Samsung Galaxy Watch review (early verdict): the Gear S3 successor has arrived

Can the renamed Gear S4, and sequel to to the Gear Sport, break the Apple Watch's dominance?

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The Samsung Galaxy Watch is here, officially announced along with the new Note 9 smartphone at Galaxy Unpacked 2018, and judging from my brief hands-on time with the renamed Gear S4, the South Korean maker seems to have delivered a more stylish sequel to the Gear Sport that should also appeal to a broader audience.

And that redesign really is key, arguably, to the success of the Galaxy Watch, as despite this new smartwatch packing some neat new features, the fact that it looks more like a regular watch will no-doubt be the foremost decider in whether potential adopters pull the trigger.

As to whether Samsung now has the weapon in its locker to take down the Apple Watch remains to be seen, but from what I have seen, it genuinely looks like a contender that can help run it close and generate more interest and innovation in the smartwatch market.

Here are my thoughts on the Samsung Galaxy Watch, broken down into a series of key scoring categories, ranging from design and build quality, to hardware and features. Let us start, though, with Galaxy Watch price and availability.

Samsung Galaxy Watch review: price and release date

Samsung Galaxy Watch review

The Samsung Galaxy Watch price will, for long standing fans of the series, come as a pleasant surprise, as it starts cheaper than the Gear S3 did at launch.

The 42mm version of the watch, which is the smaller size, starts at $329, while the larger 46mm version starts at $349.99. In contrast, the Gear S3 cost $349 (£349) at launch, so providing you plump for the smaller model, this time you can get hooked up for $20 less. These prices are for the Bluetooth variants of these sizes, with LTE / 4G variants costing more and coming a little later in the year.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch release date is August 24.

In terms of network support and retailers, in the US the LTE version of the Galaxy Watch, which is set to cost more than the base model, is being sold via AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, and the official Samsung online store. In the UK EE will be supporting the Samsung Galaxy Watch, and will be the place to purchase the 4G version of the smartwatch.

Samsung Galaxy Watch review: design and hardware

Samsung Galaxy Watch review

Straight out of the box the first thing that grabs you about the Samsung Galaxy Watch is that, more than ever before, this smartwatch looks like a real watch. I typically tend to switch to my classic analogue timepiece when going out, however, after trying the Galaxy Watch on I am quite confident that it wouldn't feel out of place in the theater, or during pre- and post-show drinks.

The key, I feel, is the large circular face, which feels bang on-trend, as well as premium-looking metal body, which also feels very durable and serious on the wrist. In terms of exterior functionality, the Galaxy Watch features some side-mounted buttons, as well as a rotatable bezel that allows for the cycling through of apps and menus.

Samsung Galaxy Watch review

In terms of models and colours, the 42mm and 46mm versions of the Galaxy Watch is available in Midnight Black or Rose Gold, however, the available straps differ between the two.

The 42mm Galaxy Watch, which has a 1.2-inch (30mm) display and overall dimensions of 41.9 x 45.7 x 12.7mm, can be paired with 20mm straps in following colour schemes: Terracotta Red, Onyx Black, Lunar Grey, Natural Brown, Cosmo Purple, Lime Yellow, Pink Beige, and Cloud Grey.

Meanwhile, the 46mm Galaxy Watch, which features a larger 1.3-inch screen and added weight (63 grams instead of 42), supports more limited strap colour options, with Onyx Black, Basalt Grey, and Deep Ocean Blue available.

Samsung Galaxy Watch review

The larger 46mm version of the Galaxy Watch is also the variant that grants you the much-hyped new battery, with a 472mAh stack of cells loaded in to it, which is a marked increase from the 270mAh delivered by the 42mm.

Finally, in terms of hardware, both the Bluetooth and LTE/4G versions of the Galaxy Watch pack the dual-core 1.15GHz chipset and 4GB of internal storage space. Where the models differ is that the LTE/4G Galaxy Watch has more RAM (1.5GB), compared to the Bluetooth models' 768MB. This is likely due to the extra grunt needed to maintain a mobile connection.

Samsung Galaxy Watch review: features and OS

Samsung Galaxy Watch review

Health is a major focus for the Galaxy Watch, and as such Samsung Health is now expanded with new stress management and breathing features, as well as a collection of 21 indoor exercises and 39 tracked workouts. You can easily switch between the various tracking functions and modes by rotating the Galaxy Watch's bezel.

In other new features, the Galaxy Watch now features Bixby, Samsung's AI voice assistant, which replaces S Voice on the new smartwatch. I didn't get chance to try out Bixby on the Galaxy Watch during our brief hands-on session though, so I will withhold judgement until I can test it out properly. If everything works as it should, then you will be able to use the same sort of voice commands on watch as you can on the Note 9.

Samsung Galaxy Watch review

In terms of OS, the Galaxy Watch retains Tizen, now in its 4.0 incarnation. This is compatible with all Android phones that are running Android 5.0 and later, and it will also work with any iPhone running iOS 9. Again, I didn't have chance to check the limits of functionality and compatibility with iOS on the hands-on session, so again it will be worth holding off for T3's full Galaxy Watch review.

Samsung Galaxy Watch review: verdict

Samsung Galaxy Watch review

The Samsung Galaxy Watch is the best smartwatch Samsung has ever made. However, it falls just short of an instabuy, and especially so if you have the Gear S3 or Gear Sport.

It is, though, far more stylish than previous incarnations by the South Korean maker, and comes packing some neat new abilities such as Bixby Voice and competitive water resistance, making for a compelling package.

Its new watch faces, too, give it a modern edge, while its availability in two sizes will definitely help it appeal to more people. It also simply looks more like a regular watch, which is definitely something to approve of.

We're looking forward to spending more time with the Samsung Galaxy Watch over the coming week, so be sure to check back in to T3.com for our full review.