Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Review

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Review
Just half a year after the release of the original, Samsung is back at it with the more refined Galaxy Watch Active 2 that now comes in two sizes and features a few improvements.

The Watch Active 2 now feels more solid and not as toy-like as the original, it costs less than an Apple Watch and it works with both Android phones and iPhones.

And while it lacks the signature Samsung rotating bezel, it can do tricks like monitor your sleep and is very comfortable to wear. Is this the smartwatch that you should buy? Read on to find out about our experience.

Size and Fit

Comfortable to wear, looks stylish and two sizes


While it has “Active” in its name, the watch does not look sporty per se: it just looks… clean, with an aluminum body and two physical buttons on the side, and not much else. It’s versatile enough so that you can take it to the gym and the office, and look good at both places.

You have two sizes, a 40mm one and a 44mm one. The bigger one is not gigantic as, say, the regular Gear S3.

We were disappointed to find out that in the box with the watch you only get one size strap, so for example if you get the 44mm version you will get a strap that might not fit smaller wrist sizes perfectly well (I have a small wrist and used at the last pin). Luckily, this is a standard 20mm strap with quick release pins, so you can easily exchange it for another one. We got the version of the watch with the rubber sporty strap that felt soft and incredibly comfortable in daily use, but if you want to score more style points and rock this watch with more formal clothes you can swap to a leather or a metal strap.

No rotating bezel

The digital replacement is good and it allows the watch to be smaller


If you have used a Samsung smartwatch in the past, the first thing that you will notice on this new Watch Active 2 is that it doesn’t have the signature rotating bezel. For years, this ingenious feature was synonymous with Samsung wearables, and we do indeed miss it. But, the bezel is dead, long live the more compact size of the watch. And the Active 2 is indeed a far less imposing timepiece, one that fits more comfortably and is lighter at the same time.

With the bezel missing, you now navigate around with just taps and swipes. Samsung also includes a “digital bezel” feature. That one is not turned on by default, but once you do enable it, you can basically slide your finger over the edges of the watch to scroll through menus just like you would do with a physical bezel. Once you get the hang of it, you get used to it and it works most of the time, but still, it’s not quite as reliable and intuitive as a real, physical bezel.

Watchfaces


The watch comes with 15 pre-installed watchfaces and on some of them you can add complications just like on the Apple Watch.

Here is a quick overview of the different styles available:


You can also get more watchfaces via the Galaxy Wearable app, and there were actually some pretty interesting styles there, both free options made by Samsung and premium ones that would cost a dollar or two and give your Galaxy Watch a Casio styling or transform it to some other style.



We, however, found the 15 stock ones do a great job and cover our needs. My personal favorite is the Premium Analog watchface that is brilliantly color coded and makes it easy to spot things like weather, battery level and so on with a quick glance.

Fitness and Activity Tracking

Automatic workout detection is a nice feature


Since I have been using the Apple Watch Series 5 up until recently, the thing that impressed me the most about the Samsung watch is how good automatic workout detection worked. While on the Apple Watch it would often fail to record a workout, the Samsung watch just knew when I was doing workouts and when I would finish with an impressive accuracy.

Once you enter a workout, the always-on screen will keep on showing you your regular watchface, but once you lift your wrist, you will see the activity watchface with the time you have spent working out so far, your heart rate, calories burned and other relevant information.

You have quite the variety in workouts that you can manually start: arm curls, arm extensions, back extensions, bench press, burpees, circuit training, crunches, deadlifts, ellipticals, exercise bikes, these and other exercises performed at the gym are available. And then you also have activities like hiking, pilates, stretching, swimming, walking, and yoga.

We found the heart monitor to work quite well and give proper readings. GPS tracking, however, is not quite as accurate as the GPS unit on your smartphone, and you might care about this if you are serious about tracking your runs in apps like Strava.

Sleep tracking and Samsung Health

Automatic sleep tracking gives you breakdown of deep sleep, REM sleep and light sleep

One thing the Samsung watch does is also automatically track your sleep if you wear it at night. I am not fond of the idea of wearing something on my wrist at night, but I tried it and the watch actually felt very comfortable to wear. Sleep tracking was accurate too and you get a detailed breakdown of different stages of sleep, as well as the amount of deep sleep you got, and how many times you woke up. The sleep tracking only drains about 5% battery overnight, so this is quite good.

You get a detailed breakdown of your sleep and workouts in the Samsung Health app. You can see a few screenshots of how the data is presented and you can also sync the watch with other third-party apps.


Battery Life

Almost two full days with the screen always on


With regular use during the day, we got a battery drain of about 3% to 4% per hour, if you enable the always-on screen mode. And it’s a nice convenience that we think most people would indeed appreciate having on. Workouts, especially with GPS, will drain the battery quicker, of course.

