The Google Pixel 5 is finally official and we have all the details. In this Google Pixel 5 buyer’s guide, we’ve got the info you’ll need to make a smart purchase decision and we answer your frequently asked questions.
Editor’s note: We’ll regularly update this Pixel 5 guide with more tips, resources, and details, so stay tuned.
Google Pixel 5 at a glance
The Pixel 5 was announced on September 30, 2020 at Google’s Launch Night In event. This is Google’s top-end phone of 2020 and it’s a great option if you want:
- A more affordable 5G phone with some flagship-level features
- A great camera experience
- A smaller-than-typical size
- Quality software and guaranteed updates
The Pixel 5 costs $699 in the US, where it’s available in only one size, two colors, and one storage configuration. It competes with the LG Velvet, the OnePlus 8, OnePlus Nord (outside the US), the Samsung Galaxy A71, the Galaxy S20 FE, and a slew of other upper mid-range to flagship 5G phones.
You should avoid the Pixel 5 if you want:
- The best performance possible in a phone
- Two-day battery life with normal use
- The best zoom capabilities
Further reading: The best Google products
Is the Google Pixel 5 worth buying?
The $699 Google Pixel 5 looks like a good phone on paper in North America, with brands like Realme and Xiaomi not a factor on the continent. But it still seems like a good purchase in general if you want a 5G phone with brisk updates and flagship-style features but don’t want to pay 2020 flagship money.
In the case of the spec sheet, the Pixel 4 was arguably the least impressive flagship of 2019, packing a small battery and lacking a triple rear camera setup seen on rival phones. For the Pixel 5, it looks like Google has beefed things up in some ways, but not in others.
Google’s phone shares the same price as the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, and it delivers a few more extras on paper. Things like a 120Hz OLED screen, flagship silicon, triple rear camera, and microSD expansion are all present on Samsung’s phone, making for an arguably more impressive, flexible package.
What reviewers are saying about the Pixel 5
We’ve only conducted an initial Pixel 5 review, with a more comprehensive rundown coming soon. In saying so, our own David Imel said that he was a “huge fan” of the $699 phone.
David specifically praised the phone’s long battery life, image quality, great display, and Google integration in his initial review. He also pointed to things like three years of updates and flagship extras like water resistance and wireless charging.
In saying so, he also lamented the slow charging speed compared to rivals, as well as the lack of a telephoto camera and Google’s insistence on using older camera sensors. Our reviewer also noted the Galaxy S20 FE as a great alternative offering more power and a couple more features for the same price.
It also bears repeating that Google phones tend to suffer from some hardware issues now and again. So you’ll want to keep this in mind before splashing out, especially if you’re in an unsupported country and buying it on the grey market. The last thing you want is a defective product with no real support in your locale.
What other AA readers think of the Google Pixel 5
This marks the first time that Google ditches flagship silicon for its high-end Pixels, adopting an upper mid-range Snapdragon 765G processor. Is this a no-go for Android Authority readers though? Well, over 1,600 readers took our poll back in June, with almost 57% saying it wasn’t a dealbreaker.
This suggested that Android Authority readers were willing to overlook the lack of top-end power if the Pixel 5 delivered in other areas (e.g. pricing and extra features).
Earlier this week, we also asked readers whether the then-rumored $629 price tag for the Pixel 5 was worth it. This question was asked prior to specs and other features being disclosed by Google. As of writing, the most popular choice was “it’s a bit expensive but worth it for a Pixel.” Check out the results below.
Just over 25% of readers said that the phone is outright overpriced. But between respondents wanting to see the spec sheet, those who think it’s a bargain, and those who think it’s worth it for a Pixel, it looks like Google may have wanted to consider a somewhat cheaper price tag.
Google Pixel 5 specs
The Google Pixel 5 isn’t going to win any awards for sheer horsepower, but the phone still brings quite a few features to the table anyway. Check out our Google Pixel 5 specs overview below.
|Google Pixel 5|
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
90Hz refresh rate
19.5:9 aspect ratio
>1,000,000:1 contrast ratio
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G|
Titan M Security Module
No microSD slot
Main: 12.2MP, f/1.7 aperture, 1.4µm pixels, optical + electronic image stabilization
Secondary: 16MP, f/2.2 aperture, 1 micron pixel, ultra-wide (107-degree FoV)
4K at 60fps/30fps
8MP sensor, f/2.0 aperture, 1.12µm pixels, fixed focus, 83-degree FoV
12W wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
|Sensors||Proximity / ambient light sensor|
Pixel Imprint fingerprint sensor
Spectral and flicker sensor
|Dimensions and weight||144.7 x 70.4 x 8mm|
|Colors||Just Black, Sorta Sage|
Is the Pixel 5 camera any good?
