Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Which should you buy?

Google Pixel 5
Google Pixel 5 (Image credit: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

Google Pixel 5

Google Pixel 5 render

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The Pixel 5 offers the purest possible Android experience, with clean Android 11 software and some of the best cameras around. It's the first in line for new versions of Android and comes in a small form factor with all-day battery life.

Google Pixel 5

Point and shoot

Incredible camera for all lighting conditions
Three years of guaranteed software updates
Small, comfortable size
Rear fingerprint sensor enables gestures
All-day battery life
No telephoto camera
Under-display speaker is unimpressive

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

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The Galaxy S20 FE has modern specs and amenities in a plastic body that helps bring the price down. You get a gorgeous flat display, along with top-end cameras and years of guaranteed software support.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Powerfully versatile

Versatile triple camera system
Three years of guaranteed software updates
Frequently discounted to even lower prices
Fast 120Hz flat display
All-day battery life
Won't receive platform updates as quickly
Cameras aren't as consistent

The Pixel 5 and Galaxy S20 FE are two of the most exciting phones of the year — not because they offer outlandish or experimental features but because they bring the amenities typically reserved for flagship devices to a more affordable price without making any major compromises. These are two of the best Android phones around, with high refresh rate displays and their own sets of excellent cameras, but which is best for you?

Google Pixel 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Pricing & release date

The Pixel 5 launched on Oct. 15, 2020, with a single configuration featuring 128GB of non-expandable UFS 2.1 storage and 8GB of RAM. In the U.S., it's available either unlocked or through Verizon for $700 in either Just Black or Sorta Sage.

Meanwhile, the S20 FE launched on Oct. 2, 2020 at the same $700 price point, initially with just one configuration with 128GB of UFS 3.1 expandable storage and 6GB of RAM, though a subsequent variant has been released featuring double the storage at 256GB. The S20 FE is available in Cloud Navy, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Mint, Cloud Red, Cloud White, and Cloud Orange — though the 256GB model is only available in Cloud Navy.

Google Pixel 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Great cameras and longterm software support

As far as hardware goes, one of the more interesting aspects of these phones is that neither features the commonplace glass back. Instead, the Pixel 5 is made of aluminum, then covered in a bio-resin that makes it feel almost more like plastic, while the Galaxy S20 FE fully embraces plastic with a polycarbonate back. Both feature bi-directional wireless charging (a small portion of the Pixel 5's backing is made of plastic underneath the bio-resin to allow for induction), and the S20 FE bears an aluminum frame for improved durability.

Both phones feel great in-hand, despite forgoing the standard glass back and curved screen.

Neither phone has the most exciting design, but both phones have a flat display with thin bezels and a hole punch camera cutout. The Pixel 5 features a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor just below the camera housing, while the S20 FE relies instead on an in-display sensor. This all comes down to preference, but I far prefer the former, which pulls double duty as a gesture pad that allows you to instantly call down your notification shade.

I really enjoy both phones' in-hand feel, but one of the biggest physical differences between the two is their respective sizes. The Pixel 5 is a much smaller device, which could be a good or bad thing depending on your preferences.

Internally, the S20 FE's Snapdragon 865 is more powerful than the mid-range Snapdragon 765G in the Pixel 5, though the Pixel edges ahead slightly with 8GB of RAM versus the S20 FE's 6. Both come with 128GB of baseline storage, though Samsung eventually added a 256GB variant of the S20 FE, and either storage tier boasts microSD expandability. Of course, each phone also features 5G connectivity, though only the Pixel 5 supports millimeter wave on all variants — to use the S20 FE on mmWave, you'll need to specifically purchase the Verizon-based Galaxy S20 FE UW.

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CategoryPixel 5Galaxy S20 FE
Operating SystemAndroid 11Android 10
Display6.0 inches, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 2340x1080 (432 ppi) resolution, OLED6.5 inches, 20:9 aspect ratio, 2400x1080 (407 ppi) resolution, Super AMOLED
ProcessorSnapdragon 765GSnapdragon 865
Expandable StorageNoYes (up to 1TB)
Rear Camera12.2MP, ƒ/1.7, 1.4μm (wide)
16MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.0μm (ultra-wide)