Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Which phone will win?

Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
(Image credit: Tom's Guide/Google)

It seems like $699 is the price to beat for new smartphones. The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE promises a lower-cost version of the Galaxy S20 lineup that retains some of its best features, including a 120Hz display and versatile triple rear camera system.

The identically priced Google Pixel 5 represents a departure from previous Google efforts. Instead of trying to match the features — and prices — of leading flagship phones, Google scaled back some of the specs on the Pixel 5 in the name of offering a lower price. 

Which is the better $699 phone? Use this Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE comparison as your guide, focusing on what each phone delivers. Here's how the Pixel 5 and Galaxy S20 FE compare.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Pixel 5Galaxy S20 FE
Screen size6-inch OLED (2340x1080; 90Hz)Row 2 - Cell 2
CPUSnapdragon 765GSnapdragon 865
Rear cameras12.2MP wide (ƒ/1.7), 16MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2)) 12MP main (ƒ/1.8), 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2), 8MP telephoto with 3x zoom (ƒ/2.4)
Front camera 8MP (ƒ/2.0)32MP (ƒ/2.2)
Battery size4,000 mAh4,500 mAh
Battery life (Hrs;Mins)Not yet tested8:58
Size5.7 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches6.29 x 2.93 x 0.33 inches
Weight5.3 ounces6.7 ounces

Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Price and availability

Both phones cost $699. The Galaxy S20 FE is now available in a single version with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. You can buy it through AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, with the Galaxy S20 FE 5G UW available to connect to Verizon’s 5G network that uses mmWave technology. We’re tracking the best Galaxy S20 FE deals to see how to save on Samsung’s phone.

The Google Store sells the Pixel 5 unlocked, and it's also available through Verizon and Google Fi. Pre-sales begin at US Cellular on Oct. 8, with the phone shipping on Oct. 29. AT&T has indicated that it will sell the Pixel 5, too, though it hasn't provided a date. The lone Pixel 5 model features 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Design

Stack the Galaxy s20 FE against the other S20 models and you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference — at least until you picked up the phone and noticed the FE uses plastic on the back. It's the opposite story with the Pixel 5 — it looks a lot like the Pixel 4a and 4a 5G, but with an aluminum back instead of a plastic one.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Galaxy S20 FE (Image credit: Future)

The Pixel 5 plays it pretty safe when it comes to colors, offering Just Black or Sorta Sage options. By contrast, the Galaxy S20 FE comes in a rainbow of options, available in Navy, Lavender, Mint, Red, White and Orange.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Display

Both phones have OLED displays, but the Galaxy S20 FE's 6.5-inch panel is considerably larger than what you get with the 6-inch Pixel 5. The resolutions of these full HD+ displays are practically identical at 2400 x 1080 pixels for the S20 FE and 2340 x 1080 for the Pixel 5.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Pixel 5 (Image credit: Google)

But there's another crucial difference with the S20 FE's 6.5-inch screen — it has a fast 120Hz refresh rate for smoother scrolling and more immersive gameplay than what you get from conventional screens. The Pixel 5 has a fast refresh rate, too, but it tops out at 90Hz.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Cameras

We'll need to shoot photos with both cameras to see who wins a Galaxy Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE photo face-off. But based on the sheer number of lenses, the S20 FE takes the prize.

You'll find three rear cameras on the Galaxy S20 FE. The 12MP main camera is joined by a 12MP ultrawide angle shooter and an 8MP telephoto lens. That last camera is particularly noteworthy as it supports a 3x optical zoom and can digitally zoom up to 30x with Samsung's Space Zoom feature. We were particularly impressed by the close-ups the Galaxy S20 FE produced when we tested that phone.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Galaxy S20 FE (Image credit: Future)

If you want to zoom in with the Pixel 5, you'll need to rely on the software-powered Super Res Zoom capabilities Google builds into its camera phones. While last year's Pixel 4 featured a telephoto lens, that's made way for a 16MP ultrawide angle camera on the Pixel 5, which also features the same 12.2MP main sensor as before.

As anyone who's shot photos with a Pixel phone knows, there's more to Google's camera phones than jut hardware. Pixel devices can advantage of Google's software smarts, and the Pixel 5 isn't short of those features. Google's new phone is able to use Night Sight in Portrait Mode for taking portrait shots even in low-light conditions. Video shooting offers three different stabilization modes on the Pixel 5, and you can adjust lighting on faces for portrait shots — even after the photo is taken.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Pixel 5 (Image credit: Google)

Up front, Samsung has packed the S20 FE's selfie cam with more megapixels, using a 32MP sensor. The Pixel 5, like its predecessors, features an 8MP front camera.

