Google Pixel 5 Review

November 26, 2020 | Tim Coleman | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


Google has launched its 2020 slew of smartphones, with the Google Pixel 5 positioned as the company's flagship model.

You might notice that the pricing is more aggressive this time around - the Pixel 5 costs £599, whereas its predecessor the Pixel 4 cost £669 on launch. It may be the company's flagship, but the Pixel 5 is not designed to compete against best phones in town.

Completing the new lineup is the Pixel 4a 5G at £499 and the few-months-old Pixel 4a at £349. We've had all three current phones simultaneously during our review of the Pixel 5 and they share many similarities.

In this review, we'll of course focus on what sets the Google Pixel 5 apart and also highlight the key improvements over the phone it replaces, the Pixel 4.

In short, the Pixel 5 has the best build quality in the current crop - it's IP68 rated and features a metal shell. It also has a higher-spec display, the most RAM and best battery life complete with wireless charging.

It does not, however, have the biggest screen and there's no sign of a Pixel 5 XL version. For a bigger display, it's the Pixel 4a 5G.

Consistent with all three phones is Google's apparent ethos to create devices that are downright simple to use, and this is seen most clearly in the Android interface and camera app.

The Google Pixel 5's camera relies heavily on the company's highly effective intelligent processing to do the hard work for you. Truly, the result is lovely looking photos in most scenarios, without the fuss.

The Google Pixel 5 is available now, priced at £599 / $699, in 'Just Black' and 'Sorta Sage' colours.

Ease of Use

Google Pixel 5

There are a handful of attributes that justify the flagship status and higher price point of the Google Pixel 5 compared to the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 4a.

First up, the build quality. This is the only current Pixel phone to boast weather-sealing, being IP68 rated for water and dust resistance.

The phone's exterior is made from recycled aluminium, as opposed to the polycarbonate (plastic) bodies of the other two phones. Metal casing is more of a rarity on a phone these days - most other IP rated phones have a glass back.

It also boasts a display covered with Corning Gorilla 6 glass which is tested as more robust than the Corning Gorilla 3 glass used in less costly phones. In short, you can be assured that the Pixel 5 will take a few knocks.

That metal casing appears largely the same as the plastic versions, but look closely and the surface is more textured. Certainly, you'll feel that texture in the hand and it is more grippy.

We'd be quite happy using the Pixel 5 without a protective case and to expose it to the elements - the same cannot be said for the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 4a.

Google Pixel 5

In order to secure its superior build quality and IP rating, a necessary concession is the omission of a headphone jack. If you want to use a headset, it'll need Bluetooth connectivity.

Every one of the current Pixel phones has a different display size, but they are all FHD+ with the same 2340x1080 pixel resolution and 24-bit colour depth. However, the Pixel 5 has a 'Flexible' OLED display with a higher contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1 to the 100,000:1 of the other two phones.

We held up the Pixel 5 alongside the Pixel 4a 5G and the tonal detail of the Pixel 5 display is indeed better. It's a subtle difference, but once noticed the superior display quality is appreciated, especially for watching movies.

Also, if you look closely in highlight areas of a scene in the camera app - such as tree branches against an overcast sky - there is plenty more detail in those highlights in the Pixel 5 that is otherwise washed out in the 4a 5G.

There's also a better 90 Hz refresh rate here, which should result in a smoother viewing experience compared to the modest 60 Hz refresh rate of the other Pixel phones. That refresh rate is the minimum that we would expect at this price point.

Now it may have a larger 6.0-inch screen than the 5.8-inch screen of the entry-level Pixel 4a, but the phone units are almost identical in size. In short, the Pixel 5 's display makes better use of the phone's dimensions, mainly at the bottom.

Google Pixel 5

Overall, we really rate the display quality and think the phone dimensions are spot on - this truly is a single-handed use phone whether navigating the OS or the camera app.

The reliable fingerprint scanner is positioned sensibly on the camera's rear and blends in to matt-finish. Otherwise, the only other shade (in the Just Black version) is the power button, being silver.

