Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review: minimalistic fitness-smartwatch teeming with features

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review: Samsung's latest fitness-focused smartwatch is our top pick for Android users

T3 Platinum Award
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review
(Image credit: Samsung)
T3 Verdict

As one of the market’s best alternatives to an Apple Watch, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is an excellent choice for Android users, or anyone looking for a feature-rich, fitness-focused smartwatch bursting with great health features.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Simple yet stylish design

  • +

    Bright, clean display

  • +

    Vibrant and engaging UI

  • +

    Lots of customisation on offer

  • +

    Better-than-expected battery life

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Lack of third-party app support

  • -

    UI could be more intuitive

  • -

    Incremental upgrade over predecessor

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 was launched summer 2019 with very little fanfare, unveiled to the world in the form of a somewhat low-key video uploaded to YouTube. While it’s not clear why Samsung down-played the launch, it doesn’t seem to have affected the popularity of the Galaxy Watch Active 2, which has quickly become known as a feature-packed, fitness-focused smartwatch.

Another surprising twist in this tale is that the Galaxy Watch Active 2 came only a few months after its predecessor, which is an unusual move for tech brands. Still, who’s complaining - well, apart from those who splurged on the first generation wearable just weeks before, of course?

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 stays true to the first generation’s simple yet sleek design but builds on this with some fresh fitness-focused features as well as options for larger and LTE models. You can read our Samsung Galaxy Watch Active review here.

If you’re wondering what’s new with this interaction, there’s built-in sleep-tracking, advanced workout-tracking and an FDA-approved ECG sensor for diagnosing atrial fibrillation. So, do these new and improved features finally mean we finally have a proper Apple Watch alternative for Android users? That’s what we’re about to find out.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review: watch worn on the wrist

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review: price

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 was launched in August, 2019, and is still available to buy today in the standard aluminium/Bluetooth model starting at $279.99/£269 for the 40mm edition or $299/£289 for the 44mm version (as seen in this review). 

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is also available in an LTE/stainless steel model, which in the US is offered through Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, US Cellular and Verizon. In the UK you can buy this version outright and it will set you back $409/£399 for the 40mm version or $429/£419 for the 44mm edition.

However, since the Galaxy Watch Active 2’s initial release, we’ve noticed you can find the watch much cheaper than the RRP if you dig around online. The 40mm aluminium/Bluetooth model can be picked up for much less on Amazon, for instance.

In terms of colour ways, the 40mm and 44mm LTE/stainless steel model is available in silver, black or gold, and the aluminium Bluetooth version comes in either black, silver or pink gold options. 

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review: watch laid out in hand revealing its heart rate sensor

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review: Design And Hardware 

If you’re familiar with the original Galaxy Watch Active, you’ll know that the new and improved version is the spitting image of its predecessor. The 44 mm Bluetooth edition that we are reviewing, has the same aluminium body, which we love as it appears to melt into the watch’s relatively large display, keeping everything nice and minimal looking. If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that this watch is simple yet sleek, leaving the display to do all the talking.  

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is fastened on the wrist via a nondescript rubberised fluoroelastomer band, which you might recognise if you’ve ever worn an Apple Watch - offering the same silky-smooth feel against the skin. This ensures it remains comfortable for hours of use, even when sweating profusely during super intense workouts. 

The smartwatch’s light weight of 26 grams and thickness of just over a centimetre (at 10.9 mm) also helps in this department as it doesn’t weigh you down or feel like it’s getting in the way, whatever you’re doing. 

The screen is the star of the show when it comes to the Active 2’s design, mostly because it's not outshone by any busy watch face bezels or attempts to overcomplicate the design. It’s a 1.4", 360 x 360 pixel Super AMOLED screen with a nice slim bezel around the sides which doubles up as a touch-sensitive click wheel that can be used to quickly select options on screen, thanks to some nifty haptic tech. 

