Google Pixel 5 Review: Refined And Feature-Rich With Caveats

Google Pixel 5: Audio Quality, Performance, And Battery Life

Google Pixel 5 Audio, Data, And Call Reception

We used the Pixel 5 mostly on AT&T and T-Mobile’s low-band 5G networks in San Francisco (bands n5/n71 850MHz/600MHz) and didn’t have any issues with call quality or data speeds. This phone also supports mid-band 5G (n41, 2.5GHz) on T-Mobile, plus mmWave 5G on both AT&T and Verizon, but these networks aren’t deployed in our area. Note that the Pixel 5 Google sells abroad only supports sub-6GHz 5G.

Pixel 5 20

On the audio front, the Pixel 5 has stereo speakers, but it’s not what you think. The bottom edge-firing driver handles one channel, but there’s no earpiece for the other channel. Instead, the surface of the display is used as a speaker. This works fine for calls, but sounds tinny with music. While there’s no headphone jack, the Pixel 5 supports both analog and digital audio devices over USB Type-C plus aptX HD and LDAC over Bluetooth.

Google Pixel 5 Performance

We’ve now reviewed quite a few Snapdragon 765G-equipped handsets here at HotHardware, and our takeaway is mostly the same each time. For day-to-day apps, this chip performs well enough to provide a smooth and fluid user experience. It’s only when doing graphically-demanding tasks -- like hardcore gaming -- that you notice a difference. Combine this with the power efficiency of a built-in 5G modem (X52), and this SoC is a winner for most users.

This begs the question: does a phone still need a flagship processor to be called a flagship in 2020? Overall, the Snapdragon 765G -- combined with a 90Hz screen, 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM, 128GB of UFS 2.1 storage, and a clean build of Android 11 -- makes the Pixel 5 sing. It’s not OnePlus Nord snappy, but it’s still pleasantly quick, and -- despite Android 11’s apparent performance degradation -- it juggled our normal set of apps with aplomb.

Geekbench 5
Synthetic CPU Benchmark
The latest version of Geekbench for Android has aligned its scores with the desktop version of Geekbench 5. Let's see how the Pixel 5 fares versus some of its competitors...

geekbench pixel 5

In these Geekbench 5 tests, the Pixel 5 finishes in the bottom of the pack. The iPhone 11 Pro still has the strongest single-core performance overall, but the Pixel 5 lags behind other Snapdragon 765G-equipped Android 10 devices. You can get a good feel for the Android 11 performance drop by comparing the Pixel 5 results with the Pixel 4a scores.

Futuremark PCMark For Android
General Purpose Pocket Computing Performance Metrics
Futuremark's PCMark for Android is an excellent suite of tests if you want to benchmark a wide range of tasks on any handset -- things like image and video editing, as well as lighter-duty, everyday workloads such as email and web browsing. When you see the test running live, it's clear the scripted application tests are carefully selected and tuned to make use of the each mobile platform in a very controlled way...

pcmark pixel 5

In PCMark, the Pixel 5 just beats Google's Snapdragon 845-equipped Pixel 3 XL flagship from 2018. While the Snapdragon 765G powering the Pixel 5 clearly doesn't match the performance of current flagships for the workloads used in PCMark for Android, these results are still respectable.

AnTuTu 8 And AITuTu
Platform Benchmarks
AnTuTu’s latest benchmark returns a number of metrics ranked with somewhat nebulous scores, rather than frame rates or time to complete. Here we're running the latest version of AnTuTu across an multiple Android devices. AnTuTu returns four top level performance results which are all included here: CPU, RAM, 3D, UX (or User Experience), along with a total score...

antutu pixel 5

We saw more of the same in the AnTuTu benchmark. Here, the Pixel 5 comes in right between the Snapdragon 730G-equipped Pixel 4a and the Snapdragon 765G-equipped OnePlus Nord.

AITuTu evaluates the AI performance of a device by leveraging two mainstream neural network models for machine learning and AI -- Inception v3 for Image Classification and MobileNet-SSD for Object Detection. The benchmark determines the device’s accuracy and speed when inferring data from each workload...

aitutu pixel 5

Google clearly hasn't done a the best job optimizing AI workloads on the Snapdragon 765G and Pixel 5. In AiTuTu, the Pixel 5 scores just slightly more than half what the Snapdragon 765G-equipped OnePlus Nord scores.

3D Graphics Benchmarks: 3DMark And GFX Bench
Pushing The Pixels
Next we're checking how the Google Pixel 5 compares in GFXBench, which has been one of the standard mobile graphics/gaming performance benchmarks for years. To ensure that display refresh (v-sync) and resolution aren't limiting factors, we're comparing off-screen test results here. GFXBench tests OpenGL ES graphics workloads and we're specifically testing OpenGL ES 3.0 and 2.0...

manhattan pixel 5

trex pixel 5

Graphics performance clearly isn't the Snapdragon 765G's strongest suit. Here, the Google Pixel 5's scores are consistently less than quarter of current Snapdragon 865-equipped flagships, and even significantly behind the Snapdragon 765G-equipped OnePlus Nord -- likely a result of the Android 11 performance drop and perhaps some driver / framework optimizations still necessary to wring maximum performance from the SoC.

Futuremark's 3DMark Sling Shot is a newer benchmark module that's been added to the 3DMark mobile suite. Unlike previous gen 3DMark mobile tests, Sling Shot is a much more advanced OpenGL ES 3.1 and Metal API-based benchmark that employs more advanced rendering techniques, like volumetric lighting, particle illumination, multiple render targets, instanced rendering, uniform buffers and transform feedback.

3DMark Sling
Shot Test
Futuremark 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme Benchmark

We're running this test in off-screen mode once again to remove display resolution differences from the equation. This lets us compare cross-platform results more reliably...

3dmark pixel 5

The Google Pixel 5 also performed worse than current flagships in these 3DMark tests. It scored about 3/4 of what the Snapdragon 765G-equipped OnePlus Nord scored, but still almost 3x better than the Snapdragon 665- and 675-equipped TCL 10-series.

Google Pixel 5 Other Features And Battery Life

Specs are familiar, too. On the radio front, you’ll find mmWave and sub-6GHz 5G, CAT 18 LTE, WiFi 5 (802.11ac, 2x2 MIMO), Bluetooth 5.1 (with LE), NFC, and A-GPS/ GLONASS / Galileo / QZSS positioning. The Pixel 5 also includes an eSIM and the usual array of sensors, but lacks micro SD support. Also gone is the Active Edge pressure sensor found on past Pixel flagships, along with the Pixel Neural Core, making photos slower to process.

The capacitive fingerprint sensor is fast and reliable, but its placement in the back feels a bit dated. We’d have preferred a scanner embedded in the power/lock key, for a cleaner, more modern look. Unlike many competing phones, there’s also no face unlock of any kind -- not even a basic 2D implementation without support for mobile payments. Haptics live up to Google’s usual high standards, though.

battery pixel 5

Battery life is surprisingly decent. The 4080mAh battery kept the Pixel 5 ticking for 13 hours and 39 minutes in our PCMark test -- at 90Hz no less. As such, you can expect the battery to last a busy day on a charge. Topping off is reasonably quick thanks to 18W wired fast charging (USB PD), and there’s an 18W charger supplied in the box. Alternatively, there’s also Qi-compatible wireless charging, plus reverse wireless charging.

Next up: the software, pricing, and our review verdict...

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