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Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 review

Brilliant features – but that one-day battery life is back

(Image: © Basil Kronfli / TechRadar)

TechRadar Verdict

Demure, stylish, and very smart – everything, from the Galaxy Watch 5's third-party app support to its fitness features, impresses. The main drawback is the one-day battery life, so if you're not okay with a nightly charge, look to the Pro – or a less smart alternative.

Pros

  • +

    Comprehensive app support

  • +

    Powerful fitness features

  • +

    Durable and lightweight

Cons

  • -

    One-day battery life

  • -

    Optimized for Samsung phones

  • -

    Incremental upgrade

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: two-minute review

If you've used a Galaxy Watch 4 in the past, operations on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 will feel very familiar. Because of the similarities between the 4 and the 5, those upgrading from the Galaxy Watch 3 or older will enjoy the differences, with the 5 really feeling like a shiny and new toy. The jump won't feel as big for Watch 4 users.

Launching alongside the Galaxy Z Flip 4,  Z Fold 4, and the new Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, the Galaxy Watch 5 is a powerful smartwatch that runs Google's Wear OS. That means plenty of apps out of the box, and good – albeit not Apple Watch-beating – smartphone integration. 

Just like the Watch 4, the Watch 5 comes in two sizes and a host of colors. We tested the smaller, 40mm option. You can also pick up the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, which promises better battery life and a more durable build.

When you unbox the Watch 5, you'll notice its neutral and subtle styling. The robust metal frame is paired with a sapphire glass fascia that's hardier than ever – definitely tough enough for day-to-day life in our time with it. 

Interaction with the watch, and Wear OS in general, was intuitive enough. The 40mm option might be too small for clumsy fingers, but we didn't struggle with it, especially once we got used to the buttons and touch commands.

One gripe we have with the Watch 5 is the lack of data synchronization between Samsung's fitness features and Google Fit, despite plenty of overlap between the two services. It would've been nice if exercise records including step counts could be easily shared between the two. That said, once you decide on the tracking service you want to use, options are abundant, with the MapMyRun and Strava apps downloadable through the Google Play Store, in addition to other tools like MyFitnessPal and Lifesum. 

Still, the Watch 5 has a lot to offer, including the most accurate sleep tracking we've used on a smartwatch, outperforming the Withings ScanWatch Horizon. The Galaxy Watch 5 also offers accurate heart rate monitoring, in comparison to data acquired via a chest strap, and a generally impressive GPS on runs. So this is definitely a powerful wearable, despite its compact size.

The thing that holds Samsung's latest wearable back from perfection, at least in its 40mm version, is a paltry battery life. If you can handle a daily charge and want a small, subtle digital timepiece with smart app support, the Galaxy Watch 5 could be for you. For anyone who wants all the Watch 5's features and superior battery life, though, the new Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is the option to go for.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: price and availability

  • Available in two sizes – 40mm and 44mm
  • Starts at £269 / $279.99 / AU$499
  • Also available with LTE (via eSIM)

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / TechRadar)

Both the Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro are available to buy right now, with retailers including most of your usual suspects and Samsung's online store. 

Pricing has increased across the board for Samsung's Watch line since last year's Watch 4, and as with last year's launch, the Galaxy Watch 5 arrives in two sizes, each available in both Bluetooth-only and Bluetooth plus LTE cellular configurations.

The smaller, 40mm Watch 5 starts at £269 / $279.99 / AU$499, and if you want to pick up the LTE version, it'll bump up the price to £319 / $329.99 / AU$599. For anyone who fancies the larger 44mm Watch 5, it costs £289 / $299 / AU$549 in its base configuration, and £339 / $349 / AU$649 with LTE.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: design

  • Lightweight at 28.7g (40mm) / 33.5g (44mm)
  • Each size's watch body is available in three colors
  • A range of strap options available

The Galaxy Watch 5 brings back the distinct, contemporary stylings we were introduced to with last year's Watch 4. If you're coming from a Galaxy Watch 3 or Watch 4 Classic, though, everything's very different. There's no rotating bezel in sight – instead, you interact with an invisible digital bezel around the screen.

If you're new to the Galaxy Watch line, the core watch screen is one side of a polished metal disc, while on the reverse is the heart rate monitor and other health sensors. A brushed aluminum frame contrasts against the polished disc nicely, holding it in place, while also playing host to the two buttons on the right side, and the arms that connect the watch body to its bands.

