Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 Review - Smartwatch with increased fun factor
Equipment and case
GPS, NFC, speakers, microphone and sensors for sports and health analysis including SpO2 and VO2max - the Galaxy Watch 3 is truly well equipped. But the highlight is once again its rotating bezel, which makes scrolling through menus and long texts easier. On the Watch Active 2, Samsung had replaced it with a digital one that works equally well, but the "real" bezel has something more solid to it. It is well made, has no play and is easy to handle thanks to the easily felt click-stops. It's a pity, though, that Samsung doesn't integrate the matte-black ring better visually.
The computing core is still the Exynos 9110, which is clocked at 1.15 GHz. In terms of RAM, Samsung last year distinguished between 1.5 GB for the LTE model and 768 MB for the Bluetooth variant, but now it has a uniform 1 GB. Samsung has doubled the user memory to 8 GB, but hardly more than half of this is left for music and pictures that can be transferred from the smartphone to the watch.
Our test device is the Bluetooth version in 45 mm form; alternatively Samsung manufactures the case in 41 mm, both with interchangeable leather straps in standard widths.
The stainless steel case is protected against dust and water according to IP68 and is waterproof to up to 5 ATM. Certificates according to military standard MIL-STD-810G certify protection against mechanical shock and vibration, freezing rain, up to 72 hours of exposure to dust and temperatures ranging from 63 °C to -40 °C.
The Super AMOLED display can be increased in sensitivity so that it can be operated in winter even when wearing gloves. A brightness sensor regulates the brightness automatically, and additionally a manual basic setting can be made.
In the USA, the Galaxy Watch 3 should already be able to generate an ECG. In Germany the function was not active until the end of the testing period.
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Setup and operation
After charging, start the watch by pressing the lower button. By pressing and holding both buttons at the same time, you can also switch it off later to save the battery if you do not want to wear the charged smartwatch.
If you don't pair it with your smartphone after starting it but instead tap the question mark in the pairing screen, the Galaxy Watch 3 will work without a smartphone after a restart. PIM data such as e-mail, contacts or appointments will not be synchronized, and the MP3 player can't do anything without music. A Samsung account is also only required for the connected Watch when using the Bixby language assistant and to install additional apps.
On the smartphone, Samsung splits the software into several parts: General function for the coupling and administration of Samsung wearables is managed by the Galaxy Wearable App, which additionally reloads the Galaxy Watch3 plug-in and the Samsung Accessory Service after the connection with the Watch3. If you want to monitor your health and fitness functions not only with the watch, you can also install the health app Samsung Health on your smartphone.
The lower key leads from any app or menu level directly to the dial or opens the app menu from there. The upper key takes you back one level at a time. If you swipe over the display from above, the Quick Panel opens. The access keys shown there can be hidden or additional keys can be added.
Horizontal gestures open the notifications (left of the dial) and the app widgets (max. 15 of 26) to the right of the dial. Instead of the horizontal gestures, you can alternatively turn the bezel to the right or left. The bezel is most useful when you scroll through long texts or menus.
Samsung has installed its language assistant Bixby and Microsoft Outlook. Via the store on the watch or smartphone, you can also install a browser.
Telephony and notifications
Using a Bluetooth headset or the integrated loudspeaker, the Galaxy Watch 3 can be used to make calls via the connected smartphone.
The handling of messages, in the WhatsApp test, is almost exemplary. From the profile photo of the sender, to the display of pictures and emojis, to the clear presentation of several messages in the group chat, it already facilitates the quick capture of incoming messages. Replies are made via voice dictation, normal or T9 keyboard or handwritten letter input. However, there is no WhatsApp app in the Galaxy Store, so you can only reply and not initiate new messages.
The Galaxy Watch 3 counts the steps taken daily, monitors heart rate, creates a stress analysis and analyzes sleep. The smartwatch uses Health to present the values and analyses, and to follow them on your smartphone, you need to install Samsung's Health app
Measurement of heart rate and blood oxygen saturation
The measurement of blood oxygen saturation, which we recorded several times for each device at different times of the day, proved to be difficult. The test device needed several attempts before a result was available. The average deviation was 1.8 percentage points, the maximum deviation was 4.
Under the same wearing conditions, heart-rate recording proved to be very precise. Even during the power increase, the Samsung watch never missed the frequency of a chest strap by more than one beat.
The test device offered 40 training modes. The parameters for the workout range from targets (duration, distance, calorie turnover or sets of repetitions) to automatic pause recognition and individual fields in the display.
During the workout it measures the heart rate and determines VO2Max. When jogging, it analyzes typical parameters such as distance and speed, as well as any asymmetry, ground contact and flight time. On this basis, the health app on the smartphone provides tips for improvement.
The battery of the smartwatch in 45 mm form has a capacity of 340 mAh, with the 41 mm variant it is 247 mAh. If you use all possibilities and advantages of the Watch like always-on-display and permanent recording of the heart rate, training run with GPS, telephony and answering messages, this is just enough for one day.
In the default setting, however, it only records the heart rate every 10 minutes outside of training. With the always-on display, screen timeout, and other options, you can further reduce consumption, so that the runtime can be extended to about two days. In our experience, in an average usage scenario with interval-controlled heart-rate recording, a maximum of one hour of exercise and the Always-On-Display activated, the battery lasts until the evening of the following day, when you take it off in the morning.
The smartwatch can be charged wirelessly either via a smartphone that supports reverse wireless charging technology or via the supplied inductive charging adapter. With the latter, a full charge took 2h 10 m after switching off in the test.
Verdict - Great watch with much too short runtime
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is a top-equipped, high-quality manufactured smartwatch. Its shortcoming is its short runtime: Similar to watches with Google's WearOS and the Apple Watch, it only lasts for one or two days.
The rotating bezel makes it easy to use and increases the fun with the Galaxy Watch 3.
In addition to the bezel operation, reading WhatsApp messages is much more fun than on other watches, many of which do not display pictures and some of which do not even display emojis.
Athletes get their money's worth mainly thanks to the customizable training screens and well-used sensors. Samsung uses them during running training for additional analyses that go beyond the evaluation of other common smartwatches and trackers. In the area of heart rate, SpO2 and stress analysis diagrams, the comparison with other watches is somewhat weaker than with the Huawei Watch GT 2 Pro, the Honor Watch GS Pro or smartwatches with Huami software such as the Zepp E.
All of these watches have the possibility to download apps in advance. For sports and health as well as for many other things.