Battery life is really solid and a key improvement over the Pixel 4's sub-standard battery life. With a 4,080mAh capacity battery,the Pixel 5 will comfortably last a whole day of frequent use and well into a second day.

An 18W fast charger comes in the box and you'll be able obtain a reasonable charge of the phone from a 30-minute plug-in. The battery can also be charged wirelessly, and indeed be used AS a wireless charger with compatible devices. Sharing is caring!

We like the option to display the estimated time that the battery will run out in the notification bar. That's a much more useful metric than the usual percentage remaining (although you can see that info, too).

You also get the most amount of RAM in any Pixel phone at 8GB. It's paired with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor.

Google Pixel 5

There's the faster 865G processor available in other similar priced phones, but frankly the processor, RAM and display refresh rate in the Pixel 5 all combine for a completely fluid user experience.

When compared to the Pixel 4a entry-level phone, the quicker processor and greater RAM do speed up any minor lags in the camera app. For instance, in playback you'll get to view the portrait blur effect at half the delay - ready in under a second.

The Pixel 5 starts life with the Android 11 operating system and you're guaranteed up to three years of updates - truly this device is future proofed. On that same theme, it comes equipped with 5G connectivity for the fastest data available.

All Pixel phones offer built-in only storage only and in the UK they are only available as 128GB versions. That's a generous amount for the much cheaper Pixel 4a, but here it would be reasonable to expect 256GB. Shame.

However, there's direct compatibility with Google Photos, the online storage option to offload media from the phone and free up space. As we'd hope, the whole experience is as simple as can be. Also, unless you're shooting loads of videos, that storage will suffice for a considerable time.

Camera-wise, we're looking at a simple specification. There's the 8MP f/2.0 front camera with 84° field of view. The lens is found in the top left of the display - that's an increasingly common-place design.

Google Pixel 5

Switch to the rear and you'll see the standard 12.2MP f/1.7 dual-pixel rear camera with 77° field of view - that's roughly a 24mm focal length.

The second camera marks a key difference between the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4. Whereas the Pixel 4 has a 2x optical telephoto camera, the Pixel 5 has a 16MP f/2.2 'ultrawide' lens with 107° field of view - that's a 0.6x magnification of the standard camera.

We expect a polarised response to the new rear camera setup. If we're pushed, we prefer the new setup with ultrawide camera that feels more versatile.

From experience, the quality of the 2x digital zoom in the Pixel 5 is surprisingly good, though we don't know if it's as good as the 2x zoom camera of the Pixel 4.

So while you can pretty much get the same telephoto effect in both phones, the older Pixel 4 cannot go wider like the Pixel 5.

Elsewhere, you don't get a macro photo mode, but like all phones the Pixel 5 can focus quite close using its standard camera.

Google Pixel 5

Each camera is supported by an above average phase detection AF. Not all phones focus as quickly or as reliably as the Pixel 5 across a variety of scenarios, including low light.

The lenses are also stabilised; optically for photography, with electronic chucked in for video. We're not talking gimbal performance (like the Vivo X51 5g), but it's a solid performance.

In general, we have been comfortable shooting photos handheld knowing that detail will be as sharp as it can be, while videos with moderate panning and general walking are smooth.

The camera app is essentially identical between the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G because, well, the camera setup is identical. The only difference between these two phones and the single-camera Pixel 4a is access to the additional the ultrawide camera via the zoom range slider.

As for navigating the camera app, well it's all very straight forward really - this is a simple user experience.

There's a choice between the standard camera, portrait camera, Night Sight and Video, each with a basic degree of customisation and framing guides, plus Panorama, Photo Sphere, Slow Motion, Time Lapse and Google's 'Lens'.

Google Pixel 5

As standard, full-size JPEG pictures are 4:3 aspect ratio, although you can shoot in 16:9. Given the 19.5:9 aspect ratio of the screen, there is a reasonable bookend on the display outside the image area where app controls are displayed. It's a clean look.

