Update Smartwatch Ratings Review – Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro review: The best Android watch gets a modest update. Until we see how the Pixel Watch performs, Samsung’s Wear OS wearable is the one to beat.
The best non-Apple smartwatch has long been Samsung’s Galaxy Watch series, thanks to its comprehensive health and fitness tracking, intuitive interface, and comfortable, pleasant design. With such a mature product, it’s hard to imagine what else Samsung could improve, which may explain why the Galaxy Watch 5 is very similar to its predecessor. Getting started costs up to the same $280.
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Most of the changes are not immediately noticeable, such as a more durable design, passive temperature sensor and better battery life. Samsung also introduced a new $450 Pro model with a 45mm titanium body, a stronger screen and a large 590mAh battery that promises up to 80 hours of use. However, just because the settings are small doesn’t mean the Galaxy Watch 5 can’t still be the best smartwatch for Android users.
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As I said, the Galaxy Watch 5 looks exactly like its predecessor and comes in the same 40mm and 44mm sizes as before. Both are a few grams (or less than a quarter of an ounce) heavier than the previous generation, but it’s barely noticeable. The lack of change isn’t a bad thing—the Galaxy Watch’s round face and minimalist design make it look more like a traditional watch than an Apple Watch.
My 40mm review unit has a silver body, although black and rose gold are also available, while the 44mm model comes in silver, black or sapphire. I also got a nice purple silicone strap, which is more harmless than lust-inducingly pretty. If you want something more comfortable, you can easily change the straps.
It’s not immediately obvious, but Samsung is using more durable sapphire crystal glass for the Watch 5’s display. I’ve yet to destroy a smartwatch even during my wildest workouts, but I was grateful for the reinforced materials during a recent workout. I had forgotten the Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro on my wrists and was swinging a pair of 26-pound dumbbells in my hands. Fortunately, neither rig was scratched and I continued loading the weights as I went through two more sets. To be fair, I’ve done the same exercise with the Apple Watch and haven’t damaged it.
Like its predecessor, the Watch 5 also has IP68, 5 ATM and MIL-STD-810H ratings for durability (water, dust and pressure resistance). I wore it for a swim recently, and while it wasn’t as accurate as the Apple Watch at tracking laps, it at least got the job done. Those who prefer Samsung’s bezel-based navigation will appreciate the touch-sensitive ring that frames the screen to navigate the Wear OS interface, as well as the light haptic feedback when you scroll through apps. I still prefer a physical rotating panel, but I understand that not everyone wants the added bulk.
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One of the biggest differences that Samsung brought to the Watch 5 is the subtle curve on the bottom. This is to keep the watch in contact with more of your wrists so that its sensors can give more reliable readings. Unfortunately, I find this inconvenient. Both the Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro would leave circular indentation marks on my wrist after removing them, no matter how much I adjusted the fit.
This was only mildly annoying and I put up with it because I thought I was getting more reliable scans in return. But I found that the Galaxy Watch 5 consistently gave me nearly the same readings as the Apple Watch Series 7 I wore on my other wrist, and the latter never felt as strained. Another reviewer I spoke to said they found the Watch 5 very comfortable, so this may be a matter of personal preference.
The same goes for wearing a watch in bed – some don’t care, others hate it. I’m in the latter camp, but I still use the Galaxy Watch and Apple Watch to sleep to compare their sleep tracking tools. As I said before, Apple’s system is brutal. You must either set a bedtime or activate sleep focus before the device can tell you that you are asleep. Even then, it doesn’t actually know if you’re awake or passed out. Samsung can figure it all out on its own.
One night I used both watches in bed and made sure to write down the time just before I rolled over and closed my eyes. The Galaxy Watch 5 accurately noted that I fell asleep around 1:30am and woke up at 4am, while Apple only told me I had a full night’s rest between 11pm and 9am.
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I could go on and on about how infuriating it is that Apple can’t come up with something that Fitbit and Samsung did years ago, but this isn’t a watchOS review. The Galaxy Watch 5, like Fitbit watches, also uses your heart rate data to estimate which sleep zones you fall into and how much time you’ve spent in REM sleep, deep sleep, or light sleep. In the meantime, this feature is slated to arrive in the upcoming watchOS 9.
Sleep tracking isn’t new to the Galaxy Watch 5, but Samsung has added a sleep coaching tool that aims to guide you towards better rest. However, it requires data from 5 weeknights and 2 weekend nights before generating hints, and I haven’t logged that many hours yet. Also, my data would be skewed anyway – every time I wear accessories in bed, I sleep terribly. This might be an insightful feature, I just can’t tell you right now.
Another thing I can’t judge at the moment is whether the skin temperature sensor introduced by Samsung on the Galaxy Watch 5 will be useful, as it currently does nothing. However, there are many potentially useful uses for this data, so it will be interesting to see what a company can do with it.
Samsung has also long been better than most Wear OS watches at tracking your activity, and the Watch 5 is no different. After sitting at my desk for hours rocking this review, it reminded me to get up and move. I’ve always appreciated that Galaxy watches offer not only walking but also movements that can be performed at the desk, such as body twists or stretches. Even better, the device can detect exactly how many spins you’ve done — something the Apple Watch and other Wear OS devices can’t do.
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Overall, Samsung’s system is as proactive as ever. When I got up for a walk at the Watch 5’s prompt, the device beeped after I took about a dozen steps to congratulate me on my move. This is far less than Apple’s requirements, which can make me feel like I need to pace my room like I’m going crazy.
Galaxy Watches are also faster at recognizing when you’ve moved and asking if you want to record your walk. The flip side of this is that they also overwhelmingly notice when you’ve paused and not only stop tracking, but also buzz to let you know they’re not keeping track of the pause time.
Aside from the sleep training feature, there isn’t much difference between the Watch 4 and the Watch 5 in terms of software. You can still get a body composition reading with the built-in Body Impedance Analysis (BIA) tool, take EKG scans, respond to messages, control music playback, and more. The Watch 5 also uses the same 5nm Exynos processor as the older model and was just as responsive for the most part. I just had to wait while I created new watch faces or did a body fat scan – otherwise everything happened the moment I touched the screen.
If you’re wondering about the accuracy of the Watch 5’s body composition measurements, it’s surprisingly close to the results of more advanced systems. I recently tried the InBody scan, which is a more advanced version of BIA like the Watch 5. The Samsung reading was only about a two percent reduction in body fat percentage and less than a pound below my skeletal muscle. InBody version.
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I actually forgot the Watch 5 was a Wear OS device because its software still looks so much like Tizen. Other than swiping up and down from the home screen to access all the apps and settings, most of the side-swiping interface is no different from Samsung’s original OS.
One thing I wish Wear OS / Tizen could do better is display workout data. Apple shows you how long you’ve been exercising, as well as your heart rate and calories burned, in a big bold font. Samsung displays similar information, but uses a much thinner and smaller font. When the Watch 5 screen was locked while swimming and
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