Samsung Galaxy Watch Active full review

Samsung launched a new smartwatch alongside its slick new Galaxy S10. It’s called the Galaxy Watch Active and Samsung says it’s a fitness tracker but also a full on smartwatch.

It already makes one of those in the Galaxy Watch, so what does the Active part mean? Basically, this is a smaller, cheaper way of getting all the features of the quite masculine Galaxy Watch in a more sleek form factor with updated software.

Price and availability

The Galaxy Watch Active starts from £229 / $199, less than the £279 / $329 of the cheapest Galaxy Watch.

Spending less still gets you quite a bit of wearable, though the bigger watch faces of the Galaxy Watch still come in at less than the equivalent Apple Watch Series 4.

No more spin

The Galaxy Watch Active changes the design of Samsung’s smartwatches for the first time since 2015’s Gear S2 by not having a rotating bezel. We love this feature, but it not being here does make the Watch Active quite a bit sleeker and smaller than previous smartwatches from Samsung.

It does however still run the same circular-minded Tizen software, but now you have to navigate with swipes of the touchscreen rather than twists of a bezel. This is fine in practice, and the 40mm casing holds a 1.1in 28mm display that is pin-sharp and looks great even in bright light.

Samsung has updated the Tizen version to 4.0 and it looks better than ever and in line with One UI on the Galaxy S10 phones with its use of deep blacks in menus. The watch still has two buttons on the right edge for Home and Back, so aside from the Death of the Rotating Bezel (RIP), not much has actually changed.

Strap in

The Watch Active is incredibly light, almost impossibly so. It’s made from aluminium and a lightweight silicone strap that takes more than a few cues from the Apple Watch’s.

The design is a world away from the gnarly, bulky black and rose gold bling machines that are the Gear S3 and newer Galaxy Watch. The Active is minimalist and well thought out, if a little featureless.

We tried on a silver watch with white band and the look is refreshing. There’s also black and rose gold, naturally.

Spec up, track this

Despite the lower price, the Watch Active packs in GPS, 5ATM water resistance, app support, 60,000 watch faces, sleeping tracking, a heart rate monitor with stress tracking and even is compatible with a beta version of blood pressure monitoring.

It’s unclear whether this is approved by the appropriate international health bodies but download an app called My BP Lab and it’s there to try. It’s interesting to see Samsung make this move after Apple including heart monitoring features in the Series 4 Apple Watch.

Hopefully the Exynos 9110 processor with 768MB RAM is up to the task but in our experience Samsung’s Tizen watches run better on limited hardware compared to WearOS devices. Fingers crossed the same applies for the 230mAh battery.

We’ll see in our full review if Tizen’s attempts to run more third party apps spoils performance, as the strength of its first party apps usually means we don’t install many.

For us though it’s all about that software. Tizen is great and Samsung hasn’t changed much, with notifications a left swipe from the home screen and widgets to the right - fully customisable, naturally.

Oh, and with Qi wireless charging built in, you can charge the watch using the wireless power share feature on the new Galaxy S10 line. For the rest of us, there’s a charging cable in the box.

Early verdict

The Galaxy Watch Active has taken away the rotating bezel but with it comes a more affordable price, which we welcome. With GPS, a good software tune up and extensive exercise and sleep tracking, Samsung has made a promising smartwatch - even though its range is now confusingly busy to say the least.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active: Specs

  • Silver, Black, Rose Gold,
  • 40mm, 39.5 x 39.5 x 10.5mm, 25g
  • 1.1” (28mm) 360 x 360 AMOLED, Full Color Always On Display
  • Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3
  • 20mm (interchangeable)
  • 230mAh
  • Exynos 9110 Dual core 1.15 GHz
  • Tizen-based Wearable OS 4.0
  • 768MB RAM + 4GB Internal Memory
  • Bluetooth®4.2, Wi-Fi b/g/n, NFC, A-GPS/Glonass
  • Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Barometer, Heart Rate Monitoring, Ambient Light
  • WPC-based wireless charging
  • 5ATM + IP68 / MIL-STD-810G
  • Samsung, other Android: Android 5.0 or higher, RAM 1.5GB above
  • iPhone 5 and above, iOS 9.0 or above

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