The regular camera offers the most customisation, where you can select the flash on or off, add RAW image capture alongside JPEG, activate 'Motion' (that captures a short video around the photo capture to increase your chances of capturing the best moment), Self Timer and lastly aspect ratio.

The portrait mode crops in tighter to your subject than the standard camera setting and produces a background blur effect.

Video wise, you get 4K and Full HD up to 60fps when using the rear camera, or Full HD 30fps with the front camera. The slow motion is a 1/4x speed in Full HD (120fps) or 1/8x speed in 720p (240fps).

Panorama and timelapse modes both handle well with excellent end results. For the latter, there are five speed options with suggestions for what type of action the speed is best suited to, with the fastest 120x speed ideal for a sunset.

Night Sight provides a subtle but welcome improvement to images in low contrast light. You're guided to keep the phone steady during image capture, and the end result is a brighter image with more tonal detail in shadow areas in particular.

Google Pixel 5

There's also an astrophotography setting within the Night Sight mode. We've not received this prompt in real world conditions despite spending nighttime outdoors in a rural location (the prompt appears in Night Sight when the camera is face down on a surface, so we know it's there). If you're interested in such a mode, then the Vivo X51 5G is the phone to check out.

We've already raved about the Live HDR feature in our Pixel 4a review. For us, it is superior to an auto HDR option.

Simply tap the image area to reveal highlight and shadow sliders, through which brightness levels can be independently adjusted. Live HDR is ideal for discerning image makers who want manual control over brightness levels.

On the surface, the Pixel 5's camera is modest. However, for us it is entirely logical and offers the manual control where it is most needed, backed up by key features that ensure sharp pictures, such as effective stabilisation and phase detection AF.

Image Quality

The Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G share an identical camera and therefore the same image quality, though there are some extra features in these phones over the entry-level Pixel 4a for added versatility.

The dual camera setup offers a maximum 12.2MP resolution in the standard mode and 16MP in the ultrawide setting, with 6MB average JPEG file sizes, depending on the shooting mode.

There's also the option to record in RAW DNG format with an average file size of around 15MB, although this does also vary.

We see a huge difference between the same picture in RAW and JPEG format when viewed side by side, making clear the extent of intelligent processing going on to create a JPEG.

Truly, the phone automatically realises the camera's maximum potential, squeezing the most amount of tonal detail possible and minimising lens distortion.

There's little more that can be done manually from RAWs that isn't already being done, ergo there is little benefit shooting in RAW format at all.

Video quality and versatility is decent. Stabilised 4K video up to 60fps is not to be sniffed at! Also, the 4x slow motion setting and timelapse modes boast high quality end results.

In bright light, detail from the standard camera looks crisp when viewed on a phone or tablet. Sharpness is consistent from centre all the way to the corners, with very little fall-off.

The 'ultrawide' camera is softer and exhibits more noise, plus there is obviously more distortion in the corners including chromatic aberrations - revealed further by seeing the unedited RAW versions.

Really, smartphone wideangle lenses are typically soft. However, the Pixel 5's 'ultrawide' camera is decent as far as such cameras go and where needed we'd still happily use it.

The same goes for the 2x digital zoom, because we're pressed to tell the difference in image quality from those without zoom applied - there's no over sharpening as to appear artificial. Extend beyond the 2x digital zoom and understandably image quality progressively goes downhill.

Overall, the standard camera has a firm control over unwanted lens flare and ghosting. We've seen a little ghosting when shooting towards the sun, but in general it's an admirable performance. However, the ultrawide camera is more susceptible to flare.

Colours are understated, mainly staying true to real world conditions. It's a different approach to most other camera phones that usually snap vibrant 'like-worthy' pictures.

Ultimately, for most people, Pixel pictures benefit from a tweak to increase contrast and vibrancy. This can be achieved in-camera via a swathe of presets or manually using the adjustment sliders.

