“The Galaxy Watch Active is a true all-rounder. Here’s our review”
Wearables are all about fitness these days and wrist-based trackers that monitor physical activity are a dime a dozen. Samsung has been one of the strongest players in this segment, and its latest offerings in this space is a trio of fitness bands spread across different price segments, viz. the Galaxy Fit, Fit e (review) and the Watch Active. The Watch Active is the most capable (and the priciest) of the lot, and the one I’ll be focussing on now. Strangely enough, as I write this, the Watch Active’s successor has just been announced in the form of the Galaxy Watch Active2. However, there’s no timeline on when the Active2 is likely to launch in India. So let’s just talk about the Watch Active, shall we? And If I might add, it does come across as a wearable worth wearing. Read on to figure why I say that.
Design and display
First things first. I’m not a huge fan of the design. That is my opinion of course, and you might feel differently… but I like chunky watches and the Galaxy Watch Active is anything but that. It also looks a bit small on my wrist, and while there are different shades available, there’s no choice when it comes to case size. It’s only available in a single 40mm option, but you can choose between black, silver, sea green and rose gold hues.
That said, the minimalist design does look suitable for serving its key function – that of a fitness tracker. The 1.1-inch Super AMOLED display (360 x 360) is a visual treat, and very responsive too. The rubber strap is comfy as well, and combined with the light weight of the Watch Active, the combination can be worn for long hours without issue. The strap features a pin buckle clasp and quick release pins too, so that you can swap it out easily if you wish. The case features two buttons on the right, one to go back, another to jump straight to home.
Hardware and software
In terms of core specs, there’s an Exynos 9110 1.15GHz dual-core processor inside, mated to 768MB RAM and 4 gigs of storage (1.5GB available). The 230mAh battery can be juiced up wirelessly using the bundled charger or the Wireless PowerShare feature of one of Samsung’s latest flagship phones. A regular Qi-enabled wireless charger should do the trick as well.
Connectivity features include built-in GPS, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz. There are a bunch of sensors packed inside, including an accelerometer, a barometer, gyro, light and heart rate. The built in storage can be used to store music, and the watch can be paired with Bluetooth headphones to stream tracks directly… in case you want to ditch your phone at home and go for a run or a gym session.
The Galaxy Watch Active runs Tizen, but unfortunately, there’s no rotating bezel (like the one on the Galaxy Watch) to help navigate. The 1.1-inch does seem a tad small and fiddly, and you have to navigate the menus using swipes and taps. You do get a bunch of preloaded apps and watch faces, and can download more via the Galaxy Store. Navigation is pretty intuitive – swipe right to access notifications, swipe right to access apps and widgets, swipe down to access the quick settings panel and long press on the watch face to change it. The watch face options are abundant, and you can even customise some of them. And as I mentioned earlier, you can download more if you want. Pairing is a breeze if you have a Samsung phone, but for pairing with any another Android handset, you need to download not just the Galaxy Wearable app and Samsung Health, but also the specific plugin for the Watch Active and Samsung Accessory service too. The Galaxy Watch Active can even work with an iPhone, for which you’ll need the Galaxy Watch app and the Samsung Health app.
However, do note that the functionality with the iPhone is slightly limited, since you can’t respond to incoming notifications. With Android though, you can respond to notifications by means of quick replies or even dictate messages to Bixby, which comes built in. The Watch Active features a mic for that purpose, but do note there’s no speaker… so while you can see and reject incoming calls on the wearable, you can’t use it to talk.
Features, performance and battery
In terms of features, you get just about the full gamut. The Watch Active works as a smartwatch sure, but it really comes into its own when it comes to fitness. Not only can it track a whole bunch of physical activities like steps taken, monitor sleep, and monitor your heart rate, it can present data on quite a few exercise modes, and over 90 different types of sports / workouts. It can also log swims. Since it’s IP68 rated and waterproof up to a depth of 50m, you can take it into the pool with you. And while I didn’t do that myself, it faithfully logged my walks to and from the metro station spontaneously, and even my evening sessions of table tennis. It’s pretty accurate as well, and the data gets synced up with Samsung Health. The latter is a full-fledged fitness platform, and though it might not match up to Fitbit’s platform, it offers a fair share of features, including social ones.
The watch works smoothly for the most part, and there are no jitters or lag while using it. The battery life isn’t too bad either, and it lasts up to a day and half with moderate usage, but your mileage could vary depending on how extensively you use it, especially its fitness features.
To sum it up, the Galaxy Watch Active makes a very strong case for itself. I do think Fitbit’s platform works better from a pure fitness point of view, and devices like the Fitbit Versa (review) are great for tracking activity. However, they lose out when it comes to smart features. Priced at Rs 19,990 and compatible with both iOS and Android, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is a solid choice for anyone looking for an all-round fitness tracker that can handle smartwatch duties as well and doesn’t murder their bank balance.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Superb AMOLED display
- Capable all-rounder
- Host of fitness features
- Only one size available
- Navigation can be fiddly
Photos by Raj Rout