Samsung Galaxy Watch5 review: a cut above the rest

Here is our full review of the Samsung Galaxy Watch5 44mm with LTE which is priced at Rs 35,999.

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch series can be considered a dominant force against the Apple Watch in the premium smartwatch segment. The South Korean giant’s market share in the wearable industry wasn’t significant till last year, but in 2022 it has reportedly registered strong year-on-year growth. While budget brands like Noise, Fire Bolt, and Boat remain strong in India’s overall smartwatch market, Samsung is becoming more visible on the premium side. Cue in the Galaxy Watch5 series, where Samsung has announced two versions called the Watch5 Pro (review) and the Watch5. The former is a high-end offering priced just shy of Rs 45,000 while the latter can be considered a little more budget-friendly.

Of course, the Galaxy Watch5 is by no means inexpensive, with the Bluetooth-only 40mm version setting you back by Rs 27,999. I have the 44mm LTE model which gets an extra price bump to Rs 35,999, making it a fairly high-end wearable. The Galaxy Watch5 can pair with any Android phone, as long as it is running on Android 8 and above. I have used the Watch5 quite extensively over the past two weeks paired with my OnePlus 10 Pro (review) and here is what I make of it.

What’s good

Design

If you have seen the Galaxy Watch4, then the Watch5 will feel familiar. On the outside, Samsung has made very few, if any, design changes, which is mostly a good thing. The circular display is housed inside a durable aluminium body while the two physical buttons are retained on one side. I have the Sapphire colour variant and a matching strap, provided inside the box, both of which look elegant. The Watch5 is just the right size for my wrist and at just 33.5g feels light enough not to burden it. 

Display

Samsung already is one of the best display makers on the market and it stands to reason that its products make full use of this. The Super AMOLED panel on the Watch5 measures 1.4-inches and has 450 x 450 resolution. At a peak brightness of 1,000 nits, the Galaxy Watch5 is easily legible even in the harshest of sunlight. I also liked how crisp and vibrant the colours were with regard to the different watch faces and UI elements. Like its Pro sibling, the Watch5’s display is also protected by a type of sapphire crystal that makes it more durable than regular glass. Of course, the panel has an Always-on feature and the display retains the colour profile of the watch face, albeit the results are slightly muted.

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Software and Utility

Samsung has partnered up with Google on the Galaxy Watch5’s software front. The combination of WearOS with Samsung’s own UI elements sprinkled on top does seem like a masterstroke that gives the consumer a best-of-both-worlds utility. You get Google’s Play Store on the watch which enables you to download various apps. For instance, Google Maps works quite well in terms of providing quick directions and giving subtle haptic feedback when turns are approaching.  

Apart from that, there are a few other stock apps installed on the device such as Spotify, Microsoft Outlook, and more. For the most part, the interface remains fluid and does a great job of switching between screens. The main touch gestures include swiping up to reveal the downloaded apps, swiping left to check out secondary screens, swiping right for notifications, and swiping down for quick settings. The two buttons can be used to get to the home screen and the previous screen, and are customisable in the Galaxy Wearable app for different functionality. I also like how the Raise to wake works flawlessly every time I turn my wrist around.

As for performance, the Watch5 has the same dual-core 5nm Exynos W920 SoC from last year clocked at 1.18GHz. There’s 16GB of inbuilt storage for things like apps, music, and watch faces. 

The inbuilt microphone and speaker allow you to take calls directly on your smartwatch. Even better is when your smartphone is paired to wireless earphones and picking up a call on the Watch5 directly transfers it to your earbuds. The speaker on the watch itself is not very loud and you have to really put it close to your ear to hear anything clearly. However, the microphone works exceedingly well even in a noisy environment.

Samsung’s Galaxy Wearable app is highly intuitive and provides relevant customisation options for the user. There are a large number of watch faces available to choose from and the Galaxy Watch5 itself can store a variety of faces. There are also app notification settings buried deep inside the UI along with gesture control, button mapping, and more. While Samsung’s Bixby is the default choice for AI you can change it to Google Assistant thanks to the WearOS integration. There are also changes that can be made to health and fitness tracking such as measuring SpO2 levels while sleeping, automatic activity detection, heart rate notifications, and more. 

Fitness and health tracking

The Galaxy Watch5 has excellent fitness tracking capabilities and the ability to continuously monitor the body’s vitals. The Samsung Health app is needed to delve into the various parameters through which Samsung is tracking your workouts and health. The app has a constant step counter displayed on your smartphone’s notification panel although it can be turned off. There are 100 workout routines to choose from on the watch and you can also get Google Fit from the Play Store for even more workouts. However, the Watch 5’s automatic health tracking will only work with Samsung’s stock workout routines. 

I was quite satisfied with the data gathered by Watch5 during my daily evening runs. The in-built GPS constantly updated the track locations along with the distance covered during each split and the corresponding heart rate. In the Health app, there were even more detailed metrics regarding heart rate zones, VO2 levels, sweat loss, and more. I compared all the readings with the Apple Watch SE and found them to be consistent and accurate. The IP68 waterproof rating allows you to take the Watch 5 for a swim and dives up to 5ATM.

There are also sleep tracking features on the Watch5 which again are quite accurate. You can gather a detailed analysis of your sleep patterns including drops in blood oxygen and snoring data when your smartphone is placed near you. Also, the watch automatically measures your heart rate at five-minute intervals and lets you know if it is above normal for different situations. I was a bit annoyed by how often the workout detector is triggered even when I’m just walking to the grocery store. Impressively the smartwatch also packs in a bioelectrical impedance analysis sensor to track body fat, BMI, and other stats.

What’s not so good

Touch response during a workout

A casual 40-minute running session can lead to a lot of sweat accumulating on the Watch5’s screen and that affects the touch response. I could barely swipe to the secondary screens or check other vital information, which is a bummer. Even to pause the workout I had to use the buttons. 

Battery life

Without the always-on display, the Watch5 can last for about two full days on a full charge. However, with the feature turned on, I can hardly get past the one-and-a-half day. The 410mAh battery is slightly bigger than last time around but it seems there are no significant advantages to the battery life. Daily workout tracking further eats into the Watch 5’s battery and I feel that Samsung is lagging behind competitors like Fitbit.

SpO2 tracking while sleeping

The blood oxygen tracking is erratic at best while sleeping. Samsung’s Health app shows my SpO2 dropping to 78 percent on one night while on the very next I didn’t see it drop below 92 percent. All this is to say, that the Watch 5’s reading is likely to alter depending on your sleeping position and should not be consulted for medical needs.

Final verdict

The few drawbacks notwithstanding, Samsung has delivered a very wholesome and premium smartwatch experience with the Galaxy Watch5. For fitness and health aficionados, there is very little that other competing products can offer and unless you own an iPhone, the Galaxy Watch5 is the way to go. You can of course shell out even more money to get the Watch5 Pro, but most of its functionality has been provided with the regular Watch5. Finally, users who own a Samsung smartphone will get a more polished experience that all but negates any real competition in the premium smartwatch category.

Editor’s rating: 4 / 5

Pros:

  • Robust and elegant build
  • Superb AMOLED screen
  • Expansive health and fitness tracking
  • Wear OS app ecosystem

Cons:

  • Sweaty workouts hamper touch response
  • Battery life could be better