For us keen image-makers, creating a solid base image to then spend a minute editing is a better approach than conversely trying to claw back some reality.

We also really appreciate the effectiveness of Live HDR. Auto HDR is fine for most scenarios, but a phone can't read your mind.

That's when the option to independently work highlight and shadow brightness sliders is so handy. Want more detail in the sky but lock shadow brightness? Bring down the highlight slider. Want a low key effect? Darken both sliders.

You can still get the strong HDR effect too, by bringing the highlight slider to its lowest setting and the shadow slider to its highest.

There is no manual control over ISO, so it has not been possible to compare identical images at all of the ISO sensitivity settings. Our observations about noise are made over numerous images in different scenarios and light levels (and therefore random ISO settings).

Packing a standard camera with a fast f/1.7 aperture lens and effective image stabilisation, the Pixel 5 is usually set below ISO 400 where there is little noise to speak of, meaning detail is sharp. Again, the ultrawide camera suffers more from noise than the standard camera.

Of course, the adverse effect of noise on image quality increases as you go up the ISO settings. For cleaner detail, ideally, the camera would not be set above ISO 800. Any setting above this possesses mushy detail.

Night Sight mode brightens images, typically by use of a slower shutter speed and lower ISO. It doesn't necessarily eliminate noise altogether, although images appear cleaner.

We've already (briefly) mentioned about the responsive and reliable phase detection autofocus and optical and electronic stabilisation, both of which positively impact image quality. Wayward AF and motion blur are otherwise typical causes of soft detail in many smartphones.

This camera does not offer the best specification around, but it quietly and effectively makes lovely pictures. We've rarely binned photos on account of the camera's shortcomings.

Portrait Mode

In Portrait mode a slight crop is introduced and blur is applied to the background to help your subject stand out, using Google's AI.

By default the image is saved twice - with and without blur applied. This enables us to compare the two versions and see how effective image processing is at applying blur.

When viewed on a phone, the blur effect looks good. There's no choice of bokeh shapes like you might get in other phones, but we find that feature a tad gimmicky anyway.

The effectiveness of blur application in the Portrait mode is impacted by the subject and their surroundings. If the background is densely packed with detail, or the subject does not have a clear silhouette, blur application can miss the mark.

When viewed closely, it is possible to locate occasional clumps of detail around your subject without blur applied, especially around hair. For context, those sharp enough to notice this in the first place are more likely to have the capacity to apply blur themselves to those missed areas.

Overall, we're still impressed by the Portrait mode - it will take your candid portraits up a level compared to the standard camera and looks great on a smart device.

Google has also opened up the blur effect to any image taken on any camera by using 'Portrait Blur' in Google Photos.


Focal Range

The Google Pixel 5 has a standard camera with an equivalent focal length of 24mm - that's a 84° field of view. The digital zoom extends the standard focal length by up to 7x. The ultrawide camera has a 0.6x magnification (that's 15mm approximately) and 107° field of view.












Like any small-sensor smartphone, the Google Pixel 5 has decent macro capabilities although it does not have a specific macro setting. The image below was captured with the phone's minimum focus distance - any closer in this scenario and the camera wasn't able to focus.



You don't get a HDR on/ off control - HDR is applied automatically. The degree to which this effect is applied can be manually tweaked using the 'Live HDR' highlight and shadow sliders, where the brightness in highlights and shadows can be independently adjusted.


Night Sight Mode

Without manual exposure control you can't select shutter speed or ISO. However, the Pixel 5 is a very capable low-light shooter using the Night Sight mode.

In low contrast light, it's possible to get a sharp handheld shot using Night Sight, which ensures a bright image especially in shadow areas. The astrophotography mode demands a tripod for a sharp shot because exposure times are longer.




Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Google Pixel 5 camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample RAW Images

The Google Pixel 5 enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files. We've provided some Google RAW (DNG) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative).

Sample Movies & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 3840x2160 pixels at 60 frames per second. Please note that this 6 second movie is 52.3Mb in size.

