Google didn't just announce its debut smartwatch in the form of the Pixel Watch - it also delivered the first serious challenger to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 line.
These two smartwatches are easily the best for Android smartphone users right now but there are some key differences. We've been using them relentlessly since their launch – and have first-hand experience with their strengths and weaknesses.
We've found issues with battery life, fitness tracking, and performance. Don't buy without reading this first.
> Read our full Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 review
> Check out our Google Pixel Watch review
Full overview: Pixel Watch vs. Galaxy Watch 5
|Category||Google Pixel Watch||Samsung Galaxy Watch 5||Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro|
|Size||41mm||40mm / 44mm||45mm|
|Weight||36g||26g / 33g||47g|
|Battery life||Up to 24 hours||Up to 40 hours||Up to 80 hours|
|Base price||$349 / £339||$279 / $309 | £269 / £289||$449 | £429|
|LTE price||$399 / £379||$329 / $359 | £319 / £339||$499 | £479|
|Wear OS 3.5||Wear OS 3.5 (based on One UI Watch 4.5)||Wear OS 3.5 (based on One UI Watch 4.5)|
Design and screens compared
The design of a smartwatch is going to have a pretty huge bearing on whether you’re going to want to wear it long-term.
While both take the round approach to smartwatch design, we’d be inclined to say that the Google Pixel Watch is the more attractive of the two.
Crucially, Samsung does give you case size options while Google doesn’t, with the sole Pixel Watch case size just a little bigger than the 40mm version of the Watch 5. In our review, we criticized the Pixel Watch for only having a single size, and it felt too small on our wrists. It's certainly one for those with slender arms.
Samsung opts for a lighter aluminum as opposed to the stainless steel case you get on the Pixel Watch. That means you’re getting high-quality cases all around but we’d say the Samsung case feels a touch lighter. Not in a bad way, but it’s lighter to live with.
Along with touchscreen displays, there are physical buttons here on both these watches but they take different approaches to offer physical control. Samsung opts to have its two physical buttons sit very flush with the case. Google includes a side button and crown, which feels more like an Apple approach.
Then we get to the displays, which are both the AMOLED kind and that’s good news. Depending on the Galaxy Watch 5 model you go for, the larger has a 1.4-inch, 450 x 450 resolution Super AMOLED screen and the smaller has a 1.2-inch, 396 x 396 Super AMOLED. Google Pixel Watch plants a 1.2-inch 450 x 450 resolution AMOLED on its watch, which offers an improved resolution when compared to the smaller Galaxy Watch.
The screens on both of these watches are great. The more curved display on the Google Pixel Watch certainly has a greater influence on the overall look and feel of the design, but it has a significantly bigger black bezel that eats into that display.
Both can be set to be used in always-on display modes to the detriment of battery life. Raise to wake feels more responsive on Google’s watch than it did on Samsung’s if that’s something you care about.
Ultimately, you’re getting two high-quality displays here, though we think Samsung slightly edges it for overall quality and visibility. There’s very little in it though.
If you care about waterproofing, both offer a 5ATM water resistant rating, which does make them fit for the water, though Samsung supports both pool and open water swimming while the Pixel Watch is only built to track swim time indoors.
We’d say the Google Pixel Watch has the more memorable, classy design while Samsung’s smartwatch strikes more of a balance between keeping the look simple, but offering a strong display and something that can handle more rugged use.
Straps and customization
We need to talk about straps. Both watches offer exercise-friendly bands in the box, with the option to swap in and out other more formal or dressier bands if you want.
We’d say doing that is much easier to do on the Samsung than it is on the Google smartwatch, simply from the manner in which you release those straps from their case bodies.
The Galaxy Watch uses the classic spring bar catch, which means you can pick up a host of 20mm bands online.
The Pixel Watch, on the other hand, uses a proprietary mechanism. It makes swapping easy, but of course, the supply of compatible bands pales in comparison.
Same OS, different approaches
Both devices run Wear OS 3.5, which both Google and Samsung collaborated to build.
That means features like notifications, access to Google apps, and the Play Store is available on both these smartwatches.
However, Samsung offers Wear with its own UI overlaid on top, whereas Google doesn’t. If you liked using Samsung smartwatches pre-Wear OS, then you’ll like what Samsung offers here.
