Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, Watch 5 Pro Review: The new heroes
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and Galaxy Watch 5 Pro are minor refinements of their predecessor with some controversial changes. Should you buy one?
In the Android side of things, it is Samsung that makes the best smartwatches of all. Samsung's Galaxy watches have always stood up against the dominant Apple Watch for years and since last year, even beaten it in some aspects. The Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic have great fan following, and with appealing low prices, you can't go wrong with them. But Samsung is done with them and makes us look at the Galaxy Watch 5 series. Not much has changed on paper and in sight, but the new watches up the smartwatch game by a notch.
The Galaxy Watch 5 is now more expensive, starting at Rs. 27,999 for the 40mm GPS version, while the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro now comes in only a 45mm variant, starting at Rs. 44,999 for the GPS version. We have been using both these watches since the last few weeks and one thing becomes instantly clear – the Galaxy Watch 5 is all about minor refinements rather than major upgrades.
With the regular Galaxy Watch 5, the design remains largely similar to the Galaxy Watch 4. It has the same flat display with flat sides hosting the two function buttons, and a beautifully fused strap holder. There are some new colours and I like the Sapphire variant I had, especially its purple silicon strap. The watch is thicker though and Samsung has enhanced the underside curve for better comfort. Personally, I found it a bit too much and wished for a flatter underbelly.
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, on the other hand, ditches the rotating bezel from the Watch 4 Classic and settles for a raised bezel around the 45mm display. It tries to emulate the macho design of rugged sports watches but practicality takes a hit. Yes, you get Samsung's virtual rotating bezel for navigation but it doesn't work nearly as nicely as the physical one. No matter what colour you choose, the Watch 5 Pro looks quite generic. Durability goes up though, especially with the Sapphire Crystal display and the Titanium body.
However, the Gray Titanium colour I had developed a weird tan effect after exposed to the Sun for a few hours. The new sports strap with its magnetic buckle is comfortable to wear but those with smaller wrists could struggle to keep it on. None of that happened with the regular Galaxy Watch 5, which is made of Armor Aluminium and a regular belt-style strap.
It all starts with the display, which is up there with the best in the industry. Both the Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro have excellent AMOLED displays, showing vibrant colours brightly even under the sun. The touch response is brilliant and I had no issues with the sharpness or legibility. Mighty impressed with the display quality here.
Next is the software itself. Wear OS 3 is back for its second stint on a Samsung watch and it wears the familiar One UI skin. This is the smartest OS for watches meant to pair with Android phones, and the presence of Google Play means you have access to popular apps. The interface is easy to learn but compared to Apple's watchOS, the design seems a bit dated. Yes, it is tricky on circular displays to show content than on square displays but on a watch that costs upwards of Rs. 40,000, I expect the interface to be designed cleverly. Moreover, this updated version of Wear OS is buggy – animation stutters, lags while app opening, and long loading times. Plus, I was unable to get the LTE activated on both Jio and Airtel connections.
Those concerned about smartwatch basics should know – yes, you can reply to texts with the keyboard, see notification previews even with links, and download all available Google apps. I was unable to make the Google Assistant work due to some region restrictions but Bixby comes on as a default voice assistant and it works decently. Call quality is decent although I wished for more loudness from the Watch speakers.
Lastly, the watch faces. Samsung offers customisable watch faces with modifiable complications, and some of them are rich with data. However, none of the faces are what I would call pretty; Apple clearly beats Samsung with its better looking faces (personal preference here). Obviously, you have third-party apps like Facer to get custom watch faces and they work well with the Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro. You can use the Galaxy Wear app to download the faces to the watch, which also takes some time. The app itself is neatly laid out
Health and Fitness
The Galaxy Watch 5 series retains the same BioActive sensor as the Watch 4 and that means the basic fitness and health monitoring features remain unchanged. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro gets the route workout feature as an extra. For all the fitness enthusiasts, there's enough stuff to keep your feed of health data busy.
The heart rate data is comparable to medical grade device and so is the Blood Oxygen Saturation monitoring. Note that the SpO2 sensor requires you to be still as a stone; the Apple Watch can do it with some movements and that too faster. The Body Composition feature is unique to the Samsung watch and it offers an interesting insight into aspects like body fat, skeletal muscle, fat mass and the likes. Sadly, I did not have access to any medical grade device to compare the data and check for accuracy.
Then there's sleep tracking, which the Galaxy Watch 5 series does the best. Unlike the Apple Watch Series 7 and Watch SE, the Watch 5 can automatically detect when you go to sleep. It can them keep an eye on your heart rate, and even figure out the time spent on various stages of sleep. If you seek more data, you can head over to the Samsung Health app and get a better insight. And for those concerned, the Galaxy Watch 5 can even do snore detection, although it drains your battery faster.
Then there's workout detection, which is quite remarkable on the Watch 5 models. Being a lazy blob of muscle, Walking was the only mode I ever used and the data was comparable to what the Apple Watch Series 7 shared. I like the auto workout detection feature.
While the regular Galaxy Watch 5 can last at most a full day before needing the charger, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro can go easily up to two days of use on a single charge. Note that these figures came with the watches doing a workout session of an hour. Without the workout tracking, the Galaxy Watch 5 can extend its stamina to a day and a half, while the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro can surprisingly go into most of the third day. However, it is better to leave the Watch 5 Pro for overnight charging since a regular 18W charger takes over 2.5 hours to fully recharge the battery. The Watch 5 takes less time to do the same. Note that you need the 25W Samsung USB-C charger to gain the fast charging benefits.
I won't beat around the bush – the Galaxy Watch 5 series is right now the best smartwatch you can buy if you use an Android phone. The Wear OS 3 platform does wonders to the overall experience, even with Samsung's sedate One UI interface. The health and fitness tracking features are reliable, and fitness enthusiasts will enjoy the plethora of data available. The battery life figures top it off, which is what matters in a high-end smartwatch.
It is not all good though. At the time of writing, the software is largely buggy and Samsung needs to fix them ASAP. The interface design could have been better too. Both the Watch 5 models look pleasant but not particularly exciting; the Apple Watch feels special in comparison.
Then there's this question – Is it the best smartwatch right now? Frankly, I find the Apple Watch Series 7 to be better overall. The Series 7 is better built, has a nice and practical user interface, runs fast and eagerly, and offers decent battery life. Plus Apple's integration with the iPhone is second to none; I hope Samsung does something similar for the Watch 5 and Galaxy smartphones. That said, the Galaxy Watch 5 is better suited for fitness enthusiasts.
Should you buy it? The Galaxy Watch 5 doesn't really have a worthy alternative in the Android universe and hence, becomes an easy recommendation – the new heroes of the smartwatches for Android. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro impresses with its battery life and that extra durability adds another peace of mind but you have to justify spending the extra on it. If you can afford it though, there's quite nothing like the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro at the moment.
- Superb Battery Life
- Reliable fitness tracking
- Sturdy build quality
- Buggy OS
- Dull design
PlatformWear OS 3
FitnessHeart rate, SpO2, Body Composition