The Pixel 5 adopts the same 12MP IMX363 main camera we’ve seen on several generations of Pixels now, including the Pixel 3a and Pixel 4a. If anything, we were expecting software to make the difference when shooting via this main camera.
The secondary camera is a completely different story though, as Google has eschewed the Pixel 4 line’s 16MP telephoto camera in favor of a 16MP ultra-wide shooter. This new camera means you can capture many scenes without having to take a few steps back, such as cityscapes, landscapes, and groups of people. So what kind of results should you expect from the cameras, then?
Well, AA‘s David Imel praised the photo quality in his initial Pixel 5 review, noting a pleasant shift to warmer images compared to the Pixel 4. It wasn’t all good though. More specifically, he felt that scenes with a lot of detail can “look busy and overly contrasted” and that busy scenes featuring people can often see the Pixel 5 “process people like the rest of the scene.”
David also addressed the ultra-wide camera performance, saying it wasn’t quite as wide as rival phones but that the color profile was “fairly similar” to the main camera. It’s fairly common to see a completely different color profile for the ultra-wide on other devices. This discrepancy can result in wildly different photos compared to your expectations, so we’re glad Google tuned things accordingly here.
But what does the addition of an ultra-wide camera in lieu of a telephoto shooter mean for the phone’s zoom capabilities?
Google touted its Super Res Zoom solution on the Pixel 3, using super resolution algorithms and more to deliver hybrid zoom that was better than traditional digital zoom. However, results still fell short of phones with dedicated telephoto lenses, especially when going beyond 2x or 3x shots. The Pixel 4 then introduced the 2x telephoto camera, and this allowed for a big step up in quality at short range zoom levels, while also delivering improved Super Res Zoom images up to 8x.
We’re expecting the Pixel 5 zoom quality to be something akin to the Pixel 3’s quality. Super Res Zoom without a telephoto lens should still produce fine results when taking 2x or 3x zoom shots. Nevertheless, check back here soon for our thoughts on the Pixel 5’s zoom abilities once we’ve had a proper go with it.
In addition, Google is giving HDR+ a “serious upgrade.” Google is introducing exposure bracketing on the Pixel 5 that should result in all-around clearer photos with the new wide-angle lens.
Night Sight, Google’s fantastic low-light camera mode, is also coming to portrait mode (see a sample in the gallery above). Portrait Light is coming to portrait mode, too. You can add this effect to your portrait photos after you’ve taken a picture if your subject is too dark.
Google is finally focusing on video, at least a little bit. It’s adding three new stabilization modes to the Pixel 5: locked, active, and cinematic pan. The latter video mode “creates sweeping, dramatic Hollywood effects” through stabilizing and slowing down the motion of your video at 2x.
How is the Pixel 5 battery life?
Google’s new phone features a 4,080mAh battery that’s still smaller than many rival devices but definitely the biggest we’ve seen in a Pixel. The addition of 5G and the return of the 90Hz screen means that controlling power consumption is more important than ever.
Thankfully, David noted that he managed to eke out almost eight hours of screen-on time with the Pixel 5, taking the phone off charge at 8:30AM and having it conk out at 11PM the next day. Heavier usage involving 4K video recording and mobile data usage resulted in closer to six hours of screen-on time, with the phone going off charger at 7:30AM and still having 10% juice left just after midnight.
Google is also introducing extreme battery saver mode on the Pixel 5. This allows you to decide which apps you’d like to keep on while everything else is paused. Google says this will get you up to 48 hours of extra battery life.
We’ll be sure to run the phone through extensive testing to give you a better idea of what to expect in terms of endurance and how it stacks up to other devices.
Is the Pixel 5 fast enough?
One thing that’s a certainty is that the Pixel 5 is weaker than the Pixel 4 and other 2019 flagships (let alone 2020 flagships) when it comes to sheer CPU and graphical power. Our own Robert Triggs compared the Snapdragon 765G to 2020 and 2019 flagship silicon, and the results tell us a lot.
The CPU performance gap is pretty small between the Snapdragon 765G and the Snapdragon 855 when it comes to single-core performance. But the Snapdragon 855 streaks ahead when it comes to multi-core results, owing to it offering more heavyweight CPU cores. We also see a pretty big gap when it comes to graphical performance.
In other words, those wanting to play the most advanced games and emulators at a smooth framerate might want to buy a Snapdragon 865 or Snapdragon 855 phone. But the Pixel 5’s chipset should still deliver great performance in general and in most games. In fact, we noted in our preliminary review that we didn’t notice any lag or slowdown with general usage.
Google Pixel 5 vs Pixel 4: What’s new?
The Pixel 5 lacks two main features compared to the Pixel 4, and that’s the flagship silicon and Motion Sense/face unlock technology. We’ve already covered the chipset disparity, but the lack of Motion Sense and associated face unlock tech is pretty notable.
