Samsung has been one of the few companies consistently launching new wearables in India. Its latest smartwatch to hit the market is the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active. This model is priced at Rs. 19,990 and it is aimed at people who wish to track their active lifestyle. The Galaxy Watch Active comes with tracking features for heart rate, exercise, sleep, and stress, among others. So should you invest in this smartwatch? We put it through our set of intensive tests to find out.
The Galaxy Watch Active has a minimalistic design. It has a 1.1-inch AMOLED display that sits on top of a metal case. The AMOLED panel's resolution is 360x360 pixels, and it is vivid and bright enough to be visible outdoors. The watch has an auto-brightness setting that alters the screen brightness based on ambient light conditions.
There is Corning Gorilla Glass 3 to keep scratches off the display. The Galaxy Watch Active has two buttons on the right side, while the left is blank. These buttons don't jut out too much, but offer good clicky feedback.
At the back, the Galaxy Watch Active sports a heart rate sensor. This smartwatch ships with a charging cradle similar to the on one end and a USB Type-A on the other. There are four case colours to choose from: Silver, Black, Green, and Rose Gold, as well as eight strap colour options: Orange, Light Blue, White, Yellow, Light Pink, Green, Black, and Light Grey. We had the Black on Black option for this review.
The case lugs extend slightly and should be able to accommodate any 20mm strap. Samsung supplies two silicone straps with different lengths in the box so that you can pick the one best suited to your wrist size. We opted for the longer one and it was easy to snap on and off. The strap quality is quite good and it feels like the Sport Band on the Apple Watch. It has a traditional watch clasp which is convenient to use.
Samsung has picked the Exynos 9110 SoC to power the Galaxy Watch Active. There is 768MB of RAM and 4GB of storage onboard. It runs Samsung's own Tizen-based Wearable OS 4.0, not Google's Wear OS. The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is IP68 and MIL-STD-810G certified with 5ATM water resistance, so it should be completely fine if you take a dip in a pool. In fact, if you do plan to take it for a swim, it is capable of tracking that activity too.
This smartwatch has a 230mAh battery which Samsung claims is capable of lasting for 45 hours on a single charge. It also has support for Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, NFC, and GPS. The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is capable of connecting to a Bluetooth headset directly, so you won't need to take your smartphone with you on runs.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active works with an iPhone and Android as well but we only tested it with a Google Pixel 3 (Review) for the duration of this review. The Galaxy Watch Active needs a companion app called Galaxy Wear to work. The app downloads an additional Watch Active plug-in to keep the phone connected to the watch at all times. The separate Samsung Galaxy Health App is required to check sleep details on the smartphone. We found that the Galaxy Watch Active pairs to a smartphone easily and did not drop the connection even once when we were using it.
You get quite a few watch faces preinstalled, and you can customise these or download more from the Galaxy Store on the watch if you wish to. The watch does also have a lot of tracking features. It is capable of tracking walks, runs, hikes, cycling, swimming, and a lot more. It can also track specific exercises such as arm curls, deadlifts, jumping jacks, yoga, and more. There is continuous heart rate tracking as well, which logs your heart rate throughout the day.
The Galaxy Watch Active gives you the option to track water and coffee consumption, and prompts you to move if you have been inactive for a long time. It also has a raise-to-wake feature that worked well every single time. The screen goes off immediately when you lower your hand to save power.
Samsung mentions that the Galaxy Watch Active is capable of tracking blood pressure using yet another app called My BP. We tried using this, but it turned out to be a research data-gathering app and it wasn't easy to get past the setup screen. As a result, we weren't able to monitor blood pressure on our Galaxy Watch Active, despite this being one of the device's supposed selling points.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active has a crisp AMOLED display that gets bright enough when outdoors. The watch manages its brightness based on ambient light conditions. The two buttons on the device offer good feedback. The upper button is only for going back in the UI, while the second button brings up the app list. The touch response of the display is quite good and we could scroll through the menu and launch apps easily.
Swiping down on the watch face reveals quick toggles to change various settings quickly. There's a Water Lock mode which disables the touchscreen and is meant to be used when you go swimming. We used this mode when riding a motorcycle in the rain, as our riding gloves kept hitting the side buttons and water caused the screen to register input.
We used the watch for close to two weeks and it was good at alerting us to incoming notifications. We could customise the apps that would notify us on the watch. The Galaxy Watch Active also lets you reply to incoming notifications. You can use speech, emojis, handwriting recognition with a finger, or an on-screen number pad with predictive text input to reply to messages.
Replying using voice involves use of Samsung's Bixby technology, and we found it to be slightly slower compared to Wear OS. Predictive input makes it possible to type text like you would on a feature phone's keypad, but don't expect to be able to compose long messages on it comfortably.
We went for a walk on a track which we knew was exactly 1km long, and the watch reported 1.06km, which is an acceptable deviation. The watch is quick to latch onto GPS signals and we could see the path we took on a map after completing the walk. We also tested step count accuracy by manually counting 1,000 steps as we walked, and found that the Galaxy Watch Active recorded 973 steps. This is less accurate than some of the other more affordable fitness bands we have recently tested. Sleep tracking on the Galaxy Watch Active was accurate and did give a proper sleep breakdown, showing awake time, light sleep, deep sleep, and REM in the Samsung Health App.
The continuous heart rate tracking feature logs your heart rate throughout the day at fixed intervals. We compared readings while sitting idle and wearing the Galaxy Watch Active as well as an Apple Watch Series 1 and found that both had identical readings. While working out, we found that the Galaxy Watch Active was slower to update heart rate readings than we had expected.
We used the exercise tracking feature on the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active to track a set of bench presses and found it to be accurate to track the repetitions. After a preset amount of repetitions, it suggest you take a break only to resume when you are back in the exercise position for the next set. This is very helpful while tracking non-cardio workout and is not common on other wearables.
The Galaxy Watch Active has a 230mAh battery and delivers good battery life for a wearable device. With notifications active for apps such as WhatsApp, and continuous heart rate monitoring enabled, we managed to get about three days of battery life out of the watch. Charging the watch using the supplied charging cradle is easy. It managed to take the battery up from zero to 34 percent in 30 minutes, and 61 percent in an hour.
Samsung has been making wearables for quite some time now. Samsung's own Tizen-based OS has a lot of features and functionality, but doesn't have the same amount of third-party app support as Google's Wear OS.
If you like big chunky watches like the Samsung Galaxy Watch, you might be a little disappointed as the Galaxy Watch Active is only available in one dial size. Priced at Rs. 19,990, the Galaxy Watch Active competes with the recently launched Fossil Sport, and the Apple Watch Series 3 (Review), after its recent price cut. Even though the Galaxy Watch Active is slightly more expensive than the Fossil Sport, it is worth the premium as it offers a better display and better battery life. For iPhone users, it's hard to beat the Apple Watch due to its deep integration with iOS and excellent feature set.
The Galaxy Watch Active tracks fitness fairly well but if you are an athlete and want something even better, you can consider options from TomTom and Garmin. The Galaxy Watch Active is a decent all-rounder and will do just fine for most people.