A pared down version Samsung's flagship Neo 2 smartwatch, is this tech ticker a better buy? Find out in our Samsung Gear Neo 2 review
The Samsung Gear 2 Neo is a smartwatch that might just have you considering buying a Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone because combined they are a powerful indicator of just how useful smartwatches can be. Like it's flashier sibling, the Neo 2 can only be paired with Samsung devices.
Launching alongside the Samsung Gear 2 and Samsung Gear Fit, the Gear Neo is the camera-less version of the Gear 2, instead focusing on being a direct rival to the Sony SmartWatch 2 and the Pebble Steel.
Samsung Gear 2: Size and Build
We think it's fair to say that the original Samsung Galaxy Gear is something we'd all like to forget. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't terribly useful and it was clearly an early product that Samsung had created to try and test the water.
This is the second generation and lessons have absolutely been learnt. As with the Gear 2 the Gear 2 Neo is lighter, thinner and decidedly better built.
It's also waterproof, which means that should you get caught in the rain you won't be legging it for the nearest bus shelter.
The Gear 2 Neo in particular is arguably the better looking thanks to its lack of camera, trumping even the Pebble Steel with its minimalist matte metal design. We reviewed the black model which is so subtle that it's not immediately obvious that it's a smartwatch. This is a good thing.
The original Gear screamed 'early adopter' restricting its purchase to only those who wanted to be first out of the door or those who absolutely felt a smartwatch would better their lives.
Samsung Gear 2: Features
As with the Gear 2 Samsung has opted for its own Tizen operating system over Android, it's a decision that becomes clearer when you realise Google's own wearables OS won't be launching until this summer.
While the OS performs admirably, Samsung has still restricted the Gear 2 Neo to only being compatible with Samsung Galaxy smartphones and while there are 18 compatible devices it's still a blow to those who were hoping to pair their HTC One M8 with Samsung's new smart watch.
If you have a Samsung device though there's good news, the Gear 2 Neo now comes with Bluetooth 4.0 which means incredibly low battery drain on both the Gear 2 and the smartphone.
You'll also get the same heart rate sensor that's found on the Gear 2 and the Gear Fit and while it can be a little temperamental we actually found it to be more reliable than the one on the S5.
The Neo drops the camera on the Gear 2, instead it features a subtle IR blaster that can be used in conjunction with the WatchON Remote app to control your TV.
There's also a range of S Health apps including a pedometer and a fitness app which can track your activities.
The pedometer is by no means the most accurate on the market, we found it registering far higher step rates than we could realistically have managed. We're also not entirely sure about the Fitness app's ability to track sports however this was simply comparing Samsung's own S Health app versus Endomondo (a discrepancy that will surely disappear following Samsung's partnership with the app.)
One of the most useful aspects of the Gear 2 Neo however is its notifications and remote apps.
Unlike the Sony Smartwatch 2 which bombards you with tiny unreadable notifications the Gear 2 Neo is completely customisable so you can choose exactly which alerts get pushed to your phone.
To add to this, the range of compatible apps is hugely impressive so we were able to pick up previews and read messages from WhatsApp, helllo, Snapchat, and Gmail all without having to install any extra apps onto the Gear 2.
This third-party compatibility continues throughout with the ability to control Google Music as well as Samsung's own music app.
In truth the Gear 2 Neo functions far better as a smart watch than it does as a fitness tracker, but overall it's a massive improvement over the previous Gear.
Samsung Gear 2: Screen
Samsung's also given the screen a boost, it now features a 1.63-inch Super AMOLED display.
The screen is absolutely brilliant, vibrant, clear and a pleasure to use. Thanks to the customisable nature of the Gear Manager app you can change app icons around, pick your own custom wallpaper and choose form a wide variety of clock faces.
Samsung Gear 2: Apps
There's not much to speak of in the way of external apps ranging from a few social agregators to some paid-for clock faces.
One company that has embraced the Gear 2 early however is Feedly which offers a rudimentary news feed which you can swipe through, save or open on the device.
It's a neat demonstration of what the Gear 2 range is capable of and we look forward to seeing more apps being added.
Samsung Gear 2: Battery
Battery life is actually down on the Gear 2 Neo over the original Gear but thanks to the refinements in the OS and the use of Bluetooth 4.0 you can easily get two days out of the Gear 2 Neo without even breaking a sweat.
We turned off the pedometer and turned it off at night and actually ended up getting nearly three days.
Samsung Gear 2: Verdict
Like any new technology there's always the worry that you're taking a leap into unknown waters that could then result in a bad purchase.
The Gear 2 Neo is not one of those devices, in fact until we've seen what Google can offer in the summer this is the best smart watch on the market.
Why would we choose it over the Gear 2? Well for starters it loses the camera that noone will ever use and what you get in return is a sleeker looking product that still manages to perform all the functions that you might actually use. Oh it's also cheaper.
It's a shame that Samsung has locked its Gear devices to being Samsung-only as with the Neo especially it's losing out on a potentially huge market that's willing but until now has only had a taste of what wearable technology is capable of. It's nowhere near perfect, but if you're after a smartwatch (and you have a Samsung smartphone), then this is your best bet at the moment.
Samsung Gear 2 Neo release date: Out now
Samsung Gear 2 Neo price: £169