Google’s flagship smartphone for 2020, the Pixel 5, is certainly a departure from earlier releases. The corporate has opted out of the ultrapremium flagship wars which have led to smartphone costs rocketing previous the $1,000 worth level, and as a substitute, it is delivering a midrange, $700 Snapdragon 765 cellphone as its highest-end gadget. On one hand, I recognize the pushback on the $1,000 smartphone price ticket, particularly in the midst of a pandemic depressed economic system. Alternatively, Google has at all times had bother competing with the remainder of the market relating to worth to your greenback, and that is simply as true within the upper-midrange market because it was within the flagship market—there are higher offers on the market.

Some historical past

As we have stated in earlier Pixel evaluations, it is arduous to know what precisely Google’s purpose is meant to be with the Pixel line, and it does not look like Google is sticking with an excessive amount of of a long-term plan, both. After the demise of the value-oriented Nexus line and a ho-hum Pixel 1 launch, Google {Hardware} SVP Rick Osterloh instructed the world “Pixel stays premium” in 2017, indicating a return to cheaper telephones would not occur. In 2019, the corporate went again on that and launched the Pixel 3a, a midrange $400 cellphone. Now, in 2020, even the most costly Pixel is not premium anymore. The Pixel 5 can also be a midrange smartphone, and which means it does not really feel all that a lot completely different from the Pixel 4a.

Initially, the Pixel was a premium cellphone as a result of it was alleged to be Google’s iPhone killer, so what’s it now? The transfer downmarket looks as if an admission the corporate cannot—or does not wish to—compete within the cutthroat premium-smartphone market. Apart from Apple, the remainder of the Pixel’s rivals are additionally Google’s Android buyer base. Google has by no means proven an curiosity in enjoying hardball with them, and so the Pixel line has solely ever regarded like a small “interest” aspect mission. This battle of curiosity has meant the Pixel telephones have nearly at all times been “good software program with {hardware} that is not fairly aggressive,” and that continues to be simply as true within the higher midrange market because it was within the premium-smartphone market. Transferring downmarket a bit does not put Google any nearer to the competitors. The Pixel line was once aspirational, however there’s nothing distinctive in regards to the cellphone this yr by way of new options. So greater than something, the Pixel 5 seems like Google is taking the yr off.

Google {hardware} has discovered a great spot for itself within the Pixel 4a worth vary, the place the identical software program it ships on each cellphone does job propping up the cheaper {hardware}, all at a worth that appears honest. The Pixel 4a is absolutely the Pixel 5’s greatest competitors. A lot of the good factors of the Pixel 5—the digital camera, software program, and Google’s replace coverage—exist in an equivalent kind on the Pixel 4a, and for $350, the Pixel 4a is half the value. The Pixel 5 makes just a few distinctive design choices that give us one thing to speak about, however none of those oddities brings a major client profit. The remaining significant variations do not feel like sufficient to justify spending $350 additional over the Pixel 4a.

There’s metallic in right here someplace

The back finish of the Pixel 5 kind of looks like a paper bag or construction paper.
Enlarge / The again end of the Pixel 5 form of appears to be like like a paper bag or building paper.

Ron Amadeo

The one dimension the Pixel 5 is available in is definitely fairly small. It is positively a non-XL cellphone, and there’s no “Pixel 5 XL” this yr. At 144.7 x 70.4 x 8mm, the Pixel 5 has nearly the identical dimensions because the Pixel 4a, save for the 4a being 1mm shorter. Once more, the shortage of differentiation between the Pixel 5 and 4a is form of puzzling.

SPECS AT A GLANCE: Pixel 5
SCREEN 6-inch, 2340×1080, 90Hz AMOLED

(408ppi, 20:9 facet ratio)

OS Android 11
CPU Eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G

Two Cortex A76 cores and 6 Cortex A55 cores, as much as 2.4GHz, 7nm

RAM 8GB
GPU Adreno 620
STORAGE 128GB
NETWORKING 802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, NFC
PORTS USB 3.1 Gen1 Kind-C
CAMERA Rear: 12.2MP primary digital camera, 16MP wide-angle

Entrance: 8MP

SIZE 144.7×70.4×8mm
WEIGHT 151g
BATTERY 4000mAh
STARTING PRICE $699
OTHER PERKS 18W charging, rear fingerprint sensor, eSIM, wi-fi charging, IP68 water and dirt resistance

A 6-inch, 2340×1080, 90Hz OLED show covers the entrance of the cellphone, with a hole-punch entrance digital camera within the high left as the one blemish. The display screen is completely flat, making it superior to the distorted curved shows on the market, and it leaves a pleasant-looking symmetrical bezel across the perimeter of the cellphone. The 90Hz show presents good-looking easy scrolling and animations, however Samsung and OnePlus now provide 120Hz telephones on this ~$700 worth vary. In comparison with the Pixel 4a, you are getting slimmer bezels and a barely larger display screen (6 inches versus 5.8) in mainly the identical dimension physique.

