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August 31, 2018

Samsung Galaxy Watch review: The smartwatch that tries to do it all

by John_A

The brand new Samsung Galaxy Watch could be considered the Swiss Army knife of smartwatches. It tries to do a little bit of everything, from sleep tracking, to fitness tracking, to mobile payments, to all the other typical smartwatch functions. It even looks good doing it.

But does Samsung nail the execution? Find out in our full review of the Samsung Galaxy Watch.

Design

Editor’s Pickrelated article

Best smartwatches (July 2018)

Smartwatches are still a very new thing to a lot of people, and for good reason. You don’t absolutely need one to get through the day, and some of the best smartwatches are much too expensive …

Samsung has come a long way with its smartwatch design since the original Galaxy Gear. The Galaxy Watch elegantly disguises itself as a normal watch. It comes in 46mm and 42mm watch face variants. The one I’ve been testing and using for the past week is the 46mm version in silver, with Bluetooth connectivity. The smaller 42mm version is available in black and rose gold. Some might consider the 46mm option too large, but it felt perfect despite my small wrists. It has some heft to it and the profile is quite chunky, but that didn’t bother me. The 42mm will be a much better choice if you want a lighter watch that takes up less space on your wrist.

The metal design is sturdy and the silver finish looks very classy. Its neutral coloring helps the Galaxy Watch match a variety of different outfits. It even looks good enough for formal attire. Samsung’s signature rotating bezel is coated in a matte-black finish that contrasts very well with the silver.

The rotating bezel is intuitive as ever and such a joy to use.

The rotating bezel is intuitive as ever and a joy to use. It makes for fast and easy navigation through your notifications and widgets, and the mechanical clicks you feel when you rotate the bezel are extremely satisfying. On the right side, two buttons protrude slightly, and their textured rubber finish makes them easy to find by feel. The top button functions as a back button and the bottom one is a home button.

The default watch strap of the 46mm Galaxy Watch is made of black silicone. It’s durable, water-resistant, and comfortable, but may not be right for every outfit. Samsung sells additional watch straps of different colors and materials through its website, if you want to spice up the look of the watch. The bands are standard 22mm bands which makes them easy to swap.

Don’t miss: Fitbit Charge 3 is here: Water resistant, Fitbit Pay support, and a working SpO2 sensor

The silicone bands are the most functional, as you can take advantage of the Galaxy Watch’s IP68 water resistance. The watch is water-resistant up to 50 meters, meaning it will easily survive swims in the pool and wearing it in the shower. The Galaxy Watch is also MIL-STD-810G-certified for durability against drops, high temperatures, dust, and high altitude. You can take it pretty much anywhere and it will have a high chance of surviving.

Display

The 46mm version comes with a 1.3 inch AMOLED display and the 42mm model is slightly smaller at 1.2 inches. Both sizes have the same 360 x 360 resolution. On a display of this size, it’s more than enough for text and graphics to look sharp. The screen is also vibrant, colorful, and easy to see in direct sunlight. The inky deep blacks look great and provide for plenty of contrast. Having an AMOLED display on a smartwatch just makes sense as it allows the content to pop and the watch faces with black backgrounds to look much cleaner.

Performance & battery

The watch is quick to respond to all of my taps and gestures and nothing ever felt slow to load.

The Galaxy Watch uses Samsung’s Exynos 9110 dual-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz. The Bluetooth version has 768MB of RAM while the LTE model will double it at 1.5GB. Talking about performance on a smartwatch is quite strange and while I can’t speak for the LTE version, the Bluetooth model has been smooth. The watch is quick to respond to all of my taps and gestures and nothing ever felt slow to load.

The 46mm variant comes with a 472mAh battery, while the smaller 42mm has a 270mAh cell. According to Samsung, the 46mm version of the Galaxy Watch lasts up to seven days. The most I’ve gotten from it is four days. Four days is quite good, but you’ll still have to charge it twice a week.

Hardware

Moving on with our Samsung Galaxy Watch review, the device comes with a very impressive set of hardware features. There’s a built-in altimeter and barometer for gauging atmospheric pressure and altitude. Not everyone will find this useful, but it can come in handy if you enjoy activities like mountain hiking. On the underside of the watch is the heart rate sensor, which can also gauge your stress levels — a new feature on the Galaxy Watch. If the watch senses your stress levels are too high it will have you do a series of breathing exercises.

There’s an integrated speaker and microphone for sending and receiving phone calls, text messages, and voice dictation. The Galaxy Watch comes with 4GB of internal storage, but only half that space is usable. It’s not much, but it’s enough for locally storing a couple songs or photos and downloading additional apps.

If you’re a fan of Samsung Pay, the Galaxy Watch supports it. Sadly, the Galaxy Watch will only work at NFC terminals, as it doesn’t support magnetic secure transmission (MST). MST was available on the Gear S3 and allowed it to work at virtually any terminal. It’s very unfortunate the Galaxy Watch doesn’t have it.

MST was available on the Gear S3 and allowed it to work at virtually any terminal. It’s very unfortunate the Galaxy Watch doesn’t have it.

Software

The software and its plethora of features is really what makes the Galaxy Watch such a powerful smartwatch. The Galaxy Watch runs on Tizen 4.0, which is intuitive and well optimized for Samsung’s rotating bezel. It isn’t much different from previous versions of Tizen and will be a familiar experience if you’re coming from a Gear S3 or Gear Sport. Apps can be downloaded through the Galaxy Apps store and there are plenty of additional watch faces for added customization.

As a fitness tracker, the Galaxy Watch is excellent.

As a fitness tracker, the Galaxy Watch is excellent. It’s capable of tracking a total of 39 different workouts including weight training, cardio, and circuit training. Certain exercises are tracked automatically such as walking, running, or cycling simply by starting the workout. Weight training is my preferred method of exercise when I go to the gym and I found the weight training workouts to be extremely useful. The watch can’t track every type of weightlifting exercise, but it easily picks up common ones like bench presses, shoulder presses, deadlifts, and arm curls. The watch can keep track of how many sets and reps you want to do per set. It will also count the reps for you so you don’t have to.

New to the Galaxy Watch is the integration of Samsung’s AI assistant, Bixby. This is a first for Samsung, replacing S Voice. However if you didn’t like Bixby before, you’ll like it even less here. Bixby is the Galaxy Watch’s biggest weakness. Most of the time it did not understand my questions or threw out errors. I even asked some of the recommended questions Bixby suggests and it still wouldn’t answer them. Hopefully, it’s a feature Samsung can improve. For now, it’s better left ignored.

Pricing & final thoughts

The Bluetooth-only version of the Galaxy Watch starts at $329.99 for the 42mm and $349.99 for the 46mm. Pricing for the LTE models are slightly higher, but they will vary from carrier to carrier. It’s a price competitive with the Apple Watch — likely Samsung’s biggest competition.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch is compatible with Android and iOS, but you lose out on some of the Bixby health integration when using a non-Samsung device.

The Galaxy Watch is very well executed. Bixby issues aside, it nails the balance between being a smartwatch and being a health and fitness tracker.

Read next: The best fitness trackers

There you have it — our Samsung Galaxy Watch review. If you’re in the market for a new smartwatch, the Galaxy Watch is definitely worth considering.

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