The Google Pixel 5 represents a strategy change for the tech giant: the phone doesn't quite have the specs and features to compete with top-tier flagship devices, but instead is a more measured handset that costs less in turn.
Compared to the Samsung Galaxy S21s of the world, the Pixel 5 focuses on what Pixel phones do best: offering users a great, simplified camera experience and a very clean Android interface, as we'll detail in this Google Pixel 5 review. It's a tack that the Google Pixel 5a continues, and given the similarities between the phones, the only thing the Pixel 5 has over its cheaper sibling is a smaller size and more refined metal back - though that's still enough for it to rank among the best Google Pixel phones.
The Google Pixel 5 is the first phone in some time to have a metal back – the industry switched to glass to enable better signal transmission (and wireless charging). The metal wraps around the sides for an all-in-one body that’s also a rarity today, and we’d expect this design to be far more resilient to damage, whether it’s wear and tear or more serious drops.
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The metal itself has a matte-like finish that makes it feel a bit more like polycarbonate than the typical aluminum frames. Its texture feels interesting but not exactly appealing, though one thing is for sure: it allowed us to get a more solid grip on the phone.
This is important because, as previously mentioned, this phone feels small: despite having a 6-inch display, the all-in-one metal body and minimal bezel mean the phone feels more compact – and at 8mm thick, it’s also one of the thinner phones on the market.
Not every aspect of the small format is perfectly designed: the metal lock button and volume rocker on the right side of the phone barely protrude from the body of the phone and have more resistance than you’d expect, making them a bit tough to press. This is a change from the large and protruding plastic buttons on the Pixel 4 and Google Pixel 4a (as well as the 4a 5G), which are far easier to manipulate. It’s an odd but noteworthy criticism; these days, we rarely complain about buttons.