Google Pixel 5 Australian Review: I Struggled To Find Things Not To Like

Google Pixel 5 Australian Review: I Struggled To Find Things Not To Like

I’ve spent the last couple of months with the Google Pixel 5 and honestly, there’s very little to dislike here.

For the most part this is an understated flagship phone that does the important stuff incredibly well. And while there are a few things it could improve on, they’re not a huge deal. And they’re balanced out by the low price point.

Here’s where I’ve landed after a few months.

Google Pixel 5

WHAT IS IT?

Google's latest flagship phone

PRICE

Starts at $999 for 128GB storage

LIKE

Great camera, excellent battery life, lovely design, good price, 5G

NO LIKE

No proper zoom, only three years of software update support

Google Pixel 5 Camera

The Google Pixel 5 has the same 12.2MP rear and 8MP front set up as the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4a, but with the addition of an ultra-wide lens. Even so, this may seem like a red flag. Is that really enough of a difference?

Thankfully, Google’s software inclusions builds on some already fantastic features of the series, including Night Site, astrophotography mode and time lapse.

Google has proven that you don’t always to invest into bigger and better hardware to create a great phone camera. And considering the Pixel 5 starts at just $999, you’re absolutely getting your moneys worth here.

The Google Pixel 5’s camera is incredible reliable. In simple point and click situations its hard to take a bad shot. Pictures come out bright (without being oversaturated) and sharp and the addition of the ultra-wide lens means I am no longer lamenting the Pixel’s inability to get a stunning landscape shot.

This is good news after Google said it didn’t put on in the Pixel 4 because it was focusing on telephoto instead. I guess the company took notice of customer feedback on that one.

Fortunately, the ultra-wide lens in the Pixel 5 is great for the most part. In well lit settings its practically perfect — the images are sharp and there is no fish-eye warping.

It doesn’t perform quite as well in darker settings, but ensuring night sight is toggled on helps its performance.

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Photo: Tegan Jones

Low light shots. Photo: Tegan Jones

Low light shots. Photo: Tegan Jones

Low light shots. Photo: Tegan Jones

Low light shots. Photo: Tegan Jones

Low light shots. Photo: Tegan Jones

Low light shots. Photo: Tegan Jones

Low light shots. Photo: Tegan Jones

Low light shots. Photo: Tegan Jones

Low light shots. Photo: Tegan Jones

Low light shots. Photo: Tegan Jones

Speaking of lowlight performance, it is generally fantastic with the primary lens. While it can get a little muddy if the setting is really dark, I’m not complaining considering how comparatively cheap this phone is to competitors in market. You generally have to have a lot more to get Night Sight from other brands.

As with previous generations of the Pixel both the rear and selfie cams take lovely portrait shots. And the built-in editing software is great if you want to casually play around with the images.

The only real glaring omission from the camera is a lack of real zoom. It tops out at 7x zoom, which is a bit poor. That being said, the 2x is quite good and I personally don’t care about zoom that much .I’m really just mentioning it because some people do and because it’s difficult to find many negatives with this phone.

And look, if I really had to split hairs I’d like to see a third camera on the rear of the device. But that being said, Google does a really great job of utilising its software in lieu of extra hardware. Plus, a third camera would mean the baseline price would sore above the sub-$1000 mark.

Battery Life

One of the most impressive features of the Google Pixel 5 is the battery life. This is a nice change because this hasn’t always been Google’s strong suit, particularly with with Pixel 4.

At 4,000mAh the Pixel 5 battery is relatively chunky, especially for such a moderately-sized device. It’s also the biggest battery Google has ever injected into one of its devices.

Colloquially I never worry about it running out of juice by the end of the day. It always has some battery life to spare when I charge it at night. And when it came to a run down test it came in at just under 17 hours, which is damn impressive.

However, because this is a 5G device you may get mixed results depending on whether you’re using it and how often.

5G is a notorious battery drain, though I will say it didn’t have too negative impact the few times I actually got to utilise it with the Pixel 5. But to be fair, I don’t live in a 5G supported area yet and my trips to the office during the pandemic have been minimal.

On top of that, the Google Pixel 5 has fast charge if you need to ever give it a quick top up, as well as wireless charging. The latter was missing from previous generations, which was one of my bugbears, so I’m pleased to see it in the flagship. This is a big step up.

Design

The most distinct element of the Google Pixel 5’s design is its size. Or lack thereof.

The Pixel 5 is the smallest of all high-end flagship phones this year. It comes in at 6 inches, and only the iPhone SE and iPhone 12 Mini are smaller.

Google choosing to forgo the XL model of the Pixel this year is an interesting choice. It probably comes down to less-than-ideal sales of the Pixel 4 and frankly, seeing the brand choose to keep the smaller Pixel 5 is refreshing.

In a world where flagship phones are getting increasingly bigger — the iPhone 12 Pro Max is a beast — it’s great to see Google put smaller first. Sure, Apple invested in some smaller devices this year too, but neither of them were the crowning glory of the range.

Me and my baby hands thank you, Google.

Design-wise I’m also pleased to report it still has an IP68 rating and an aluminium body that feels lux in the hand.

The same goes for the OLED Gorilla Glass display, which feels nice but also durable. Much like the Google Pixel 3, this thing seems rugged AF.

I was also happy with the display and general device performance when it came to gaming, streaming content and general browsing. This was largely due to the 90Hz refresh combined with 8GB RAM.

Should you buy the Google Pixel 5?

When it comes to affordable flagships, the Google Pixel 5 is at the top of my list for 2020.

While it does start at $999 for the cheapest model, this is a pretty damn good price for a high-end phone. It’s a particularly great deal when you take into account the camera and battery capabilities, 5G compatibility and the fact it (and all other Pixel devices) will always be the first to get the latest Android update each year.

It will also get three years of software updates. While this is actually quite good in the Android world, I don’t think it’s good enough. It feeds into already-strong narrative that it should be normal to change phones every one to three years — and I don’t like that.

Still, at $999 the Google Pixel 5 is an incredibly reliable device that takes a cracking shot, is beautiful to use and won’t leave you worried about your battery life.

In a world where $2000 for a flagship is the norm, I like that Google endeavours to be different. And hey, if that still isn’t cheap enough for you, consider the Google Pixel 4a. It takes mid-range phones to the next level and it does not disappoint.