Google Pixel Watch vs. Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro: Which should you buy?
Both Samsung and Google marketed their premium Android watches toward the fitness market. The Google Pixel Watch aims to lure Fitbit fans with the promise of Premium on a more advanced smartwatch, while the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has features like GPX maps and trackback to tempt hikers and cyclists.
Beyond fitness, the Pixel Watch has a more stylish design and a much more attractive price, while the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro crushes Google’s watch for battery life and durability. Both watches are among thebest Android smartwatches available, but based on what you’re looking for, there’s probably a right or wrong choice for you between the two.
Google Pixel Watch vs. Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro: Design, displays, and bands
If the Pixel Watch has just one claim to fame, it’s the rounded edge-to-edge display. Instead of the squircle design popularized by the Apple Watch, the Pixel Watch just has a petite circle that looks fantastic on your wrist. It does have a distinctly beefy bezel, but not so terrible that you’ll notice it when using apps or watch faces with a black background.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has a more rugged look, with the case raised slightly above the display to prevent damage from falls. It also uses titanium and Sapphire glass to Google’s stainless steel and Gorilla Glass, making it more likely to withstand falls and scratches.
Case in point, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has MIL-STD-810H and IP68 dust and water protection while the Pixel Watch only has 5ATM water protection; Google’s watch is just more likely to take damage if you’re not careful with it, though stainless steel is more durable than the aluminum or plastic common to other smartwatches.
Both watches come in just one size: the 41mm Pixel Watch with a 1.2-inch display, and 46mm Galaxy Watch 5 Pro with 1.4-inch display. You can downgrade to a smaller size with the Galaxy Watch 5 if you prefer; but Google has yet to release a larger-sized Pixel Watch that caters to larger wrists.
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro weighs 10g/0.35oz heavier and measures 2.7mm thicker than the Pixel Watch, and that does make a significant difference to comfort after a while. Some of that is due to the display size difference, but likely just as much to the Pro’s twice-as-large battery capacity and larger sensor package. You’re paying for better specs, but that corresponds with a less comfortable experience.
As for navigating through their respective interfaces, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro substitutes the old physically rotating bezel for a touch bezel, meaning you slide your finger along the display edge to scroll through menus. It works, but takes some getting used to and is better suited for at-home use than during a sweaty workout. The Google Pixel Watch has a rotating crown that gives you a more physical tool to switch through menus, with little bumps that our reviewer found quite satisfying for tactile feedback while scrolling.
As for band options, we have guides on the best Galaxy Watch 5 Pro bands and best Pixel Watch bands that go into more depth than we can here. But the default Galaxy Watch 5 Pro band, the D-Buckle Sport band, is casually comfortable but isn’t great for adjustments or a tight fitness fit. Thankfully it has an industry-standard 20mm connector if you want to choose something better.
The Pixel Watch default Sport band is a basic silicone strap that’s comfortable enough. We aren’t a fan of the fact that the Pixel Watch has a proprietary connector, so you can only use its expensive bands if you want to upgrade.
To summarize, looks and comfort matter, but so do durability and versatility. The Pixel Watch wins for the former, while the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro wins for the latter.
Google Pixel Watch vs. Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro: Specs, performance, and battery life
Back when the Pixel Watch first leaked, we had concerns that its Exynos 9110 chipset would hold it back, given Samsung originally built it for the first Galaxy Watch released in 2018. But Google seems to have overcome the outdated hardware by giving it an overwhelming amount of RAM (for a smartwatch). Our reviewer praised its “snappy” performance and glitch-free experience.
As for the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, it has the same reliable performance as the Galaxy Watch 4 and 5 thanks to the revamped Exynos W920 chip. The touch bezel only works because you can zoom through menu options at top speed with no lag, and apps also open with no delay. It’s hard to say which watch is “faster,” but the question doesn’t really matter when both work so well.
Where the Pixel Watch definitively wins is in storage space. 16GB has been Samsung’s standard for the last couple years, while the Pixel Watch uses the same 32GB storage as the Apple Watch Series 8. That gives you a lot more room for music and app storage.
Beyond that, both watches have comparable displays if you ignore the size difference. Both can hit up to 1,000 nits of brightness and have comparable pixel-per-inch ratios: 320 for the Pixel Watch versus 330 for the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro.
Now we get to why the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro’s thick design might be worth it to you: the battery life. The Pixel Watch lasts 24 hours per charge by Google’s estimates, while the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has an 80-hour estimate. A one-day battery is pretty standard for a lifestyle watch, which makes Samsung’s tripling of that so impressive.
In our review testing, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro really did last about three days with continuous HRM and SpO2 testing with sleep tracking active, but dipped to about 30-40 hours when actively using always-on display, always-listening Assistant, and built-in music streaming. As for the Pixel Watch, it did last a day in our tests with light use, but we haven’t yet done heavy battery testing and the SpO2 sensor isn’t active yet, so it’s much more likely to die on you during the day with constant use.