It's an interesting contrast of approaches to photography — Samsung's reliance on hardware vs. Google's emphasis on computational photography. We'll see which phone does better when we have a chance to test the Pixel 5, though Google's regular appearances in the list of best camera phones suggests you shouldn't bet against the latest Pixel.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Performance

There figures to be a fairly sizable performance gap between the Pixel 5 and Galaxy S20 FE, based on their respective chipsets. Like the rest of the Galaxy S20 lineup, the S20 FE runs on a Snapdragon 865 system-on-chip, which you'll find in many of the leading Android phones that have come out this year. Google uses the Snapdragon 765G for the Pixel 5. That's certainly a capable chip which can run demanding mobile apps, but it's not as powerful as the Snapdragon 865.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Galaxy S20 FE  (Image credit: Future)

We haven't tested the Pixel 5 yet, but we have benchmarked other phones that use the Snapdragon 765G. The LG Velvet — which is powered by the same chipset as the Pixel 5 but with only 6GB RAM — posted a multicore score of 1,927 on Geekbench 5. The Galaxy S20 FE's 2,928 result beats that handily.

The gap was similar on the GFXBench graphics test (Aztec Ruins Vulkan test off-screen), where the S20 FE's score of 1,325 frames (21 frames per second) was well ahead of the LG Velvet's 548 frames (8.5 frames per second) result. Different phones produce different results, of course, but that gives you some idea of the gap the Pixel 5 is facing.

To be fair, in real-world use, the performance differences may not be that visible to quantify, unless you happen to be using the Pixel 5 and Galaxy S20 FE side by side. But Pixel 5 owners should know they're not getting as much power from their phone as the identically priced Galaxy S20 FE delivers. The extra RAM in the Pixel 5 could help that phone with multitasking and app switching, though.

Both the Pixel 5 and Galaxy S20 FE feature 5G modems and can connect to both sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G. 

Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Battery Performance

The Galaxy S20 FE packs a bigger battery than the Pixel 5 — 4,500 mAh vs. 4,000 mAh. However, that doesn’t mean the S20 FE will win.The Galaxy S20 FE lasted 8 hours and 58 minutes on our web surfing test over AT&T's 5G network and 9:03 on Verizon LTE. Both times are about an hour off the average for a smartphone.

We have yet to test the Pixel 5, but the Snapdragon 765G consumes less power, so it's possible we could see Google's phone get the edge here. An Extreme Battery Saver feature lets you manage power use even further, prioritizing which apps are able to draw on the battery. With Extreme Battery Saver, Google says, you can extend your Pixel's battery life up to 48 hours.

Google Pixel 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Pixel 5 (Image credit: GOOGLE)

When it's time to recharge, the Galaxy S20 FE's battery should refill slower. Like other S20 models, the FE version supports 25W charging, though Samsung only includes a 15W charger with the phone. The Pixel 5 supports 18W charging out of the box. Like the S20 FE, you can charge the Pixel 5 wirelessly, and with this version, Google has added a reverse charging feature that matches what Samsung's Galaxy S20 FE can do.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Software and special features

Like any Google phone, the Pixel 5 enjoys a big edge here, since it has immediate access to the latest version of Android. The Pixel 5 ships with Android 11, while the Galaxy S20 FE is still stuck on Android 10. Samsung is working on its OneUI 3 interface built on Android 11, but based on the phone maker's history with Android updates, we wouldn't expect that until the end of the year at the earliest.

Google also ramps up the pressure on other phones by including a number of AI-powered features on its flagships. The Pixel 5 includes Hold for Me, a new feature where the Google Assistant manages calls where you're placed on hold. The excellent Recorder app now lets you edit recordings by selecting text in the real-time transcript it produces for each audio file. And the Pixel 5 supports screen sharing in HD when you use the Google Duo video chat app.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Outlook

The Pixel 5 hits the market facing a bigger dilemma than Google probably anticipated. With the Pixel 5, Google is betting that you'll accept a phone with scaled-back specs that can still produce great photos in exchange for a lower price. But what happens when there's a phone that costs the same and didn't sacrifice on specs like processing power, battery size, and screen refresh rate? The Galaxy S20 FE will be a tempting alternative for some users.

We'll need to get our hands on the Pixel 5 before we can truly determine how these phones measure up. But right out of the gate, the Galaxy S20 FE sets the bar pretty high for Google's new phone.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.