Motion Sense gestures weren’t to everyone’s liking, while face unlock has become less important than ever thanks to COVID-19. Google has however resurrected the rear fingerprint scanner, allowing you to unlock your phone while still wearing a mask. Furthermore, fingerprint unlock is supported by a ton of apps (unlike face unlock).
Otherwise, the Pixel 5 also sees RAM and base storage upgrades. Instead of the Pixel 4’s 6GB of RAM and 64GB of base storage (with an option for 128GB), you’ve got 8GB of RAM and 128GB as the sole option.
Moving to photography, Google has ditched the Pixel 4 family’s 16MP telephoto secondary camera in favor of a 16MP ultra-wide secondary shooter. It’s disappointing that Google didn’t offer a flexible triple rear camera setup, as we’ve seen from rival manufacturers. Nevertheless, we’re glad to see an ultra-wide rear camera on a Pixel, and Super Res Zoom should still deliver decent results at short range zoom factors.
We also see a battery capacity bump compared to the Pixel 4 series, leaping to 4,080mAh. Meanwhile, the Pixel 4 packs a 2,800mAh cell while the Pixel 4 XL offers a 3,700mAh battery. We’re guessing that endurance will be somewhere between the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL (owing to the Pixel 5’s 5G support), but hopefully it’s closer to the XL model.
The screen size falls in between the Pixel 4’s 5.8-inch panel and the XL’s 6.3-inch screen, coming in at 6-inches (19.5:9, 2,340 x 1,080). Much like the Pixel 4a though, the Pixel 5 packs a more modern punch-hole cutout instead of a bezel or notch.
What about the Google Pixel 4a 5G?
The cheaper Pixel 4a 5G has quite a bit in common with the Pixel 5. The biggest shared feature is the Snapdragon 765G chipset and associated 5G connectivity. You’re getting less RAM with the cheaper phone (6GB), but the common silicon means you can expect a similar level of performance on the whole.
Other common features include the same dual rear camera setup (normal and ultra-wide), 128GB of storage, and 18W wired charging. There are a few compromises to consider, though.
The biggest cutback might be the 6.2-inch OLED screen, which lacks a high refresh rate compared to the 90Hz-toting Pixel 5. This might not be a dealbreaker for most, but those looking for a smoother, more responsive screen or upgrading from a phone with a high refresh rate panel already might be disappointed.
Other notable cutbacks include no wireless charging, no significant IP rating, a plastic back, and a slightly smaller battery at 3,885mAh. Then again, the lack of a high refresh rate means that a small drop in battery size is understandable.
The Pixel 4a 5G will retail for $499, making it $200 cheaper than the Pixel 5. Is it worth splashing out that much more for the flagship? Well, that depends on what you want in a smartphone.
What are some good Google Pixel 5 alternatives?
The Pixel 5 is a rather interesting proposition, packing upper mid-range power, a slightly cheaper price than current flagships, as well as premium features like an IP rating and wireless charging.
There are quite a few Pixel 5 alternatives though, but you’ll need to weigh up pricing, features, and regional availability when making a decision to buy one of them.
Here are some Pixel 5 alternatives you should consider:
- Pixel 4a 5G ($499): The Pixel 4a 5G lacks features like water resistance, wireless charging, and a high refresh rate screen. But you’re getting 5G, the same processor, and that familiar stock Android. You’re also getting brisk updates by opting for this phone.
- Apple iPhone 11 ($700): Don’t mind switching to iOS and can’t wait for the iPhone 12? Then the iPhone 11 might be for you. It packs a similar dual rear camera setup, plenty of power for smooth performance, water resistance, and wireless charging. There are a few features missing from the iPhone 11 though, such as 5G, a high refresh rate, OLED screen, and a fingerprint scanner.
- OnePlus Nord (~$500): The OnePlus Nord is roughly $200 cheaper than the Pixel 5, but packs the same 5G processor, a 90Hz OLED screen, and a similar sized battery. It lacks wireless charging, water resistance, and stock Android, but delivers two selfie cameras (one for ultra-wide shots) and four rear cameras. We think two of these rear cameras are just there to increase the numbers, while the main and ultra-wide rear snappers aren’t exactly great. You can also pay up to $200 extra for the OnePlus 8 if you must have a OnePlus phone with top-end power, but the Nord delivers most of the overall experience anyway.
- LG Velvet ($600): This might be one of the closest phones to the Pixel 5 in North America, aside from the Pixel 4a 5G. You’ve got a similar level of horsepower, 5G, a slightly bigger battery, and a similar price tag. The LG Velvet also sports an optional second screen case, wireless charging, water resistance and, unlike the Pixel 5, a headphone port. Just don’t expect fast updates, a high refresh rate, or class-leading photo quality.
- Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (~$700): Samsung’s latest S20 series phone ups the ante over the Pixel 5 by bringing proper flagship power, a 120Hz OLED screen, a bigger battery, and a flexible triple rear camera combo. It also delivers wireless charging and IP68 water resistance, as well as three years of OS updates. Looking for a cheaper Samsung phone as a Pixel 5 alternative? The Galaxy A71 is $100 cheaper than the S20 FE and costs $100 less than the Pixel. You’re missing out on a high refresh rate screen, wireless charging, and water resistance.
- Realme X50 Pro (€600): Realme dropped its first 5G flagship in the first half of 2020, and it still makes for a very attractive proposition. A powerful Snapdragon 865 chipset, 90Hz OLED screen, flexible quad rear cameras, and a 4,200mAh battery with 65W charging make for a great combo. Unfortunately it lacks wireless charging and an IP rating. Realme isn’t quite on Google or Samsung’s level when it comes to update commitments either.
Should you buy the Google Pixel 5 now or wait?
Google tends to launch its flagship phones a few months before all eyes turn to the next-generation of smartphones, but the Pixel 5 is somewhat different in that it’s not playing a traditional specs war. Instead, Google is banking on the combination of software and a few welcome hardware upgrades elsewhere to make for a compelling proposition.
Google also has a habit of dropping prices in the months after launch. If you’re not in immediate need of a phone, it might be worth waiting a month or two.
You should also ask yourself whether a high refresh rate screen, IP rating, and wireless charging are must-have features in a phone. If so, you can definitely do worse than the Pixel 5 for $699. If these features aren’t important to you, the $499 Pixel 4a 5G might be up your alley instead.
Those who pre-order the Pixel 5 or Pixel 4a 5G will receive a free pair of Bose QC 35 II with their orders. This promo is only available in the UK, Ireland, Germany, and France. Details here.
Where to buy the Pixel 5
The Google Pixel 5 is available from the Google Store and via Google Fi. Other retailers that will offer it include Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart.
Again, the Pixel 5 in the US is going for $699. Pricing in Europe is set at £599/€629.
Everyone who orders a Pixel 5 will receive a three-month membership to Stadia Pro and YouTube Premium, 100GB of Google One storage, as well as Google Play Pass. Consumers in the UK, Ireland, France, and Germany will also receive the aforementioned free set of Bose QC 35 II wireless headphones if they buy a Pixel 5 between now and October 19.
Google Pixel 5 software and updates
The Google Pixel 5 continues the Google tradition of timely software updates. Those worried about Android version updates and security patches should have peace of mind here. Google also commits to three years of Android system updates and security patches for its Pixel phones, and the Pixel 5 is no exception. This puts it in a very exclusive club, with only Samsung and occasionally OnePlus offering a similar level of support.
The company has also started issuing Pixel “feature drops”, which are Pixel and Google app updates rolled into one quarterly update for Pixel phones. Or at least it’s intended to be a quarterly release. For example, the March 2020 feature drop delivered dark mode scheduling, new Motion Sense gestures on the Pixel 4, new emoji, and Rules functionality.
The Pixel 5 ships with Android 11 and is expected to get Android 12 in 2021 and Android 13 in 2022.
Google Assistant is getting a convenient new feature called “hold for me.” When you’re put on hold on a phone call, tapping the “hold for me” button lets the Assistant stay on hold for you and alert you when someone begins talking again.
Top Pixel 5 questions and answers
Q: Where’s the Google Pixel 5 XL?
A: There isn’t a Pixel 5 XL unfortunately, with the Pixel 4 XL or the Pixel 4a 5G being your next best bets if you want a bigger Pixel.
Q: What kind of 5G networks are supported?
A: The Pixel 5 supports both mmWave and sub-6GHz 5G networks.
Q: Does the Pixel 5 have a headphone jack?
A: No, the Pixel 5 doesn’t offer a headphone jack. Thankfully, this option is available on the 4a series.
Q: Does the Pixel 5 has a microSD card slot?
A: Unfortunately, there’s no microSD expansion here. At least you get 128GB of base storage.
Q: What colors are the Pixel 5 available in?
A: The Pixel 5 will be available in Sorta Sage and Just Black.
Q: Is the Pixel 5 waterproof?
A: The phone has an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance, so it should theoretically survive a dunk in the pool just fine.
Q: Does the Pixel 5 have face unlock and Motion Sense gesture controls?
A: The Pixel 5 lacks both face unlock and gesture controls via Motion Sense hardware. At least you have a fingerprint scanner now.
Q: Does the Pixel 5 support wireless charging?
A: Yes, the phone supports wireless charging up to 12W with a Qi-certified EPP charger.
Q: What’s the Pixel 5’s back cover made out of?
A: Google confirmed that the back cover is made out of aluminum with a layer of “bio-resin” on top of it. The company also cut a hole in the aluminum to enable wireless top-ups.
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