The Gear 2 Neo is now the cheapest way to get a Samsung smartwatch on your wrist.
It’s the ‘budget’ plastic version of Samsung’s Gear 2, does 99% of what the more expensive device can do and trims in all the right places while knocking the price down by £70.
It sounds like a recipe for success and in some ways it is - the Neo still isn't perfect, but it is the Gear we'd be most likely to buy.
READ MORE: Samsung Gear 2 review
It’s almost identical to the Gear 2
This is essentially the same device so most of our in-depth Gear 2 review also applies to the Neo. It’s the same clear, bright and colourful 1.63in Super AMOLED touchscreen and the same sci-fi functionality. It reliably pulls in email, message and phone notifications from your smartphone via Bluetooth as well as playing music, counting steps and even measuring your heart rate.
And best of all, it’s the same 300mAh battery (and clip-on charging cradle). As on the Gear 2, battery easily lasts two to three days on one charge. Our Gear 2 Neo dropped around 30% a day unless we really hammered it.
There are some differences. There’s no camera on the Neo, but that’s really no great loss. After the first heady snapping session, we pretty much forgot about using the cam on the Gear 2.
We also got on a lot better with the auto screen-on function on the Neo than our Gear 2 unit, which is odd. A flick of the wrist activates the Neo’s watchface around nine times out of ten - a significant improvement on the more expensive model.
But the Neo is, as with the Gear 2, only compatible with select Samsung phones, while the likes of the Pebble Steel smartwatch play nice with all iOS and Android phones.
And right now there’s also a dearth of Gear apps - we really couldn’t find anything we wanted to download to our Neo apart from Feedly. For now, Pebble is clearly ahead of Samsung here, with mapping, transport and smart home apps providing plenty of good reasons to jump on the smartwatch bandwagon.
READ MORE: Pebble Steel review
More after the break...
It looks cheaper because it is
The Gear 2 looks stylish if you squint, but our Mocha Grey Neo has all the charm of an army watch. Sure, the Charcoal Black looks smarter than the grey. But the all plastic build and textured strap still feel cheap against wrists that are accustomed to finer materials.
It is durable, comfortable and light - 55g compared to the Gear 2’s 64g. And it’s waterproof to IP67 standards, too, so showers aren’t kryptonite to the Neo.
So it all boils down to how much you care about looks. When it comes to smartwatches, we care. The Pebble’s a bit of a retro throwback, the Gear 2’s a bit nerdily blinging, but both are a bit nicer than the halfway house Neo - at least to our eyes. We’d say the world is still waiting for that first unequivocally sexy smartwatch. Perhaps it’ll be the iWatch?
READ MORE - Apple iWatch preview
Samsung Gear 2 Neo Verdict
Having said all that about the looks, we’d still take the Neo over the Gear 2. Losing the camera really isn’t a loss at all, and while the Neo is less premium, the Gear 2 isn’t that gorgeous to begin with.
£180 is still a load to spend on an accessory for a Galaxy phone, though, and next to the more open, more apptastic Pebble it looks like pretty poor value.
Perhaps the bigger problem, though, is Android Wear: Google Now-powered smartwatches are coming from LG, Motorola and more, and they certainly look and sound to be a step-up from the current smartwatch crowd. If you must geek out right now, the Neo is the Gear we’d get. But we’ll be waiting for Wear.
READ MORE: 8 things you need to know about Android Wear
Samsung Gear 2 Neo
Better value than the Gear 2, the Neo is a truly geeky accessory for Samsung users - but it’s also far from essential