The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is a smaller, cheaper version of last year's flagship smartwatch - the Samsung Galaxy Watch. With a more fitness focus, it's a spiritual successor to the Samsung's Gear Sport, though it loses some functions (and looks) of what the Gear Sport had, but retains just enough to actually make it more attractive to more people than just health junkies.
If you're a Samsung fan, it's no doubt that it's especially attractive to you being part of the Samsung ecosystem. You can definitely get more out of it than others, but does that make it worth it for everyone else?
Attractive looks and design
The first thing people will notice about the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is its lack of a rotating bezel. It was a mainstay since 2015's Gear S2 but was ditched from the Galaxy Active in order to make way for a slimmer and lighter design than the flagship Galaxy Watch.
Some of you may find that unattractive, as the bezels were handy to navigate through the menus, especially on a small screen. Personally though, I like this version. Sure, you will need to swipe around a lot to access your needs or specific apps, but it's really intuitive and its UI is actually really easy to get used to in time. I also like how low profile yet stylish it is in comparison to other smart watches.
Like all Samsung smartwatches, the Galaxy Active has a circular AMOLED watchface, which is a touch smaller than the standard Galaxy Watch at 40mm wide, with a 1.1in screen. It’s a nice size that will work for most people – even I was surprised by how well it fits on me – and gives just enough screen real estate for the mostly touch-based interface. Those with thicker wrists might prefer the 42mm, or even 46mm, version of the standard Galaxy Watch, but this feels like a good size for its more sporty focus.
There are two buttons on the right hand side of the watch, which help with navigation. The bottom button works as a home button as well as to power on/off, and the top one as a back button, and can also summon Bixby with a long hold. The latter is raised ever so slightly more than the other but there’s otherwise no way of telling them apart by touch; the home button has a coloured dot on it though.
Being a sports geared smart watch, the Galaxy Watch Active is waterproof to 5m and is IP68 certified, so is perfectly happy to track your water-based activities as well as those on land.
Full features only in a Samsung ecosystem
Powering the Galaxy Watch Active is the same processor as the Gear Sport – a 1.15GHz Exynos 9110 processor, supported by 750MB RAM and 4GB of storage (although only around 2.5GB of that is usable after the OS and pre-installed apps). It makes navigation quick and smooth, so my user experience with the Smartwatch was a breeze to pick up.
Seeing as it's a Samsung Smart Watch, it makes sense it pairs better with a Samsung smartphone though. My attempts in using my Vivo V9 (yes, I need an upgrade) smartphone to utilise the Galaxy Watch Active proved to be quite draining... literally on the watch's battery. There were also connection issues that caused the smart watch to disconnect from my smartphone constantly via bluetooth, causing unnecessary buzzes and drained the battery of the smartwatch even further.
Thankfully, I did have a Samsung smartphone in the office and using it together with the smart watch turned out to be a much smoother and less clunky process. All in all, I wouldn't recommend this for non-Samsung users - you really just want in on that Samsung ecosystem in this case, which I will explain further.
Before that, it's good to know that the Galaxy Watch Active also comes with the ability to download more apps, particularly Spotify and MapMyRun. I especially like that you can control Spotify from the watch, though I would recommend downloading your favourite playlists for offline listening if you don't want to carry your smartphone around and having a bluetooth headphone towed together. There's also Bixby as a voice assistant to help you in case you're not keen to swipe around for what you need. But Bixby still has its own struggles, being unable to pick up certain dictations or what I need.
You can also use the watch to make payments via the Samsung Pay, which pushes further why the Galaxy Watch Active works better in a Samsung ecosystem. It just makes more sense, seeing how most of the features it offers - like replying to messages or emails, full Samsung Health features and more - is really brought out in that ecosystem.
Get fit and active
As it is a fitness watch, the most important aspect is of course whether it tracks any activity well. There's very little complaints in this aspect - it does what you expect and more. It can track a total of 39 activities, including yoga and weight lifting, and seven of them it’ll track automatically, such as walking, running, cycling, rowing and swimming.
In terms of heart rate tracking, it does a great job overall and I don't see any major discrepancies. I especially like the stress tracker - something I would recommend for anyone who needs a reminder to breathe and take a moment of peace, especially at work. It also does great in reminding you to get active with a simple exercise such as a quick walk, or even torso twists, arm stretches or squats.
It will keep a count of your steps taken, calories burned, floors climbed, minutes worked out and your heart rate, plus with a Samsung smartphone in tow, you can add in extra lifestyle details, like calories eaten, water drank and caffeine intake. Hit a goal and you'll be rewarded with enthusiastic praise, which is definitely a plus if you're aiming to get more active.
At the other side of the scale, the Galaxy Watch Active also automatically tracks your sleep, offering up details on how much deep sleep, light sleep and REM you got, though this level of detail is only accessible through the Samsung Health app. On the Watch Active itself, you can only see your average sleep for the week and whether this is up or down on the week before.
As long as you're in that Samsung ecosystem, the battery life of the Galaxy Watch Active will go for around two and a half days before it requires a charge, and it’ll take about two hours to charge from flat. Use GPS for tracking runs and you’ll see this come down a fair amount quicker, though. Two days isn't a huge amount for the majority of smartwatches, but it's definitely not a dealbreaker. The use of the magnetic wireless charger is great, though ensure that it's set on a flat, undisturbed surface for better charging.
I cannot stress this enough; this is part of the Samsung ecosystem and if you're not part of that, it's definitely not a great smartwatch to consider. But if you already have a Samsung smartphone, the Galaxy Watch Active is actually a great smart watch; totally worth getting even for its price tag of MYR 799. With so many great functions and features, and a stylish look to go with it (you can choose black, silver, blue or rose gold).
With the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 coming around the corner, we're looking forward to better and more useful functionalities to look out for. But until then, there's no doubt that the first of the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is a great start for Samsung fans and smart watch lovers.