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 3840x2160 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 10 second movie is 61.8Mb in size.

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 60 frames per second. Please note that this 10 second movie is 41Mb in size.

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 10 second movie is 27.4Mb in size.

This is a sample slow-motion movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 135 second movie is 173Mb in size.

This is a sample time-lapse movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 31 second movie is 180Mb in size.

Product Images

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The Google Pixel 5 is a competitive phone against the likes of the iPhone 12 and OnePlus 8T. The numbers don't necessarily back this up, but the real-world experience does. Certainly, it represents a sensible upgrade from the Pixel 4.

With 8GB RAM, snappy processor and 90Hz refresh rate, the whole user experience is smooth. We've also appreciated the extra level of detail seen in the high-contrast-ratio OLED display.

Build quality is great and the overall dimensions of the phone make sense. This 6.0-inch display phone can be operated single-handedly with ease. Battery life is stellar, too - you won't need to be reaching for the charger every night.

As always, the Google camera experience has been good. We're not necessarily seeing the same degree of cutting-edge progress as elsewhere, but the Pixel 5 is still very competitive.

Look beyond the numbers and consider the real-world handling across a range of scenarios and the resulting image quality.

Well, you've got a mainly automated camera app that is simple to use, paired with a highly effective image processor that gets you the best images possible with the least amount of fuss.

It's backed up by effective auto-focus and stabilisation, plus excellent features such as Live HDR. Each shooting mode has sensible customisation, too, such as five speeds in time-lapse.

Overall, we have no doubt recommending the Google Pixel 5 and its camera. It's an understated offering, a solid all-rounder, but one that we'd happily keep in the pocket.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 3.5
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 4
Value for money 4

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Google Pixel 5.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro

The Apple iPhone 12 Pro is one of four new iPhones released for 2020, joining the Mini, Pro Max, and the standard model. With prices starting at around £$999, is this the best iPhone for photographers? Read our in-depth iPhone 12 Pro review now, complete with full-size sample photos and videos...

Google Pixel 4

The Pixel 4 is Google's new flagship smartphone, available in standard and XL sizes. New for this generation is a second 16-megapixel 2x telephoto lens with an f/2.4 aperture, along with improved portrait and night modes. Is this the best Pixel phone for keen photographers, and can it compete with its main rivals? Find out now by reading our Pixel 4 review, with full-size sample images and videos...

Google Pixel 4a

The Pixel 4a is a new entry-level smartphone from Google which offers the company's single-camera point-and-shoot photography in an affordable, reasonably sized handset. Read our Google Pixel 4a review, complete with full-size sample photos and videos, to find out if this is all the smartphone that you actually need...

Huawei P40 Pro

The P40 Pro is Huawei's new flagship smartphone for 2020. Featuring a 6.58-inch screen, 50 megapixel sensor, 5x optical zoom lens and 4K video recording, can it overcome its much-publicized lack of Google App support? Find out now by reading our in-depth Huawei P40 Pro review, complete with full-size sample images and videos...

Nokia 8.3 5G

The Nokia 8.3 is a new 5G smartphone with a large screen that won't break the bank. For photographers, it offers a 'quad camera' with wide (primary), ultra-wide and macro lenses, plus a depth sensing lens, up to 64 megapixel images, 4K video with H-Log profile and DNG RAW capture. Find out if the Nokia 8.3 5G is worth considering in our latest in-depth review...

OnePlus 8 Pro

The OnePlus 8 Pro is the latest flagship smartphone for 2020 from OnePlus. It features a 48-megapixel quad-camera setup with an upgraded ultra-wide camera, 4K/60p video recording, Pro shooting mode and the ability to shoot in Raw. Find out if this is the best smartphone for photographers by reading our in-depth OnePlus 8 Pro review with full-size sample photos and videos.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is Samsung's latest flagship smartphone, boasting a 6.9-inch screen, 108 megapixel standard camera, 5x optical zoom, 8K video, super slow motion video, Pro shooting mode and Raw capture. Take a look at our in-depth Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review to find out if this is the best smartphone camera for keen photographers...

