Google’s fifth entry into its Pixel series has bucked a number of trends in the flagship smartphone market – it loses some of its predecessor’s features, comes in a single configuration, and costs less than a grand – and we applaud its focus.
Screen & Design: All Pixel handsets to date have been known for their large top and bottom bezels (for better and worse), but the Pixel 5 opts instead for the more edgeless design that we’re used to on modern handsets. This allows for its gorgeous 6-inch display to all-but fill the face of the phone, making way only for a punch hole selfie camera.
Part of the reason it was able to do away with the top bezel in particular is that Google has moved away from its motion-sensing Project Soli capacities. This means that you’ll lose the Pixel 4 face unlocking (replaced with a fingerprint scanner) and the motion gestural control, but we’re frankly not phased by either of these dropped features.
Despite having a larger display than its predecessors, its loss of bezels allows for the phone’s size to become much friendlier on the pocket and for one-handed operation. Not only does the Pixel 5 fit nicely in the hand, but it also feels great, with the rear and sides being constructed from a singular, textured piece of aluminium rather than glass.
While there’s no headphone jack, the IP68 weather resistance rating offsets this loss, and coupled with the durable metal frame makes for a great, rugged phone for everyday use.
The aforementioned display hasn’t got the highest resolution or refresh rate on the market, weighing in at 1080 x 2340 and 90Hz, but the OLED HDR10+ panel still makes for gorgeous viewing and smooth operation while managing to stay incredibly power efficient.
Performance: Along with a display that isn’t necessarily cutting edge, the Snapdragon 765G isn’t the top-spec model either. Both of these traits are the clearest indications that this isn’t an XL or Plus model of handset, but they’re more than capable enough for the vast majority of users.
The chipset is designed with an integrated 5G modem, helping it to be more power efficient and (obviously) giving it access to the 5G network. With this efficiency along with a more modest screen specification, the Pixel 5’s 4,080mAh battery will comfortably last a day of heavy use, and can easily squeeze out two full days if you need it to.
The cleanliness of the stock Android 11 experience out of the box, as well as the integration with Google Assistant makes for a seamless user experience in almost all daily tasks, although if you’re buying a phone purely for movie marathons or intensive gaming, look elsewhere.
Camera: Google has become renowned in the industry for its capacity to produce incredible photos and video from phone camera hardware that doesn’t impress too much on paper, and that’s certainly the case here.
The telephoto lens of the Pixel 4 series has been dropped, but the ultrawide lens that replaces it is arguably much more useful for the average user hoping to capture group shots, landscapes and generally wider scenes.
Mini verdict: Google has managed to condense the most important core features of a smartphone and offer it up in a compact, rugged unit for an incredibly reasonable price. While it’s obvious that power users will be looking elsewhere, for the masses that have been paying too much for phones with features that exceed their needs, the Pixel 5 is the perfect antidote.
Specification: Google Pixel 5