Lastly, we should mention that there are two physical buttons sitting on the right-hand side of the Galaxy Watch Active 2 - a ‘back’ button on top and a ‘home’ button below, which brings up your apps. Double-tapping the latter brings up Samsung’s smart assistant Bixby by default, but you can set this to launch something a bit more useful, such as a shortcut to a frequently used app, for instance, which can prove handy. 

We should also note that it’s IP68-rated for water and dust resistance, and can survive being submerged up to 5 meters in liquid, which makes it perfect for swim tracking.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review: watch worn on wrist photographed over a weight bench

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review: features and performance

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is dedicated to those who love to keep fit and, er, active, naturally. As you’d expect, it’s bursting with features aimed at keeping you in tip top shape. There’s seven activities that can be tracked automatically, including running, walking, swimming, cycling, rowing, elliptical workouts, then another 40 workout modes which can be tracked by manually selecting them from the menu before you begin.

We found that the watch performed perfectly during activity tracking but finding and activating the fitness tracking option in question wasn’t so straightforward. Recording our first yoga sesh, for instance, involved having to spend some time fiddling around, hunting for the activity tracking function in the menu and then finding the “yoga” option in the activities menu. It sounds simple, but when you’re under the pressure of your class starting, and you’ve never used the watch before, you’ll likely find it less intuitive than an Apple Watch, for instance. Saying that, you do quickly get used to the UI. We just think that it can be a little overwhelming for newcomers, as there’s a lot going on - including lots of room for customisation, which is great.

Powering all this is the Galaxy Watch Active 2’s Exynos 9110 dual-core chipset, the same as its predecessor and the much older, original Galaxy Watch. We were expecting something a little more modern, but clocked at 1.15Ghz and working alongside 768MB of RAM, it does the job. Especially since it runs Samsung’s latest Tizen OS 5.5 software, which is fast, responsive enough to ensure navigating through different menus is fluid and reliable.

The big downside with Tizen, however, is that it has little third party support, meaning it will only run Samsung's built-in apps, such as the companion Samsung Health app. While this could be frustrating - especially considering the watch’s price - we do think there’s enough here to keep you occupied, and you probably won’t need anything more than what you’ve offered out of the box. 

In terms of battery life, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 will give you a good couple of days’ use between charges, although this all depends on how much you use it, and if you decide to sleep in it at night. If you’re taking it off every evening and powering it off because you’re not that bothered about sleep tracking, then it’ll last you a good few days longer. When we used the watch for one 30-minute workout each day, and for sleep tracking, we got just under three days' use out of it. Still, this could be better, with rivals such as Huawei offering a couple of weeks. It still beats the Apple Watch, though, which needs to be charged every night. 

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review: watch worn on wrist showing the 'Today's Heart Rate' feature

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review: verdict 

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is a brilliant bit of kit for those who deem fitness tracking at the top of their list of smartwatch needs. Not only is it sleek, lightweight and comfortable to wear throughout all kinds of workouts, but it’s got the activity tracking capabilities to boot - performing effortlessly throughout.

Downsides include a dense UI that takes some getting used to, and a lack of support for third party apps, but these are only small niggles when taking into account the device’s excellent performance. In our opinion, it’s ideal for Android users looking for the best alternative to an Apple Watch.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review: also consider

from our review: "If the Apple Watch is the smartwatch industry's flagship product, then the OnePlus Watch is a great first attempt at a flagship killer, which is what the Chinese brand first became known for with its mobile phones. The OnePlus Watch doesn't dethrone the Apple Watch as king of the smartwatches, but it delivers an Apple Watch-style experience for much less money."

Want to go even sportier than the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2? You might want to give the Coros Pace 2 a try. The Pace 2 is hands down one of the best running watches on the market today, especially since the Coros App update. This, combined with the already impressive features of the watch, such as measuring running power on the wrist, makes the Pace 2 almost irresistible to runners on a tight budget.

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Lee Bell
Lee Bell

Lee Bell is a freelance journalist & copywriter specialising in technology, health, grooming and how the latest innovations are shaking up the lifestyle space. From national newspapers to specialist-interest magazines and digital titles, Lee has written for some of the world’s most respected publications during his 11 years as a journalist.