Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch review
The best smartwatch of a bad bunch
- Feature rich
- Great screen
The Gear 2 is at best a second-generation experiment in the nascent wearable category. The design is off-putting — we tried to hide the watch in public — and although it has a suite of features, none of them satisfy a clear need. Some people might value one of its plethora of features, but most people won’t — and that's a big problem.
Price$ 369.95 (AUD)
Time and experience has helped Samsung refine its design over the original Gear smartwatch. All of the electronics have been moved from the wristband and into the watchface. The camera, for instance, now nestles on the rim of the watch, rather than protruding from the wristband.
The rubber wrist band feels familiar because it is a run-of-the-mill wristband. Samsung claims the band is interchangeable with most ordinary watchbands and this opens customisation opportunities right up. The latch no longer houses a microphone and this makes it thinner. All of these tweaks improve the second generation smartwatch, but as far as design is concerned, it’s not necessarily a step in the right direction.
Nowadays watches best serve as a statement of fashion
The greatest problem is the Gear 2 looks more like a computer than it does a watch. The watchface is a rectangle, and because its quite thick, it bulges beneath the cuff of long sleeve shirts — provided you can wedge it there in the first place.
Samsung has yet to realise what people should expect of a smartwatch when it comes to design. Mobiles have deemed the humble wristwatch redundant as a timepiece. Nowadays watches best serve as a statement of fashion, and the Gear 2 makes the wrong kind of statement.
Quality screen, decent hardware
Samsung’s strengths begin to pick up the slack from hereon. The 1.63in AMOLED screen is adept in colour, clarity and brightness. Navigating the feature-packed smartwatch is reliant on a language of touch gestures. It is therefore a good thing the Gear 2’s screen is kind to the touch and averse to fingerprints.
Three gestures will acquaint you with the Gear 2: swipe left and right through apps; tap to select, and; swipe from the bezel downwards to go back. This lingo works well because it is simple, and because the Gear’s menu is just as easy.
Decent hardware has been crammed into the chic confines of a smartwatch. The Gear 2 is powered by a 1GHz dual-core CPU, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal memory. Also worth noting is this hardware — plus a heart monitor and 2MP camera — is housed in a waterproof, 68 gram body.
A remote for your smartphone
The primary function of a smartwatch is to display glanceable notifications on the convenient location of your wrist. The Gear 2 admirably performs this task by receiving select notifications and incoming phone calls. Predefined generic messages make it possible to respond quickly to texts, and although the smartwatch can be used as a Bluetooth loudspeaker, speaking into your wrist is more unusual than it is Dick Tracy.
There’s real novelty in changing the channel from a smartwatch
The Gear 2 acts as a remote control for your smartphone, which is ironic considering your smartphone acts as a remote for the devices in your ecosystem. The ability to change tracks remotely is a nice perk, but the default music player on the Gear 2’s homescreen plays music from its 4GB of local storage. The Media Controller icon — the application that allows you to control music playing on your smartphone — should take its place. This highlights a weakness in the Gear 2’s menu: the icons displayed on the homescreen cannot be configured.
Samsung’s revered WatchOn application comes installed on the Gear 2. WatchOn enables the Gear 2 to be used as a remote control for your television, set top box and air conditioner. There’s real novelty in changing the channel from a smartwatch and this is the kind of functionality that should be widely adopted.
Hearty health focus
A heart monitor, Samsung’s S Health application and waterproof credentials position the Gear 2 squarely as a fitness companion.
The underside of the watchface has a heart monitor akin to that found on the Samsung Galaxy S5. The finicky heart monitor requires quiet and contact with meaty flesh to work, but when you’re at pace running or cycling, it can be hard to come by quiet. Debate lingers over the accuracy of the Gear 2’s heart monitor, and although we didn’t have a heart monitor ready for comparison, we can attest the Gear 2’s readings were at least consistent.
Its a flaw so grand it undermines its entire appeal
Avid walkers will appreciate the Gear 2’s pedometer. The smartwatch has an in-built pedometer that makes it possible to measure your daily steps, even when you don’t have your smartphone on you. Reviewing your performance can be done directly from the Gear 2, or from the aesthetic S Health application on your supporting Samsung smartphone. Having the smartwatch synchronise with Samsung’s S Health exercise application increases the range of exercises it supports.
