Does the Pixel 5 have a Neural Core chip?

Google Pixel 5 Camera
Google Pixel 5 Camera (Image credit: Google)

Best answer: No, there is no Pixel 5 Neural Core chip which was found on Pixel devices starting with the Pixel 2 and going to the Pixel 4, but that shouldn't impact speeds or other benefits.

What is Google's Neural Core?

Whenever you think about a Pixel smartphone, chances are that it has something to do with how great the camera(s) are. Google began including the Pixel Visual Core in the Pixel 2, which was a custom processor built with eight cores capable of running three trillion operations per second.

Originally, this was disabled on the Pixel 2 and 2 XL before Google decided to enable it throughout the Android 8.1 Developer Preview. Essentially, this custom SoC processes every image taken on the device to provide the stunning images that we became accustomed to seeing. The real power with the Pixel Visual Core, however, was that it was capable of running five times faster than the image processor found on the Snapdragon 835 and used much less energy.

Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Fast forward to the launch of the Pixel 4, and Google upgraded its custom SoC for image processing. Pixel 4 and 4 XL owners were provided with the new-and-improved Neural Core for image processing.

This new SoC is a machine learning processor (NPU) which is optimized to perform a very specific set of operations. With the NPU in-tow, the Pixel 4 lineup was capable of speeding up the processing times for things that would run slower or less efficient on the primary processor.

Pixel 4 Rear Camera

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

The key reason for the Neural Core being so important on the Pixel 4 comes to photography. It's why you can point your Pixel at the sky and actually be able to take pictures of the constellations. Being able to take a picture of a pitch-black area and have your smartphone turn it into something beautiful is one of the positive defining qualities of a smartphone that was canned before it turned a year old.

There are also added benefits for Google Assistant and Face Unlock. The core helps with unlocking speed and is why you need nothing more than a glance while still being secure. The speed of Assistant has been vastly improved thanks to the Neural Core, as all of the processing is done locally on your device instead of solely relying on Google's cloud data center. It's also how your Pixel 4 can use the Recorder app and transcribe speed in real-time, regardless of if you have an internet connection.

This processor initially was introduced as a way for users to get the best photos possible on a smartphone, and it was damn good at it. However, as Android has evolved, the Neural Core turned into a custom engine to provide arguably one of the best software experiences on a smartphone. The "magic" of swiping through and having Assistant instantly answer your questions, or have that conversation translated without any delay, is something that other manufacturers are still struggling with.

Where is the Pixel 5 Neural Core chip?

Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G

Source: Google (Image credit: Source: Google)

One of the key reasons to own a Google Pixel device comes to down to the software. This is plain-jane Stock Android, as Google intended — all without all of the unnecessary bloat from add-on features that you'll never use. Software is king, and the Pixel 5 with Android 11 is the best iteration of what Google would expect from other software manufacturer's to provide for users.

Another (and perhaps even larger) reason for snagging a Pixel smartphone comes down to the cameras. The camera system on the Pixel 4 ensured that the device remains one of the best Android phones you can get, even with the seemingly useless Soli features and horrendous battery life. But being able to point your phone at the night sky and take a picture of The Big Dipper with nothing more than a tripod is absolutely fascinating.

Fast forward to the release of the Pixel 5, and there was one strange omission from the specifications for this device. Sure, the Titan M chip is there for enhanced security, but Google has removed the Neural Core chip from its latest "flagship" device. It seems the reason for the removal is that Google figured out how to increase the speed of image processing through the software. This includes the other benefits of the Neural Core chip, including faster Google Assistant, on-device translation without being connected to the internet, and more.

Andrew Myrick
Senior Editor - Chromebooks, tablets, and wearables

Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.