Google Pixel 5: Your complete buyer’s guide

Google Pixel 5Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central

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. This time around, Google’s trying 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.

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.

Buy the Pixel 5

Google Pixel 5 renderGoogle Pixel 5 render

Google Pixel 5

The newest Pixel has arrived

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.

Google Pixel 5 Price

Google Pixel 5

Google Pixel 5Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central

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.

When you compare this side-by-side with 2019’s Pixel 4 series, it’s pretty impressive how much more affordable the Pixel 5 actually is. The 128GB Pixel 4 retailed for $899, with the 128GB Pixel 4 XL costing $999.

There are some spec changes/cuts that allowed Google to hit that lower price tag. Still, especially in the economic climate we live in today, we’re more than happy to see Google focusing on affordability for its top offering. Plus, thanks to a collection of the best Pixel 5 deals, it’s often possible to pick up the phone for even less than its MSRP.

Google Pixel 5 Availability

Google Pixel 5

Google Pixel 5Source: Google

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, with Google choosing not to offer a white model at all this year. You can pick up a new Pixel 5 directly from Google, most U.S. carriers, and major retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, and Walmart.

Google Pixel 5 Should you buy it?

Yes, we have a Google Pixel 5 review. And to be blunt, the phone is really darn good. 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.

Unlike the Pixel 4 series from 2019, the Pixel 5 nails all of the fundamentals. It’s fast and responsive, has excellent cameras, battery life is top-notch, and it’s sold for a very reasonable price. 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 is an interesting one, and for the most part, it paid off.

Google Pixel 5 Specs

Google Pixel 5

Google Pixel 5Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central

Here are the Google Pixel 5 specs:

Category Google Pixel 5
Display 6-inch
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
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. Other flagships like the Galaxy S20 and OnePlus 8 Pro utilize the Snapdragon 865, but that’s not the case for the Pixel 5.

The Snapdragon 765 chipset inside the Pixel 5 is more than powerful enough for any app or game you throw at it, and with this decision, you get to benefit from the high-end performance without having to pay out the nose for it.

Looking at some of the other specs, it’s great to see that Google once again offers a 90Hz refresh rate for the Pixel 5’s display, along with an OLED panel for great colors and deep blacks. The 4,080 mAh battery is also substantially larger than the 2,800 mAh unit the Pixel 4 shipped with, which should allow for a night and day difference when it comes to battery life. All of the makings are here for the Pixel 5 to be one of the best Android phones, and when you factor in that low price tag, it becomes that much more impressive.

Google Pixel 5 Compared to other Pixels

Pixel 5 vs Pixel 4a 5G

Pixel 5 vs Pixel 4a 5GSource: Hayato Huseman / Android Central

The Pixel 5 isn’t the only phone Google’s releasing this year. Earlier in the Summer of 2020, Google released the Pixel 4a, a budget-friendly device aimed at the mainstream. It’s small and doesn’t have many of the premium features we take for granted in many premium devices, including waterproofing or wireless charging. It’s also running a slower Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 chip, has a modest 3,080mAh battery, a 5.8-inch display, and only a single rear camera.

Pixel 4a 4a 5g 5 Comaprison Chart.max 1000x

Pixel 4a 4a 5g 5 Comaprison Chart.max 1000xSource: Google

In between the Pixel 4a and the Pixel 5 is the Pixel 4a 5G. It packs the more powerful Snapdragon 765 platform, along with 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.

Above, you’ll see a comparison chart from Google showing off the three phones’ main differences.

Google Pixel 5 Competition

Galaxy S20 FE in Cloud Lavender

Galaxy S20 FE in Cloud LavenderSource: Hayato Huseman / Android Central

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 touts the same $700 retail price of the Pixel yet manages to offer a more powerful Snapdragon 865 chipset, 120Hz display, a larger battery, and three cameras instead of two.

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.

Another comparison worth looking at is the Pixel 5 vs. OnePlus 8T. The 8T is another phone with a few technical advantages over the Pixel — namely its 120Hz screen, 65W wired charging, and additional rear camera sensors. While all of that’s great, the OnePlus 8T doesn’t have wireless charging or an IP water resistance rating, even with its higher $749 asking price.

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

Pixel 5 back

Pixel 5 backSource: Hayato Huseman / Android Central

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

Google Pixel 5 Hands On

Google Pixel 5 Hands OnSource: Daniel Bader / Android Central

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.

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.

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

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. 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. 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. Before you put the Android 12 beta on your Pixel 5, however, be sure to read our Android 12 hands-on preview.

Google Pixel 5 XL model

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

Spigen Liquid Air Pixel 5 Case

Spigen Liquid Air Pixel 5 CaseCaseology Parallax Pixel 5 CaseCaseology Parallax Pixel 5 CaseSource: Spigen and Caseology

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.

What we know so far about the Pixel 6

Made by Google logo at CES 2018

Made by Google logo at CES 2018Source: Android Central

The Pixel 5 will continue to be Google’s flagship device for many more months to come, but as we head deeper and deeper into 2021, we are expecting the Pixel 6 to succeed it at some point.

There are hardly any concrete details about the Google Pixel 6 available this early in the year, but what we do know is that it’ll likely be announced at some point in October. The first leaks point to a striking new design, and code uncovered in the Android 12 beta even points to a possible forthcoming Pixel foldable. It’s unclear whether or not we’ll see these radical new prototypes come to market in 2021, though we do expect custom Google silicone to power the Pixel 6. The exact specs and pricing remain unclear.

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.

Buy yours now

Google Pixel 5 renderGoogle Pixel 5 render

Google Pixel 5

The newest Pixel has arrived

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.

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