I’ve had the Google Pixel 5 now for just over 6 weeks.
I previously upgraded from a Pixel 4a (which I loved but missed wireless charging and water-proofing) to a Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G. The Samsung seemed fine at first but I started experiencing eye strain and headaches. I later discovered that the PWM (pulse width modulation) from its OLED screen when dimming to less than 30% brightness in low light situations has a frequency of 227.3 Hz. This frequency is relatively low and my eyes were secretly noticing the pulsing bands of the screen and causing the eye strain. A percentage of people are highly sensitive to low PWM frequencies and I discovered I must be one! You can’t see the pulsing/banding by looking at the screen straight on but can check by going into the camera app on another phone and selecting Video mode then pointing at the screen you want to check when the screen is dimmed to the PWM threshold – in the Samsung’s case it was when the screen dimmed to less than 30% brightness. (usually in a dully lit room or checking your phone at night in bed etc.)
This prompted me to search for a replacement OLED screened phone which had a higher PWM frequency. I’d previously enjoyed my time with the Pixel 4a prior to the Samsung so after discovering the Pixel 5 has a PWM of 367.6 Hz – thought I’d give that a go instead! 🙂
I got the standard black colour version with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage – the only current spec configuration available for the Pixel 5. There is however a ‘Sorta Sage’ greeny-blue colour version.
I thought coming from a faster Snapdragon 865 on the Samsung that I might notice a dramatic difference in speed but was quite surprised that the Pixel’s Snapdragon 765G was still very speedy. I enabled the 90Hz Smooth Display option which also ensures buttery smooth navigation. I always disable the animations on all my Android phones. This involves going into Developer Settings (click on ‘Build’ under ‘About Phone’ seven times and Developer Settings should mysteriously appear in your Settings) and disabling the animation options.
To be honest, I have been getting fed up with big and heavy form factor phones over the past few years. They seem to be getting bigger and bigger with ever increasing screen and battery sizes! The smaller size and 6″ screen of the Pixel 5 makes a welcome change and it allows single handed use when navigating and messaging etc. It is also extremely lightweight at only 151g – the combined weight of mine with a case and tempered glass screen protector is 170g!
The Pixels 5’s screen is fantastic – very clear without the contrast and brightness being too high. It has a great quality OLED panel with good vibrancy. I have left colour setting on the default Adaptive setting and have auto brightness enabled. The 1080p screen with 432 PPI is perfectly suited to the 6″ display. Anything more would be wasted due to the screen size.
Build quality is great with an aluminium coated frame and Gorilla Glass 6 on the screen. The coated aluminium can feel a bit strange at first but you soon get used to it. It offers good grippiness and another benefit is that it is not a fingerprint magnet. I normally put my phone in a case with a screen protector on anyway. (see the end of the review for links to the ones I bought!)
One of the main reasons for buying a Pixel is obviously the great camera(s) and the Pixel 5 doesn’t disappoint! I’d enjoyed the Pixel 4a’s camera previously so sort of knew what to expect! It’s basically exactly the same camera with the addition of a second ultra wide angle lens! (f/2.2, 1.0 µm that covers a viewing angle of 107°) This additional lens is 16MP and produces good clear shots with similar colour balance to the main lens. The night mode is excellent too – you just have to wait a few seconds for the capture. It is a great point and shoot camera system and seems to always take great looking photos… I’ve even tried fast moving objects! 🙂 The video mode is also much improved from the 4a. 4K 60 with stabilisation is now available and results have been very impressive so far. Selfie pics from the 8MP (fixed focus with f/2.0, 1.12 µm, 83°) front camera are very good too. They can be a little unflattering at first with the default settings (emphasising every skin imperfection on your face!) but there is a beauty mode under the camera settings with three levels of intensity that gives much more flattering shots! 🙂 There is no telephoto lens but there is Google’s digital (super) zoom up to 7xs which actually looks quite good considering it is digital.
On a lot of non-Google phones – Google Photos did not synch automatically in the background after a photo was taken but the Pixel it seems to work perfectly every time! 🙂 Just make sure you’ve got the ‘backup photos/videos over data’ option enabled so that it will do it when you’re on mobile data and wifi isn’t available.
Although Google’s launcher and icons are very clean – I am still a huge fan of the infinite configurability of Nova Launcher Prime which I always install on my new Android phones. I like to make my home screen a 9×6 grid with custom icon sizes etc. I have a calendar widget, Google Smart control switch widget, WolOn widget for sleeping (SSH) and waking my Windows desktop pc, IP Widget to display current IP, network, town and custom icons for my frequently used apps. I just can’t customise any default launchers to fit everything I want and to look the way I like it so Nova always wins! 😉
There is stereo sound combining the speaker at the bottom of the phone (down firing) and one at top of the screen (under the screen). Due to the under screen tech – the top one is not as loud as the bottom one. (which is much more bassey) The top one handles more of the high range sounds. I was a bit worried from other people’s negative reviews of the speakers but was pleasantly surprised that the sound is actually really good! I actually prefer it to the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE I had previously as in my opinion there is more bass to the overall sound which I like more than lounder higher ranges.
The battery life has also been great so far and I have been getting about a day and a half from a full charge. The Adaptive Battery setting is enabled by default which means the phone learns and optimises the battery by learning how you use your phone. It should get better after the first few days of usage. To charge from zero to full takes around 1hr and 35mins with the included 18W charger. The wireless charging feature is also really handy and I definitely missed it when using the 4a.
The phone has a IP68 rating – able to withstand dust, dirt and sand, and are resistant to submersion up to a maximum depth of 1.5m underwater for up to thirty minutes. I missed this on the 4a which didn’t have any water resistance – being able to take important calls in the rain without having to find shelter first!
I was worried that 128GB storage might not be enough but even after all my favourite apps and games installed and lots of camera use – I still have around 70GB free which is plenty for what I am using it for.
There is a physical (circular) fingerprint reader on the back of the phone which is very quick and responsive. I haven’t had any errors in my time using it and it seems to always work first time – unlike some under-screen fingerprint readers on other phones.
The Pixel 5 also supports 5G and has E-SIM support. The part of the UK that I live in does not have 5G coverage at the moment so I have not been able to test it out. LTE/4G data speeds have been similar to previous phones and I have VoLTE and Wifi-Calling. I have converted my mobile number to an E-SIM (with EE network) which freed up up the physical nano SIM slot for another of my choosing – giving dual sim functionality.
Overall, I am very pleased with the Pixel 5 and can definitely see myself keeping it for more than a year! (a record for me!) It does everything that I need it to really well and comes in such a lightweight package that it will take a lot to tempt me away from it being my daily driver! 🙂
Screen Quality95/100 The best
Cameras95/100 The best
Battery Life100/100 The best
Build Quality90/100 Amazing
Overall Speed and General Use90/100 Amazing
The good stuff...
- Great quality screen
- Fab Google cameras with their amazing software/algorithm
- Great battery life
- Lightweight and can be used single handed
- Stereo Speakers
- Always has latest Android OS updates first
- IP68 water/dust resistant
- Physical fingerprint reader on back
- Wireless QI charging
- E-SIM compatible
- Charger supplied in box (take note Apple!)
- Nothing to whinge about! 🙂