On the Galaxy Watch Active 2 you also have a ‘Goodnight mode’ that you can manually enable right before bedtime and it’s a huge help if you don’t charge your phone overnight: it cuts out notifications and other disturbances, only showing the time, but it allows the watch to use just about 4% to 5% overnight. Don’t forget that sleep tracking is also available in that mode.

Overall, with the screen always on, we were getting about a day and a half out of the 44mm watch we were testing, but not quite two days. In other words, if you pick up the watch fully charged in the morning at 8am and go back home in the evening, around 8pm, you will usually have slightly less than 50% on the battery meter. This is only very slightly better than the Apple Watch Series 5, which typically ends such a day with around 40% on the battery meter.

With such battery life on the Active 2, you can track your sleep quite confidently and then give the watch a few 15-minute charges during the day.

Price and competitors

Strong competition, but the Watch Active 2 has its advantages


At $300 for the larger 44mm model and just $20 less for the smaller, 40mm version, the Galaxy Watch Active costs nearly $100 less than the current Apple Watch Series 5.

And while they do differ in form, the two companies are clearly the closest competitors on the market, sporting a similar set of features, similar battery life, and a comparable experience.

The Apple Watch might cost more, but it also offers a few important advantages: it feels much faster than the Samsung watch, which stutters a bit at times and does not feel as refined in terms of interface; it has way more in terms of customization and watch faces; it has a much better haptics with the taptic engine that is refined to near perfection; it has a much more convenient system for quickly swapping straps; and a few others. On the downside, the Apple Watch only works with iPhones, automatic workout detection is almost useless; and straps for it cost a small fortune.

As for other alternatives, you have the slightly cheaper, $200 Fitbit Versa 2, which gives you better battery life (6+ days officially, but realistically around 2 days if you use with always-on screen), but that one is far slower and less refined than the Galaxy.

And if you are serious about sports, you might look in the direction of Garmin’s family of watches, which again trump the Galaxy in battery life and have a screen that is easily readable outdoors, but again are clumsy to operate and show monochrome colors.

Conclusion

We enjoyed using it!


At the end of the day, we should say that we enjoyed using the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 a lot. It sits very comfortably on the wrist, we love the always-on screen option, and if you use it with a leather strap it looks quite good on the wrist.

At the same time, it is certainly a far cry from the meticulous craftsmanship and style that comes with some classic watches, and we already mentioned how it doesn’t feel quite as refined as the Apple Watch S5.

But if you don’t want to be tied to the Apple ecosystem yet want a true smartwatch that is comfortable to wear, has reliable performance and a beautiful screen, this is about as good as they get in 2019.

Pros

  • Very comfortable to wear
  • 2-day battery life
  • Sleep tracking
  • Clean design suitable for both work and play
  • Quick release pins for easy change of straps
  • Automatic workout tracking works mostly well

Cons

  • You cannot quickly switch between watchfaces
  • Haptics are not great
  • Bixby is worse than Siri and Google Assistant
  • We miss the physical rotating bezel

PhoneArena Rating:

8.5

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33 Comments

1. sleepypandaeyes

Posts: 386; Member since: Apr 12, 2015

Is samsung moving away from the physical rotating bezel or is that reserved for the main galaxy watch only

17. Victor.H

Posts: 1098; Member since: May 27, 2011

Not clear yet, but the digital one works almost as well.

2. CreeDiddy

Posts: 2274; Member since: Nov 04, 2011

I can't believe how good of a watch this is...for the adaption and buying retention is so poor. That's the biggest issue that Samsung and many other Android companies face moving forward...You can make a great product, but will people buy in?

3. Xavier1415

Posts: 220; Member since: Feb 26, 2012

you can switch watch faces quicker hold the home screen of the watch move to the new watch face and select it. done and done...

4. Alcyone

Posts: 566; Member since: May 10, 2018

I agree. Takes me no more than 5 seconds on my galaxy watch. It's the same process. Just a lazy review. Imo, if it was anything else...

5. Victor.H

Posts: 1098; Member since: May 27, 2011

I was comparing it to the Apple Watch where it's much easier

8. maherk

Posts: 7010; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Funny how you didn't compare the Apple Watch to this and other smartwatches where you can't install 3rd party watchfaces. Stay consistent when doing your reviews.

9. peschiera

Posts: 51; Member since: Sep 17, 2017

He simply can't. Just read the part about virtual bezel and you know how biased he is. In his first review a few weeks ago, but also in this one, he did not grant an own title to this new unique technology, of course because it is innovative.

