Pixel 5 Review

Wow. It’s been longer than I realized since I’ve posted. I recently reviewed the Pixel 5 for an episode of Bad Voltage, and thought others may be interested in the review. Unrelated, I’d make more of an effort to post my thoughts here more often. In the meantime, here’s the review:

Regular listeners will know that I’m a big fan of the Pixel line of phones (and was a Nexus fan before that). The unadulterated bloatware-free Android experience really is top notch. That said, for the first time since the Pixel 1, I decided to skip the Pixel 4 for a variety of reasons. There were just too many things about it I didn’t like. The Pixel 5 got me back on board though, and I’ve had it for a few weeks now. So, what do I think?

On paper, the Pixel 5 seems a bit; if not disappointing then underwhelming. It sports a 6-inch OLED display with 90Hz refresh rate and a bezel-less design. It has wireless charging, fingerprint unlock, and is IP68 dust and waterproof. The phone ships with 8G of memory and 128G of storage. All good so far, you may be thinking. But eschewing a flagship SoC for the Snapdragon 765G resulted in Google taking quite a bit of flak. So did including the same main camera as the previous generation Pixel, and shipping with two front facing cameras instead of three. What’s clear to me is that, at $699 Google decided to stop playing the one thousand dollar and up flagship game. They got back to basics; and it’s surprisingly good.

While the display is 6 inches vs the 5.5 inches of my previous Pixel 3, the phone is almost identical in size due to the lack of abezel. What isn’t even close to identical in size though is the battery – 2915 mAh vs 4080 mAh. The difference is night and day; and by that I mean come nighttime you’ll actually still have a charge. The phone is aluminum but with a resin coating that I quite like. It’s grippier than glass and isn’t as much of a fingerprint magnet as many newer phones. Gone is the facial unlock and Soli that never quite panned out. As for the supposed slow SoC, for me it’s been more than sufficient. If you’re a very serious gamer or obsessed with benchmarks, you may notice a difference. I’m a pretty heavy users of my phone though, and I don’t.

So – what’s the bottom line? There’s nothing groundbreaking or mesmerizing about Pixel 5’s design… or about the Pixel 5 in general. At $699, this should be a phone of trade-offs and compromises. Ars ran a review titled “Google spends its bill-of-materials budget unwisely”. But I think they missed the mark. Google managed to add 2GB ram, double the default storage to 128gb, increase battery by 50% and still make the phone $200 cheaper. It’s a near perfect BoM if it wasn’t for mmWave. I’m guessing they made some kind of deal with Verizon, but adding $50-100 to the phone makes very little sense for something almost no one will use.

Despite the mid-tier chipset, running an unfettered version of Android means the chip isn’t bogged down and lets the Pixel 5 deliver an Android experience that feels just as fast as it does on phones with much faster chips. The massive battery life is a game changer, and the device just feels right in your hands. While I’ve always had a quote unquote flagship phone and this one really isn’t… It feels like one. A bit to my surprise, it’s a great phone. The Pixel is back.

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