Samsung Gear 2 review

Can the Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch improve on its predecessor?

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Can Samsung's second-gen smartwatch turn this fledgling piece of wearable tech into a must-have? Find out in our Samsung Gear 2 review

It's fair to say, we were't overly impressed by the original Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch. But, not one to give up, Samsung is back with Samsung Gear 2 that lands with a new svelte design and a new operating system.

Since the original, the latest Gear now faces competition from the updated Sony Smartwatch 2, the Pebble Steel and a raft of fitness bands that track how far from the sofa you've moved and how much cake you've eaten.

Samsung has followed its smartphone "every screen-size available" ethos with it's smart watched by also launching the Samsung Gear Fit and Samusng Gear 2 Neo.

Does the new Gear offer more than all the rest? Is it a good update and should you be wearing one on your wrist? Read on.

Samsung Gear 2: Size and build

The Samsung Gear is a cross between the all metal look of the Pebble Steel and the plastic feel of the Sony Smartwatch 2. It's a great design. If Samsung placed the design-traits of the Gear 2 into the Samsung Galaxy S5, it could take on the HTC One M8 in design terms.

The aluminium face remains as does the clasp and the plastic wrist-strap although, thankfully, this can now be changed. Having said that, the our-of-the-box strap is a step-up from the original.

WATCH: Samsung Gear 2 unboxing and first impressions video

A great update is that the bulbous camera, that was previously housed in the strap, has been outed in favour of a sensor built-in to the aluminium watch-frame. Samsung has also moved the home button from the side of the watch to the front - much like the home button on its smartphones.

When it comes to vital statistics, it's 5g lighter than the original Gear and 1mm thinner. Small changes that make a big difference. Another update is that the new Gear is now waterproof. An essential, in our opinion.

Another bug-bear of ours with the original was the, frankly, huge charging case. This time round. it's much smaller and clips on to the back rather than around the whole device.

It might be too big for some but all-in-all the updates to the Gear have made for a much more svelte and slender smart watch that we'd happily wear everyday.

Samsung Gear 2: Features

At launch, the Galaxy Gear was only compatible with a meagre two devices (Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and and Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1) thankfully this isn't the case with the Gear 2. At the time of writing this review, it's compatible with 18 Samsung devices including the Samsung Galaxy S5, S4, S3, Note 3 and Note 2.

Granted, it isn't close to the blanket Android compatibility of the Smartwatch 2 but it's a very broad range. If Apple launches an iWatch, it'll face a similar backlash.

Setting up your new Gear is now simpler. Gone is the need for NFC all you'll need is the Gear Manager app and Bluetooth. It's seamless and we connected instantly. Range is good with a round 150m before we lost the connection.

As with the other smart watches out there, what stands them apart from your fitness bands is their use as a window to what's happening on your phone. On the new Gear you'll receive text and call notifications along with the ability to cancel and receive calls.

It isn't instant. Text messages take around 10 minutes to appear on the Gear post-receiving them on the phone. When it comes to replying to texts it's back to S Voice and it might be our dulcet Welsh tones but accuracy isn't fantastic. You can of course use the pre-loaded templates but we'd advise getting your phone out to reply as we found ourselves doing.

On to phone calls and, as before, you can answer these but you'll still feel like a prize idiot. Having said that, the range of the microphone is good enough for the person on the other end of the call to hear you with your arm by your side.

Samsung Gear 2: Screen

When it comes to the screen it's the same size as the original coming in at 1.63 inches but this time round it's Super AMOLED. It's a small screen but there's plenty of room for a glance at the time, checking your steps or reading a message.

The menus have been spruced up and it's no longer a dull black and grey affair - instead there are pops of colours and both menus and icons look great on screen. As before, you can opt for four icons per screen or just the one.

Samsung Gear 2: Camera

Unlike most of the other smart watches out there the Gear 2, as with the original, comes sporting a camera. It's no longer as noticeable poking out of the strap but it still feels more of a gimmick than a feature. We found ourselves forgetting it was there, it didn't feel natural to use it.

The odd times that we did take a wrist-snap pics appeared instantly on our Samsung Galaxy S5 and the quality were comparable to most front-facing cameras with a pixel count of 2 megapixels.

Samsung Gear 2: S Health

As with the Galaxy S5, Samsung is waxing lyrical about S Health on the Gear 2. The functionality is similar, with the watch able to count your steps and track your exercise using GPS. Syncing the phone and watch isn't instant, though. We found our step-count to be way out and our exercises didn't appear on our phone if we'd only taken out watch.

There's also the problem of lack of users. What Endomondo, RunKeeper and the like have is a bank of users that share, challenge and compete against each other. There isn't the opportunity for bragging rights with S Health.

There's a heart-rate monitor on board with the scanner nestled under the watch face. It works 60 per cent of the time with it often popping-up with an error message. Not ideal if you'd like to quickly check your heart-rate mid-run.

Samsung Gear 2: Apps

There aren't a lot of apps available for the Gear 2 but we don't think there needs to be. There are a few that deal with social networks and we're told that there will be more headline apps to follow but the essentials come straight from the box.

Before you can download any new apps you'll need to download Gear Manager and this becomes the hub for your smart watch and the apps.

Samsung Gear 2: Battery

Thankfully, this has been improved. The Gear 2 will now last over two days of mid to heavy use and up to six days if just used as a watch.

Samsung Gear 2: Verdict

The main problem we had with the original Galaxy Gear is that we never felt like we needed it, the new Gear 2 has changed that. It works as a watch, it works as a fitness tracker, it looks good and it comes with extras that other smart watches don't.

It's still expensive in comparison and it isn't compatible with anything other than Samsung phones but as we mentioned Apple will face the same issues if it announces a smart watch.

It's a far better product than it's predecessor and in our opinion it's the best smart watch yet, but there's still some way to go before it's a must-have.

Samsung Gear 2 release date: Out now

Samsung Gear 2 price: £250