The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 is very similar to last year's version. The hardware itself is mostly the same with minor upgrades such as a tougher sapphire crystal display, and a larger battery. The more significant changes in the Watch 5 series are instead found in the Pro model. But I tested the standard 44mm version — it also comes in 40mm, while the Pro is 45mm. And while it's a great smartwatch for Android users, it's not much of an upgrade for existing Watch 4 users.
- Armour aluminium chassis with sapphire crystal display
- 1.4-inch AMOLED screen (450 x 450 pixels)
- Available in 40mm and 44mm (tested) sizes
- Up to 40 hours uptime
You'll be hard-pressed to distinguish between the Watch 5 and the Watch 4. They look identical, though the newer model has a curvier back that offers more direct contact with your wrist. This improves the accuracy of Samsung's 3-in-1 BioActive sensor, which measures, among other things, your heart rate, blood pressure, and ECG. But for the latter two features — arguably the big ones if you're into health tracking — you'll also need the Samsung Health Monitor app, which is found only in the Samsung Galaxy Store for Samsung phones. In short, you'll have to install three apps (Galaxy Wearable to manage the watch, Samsung Health for health and fitness tracking, and Samsung Health Monitor for ECG and blood pressure) to fully utilise the smartwatch.
That being said, the Watch 5 is less dependent on Samsung's own apps than the previous version. For starters, you can use the Google Assistant instead of Samsung's Bixby. You can also use Google Wallet for mobile payments instead of Samsung Pay. However, Samsung Pay is the default, and comes up when you long-press the watch's Back Button (this cannot be changed). But if you're not a fan of Samsung apps, there are certainly more alternatives than before. The Watch 5 runs the new One UI Watch 4.5, which offers user interface tweaks, including new watch faces, and adds swipe-to-type input for the default Samsung keyboard. Other settings like a colour filter and high-contrast fonts, help to make the Watch 5 more usable for those with vision issues.
The Galaxy Watch 5 is spot-on when it comes to automatically detecting that I'm running or walking. You'll get the usual metrics like the distance travelled and the number of calories burnt. There's also sleep tracking, including snore detection, which worked pretty well in my testing. I would get audio recordings (deleted after 31 days) in the app, as it uses the microphone on my paired smartphone. The Watch 5 can also monitor your blood oxygen while you're sleeping. But take the health metrics with a grain of salt since smartwatches aren't medically approved devices. My blood oxygen numbers, for example, ranged from 79% to 99% over the course of a single night. According to Samsung, these variances could be due to factors like the room being too cold, or the watch not being worn snugly on the wrist.
Depending on your usage, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, like most smartwatches, will last around a day or two. The battery is 13% larger on the new model than the previous one. But even for a casual user like me, the watch lasted about 1.5 days with the Always-On Display disabled. A 30-min jog depleted the battery by around 3%. Charging speed is also slightly improved using the included USB-C charging puck. With a starting price of S$448 (Bluetooth, 40mm), the Watch 5 is a bit more expensive than the Watch 4's launch price (S$398). However, it's clearly the best option for Samsung smartphone users shopping for their first smartwatch. Get it now on Shopee, Lazada, and Amazon SG. Non-Samsung users, though, may want to wait and see if the Pixel Watch pans out.
Note: Review unit provided by Samsung.
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