We’ll talk about sensors in the next section, but beyond that, each watch has standard tools like global GNSSs, NFC tap-to-pay, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and optional LTE that costs $50 extra. One Pixel Watch downside to consider is that it uses the last-gen Bluetooth 5.0 while the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro uses 5.2; that could give you a slightly better connection to your phone.
Google Pixel Watch vs. Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro: Sensors, fitness, and features
Samsung and Google coordinated to develop Wear OS 3 in 2021, and both of these watches now run on the tweaked Wear OS 3.5. The main difference is that Samsung has its own One UI Watch 4.5 running on top of 3.5, while Google has the stock software with a Material You twist.
Each watch can access Play Store apps and most Google apps. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro defaults to Samsung apps like Pay and Bixby, but you can make Google Assistant and Google Wallet the defaults instead, as well as access the new Google Home watch app that launched alongside the Pixel Watch. Samsung phone owners may prefer having the versatility to access Galaxy Store watch apps too, but for the most part the Pixel Watch has all the apps people want.
The only functional difference between the software is that Google has promised three years of software support, while Samsung will support the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro through 2026. This mirrors both companies’ update policies for their phones, so it’s unsurprising but still possibly disappointing to Pixel Watch owners.
Health sensors are where the two watches begin to deviate. Both watches have an optical heart rate sensor, blood oxygen (SpO2) monitoring, and an ECG sensor for checking for irregular heartbeats. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro also has a Bioelectric Impedence Analysis sensor that can check your body composition and body fat/muscle percentages, as well as a temperature sensor that will measure your body’s heat compared to the room’s to test how well you’re sleeping and recharging.
We say “will measure” because Samsung didn’t activate the temperature sensor at launch, and there’s still no word on when it’ll arrive. But the Pixel Watch has its own issues: the SpO2 sensor wasn’t active at launch, and we don’t know when it’ll arrive.
Both watches take a very different approach to health and fitness tracking. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro relies on Samsung Health, the free fitness app that stores your data and can sync directly with other third-party Wear OS apps like Strava. The Pro can gather a decent amount of fitness data and encourages you to work out with inactivity warnings and daily goals, but it doesn’t have guided workouts or data analysis like most fitness watches.
The only exclusive fitness features offered on the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro are its offline GPX maps and trackback, which let you download maps of hiking or cycling trails and get turn-by-turn directions to and from your destination. It’s a useful niche feature, but otherwise the “Pro” doesn’t have nearly as many Pro features as a Garmin watch.
Google used to push Google Fit as a similar agnostic health app that worked across all Wear OS watches. But with the Pixel Watch, it’s now pushing Fitbit as the default fitness app, and Google Fit doesn’t work on it. Google includes 6 months of free Fitbit Premium with the Pixel Watch, and hopes you’ll stay subscribed for longer.
The benefit of Fitbit Premium on a lifestyle watch is that you get data analysis that you’d normally need a fitness-specific device for. It can tell you your Daily Readiness based on your workouts, stress, and sleep throughout the day. You get guided workouts and health trends across the past few months, too.
It’s not as in-depth as you’d get on the recent Fitbit Sense 2, which has a working temperature sensor and EDA stress sensor. Plus, the Pixel Watch is missing some common Fitbit mainstays like Sleep Profiles, automatic workout tracking, and passive irregular heartbeat alerts. But the Sense 2 is such a limited smartwatch by comparison, while the Pixel Watch is slightly compromised for fitness but is the total package as a lifestyle watch. And it still has more fitness tools than the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro.
Google Pixel Watch vs. Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro: Which should you buy?
The Google Pixel Watch is quite expensive compared to the standard Galaxy Watch 5, but the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro makes it look affordable. $450 is a lot to spend on a smartwatch.
Of course, the Pixel Watch’s price will add up over time thanks to Fitbit Premium, which you’ll need to take advantage of tools like the ECG sensor. Samsung’s ECG sensor is exclusive to Samsung phones, but at least you don’t have to pay extra for it. A year of Premium is $80-$120 depending on whether you pay monthly or annually, so you’ll essentially close the price gap between the two watches after 18 months of using them.
Putting aside health sensors like BIA that most users won’t use often, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has just a few main perks over the Pixel Watch: triple the battery life, a larger display, and a more durable design. The Pixel Watch requires daily charging — though plenty of Apple users put up with that — and its edge-to-edge display makes it far more vulnerable to damage over time.
The Pixel Watch, meanwhile, lets power users install more content with the extra storage. “Serious” athletes will like the Fitbit integration, but won’t like that the GPS and music streaming will burn through its battery much more quickly than the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro. But this is probably more designed for casual athletes who want the perks of a fitness watch without losing the other smartwatch features they love.
We can’t pick either watch for you, except to say that each has its own niche, and you’ll have to decide which better fulfills your needs.