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

The Galaxy S20 Ultra is Samsung's new flagship smartphone for 2020. Featuring a 6.9-inch screen, 108 megapixel sensor and 100x zoom lens, it's certainly big in size, megapixel count and zoom range, but is it also big in performance? Find out now by reading our expert Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review, complete with full-size sample images and videos...

Sony Xperia 1 II

The Sony Xperia 1 II is a new flagship smartphone offering a range of pro image and video features aimed at keen camera enthusiasts. These include 20fps with continuous autofocus focus and autoexposure and real time eye AF for humans and animals, utilising technologies borrowed from the Alpha A9 full-frame mirrorless camera. Read our in-depth Sony Xperia 1 II review, complete with full-size sample images and videos, to find out if this new smartphone hits the mark for serious photography...

Sony Xperia 5 II

The Sony Xperia 5 II is a new mid-range smartphone that inherits a lot of the core features from the flagship Xperia 1 II model, in a smaller and more affordable form factor. Read our in-depth Sony Xperia 5 II review, complete with full-size sample images and videos, to find out if this new smartphone can satisfy the serious photographer...

Vivo X51 5G

You've probably never heard of Vivo before, but that shouldn't put you off the new X51 5G, one of the best smartphones for photography that we've ever reviewed. What makes the Vivo X5 5G so special for both stills and video? Find out now by reading our in-depth review...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Google Pixel 5 from around the web. »

The Google Pixel 5 loses some of the more advanced features of its predecessor in order to keep the cost down, and the result is a streamlined phone with great camera software and a clean Android interface. But without some of those premium perks, like a telephoto lens, that appear in other handsets at the same price tier, the Pixel 5 struggles to distinguish itself from the competition. It's a good handset at a consumer-pleasing price – but that's true of other 2020 phones, too.
Read the full review » »

Google's jumping on the 5G train with the $499 Pixel 4A 5G (£499, AU$799) and $699 Pixel 5 (£599 and AU$999). The phones run the latest Android 11 OS, have a second ultrawide camera and bigger batteries than any previous Pixel phone. But as the marquee device, the Pixel 5 is equipped with a few more features. These goodies include a 90Hz display, 2GB more RAM, a bigger battery and a water-resistant, aluminum body. It also has wireless charging and reverse wireless charging.
Read the full review » »

Mirroring the Nexus phones of old, Google is finally shifting the Pixel’s focus from the high-end and closer in line with mid-range prices. And, after a few years of trying and failing to compete with more expensive handsets like the iPhone, it’s a smart move.
Read the full review »



Full screen 151 mm (6.0") display with transmissive hole

Dimensions and weight2

144.7 height x 70.4 width x 8.0 depth (mm) 151 g


Minimum 4000 mAh

Memory and storage



Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 765G 2.4 GHz + 2.2 GHz + 1.8 GHz, 64-bit Octa-Core Adreno 620

Rear camera

12.2 MP dual-pixel • 1.4 μm pixel width

Front camera

8 MP • 1.12 μm pixel width • ƒ/2.0 aperture


1080p @ 30 fps, 60 fps, 120 fps, 240 fps • 4K @ 30 fps, 60 fps


Proximity/Ambient light sensor • Accelerometer/Gyrometer • Magnetometer


USB-C® 18W adapter with USB-PD 2.0 • 18W fast charging5 •Qi-compatible charging6

Buttons and ports

USB Type-C® 3.1 Gen 1 • Power button


Single Nano SIM • eSIM14

Media & Audio

Stereo speakers • 3 microphones • Noise suppression

Wireless and Location

Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz + 5 GHz 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2x2 MIMO


Up to 4CC (12 layers) DL and 2CC UL9


Just Black • Sorta Sage

Hearing Aid Compatibility

M4/T3 HAC rating

Security and OS Updates

The latest Android 11


100% recycled aluminium enclosure12




2 years

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