The Google Pixel 5 proves that a smartphone doesn’t have to be the most powerful in order to be the best.
Deciding on what the best phone of 2020 is wasn’t easy. Out of all the award categories this year, this was the most difficult one to agree on. We’ve had a long discussion on it, and several phones were mentioned. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, OnePlus 8 Pro, and several others were thrown out there. The Galaxy Z Fold 2 as well, but that handset has a completely separate award category, so it wasn’t even eligible for this one. Ultimately, we’ve decided to go with the Pixel 5, which may be a somewhat controversial move, in a way. The Google Pixel 5 is definitely not the most powerful smartphone of 2020, far from it. There are a number of reasons why we chose it, though.
What makes the Google Pixel 5 so special? Well, a lot of things. Not only is it a lot more affordable than most flagships we’ve considered for this award, but it delivers in pretty much every way. It doesn’t really lack in performance, at least not in day-to-day performance, it offers great battery life, a great camera, and so on. We’ll go into more detail below, but when you consider all we’ll talk about, it’s really difficult not to recommend this phone. So, let’s get started, and try to explain our decision.
The performance is great, despite the fact Snapdragon 865 is not a part of the picture
The Google Pixel 5 comes with the Snapdragon 765G SoC. That is Qualcomm’s mid-range processor, and it does support 5G. It is considerably less powerful than the Snapdragon 865, but that’s not something you’ll notice in day-to-day usage. You basically won’t notice this phone has a mid-range processor at all, unless you fire up some graphically-intensive games, and even then you may struggle. This smartphone can handle basically anything you throw at it, including games.
It’s snappy in every way, shape and form. Its high refresh rate display definitely helps with that as well, as does Google’s software. Android 11 that ships pre-installed on the Google Pixel 5 is extremely well-optimized, and that definitely has something to do with performance as well. If you don’t need to have the latest and greatest chip in your phone, and you simply care about good performance… well, you won’t be disappointed here.
Best cameras for most people
Google’s latest flagship comes with two cameras on the back, and one on the front. Despite the fact Google has been using that main 12.2-megapixel sensor for years now, it’s still great. The Google Pixel 5 can capture some stunning shots, and it’s probably the best point-and-shoot camera smartphone out there. All you have to do is press a button and there you go. Google’s algorithms are great, and chances are you’ll be able to capture a great picture. That goes for both the phone’s main camera, and its ultra-wide one.
If there’s barely any light in an image, the company’s Night Sight mode will help. It’s capable of brightening up an image quite a bit, you will never need to use flash when taking images. There are more versatile cameras in the market, that’s true, as the Pixel 5 comes with only two. Those two cameras are truly excellent, however, and even though it’s time Google starts using a new sensor, that older sensor really doesn’t impact camera quality here. The Google Pixel 5 is easily in the top three camera smartphones in the market, if not the best one.
Truly excellent battery life
Last year’s Google Pixel flagships had terrible battery life. There’s no point in denying it. The Pixel 4 XL was bearable, but the Pixel 4 was utterly horrible. Google has taken the criticism to heart, it seems, as all 2020 Pixel phones have really good battery life. The Pixel 5 stands above the rest, as the device really delivers in this regard. Even power users will find this phone satisfactory in the battery department, as crossing over that 7-hour screen-on-time mark during a long day is not a problem at all.
Your mileage may vary, especially if you game a lot, and do other processor-intensive tasks. For general usage, though, you’ll get excellent battery life. In fact, this is one of the best phones in terms of battery life we’ve tested this year, and that is saying a lot. The Snapdragon 765G only helps in that regard, as the battery life would be worse with the Snapdragon 865. Not even the 90Hz display is affecting the phone’s battery life as much, which is great. Charging on the Pixel 5 could be faster, as it’s only 18W, but considering you probably won’t have to charge it in the middle of the day, that shouldn’t be an issue. Wireless charging is also available, but it’s not exactly fast.
It’s just the right size… for most people
The Google Pixel 5 features uniform bezels all around. Those bezels are extremely thin. So, Google managed to pack in a 6-inch display in a rather compact body here. The phone is about the same size as the Pixel 4a, and that handset has a 5.81-inch panel. This 6-inch display is large enough for most people, while the Pixel 5 is not difficult to use with one hand at all. Compared to some other monstrosities in the market, you can actually call this thing a phone and get away with it. Most flagships these days are competing who will have a larger display, they’re more tablets than smartphones.
Most people will probably appreciate this phone’s size. Something else they’ll probably appreciate is that the backplate on the device is not glass. The Pixel 5 is less slippery than most of those large phones in the market, which is another plus for the device. Google did a great job with the design this time around, even though it should have offered a larger variant for people who want it. For most, however, this is probably the sweet spot.
The Google Pixel 5 is the top dog of 2020
The Google Pixel 5 may seem like an odd choice, but it’s the best smartphone around, in our opinion. Samsung did an impeccable job with the Galaxy Z Fold 2, but that’s not exactly a smartphone, per se. It’s a hybrid between a phone and a tablet, and it’s considerably different than your regular smartphones. We had to push it to a separate category, it’s what made the most sense. 2020 was a great year for smartphones, and Google did a truly great job this time around. Truth be said, though, the Pixel 5 should have cost less, having its internals in mind. Still, even at this price tag, we believe it's the best smartphone this year.