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Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 Smartwatch Review

Inge Schwabe, Felicitas Krohn (translated by Mark Riege), 11/29/2019

Digital bezel. Not only does the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 bring digital functions to the wrist, but Samsung has also digitalized the bezel in its elegant smartwatch. This brings a new spark into the operation of the smartwatch. With a heart rate sensor and its own GPS on board, the wearable is also ready for use while engaging in sports activities.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2

It is noticeable that Samsung already has some experience in developing smartwatches. Over the years, the design has changed from square to round and in contrast to Apple, Samsung has also opened up to smartphones from the competitors. The rotating bezels of the Gear S2 were already appreciated, and the rotation made scrolling on the smart wearable much easier. In the current model, Samsung has replaced the mechanical rotating bezel with a digital one, once again showing itself very innovative. We have looked at the Galaxy Watch Active2 in some detail, not only testing its operation. 

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Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 Aluminium 40 mm
Processor
Samsung Exynos 9110, dual-core 1.15 GHz
Memory
768 MB 
Display
1.2 inch 1:1, 360 x 360 pixel, multitouch, Super AMOLED, glossy: yes
Storage
4 GB Flash, 4 GB 
, , 2.48 GB free
Connections
NFC, Brightness Sensor, Sensors: heart rate sensor with 8 photo diodes, electrocardiogram, acceleration sensor, position sensor, barometer
Networking
802.11 b/g/n (b/g/n = Wi-Fi 4), Bluetooth 5.0
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 10.9 x 40 x 40 ( = 0.43 x 1.57 x 1.57 in)
Charging
wireless charging
Additional features
Speakers: mono speaker, Keyboard: virtual, wireless charger, Tizen 4.0, One UI version 1.5, Knox 2.4.0, 24 Months Warranty, 5 ATM + IP6810; MIL-STD-810G; Corning Gorilla DX+; compatibility: Android 5.0 with 1.5 GB RAM or higher, iPhone 7 or higher, iOS 9.0 or higher, fanless, waterproof
Weight
26 g ( = 0.92 oz / 0.06 pounds) ( = 0 oz / 0 pounds)
Price
299 Euro
Note: The manufacturer may use components from different suppliers including display panels, drives or memory sticks with similar specifications.

 

Starting Up – You can also connect it to an iPhone

After initially charging the Watch Active2 using the included magnetic adapter, the smartwatch can be connected to either an iPhone or a smartphone with Android 5 or higher. To do this, you have to download the Samsung Galaxy Watch from Apple's App Store or the Galaxy Wearable app from the Galaxy Store or the Play Store. This will also be followed by the installation of the Watch Active2 plugin and the Samsung Accessory Service, if you don't already have them installed. After this is done, you can configure many settings such as the watch face and arrange your apps either on the watch itself or perhaps more comfortably using the smartphone. You only need to login with a Samsung ID, if you want to use the Samsung Cloud or download additional apps from the Galaxy Store.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2

Solo Operation – It also works without a smartphone

Install the app, connect to the smartphone, create an account, and login - this is the usual sequence to setup a smartwatch, and you will only get notifications and reminders on your wrist, if you follow this. Those who don't need or don't want that for some reason, can also operate Samsung's pretty fitness watch alone without a smartphone. To do this, you ignore the notice about the wearable app during the initial setup and continue to swipe to the question mark, which hides the corresponding option. What functions will you get then? In addition to the basic watch function, you will also have the fitness and sports functions of the Health app, including a beginner training for runners. The workouts can optionally be saved, if you connect your watch to the smartphone later.  

Since you can connect the watch to the WLAN directly, it can download weather information and updates independently and directly from the Internet. In addition, you can access the Galaxy Store to download additional watch faces and apps such as the Strava app, for example. However, many apps will only work after they have recognized the corresponding smartphone app. For example, Spotify first asks for the Premium status via the smartphone, and only then allows you to download playlists and listen offline. For the Store, you need a Samsung ID, which also accesses the Samsung Cloud. Otherwise, the login is optional.

The question mark leads to the standalone setup
The question mark leads to the standalone setup
Installed apps in standalone use
Installed apps in standalone use
Training widget
Training widget
Activity widget
Activity widget
Hydration widget
Food consumption widget

Case and Equipment – Including storage for music and photos

The Galaxy Watch Active2 is available in two sizes: 40 or 44 mm (1.57 or 1.73 in) and optionally with an aluminum or stainless steel case. Only the stainless steel version can optionally also include an integrated eSIM. All models have a Super AMOLED display and offer 4 GB of storage for a maximum of 200 pictures and up to 1 GB of music. The music player is not available in standalone mode. It is only installed after connecting to a smartphone, from which the music files can then be downloaded to the watch. Samsung's own Tizen version 4 is used as the operating system. This is overlaid by a specific watch version of Samsung's One UI.

Aluminum models
Aluminum models
Stainless steel models
Stainless steel models
Right side: multi-function keys, microphone
Right side: multi-function keys, microphone
Left side: speaker
Left side: speaker

Operation and UI – Comfortable thanks to the digital bezel

Operation using the buttons, gestures, and the digital bezel is comfortable. The bezel facilitates scrolling through lists and menu items immensely, and is also useful for volume control. In order to rotate it, you swipe the finger along the display edge, like wiping along the rim of a wine glass, for example. Notifications are placed "virtually" to the left of the display, and on the right, you can get to the widgets of the various apps. You can add or sort them individually, and in order to scroll, you can also use the bezel instead of the swiping gesture here. A gesture from the top opens a Quick Panel with relatively many settings, as shown in the images below. 