If you like the idea of Wear without the Samsung stuff on top, that’s what the Google Pixel Watch gives you and we’d say it the feel of the UI on the Pixel Watch feels like a nicer, cleaner representation of Wear.
Performance-wise however, the Samsung feels like a more slick operator.
The Pixel Watch packs an older Samsung processor, and there’s still some lag in app loading and launching times.
But in terms of those core smartwatch features, such as notification support, payments, watch faces, and smart assistant support, we’d say it’s largely a similar experience.
We’d say that reading and dealing with notifications on the Samsung smartwatch feels slicker, and it has a better choice of preloaded watch faces too – although apps like Facer mean you can easily customize your experience on both.
Health and fitness tracking features
Health and fitness are easily the biggest differentiators here, and this is an area you will want to pay close attention to.
If you want to count steps, check for signs of atrial fibrillation or track and outdoor runs, these are the kinds of things you can do on both of these smartwatches.
In fact, they’re pretty level pegged on most health, fitness, and wellness tracking, but there are some key differences.
We’ll start with Samsung. It handles basic fitness tracking features like step tracking, and automatic activity tracking, with reliable sleep tracking – and it’s now building in features like plans to help make long-term changes to improve sleep.
However, it lags in the sports tracking department, where it does offer a richer levels of tracking and metrics for more activities compared to Google, but ultimately aspects like GPS and heart rate performance doesn’t really rival what you’d get from a similarly priced dedicated sports watch.
Google’s fitness features are powered by Fitbit – and that will be a huge draw here.
This is a better fitness and sleep tracker than a sports watch impersonator. Pretty much everything you’ll get from a Fitbit Versa 4 or Sense 2 is replicated on the Pixel Watch.
That means strong daily activity and sleep support but subpar sports tracking with less emphasis on metrics and analysis and more on how that exercise contributes to how active you've been on a day.
If you care about health features, well, you have plenty of them on both of these watches.
Again, Fitbit powers these features on the Pixel Watch and brings ECG heart rate measurements, blood oxygen tracking during sleep, temperature monitoring, and continuous heart rate readings with a host of mindfulness features packed away in the Fitbit companion phone app.
Like Fitbit’s smartwatches, you’ll need to pay up for a Fitbit Premium subscription service to access additional metrics and features like workout videos, deeper sleep stats and health reports.
Samsung isn’t short of health features but you’ll need a Samsung smartphone paired up to its smartwatches to get the full tracking experience.
That means you can use the onboard blood pressure monitoring and take and store ECG readings. You can also track blood oxygen levels and additionally perform the kind of body composition analysis you’d do on a set of smart scales from your wrist.
Both offer brilliant health features, but the Pixel Watch feels like the winner, given that Fitbit's experience and incredible app underpins the entire experience.
Google Pixel Watch vs Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: Battery life
If you want the smartwatch that offers you the best battery life, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 offers a little more watch time in between charges.
The Google Pixel Watch should give you 24 hours and potentially get you through a bit of your next morning using the onboard battery-saver mode, but often we found it unable to make it through the night. And that is seriously concerning given how much emphasis the Fitbit features put on sleep monitoring – and this was a major issue in our review period.
In contrast, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 offers up to 40 hours, so almost a couple of days, but if you’re using a good mix of features like GPS, sleep and continuous health monitoring, it’s more like a full day.
Samsung also includes a power-saving mode, and this feels more effective than Google’s, and doesn’t restrict the use of core features.
When it comes to charging, you’ve got similar disc-shaped cradle setups and they both use USB-C based charging. Both charge at similar rates as well, jumping from almost 50% from a 30-minute charge.
Bottom line, Pixel Watch battery life is a major downside – and could make the Galaxy Watch 5 the better pick for most people.
Google Pixel Watch vs Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: The lowdown
So we’ve established the lay of the land with these two smartwatches and both have their clear strengths and weaknesses. If you’re still wondering which one might be the best fit for you, here’s how we see it:
Buy the Google Pixel Watch if:
You like the idea of a much purer version of Wear OS, want a sleeker-looking smartwatch and access to Fitbit’s fitness and health features. This is the real selling point of the Pixel Watch.
Buy the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5:
The Galaxy Watch 5 wins hands down on battery life, and it edges our testing simply down to this point. However, it's less sleek and less unisex, and its fitness tracking elements aren't up to Fitbit's standards.
How we test