One comparatively uncommon element in regards to the entrance is that there isn’t any earpiece speaker grill. As an alternative of a front-mounted speaker or a slot for an inside speaker to pump out sound, the Pixel 5 has an under-display speaker. Contained in the cellphone, a driver is mounted to the again of the show, and it makes the glass vibrate to supply sound. It is a uncommon cellphone function, however the finish end result shouldn’t be nice.

For calls, you wish to usually maintain the cellphone with the highest edge to your ear, however that is not the place the speaker is anymore. So whilst you can nonetheless hear it, the precise candy spot looks as if it is about on the 20 p.c mark from the highest of the show. It is awkwardly low on the cellphone. The amount and high quality are fantastic for cellphone calls, however “beneath the show” is an odd spot for a speaker that’s usually on the very high of the cellphone.

For media audio, the under-display speaker is nugatory, and the Pixel 5 speaker setup is mainly mono. Sure, it technically has two audio system, they usually technically each put out sound, however it’s a few 90/10 break up. Should you cowl the traditional, bottom-firing speaker, the sound nearly utterly goes away, with solely a tinny, impotent buzzing coming from the under-display speaker. The Pixel 4, which has two regular audio system, sounds significantly better and louder, and even the Pixel 4a achieves about the identical quantity whereas delivering higher-quality stereo sound. The Pixel 5 speaker is simply terrible for media.

This silver block attached to the back of the display is the speaker. Instead of being at the top of the phone, it's much further down than you would expect. The sweet spot for sound seems even lower than the speaker assembly.
Enlarge / This silver block connected to the again of the show is the speaker. As an alternative of being on the high of the cellphone, it is a lot additional down than you’d anticipate. The candy spot for sound appears even decrease than the speaker meeting.

That is going to be a operating theme on this article, however I actually do not perceive what Google was aiming for right here. The industry-wide smartphone manufacturing provide chain would push you towards the usual answer everybody else is utilizing. On this case, that will be a standard speaker that exhausts through the smartphone bezel. That works nice, it appears to be like nice, and it may be completed whereas additionally minimizing the dimensions of the smartphone bezel. I’ve by no means heard anybody complain about the usual earpiece/speaker combo, and as a substitute of taking the trail of least resistance and selecting one thing that works effectively, Google went in opposition to the gang and picked a bizarre answer that hurts the consumer expertise. Why cannot you simply be regular?

I used to be despatched the distinctive, inexperienced “Sorta Sage” colour, which is attention-grabbing wanting. The physique is definitely aluminum, which is a whole shock for a contemporary 2020 cellphone. Sadly, the aluminum shouldn’t be the skin of the cellphone. Like on the Pixel 2, the cellphone is aluminum with a thick outer coating on the again, so your fingers by no means contact metallic. This additionally explains how each the cellphone is metallic and helps wi-fi charging. A part of the {industry}’s massive swap away from metallic and in direction of all-glass telephones just a few years again was because of wi-fi charging, which may’t penetrate a metallic again. For Pixel 5, Google manages each metallic and wi-fi charging by punching a small gap within the physique to let the wi-fi sign out. There are holes on the edges for the mmWave antennas, too. The entire metallic physique is then coated in resin in order that you do not even discover the holes. The entire thought appears sturdy. Even urgent straight on the “resin solely” spots indicated on this image does not reveal any weak spots.

Google's picture showing the steps in the Pixel 5 build process. The second from the left shows holes punched in the aluminum body, which is how the wireless charging works.
Enlarge / Google’s image exhibiting the steps within the Pixel 5 construct course of. The second from the left exhibits holes punched within the aluminum physique, which is how the wi-fi charging works.

Google

The again resin coating form of appears to be like like recycled paper like what you’d discover on a paper bag. The again resin shouldn’t be a stable colour—it is form of speckled and fibrous. There’s additionally numerous variation in case you look carefully, with all types of little grains within the cellphone physique (these seem in increased concentrations in some spots than others). The texture of the cellphone can also be fairly near paper. There is a gentle texture to it, making it much less slippery than glass.

Total, the brand new again coating appears fantastic. It is grippier than glass and is not as a lot of a fingerprint magnet. I believe Google has negated a lot of the premium features of metallic by masking it up with resin, although, so I do not actually see the purpose. Google has to take care of all of the engineering challenges of constructing a metallic cellphone, however then it coated that onerous work with resin. I might be singing a distinct flip if Google ended up with a premium-feeling, Macbook-like design, however that is not what occurred. The Pixel 5 does not really feel all that completely different from a plastic cellphone, so going by means of all the hassle does not make a ton of sense to me if there’s little consumer profit. Once more, it is fantastic, it is only a questionable use of labor and the bill-of-materials price range.

Look carefully at that aluminum body and you may see chunks reduce out of the left and high edges of the case, and that is the place the mmWave antennas go. Sure, the Pixel 5 has obligatory mmWave 5G, which is one other case of “why are we spending cash on this?” within the midrange market. The Snapdragon 765G makes 5G help obligatory, however you solely must help the cheaper, easier-to-rollout sub-6GHz taste of 5G, which, on the 765G, continues to be a easy, one-chip answer. mmWave 5G, alternatively, requires additional, costly antenna modules. We have seen mmWave variations of telephones value wherever from $50-$100 additional.

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