12. Darckent

Posts: 98; Member since: Sep 17, 2016

Come on now.. You know how bias they are to apple products its a different rule

18. Victor.H

Posts: 1098; Member since: May 27, 2011

I do actually mention that the Galaxy watch supports third party watchfaces and that some of them do look nice, but I'm sure you guys will find something else to confirm your theory. Cheers

6. haydenb

Posts: 139; Member since: Nov 24, 2011

Or if you dont use AOD you could get up to 5 days ive read

7. Vancetastic

Posts: 1752; Member since: May 17, 2017

I may just get one of these. The cons are things I don't care about.

19. Victor.H

Posts: 1098; Member since: May 27, 2011

It is a pretty good watch!

25. Vancetastic

Posts: 1752; Member since: May 17, 2017

Appreciate the review!

10. peschiera

Posts: 51; Member since: Sep 17, 2017

"This is only very slightly better than the Apple Watch Series 5, which typically ends such a day with around 40% on the battery meter." 40% only if AOD is not activated, but you compare this to the AOD activated on Active2. Victor, just stop beeing biased, or do not write anything about Samsung devices. You mislead people who are less informed.

14. cmdacos

Posts: 4318; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

"You mislead people who are less informed." That's about 30% of readership here and 90% of writers.

15. Darckent

Posts: 98; Member since: Sep 17, 2016

To write such bias articles, spreading misleading information constantly all in favor of apple when this and other products are clearly better than apple, a grown man I may add, at this point I actually pity him now it's got to that point..

16. Victor.H

Posts: 1098; Member since: May 27, 2011

No, both with always on displays. Have you used the two?

22. peschiera

Posts: 51; Member since: Sep 17, 2017

"No, both with always on displays. Have you used the two?" No, but I don't have. Thanks to YouTube there are many comparisons, in particular from people that are Apple Fans. But even they say that with AOD, Watch Active 2 battery lasts twice as Series 5. And actually, all of them say that Series 5 rarely manages a full day while you pretend " typically ends such a day with around 40%". Viktor, people are not idiots and in age of Internet there are many sources to verify claims. And your claims with regard to Samsung are always out of the average area.

32. Victor.H

Posts: 1098; Member since: May 27, 2011

Here are my exact quotes: "Almost two full days with the screen always on" (this review) "But this is definitely not a 2-day watch. If you forget to charge it overnight, it will likely die on you the next day." my Apple Watch S5 review Is it true that the Apple Watch finishes the day with around 40%: yes. Is it true that it drains more overnight and is not a 2-day watch: also true. Cheers

36. audibot

Posts: 678; Member since: Jan 26, 2017

i feel like you just test them for a day or 2 then do a review and for some features, you just try the day you do the write-up

11. darkkjedii

Posts: 31594; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

One of the best watches out there. Add fall detection, ECG approval, and it’ll be a little better than my Series 4. It already looks better, and has way better battery life.

37. audibot

Posts: 678; Member since: Jan 26, 2017

i fail to see how fall detection can be used unless your 85 to 100, if you are at work and jump down 4 or 5 keet the watch is gonna think you fell or if you working with your hands in the air for 5 mins and then drop them to your sides does it call 911 for help because you dropped your hands?

13. cmdacos

Posts: 4318; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Incredibly happy with this watch after coming from S3 frontier. 48 hrs with AOD on (goodnight mode while sleeping) makes a huge improvement over the S3. Design is simple and very nice. Miss the physical rotating bezel but the virtual works almost as well.

20. remedym

Posts: 1; Member since: Oct 26, 2019

I hope there will be a regular galaxy watch update, because if not, than i have to switch to another watch. I used galaxy watch for mountain climbing, after six months of use, i would say the bezel is trash now, now i switched to the active and it's dead after three days of use, because the first thing that got hit was the bezel. On the galaxy watch the bezel protected my whole screen, on the active it shattered to little pieces.

21. Charlie2k

Posts: 156; Member since: Jan 11, 2016

So let's not compare it to the Garmin Venu which is better at everything. From screen to battery. Got it.

23. Cat97

Posts: 1976; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

I would suggest to also check out Garmin Vivoactive 4. Always on screen by default with 8 days of battery life, also reads oxygen saturation in addition to heart rate, helping diagnose sleep apnea. Plus it displays a "body battery" index, has countless workout features and better notification support.

29. FaisalKhalil

Posts: 2; Member since: Jun 24, 2014

We will talk about this watch later. But first tell me who is this girl with the watch?

34. Heyfernan

Posts: 8; Member since: Nov 01, 2017

Hey Victor, what's the name of the model in the photos? Or her Instagram?

35. SuperAndroid17

Posts: 11; Member since: Feb 03, 2013

Does this watch have MST like the Gear 3? MST is the only reason I'm holding on to my Gear S3 longer. It makes the s3 gear the best watch i ever used with samsung Pay because you can basically use the gear S3 anywhere you have a credit card terminal, because majority of the stores still don't have nfc so you can use your smartwatch to make purchases.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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