You can input text using a virtual T9 keyboard: 11 input fields are associated with several symbols each, which can be selected by pressing multiple times or by pressing and holding. This is not a bad solution for the smaller display of the 40-mm watch, particularly since we were easily able to hit the keys with mid-sized fingers, at least in the test. Alternatively, you can also dictate the text. With the exception of some English terms that are also used in German, the transcription worked well. A third option, where the letters are displayed one after another, was not available for the German language at the time of our test. While you can read incoming messages in their whole length, pictures will not be displayed.

Quick panel
Quick panel
Quick panel
Quick panel
Quick panel
Quick panel
Circular view
Circular view
List view
Ways to answer
Predefined answers
T9 keyboard
Music player
Volume control (using the rotating bezel)
All options of the quick panel (here: Setup using the app)
Emergency calling setup

Phone calls – Possible with or without eSIM

The test unit with the aluminum case does not have an eSIM. Yet, short messaging and phone calls are still possible using Bluetooth, when the smartphone is nearby. The integrated speaker does a good job, even if slightly distorts already at medium volume. For dialing, you can either use the call or contact list, or a number keyboard.

Dialing keyboard
Dialing keyboard
Contact list
Contact list
Call list
Call list
Call options
Call options

Fitness – From couch potato to active athlete

Samsung Health is installed on the Watch Active2. The constant monitoring continuously measures the heart beat, steps, and floors. Activities such as walking, running, biking, swimming, and training with the ellipsis trainer or rowing machine are automatically recognized and recorded as a workout. In addition, you can also manually record hiking, yoga, Pilates, and multiple workouts in the fitness studio, including bench, leg, and shoulder presses.

Before starting a training, it is worth looking at the corresponding settings. For every activity, you can individually adjust the goals - duration, route, calories, and for swimming also the number of laps – and the information display for the training. You can also adjust the output intervals of the integrated speaker or headset. In addition, you can increase the GPS accuracy for outdoor sports.

Those who have only rarely or never done running before might like Samsung's running coach. Goals of the corresponding workouts range from easy jogging to long distance running and up to tempo increases. They can be expanded using the smartphone app. 

In general, the Health app on the smartphone offers even better support for health goals. It is already preinstalled on many Samsung phones, and you can find it on the Play Store otherwise. For example, it accesses an extensive database for a protocol of the food intake, while on the watch, you can only input the calories directly, so you need to be able to estimate them accurately. 

While the additional types of sports from the app cannot be transferred from the smartphone, you can transfer training plans from various areas that last several days. Those can then be started on the watch directly on the corresponding day. If you wear the watch at night, it will also record a sleep protocol. However, during our test, we got two protocols each for several nights. As the reason, an interruption of the heart rate recording due to a loosely fitting watch band was specified, but this was not really the case.

Compared to other smartwatches, the Watch Active2 offers many analyses directly on the wrist and is also able to display them as graphics that are mostly attractive. In terms of activity reminders, some prettily animated instructions can also liven up your office routine, if you follow them. Training information can also be displayed directly on the watch, even later, after the training has been completed. However, the time window is limited to the current week - so you will only have access to, for example, two days of recordings on a Tuesday, and seven days on a Sunday.

Activity reminder
Activity reminder
Animated activity instruction
Animated activity instruction
Counting the movements
Counting the movements
Activity tracking
Activity tracking
Activity tracking
Motivation
Stress measurement
Stress level
Guided breathing
Running chart
Running route
Individual training goals for running
Running protocol in the app
Sleep protocol in the app

Battery Life – Still far away from weeks of battery life

The battery of the 44-mm model has a capacity of 340 mAh, and the watch with the 40-mm case that we tested has a battery capacity of 247 mAh. In standalone operation with the always-on display activated, we recorded a battery life of 37 hours. After connecting it to the smartphone and using its expanded functionalities it was still about 34 hours. If you do without the always-on display and otherwise also do not use the smartwatch for control a lot, you can reach 48 hours. However, the behavior changes drastically during sports activities: an hour-long run with an active display, music transfer, and high GPS accuracy already used almost half of the charge of the fully-charged battery in our test. 

A positive aspect is that during charging, the watch shows the predicted time until full charge. In a completely discharged battery, it shows about 2:30 hours, which turned out to be quite accurate during the test. After half an hour, the battery has recharged to about 20% of its capacity.

Pros

+ comfortable operation
+ constant heart rate monitoring
+ GPS accuracy can be increased during sports activities
+ on-board music storage

Cons

- weak battery life

Verdict

Testing the Galaxy Watch Active2. Test unit provided by Cyberport.
Testing the Galaxy Watch Active2. Test unit provided by Cyberport.

The Galaxy Watch Active2 is a pretty smartwatch that can be operated intuitively and comfortably. The replacement of the first, at that time still mechanically rotating bezel of the Galaxy Watch by a digital bezel naturally also changes the looks. The visuals are now more delicate and less technical. In terms of its function, it also works very well in its current form.

The concept of the digital bezel works well and makes for an elegant operation of the Samsung smartwatch. 

Making phone calls using eSIM or the smartphone connected via Bluetooth, the music function, and the many ways to record sport and fitness activities represent the basic framework of functions, which can be expanded using a well-arranged app store – even if it is not as extensive as the one from Apple.

However, a weak point that Samsung shares with Apple and manufacturers of smartwatches with WearOS, is the battery life. Here, the watches from Huami or Huawei, who are exemplary in this area, are able to score better. In terms of the price, the Watch Active2 is placed between those and the current Apple Watch: at the time of our test, the prices range between 275 and 450 Euros (~$303 - $496), depending on the model. 

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 Smartwatch Review
Inge Schwabe, 2019-11-29 (Update: 2019-11-29)