The Pixel 5's design caught the attention of many journalists and fans alike. Google mentioned the phone was made of "metal" throughout the announcement event, which promptly raised eyebrows and had many of us wondering how Google was able to get wireless charging to work through anything other than glass.
It turned out that the "metal" that Google advertised was not really a metal shell, but rather pieces of aluminum, reinforced by a durable layer of "bio-resin" - a fancy way to say that the Pixel 5 is made of plastic. Google offered the following image that seemed to explain the innards of the Pixel 5.
The image was a bit misleading, because the second phase of the material showed the metal part of the phone before much of the material was cut out, prior to adding the textured plastic layer. This meant the Pixel 5 doesn't have as much metal as was shown in the image above. Regardless, "plastic" isn't always a bad word when it's done right. The Pixel 5's exterior is durable and sure to outlast glass in the long term, depending on how clumsy the owner is.
The Pixel 5's housing is a molded unibody covering everything but the display as a single piece. The only seam is between the display glass and the body. Meanwhile, the micro-porous texture adds a grip that feels somewhere between ceramic and plastic. This added grip of the material feels more assuring than the conventional glass sandwiches that have passed through the office over the last several years.
As the average screen size continues to inflate, Google took a more conservative approach with the size of the Pixel 5. The panel measures 6 inches diagonally and its thin bezels contribute to a compact footprint. It's almost exactly the same size as the iPhone 11 Pro (non-Max) from 2019. The Pixel 5 measures 144.7 x 70.4 x 8 mm and weighs in at 151g. the iPhone 11 Pro is a little heavier at 181g.
Most of the time we used the Pixel 5, it was secured in Google's official Pixel fabric case. It's a wonderful case that's stylish, machine washable, and we've often received compliments from its appearance. They are durable and don't scuff as badly as a regular TPU or hard plastic case. The black one we have hides stains and scuffs nicely.
While the Pixel 3 XL was known for its obscenely huge notch and the Pixel 4 duo was known for its enormous foreheads, the Pixel 5 has a simple punch-hole cutout for the selfie camera, yielding an excellent screen-to-body ratio. We also appreciate the display isn't of the curved variety, making it more comfortable to hold and use without a case.
Motion Sense hardware is no more so that means there's no longer Face Unlock. The upside is that Google reverted to the reliable traditional rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. There was nothing wrong with it when it was replaced then, and there's nothing wrong with it now. Particularly nowadays when wearing a mask is the norm, a fingerprint scanner is the quicker and more reliable way to unlock a phone.
The fingerprint scanner makes picking up and immediately using the Pixel 5 very easy. The speed, accuracy, and ease of using the scanner by feel alone makes it a pleasant experience. If you'd rather just check notifications, you can reach for the power key instead of the scanner.
After finishing our initial review of the Pixel 5, we actually forgot to address the in-call speaker. The Pixel 5 does not have a cutout at the top of the screen for a speaker. Instead, the in-call speaker is located behind the display and resonates right through the glass. This makes the phone's sleek and uniform bezels possible. Listening to callers is a bit different, however, as the sound originates further down from the top compared to the traditional location of a speaker port.
The downside to this setup is that the stereo loudspeakers sound a bit unbalanced since the left channel's sound isn't as loud or as clear as the sound emanating from the main, down-firing loudspeaker. While this loudspeaker setup isn't ideal, it's not too bad considering the phone's thin bezels and compact size.