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Pixel 5 just got a major performance boost

Published Apr 6th, 2021 6:50AM EDT
Pixel 5 Speed
Image: Google

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The Pixel 5 rocks the mid-range Snapdragon 765G platform, a massive compromise Google made for its flagship series last year. Reports at the time said Google chose the 765G to save money and pass those savings to the customer. The 765G can’t match the Snapdragon 865 that powers many of last year’s Android flagships, and it’s no match for the iPhone 11 and iPhone SE, let alone the iPhone 12. But the Pixel 5 is an affordable 5G phone — the Pixel 4a (5G) is even better. The good news is that Google might make everything forgotten with the Pixel 6, which is expected to feature Google’s first custom System-on-Chip (SoC) for a Pixel phone. But until then, Pixel 5 owners are in for what appears to be a significant performance boost, as an Android security update seems to deliver a fix for a GPU problem they might not have known they had.

Google just released the April 2021 update, which is available to download on a variety of Pixel phones, not just the Pixel 5. The release might bring GPU optimization for all these handsets, not just the Pixel 5. But the April 2021 update specifically mentions “performance optimizations for certain graphics-intensive apps & games” in the changelog, listing the Pixel 4a (5G) and Pixel 5 as the impacted devices.

As xda-developers explains, several Pixel owners observed that GPU benchmark numbers declined for handsets like the Pixel 4 XL and the Pixel 4a when the Android 11 dropped.

Pixel 5 launched with Android 11 pre-installed, so it wasn’t clear whether the software had a negative impact on the GPU performance. But reviewers noted at the time that the handset scored lower in GPU tests than other phones featuring the same Snapdragon 765G platform. Some believed that something in the Android 11 release might be responsible for the behavior.

Andreas Proschofsky from Der Standard has tested the GPU in 3DMark, finding that the Pixel 5 scores 30-50% better than before.

He said that he didn’t expect real-life performance to see a “big push,” despite those numbers. He did note that the improved GPU performance did not impact the phone’s reliability, which would be an expected behavior with such upgrades.

Separately, Andrei Frumusanu from AnandTech confirmed that the Pixel 5 GPU performance has “essentially doubled” after the update, and the phone is now in line or better than other 765G phones.

The April 2021 update is available to download right away, and you should get it as soon as your carrier makes it available for download. The release brings additional improvements, covering the camera, connectivity, and the entire operating system. Notably, the security update improves the camera quality in certain third-party apps; it fixes a VPN issue; and prevents devices from freezing on the Google logo during startup. The full changelog is available at this link.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.