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The Pixel 5 almost had Google's Tensor processor, but what happened?

We could've seen a Tensor-equipped Pixel a year ago were it not for various apparent issues.

Published onNovember 24, 2021

Google Pixel 6 vs Google Pixel 5 camera angled
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
  • Google originally planned to launch the Pixel 5 with its Tensor chipset.
  • Google decided against this due to various issues, YouTuber Marques Brownlee claimed.

The new Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are the first phones with the firm’s Tensor processor, marking a major departure from the years-long reliance on Android SoC kingpin Qualcomm.

However, it turns out that Google originally wanted last year’s Pixel 5 to be equipped with a Tensor chipset instead. The news comes from “conversations” that YouTuber Marques Brownlee had with Google representatives (skip to 29:41 in the video below).

“They were actually planning on Pixel 5 being the first phone with Tensor. But then with Covid and the supply chain issues and a bunch of things getting in the way, at the last second they kinda had to bail on that,” Brownlee claimed.

“But they still wanted to drop a new phone, so they just put a Snapdragon 765G in it, shipped it, called it a day, and kept putting their heads down for Pixel 6.”

What would a Tensor-equipped Pixel 5 look like?

Google Pixel 5 one year later back
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve heard about a Pixel 5 with a Tensor processor though. XDA-Developers and a couple of other sources previously reported on evidence of a Tensor-equipped Pixel 5 that never saw the light of day.

It’s unclear whether this version of the Tensor processor would be identical to the chipset found inside the Pixel 6 line. It may have been a little too early for Arm to offer the Cortex-X1, Cortex-A78, and Mali-G78 parts to Google.

Then again, Huawei’s Mate 40 series debuted with the Kirin 9000 late last year, featuring the latest Arm GPU. So it’s possible that the adoption of new Arm parts might not have been one of the obstacles for Google.

Either way, a Tensor processor in the Pixel 5 would’ve likely been a major upgrade over the Snapdragon 765G in terms of performance. The Pixel 5 was actually a step back in terms of CPU and GPU power compared to the Pixel 4’s Snapdragon 855 SoC. Nevertheless, we’re guessing the extra year of development time likely resulted in a more refined experience and a couple of extra features.

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