded overall shooting experience, rather than just a great computational camera for photos.

You’ll notice there are only two cameras present on the back of the Pixel 5. In a world where so many phones are shipping with four or five different rear cameras, Google’s decision to only offer two does go against market trends. However, as we’ve seen time and time again, having one or two excellent cameras instead of a bunch of extra ones that aren’t any good is usually preferable.

Google Pixel 5 Software

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Whenever Google launches a new Pixel phone, it often uses it as a vehicle for introducing new Android features. This is no different from the Pixel 5, which comes with a few software goodies not previously seen anywhere else.

One of the biggest new additions is an Assistant feature called “Hold For Me.” When you’re placed on hold on a phone call, you can now tap a button that has the Assistant hold your place in line while you go off and do anything else. So, for example, when a customer service agent comes on the line, the Assistant lets you know so you can hop back on the phone and start talking.

Something else that should be quite promising is Extreme Battery Saver. If you find yourself running out of juice but need to keep your phone powered on a bit longer, you can enable this mode to extend your battery life by up to 48 hours. Again, it’s not something you’ll want to have on all the time, but in certain instances, it could be a life-saver.

On December 7, Google made many of these features available to older Pixels as part of its Feature Drop program. In other words, owners of the Pixel 3, 3a, and 4a handsets can still take advantage of Google’s latest software innovations without having to buy the Pixel 5.

Pixel drops in early 2021 have included minor updates like a bedtime routine mode, as well as creator wallpapers celebrating Women’s History Month, Black History Month, and Pride Month.

Pixel 5 owners can take a spin with the Android 12 beta and experience the new features and Material You design right now. It’s easy to sign up for the public beta and install it on your phone, and so far, we’ve found it to be relatively stable. However, before you put the Android 12 beta on your Pixel 5, be sure to read our Android 12 hands-on preview.

Google Pixel 5 XL model

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Speaking of changes to the Pixel family, you might have noticed by now that we haven’t said anything about the Pixel 5 XL. That’s because there isn’t one 😶. While we’ve typically gotten a Pixel 4 and 4 XL, Pixel 3 and 3 XL, and so on, the regular Pixel 5 is the only entry in the entire Pixel 5 family.

As Alex Dobie explained this past September, Google seems to have gone through a few different branding decisions while creating this year’s Pixels. The phone that we have now as the Pixel 4a 5G is thought to have originally been the Pixel 5, with the Pixel 5 we’re talking about today previously referred to as the Pixel 5s — a higher-end, more premium version of what would have been the Pixel 5 but is now the Pixel 4a 5G.

You could argue that the Pixel 4a 5G is a pseudo-Pixel 5 XL given its slightly larger 6.2-inch display, but that phone sacrifices things like the 90Hz refresh rate, wireless charging, and has slightly less RAM.

Google Pixel 5 Accessories

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As we often say here on Android Central, no phone is complete without the right accessories. This is just as true for the Pixel 5, so make sure you grab a few things to round out your experience with the phone.

First and foremost, you should absolutely get one of the best Pixel 5 screen protectors. The Pixel 5 is a great-looking phone, but a year or two down the road, when the screen is littered with scratches, it’s going to be a lot less appealing. A screen protector is a fast and easy way to prevent this from happening, no matter if you get a film or tempered glass one.

We also recommend picking up one of the best Pixel 5 cases. While the aluminum design sure is something, all it takes is one drop to chip its paint and ruin the experience. There are already a ton of excellent cases to choose from, whether you want something ultra-rugged or prefer style over function. You could also consider one of these stylish Pixel 5 wallet cases instead.

Finally, you should take advantage of the Pixel 5’s wireless charging option and pick up one of the best Pixel 5 wireless chargers.

What we know about the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro

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Google has officially announced the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. While it’s still playing tight-lipped with their specs, we know what these two phones will be like from leaks and hints.

First and foremost, they’ll both run the new 5nm Google Tensor chipset, co-developed by Google and Samsung. This chip is expected to compete with current 2021 flagships for performance. Like Apple’s homemade chipset, Tensor will give Google better control over hardware upgrades so that it can support its phones for longer. It’s why the Pixel 6 will get 5 years of software updates.

Beyond that, we have collected enough rumors to give us a clear idea of the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro specs once the phones arrive in the fall. The Pixel 6 will have similar specs to the Pixel 5, while the 6 Pro will offer a larger upgrade in screen quality, RAM, cameras, and battery life.

Operating System Android 12 Android 12
Display 6.4 inches, FHD+ resolution, 90Hz, AMOLED 6.71 inches, QHD+ resolution, 120Hz, POLED
Processor Google Tensor Google Tensor
Memory 8GB RAM 12GB RAM
Storage 128/256GB 128/256/512GB
Rear Camera 50MP (wide-angle) + 12MP (ultrawide-angle) 50MP (wide-angle) + 12MP (ultrawide-angle) + 48MP (telephoto)
Front Camera 8MP 12MP
Battery 4614mAh 5000mAh

We’re still happy to recommend the Pixel 5, but just keep in mind that something new is coming at some point down the road.

Snag the Pixel 5

Google Pixel 5

google-pixel-5-render.png

$699 at Amazon

Still the best for stock Android today

Google packed a lot into the Pixel 5, including a 90Hz OLED display, dual cameras, wireless charging, you name it. It’s also the cheapest flagship Pixel we’ve had in a long time, making it a great alternative to pricier options (like the Pixel 6). Plus, it’s getting the new Android 12 OS sooner than most other phones.

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