The Gear 2 joined us on an evening bike ride, along with Magellan’s Cyclo 505 bicycle GPS and a Samsung Galaxy S5 running the CardioTrainer fitness app. Magellan’s dedicated bike GPS and the CardioTrainer application measured our ride at 22.5 kilometres with an active riding time of 79 minutes. Samsung’s Gear 2, which works with Samsung’s S Health app, measured our ride erroneously at 34 kilometres. Furthermore, the Gear 2 couldn’t discern when we were stationary at traffic lights from when we were actively riding. By its assessment we were riding for 100 minutes.
Inaccurately measuring an exercise session discounts the Gear 2’s fitness credibility. Knowing your personal watch can be used to monitor your exercise is a big selling point for the Gear 2, and not being able to trust its recordings is a flaw so grand it undermines its entire appeal.
It’s such a shame as the smartwatch has an IP67 certification, which protects it against dust and freshwater a metre deep for 30 minutes. The Gear 2 survived our water immersion test without qualms, and with a strong enough exercise suite, we could have found the wearable purposeful.
Sneaky camera, Battery life
Nestling on the rim of the watchface is a 2 megapixel camera proficient enough to record videos in high definition. Photos can be captured inconspicuously, which is why we’re grateful the shutter sound can’t be turned off or muted. Photos captured with the Gear 2 are automatically uploaded to your Galaxy smartphone.
Samsung’s original Gear operated on a custom version of Android. Samsung has since changed the platform used by its Gear smartwatches to Tizen claiming the switch increases battery life. Our testing revealed the Gear 2 would last two-and-a-half days before needing a charge.
We tried to hide the watch in public
Another improvement over its predecessor is the way the Gear 2 is charged. A generic microUSB port plugs into a small cradle, which easily clips onto the underside of the watchface. Charging from flat to full takes approximately one hour.
The Gear 2 is at best a second-generation experiment in the nascent wearable category. The design is off-putting — we tried to hide the watch in public — and although it has a suite of features, none of them satisfy a clear need. Some people might value one of its plethora of features, but most people won’t — and that's the problem.
Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Subaru XV 2017 review
- 2 Samsung 2017 QLED Q7 TV: Full, in-depth review
- 3 Kogan Atlas UltraSlim Pro laptop: full, in-depth review
- 4 Gigabyte Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming 5 AMD Ryzen AM4 motherboard review
- 5 Kogan curved 4K UHD 55-inch LED LCD TV review
Latest News Articles
- Griffin's PowerMate is the Surface Dial dead-ringer that's trapped in Mac land
- Take a ride on Positron’s Voyager, a full-motion chair for VR cinema
- Intel showed how 5G networking will power VR and self-driving cars
- Sony's Android-powered Xperia projector turns any flat surface into a touch screen
- IBM's hub for wearables could have you out of the hospital faster
PCW Evaluation Team
A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.
I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.
As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!
For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.
- Samsung Galaxy S8 phone: full, in-depth review
- Ryzen 5 vs Intel Core i5 CPU Australian review
- Mass Effect Andromeda review: One for the fans
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies
- FTNetwork Solution Architect - PresalesNSW
- CCProgram CoordinatorVIC
- TPBusiness AnalystVIC
- FTICT Program Manager- Transformation - Gov backgroundNSW
- TPInfrastructure ArchitectQLD
- CCSystems AdminNSW
- FTContracts & Procurement Support OfficerACT
- FTProject Engineer - Data & IP NetworksNSW
- FTSenior ERP Project ManagerQLD
- FTData Entry Administrator - TelecommunicationsNSW
- FTSenior Project Manager - Foreign CurrencyVIC
- FTSenior Java EngineerWA
- CCTest Analyst - Oracle CC&BVIC
- FTApplication Services AdministratorNSW
- CCVDI EngineerACT
- FTData Analyst - GISQLD
- FTSenior Infrastructure Business AnalystVIC
- CCPersonal AssistantNSW
- FTBI BA Consultant l Microstrategy, Business ObjectsNSW
- TPSenior Business Project ManagerNSW
- CCEnd User Services ArchitectNSW
- FTWindows Dev Ops EngineerNSW
- FTUser Support AnalystNSW
- CCInteraction DesignerNSW
- CCSecurity Specialist - NV1ACT