Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 vs Samsung Galaxy Watch 3: which should you buy?

Samsung’s two top smartwatches come in two flavors: Sporty and Posh

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 vs Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung’s two newest offerings, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 show how far smartwatches have come in the last few years. Things like GPS, ECG monitoring, and customizable watch faces based on your clothes would be unheard of just a few years back. But here they are, present in both wearables.

Since the Active2 has been out for a year and the Galaxy Watch 3 is brand-new to the Samsung family of wearable, the question in everyone’s minds is just how similar they could be. Active2 is cheaper, slimmer, and lighter. However, a lot of their apps and features, with a few notable exceptions, are incredibly similar. In fact, their capabilities are closer to each other than any of Samsung’s other offerings.

Choosing one over the other is not a matter of getting the newest kit, even if the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is the undisputed flagship product ­– its $599.99 titanium edition is a testament to that. Choosing one over the other has as much to do with your needs and budget as anything else. Taking both those into account will determine which one is a better fit for you.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 vs Samsung Galaxy Watch 3: Design

It might seem like apples and oranges comparing the design of the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 and Galaxy Watch 3. The Active2 has a digital bezel, allowing for an edge-to-edge display, while the Galaxy Watch 3 inherits the first Galaxy Watch’s physical rotating bezel for a classier and more traditional look.

They come in slightly different sizes as well – the Active2 is available in 40mm and 44mm while the Galaxy Watch 3 comes in 41mm and 45mm sizes. Even their weight is significantly different with the lightest of the Active2s weighing 26g compared to 48.2g for the Galaxy Watch 3. This, however, is partly due to the fact that you can get the Active2 in either aluminum, which is lighter, or stainless steel. The Galaxy Watch 3, on the other hand, only comes in stainless steel.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

(Image credit: Samsung)

On top of that, their color options are completely different. The Active2 comes in aqua black, cloud silver, and pink gold for the aluminum model as well as black, silver, and gold for the stainless-steel model. The Galaxy Watch 3 comes in mystic bronze for the 41mm, mystic black for the 45mm, and mystic silver for both. They even come with different bands as the Active2 is equipped with a silicone band and the Galaxy Watch 3 has a leather band.

Yet looking past those physical differences, some similarities become apparent. Both come with always-on AMOLED displays with a 360p resolution that’s bright enough for any time of day. The actual screen sizes are the same for the smaller and larger sizes respectively. Specifically, the smaller size of each model gets a 1.2” (30mm) display while the larger gets a 1.4” (34mm) display. On top of that, they have the exact same durability with a MIL-STD-810G drop testing standard and water resistance up to 50 meters.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 vs Samsung Galaxy Watch 3: Hardware

Hiding underneath those bright screens are some slight but important differences. The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 actually has different specs depending on the finish. The stainless-steel version comes with 1.5GB of RAM while the aluminum one only has 0.75GB. Each comes with 4GB of storage though, so there’s some room for downloading music and extra apps. 

In comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 slims down on the RAM to 1GB but doubles the memory to 8GB.

They both have the same 1.15GHz dual processor and carry the same batteries, which also change based on the size. The larger models of each get the 340mAh batteries, while the smaller get the 247 mAh batteries. Both have similar wireless charging as well as wireless powersharing with compatible Samsung phones.

Finally, the Active2 and Watch 3 share similar Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity and can be equipped with LTE – though anyone looking at the Active2 aluminum versions will have to do without that capability.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 vs Samsung Galaxy Watch 3: Features

For two fairly different looking and two differently priced wearables, these two smartwatches share a lot of features. They share the same proprietary Tizen software, have the same compatibility with smartphones, and offer most of the same feature set from GPS and trip protection to ECG and VO2 max monitoring.

The Active2 and Watch 3 track almost the same amount of physical activities, 7 of them automatically. And, they come with similar abilities to answer calls, pay through the smartwatch using Samsung Pay, listen to music, and a whole lot more. They can both monitor your sleep and stress levels as well. They even have the same ability to customize the watch face based on what you’re wearing – you have to upload a pic through your phone to do so.

They’re not exactly the same, however. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 carries an extra monitoring capability thanks to a SpO2 sensor, which tracks your oxygen levels. It’s helpful for catching conditions like sleep apnea. The Watch 3 also has advanced run coaching and sleep tracking to give post-workout and post-rest insights on how to improve.

The Active2 also has something that the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 doesn’t – two special editions. The Golf Edition, which starts at $329.99, gives you access to in-depth maps of 40,000 courses worldwide, as well as extra features like shot tracking and swing analysis to help with your game. The Under Armour Edition, which costs $309.99, is catered to runners, touting real-time run coaching and pairing capabilities with Under Armour’s HOVR running shoes for even more insight into your run.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 vs Samsung Galaxy Watch 3: Price

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 seems aimed for that mid-range market with its prices set at $249.99 for the 41mm aluminum edition and $269.99 for the 44mm size. 

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, on the other hand, starts at $399.99 for the 41mm and $429.99 for the larger 45mm size. While there are some specialized smartwatches out there that cost even more, this price tag trumps most of the mainstream options available outside of the Apple Watch Series 6, which starts at the same price.

Where it gets a little tricky though is if you want LTE capability. You might think the additional cost would be similar for both, but whereas adding LTE to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 adds $50, getting LTE with the Active2 adds $130 more. 

The cheapest LTE-enabled Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 will set you back $379.99 while the cheapest LTE-enabled Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 will cost you $449.99. While the Galaxy Watch 3 is still more expensive, the difference between the two gets much smaller.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 vs Samsung Galaxy Watch 3: Conclusion

Since the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 and Galaxy Watch 3 share so much in common, deciding between the two comes down to a couple of factors. 

The first is the physical design. How important is a physical bezel to you? Would you prefer a smartwatch that looks like a more traditional, classy non-smart watch? These two smartwatches look different enough that, at least aesthetically, one won’t replace the other.

The second is the price. Unless you spring for one of the Active2 special editions, you’ll get all of the Active2’s functionality plus one or two extras when getting the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, which then leaves us with how much you’re willing to spend. At $150 more for a physical rotating bezel, a little extra memory, and a few extra features, the Samsung Galaxy Smartwatch 3 comes at premium. It’s not necessarily a no-brainer since some of those things, like the SpO2 sensor, could be important to you. 

However, the performance between the two is not night and day. They may overlap quite a bit, but are different enough that one is not necessarily better than the other.

Liked this?

Michelle Rae Uy

Michelle Rae Uy is a tech and travel journalist, editor and photographer with a bad case of wanderlust. She is a regular contributor for IGN, TechRadar and Business Insider, and has contributed to Thrillist, Paste Magazine, Nylon, Fodor's and Steve's Digicams. Living mainly in California with her adorable cats, she splits her time between Los Angeles, London and the rest of the world.