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / TechRadar)

The smaller 40mm model comes in Graphite (black), Pink Gold, or Silver, while the larger 44mm version swaps out Pink Gold for Sapphire (a muted mid-tone blue). With Samsung's Bespoke service, available on samsung.com, the range of color options goes far beyond those four options. 

Bespoke is a service that lets you mix and match straps with the watch body, and it spans more than just wearables, with the Galaxy Z Flip 4 letting buyers customize their foldable. On the Watch 5, once you've picked your case color, you can choose from a range of bands – there are 11 Sports Band colors (the Sports is the default band that ships with the Watch 5), two D-Buckle Sports Bands (the default band type that ships with the 5 Pro), a Global Goals band, a Hybrid Leather Band, Ridged and Extreme Sports Bands, and finally, a Milanese Band. 

The Watch 5's silicone band material is also hairy-wrist-friendly, and has a perpetual matte texture that keeps it from tugging on the skin too. For someone not used to wearing a smartwatch, the Watch 5 is a soft landing when it comes to comfort. It isn't too big, and the default Sports Strap keeps it in place.

Despite offering bigger batteries in this year's lineup (making both sizes about 3 grams heavier), the footprint of the Watch 5 hasn't grown at all, compared to the Watch 4. Side by side, though, the sensors on the Watch's undercarriage do poke out a little more than on last year's model. This isn't just to accommodate the bigger batteries – Samsung says this results in more accurate tracking.

Interacting with the watch is intuitive enough – it's a story of swipes, taps, and button presses. The right-hand buttons have reassuring click feedback, and the screen is responsive to the touch, as is the digital bezel.

(Image credit: Future / Basil Kronfli)

Samsung's Watch 5 also benefits from IP68-certified ingress protection against dust and water, swim-proofing up to 5 ATM, and MIL-STD-810H approval, meaning it's tested to withstand challenging conditions – including hard knocks and drops, temperature extremes, and more.

In our time with the watch, we dinged the screen against a metal table frame, and despite being convinced it was a goner when we felt it thud, the Watch 5 came off totally unscathed.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: display

  • 40mm Watch 5 features 1.19-inch display
  • 44mm Watch 5 features 1.39-inch display
  • High-quality, bright, sharp and responsive

Both Watch 5 sizes have circular Super AMOLED screens, with the 40mm model's screen measuring 1.19-inch and the 44mm model's screen sporting a larger 1.39-inches. 

Slightly sharper than the Apple Watch 7 at 330ppi, it's interesting to see Samsung steer clear of square and rectangular alternative designs, despite most of its competition – Amazfit with the GTS series, Huawei with its Watch Fit, and Fitbit going that route.

The Watch 5's display quality is very good. It gets bright, at up to 1,000 nits, so is easy to see outdoors, and Samsung's fun watch faces look lively and punchy. In fact, the whole interface consistently overlays rich, vibrant-colored elements over inky, deep blacks that disappear into the bezel, making for an engaging UI.

The big upgrade to the Watch 5's display isn't in its tech, but materials, though. It uses a far tougher sapphire crystal that's 60% stronger than the cover glass found on the Watch 4, according to Samsung, and as we mentioned, after a few knocks, it proved itself to be hardy enough for us.

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / TechRadar)

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: software and performance

  • Runs Wear OS 3 with Samsung One UI Watch
  • Powerful features and strong app support
  • Optimized for Samsung but works with most Android smartphones

Running Wear OS 3, both Google and Samsung are still finding their feet in the wider smartwatch space. The operating system is richer when it comes to apps and features than those of the semi-smartwatch competition like the Huawei GT 3, but you don't quite get the polish Apple's watchOS brings to the table.

Samsung's interface is called One UI Watch, and interaction with it is very familiar if you're coming from another smartwatch. Swipe to the left-hand screen to see notifications, and keep swiping through the screens to the right of the watch face to cycle through your tiles. These are rich widgets of sorts, each giving you a peek into an app or feature, or a shortcut to the full experience.

You can quickly toggle elements by swiping from the top of the watch, and a swipe up pulls your apps tray into view – just like on an Android smartphone. If you want to change your watch face, that can be done by long-pressing it, or through the smartphone app.

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / TechRadar)

As for the smartphone app(s), to get the Watch 5 synchronized with your phone, you'll need to download the Galaxy Wearable app. Yep – while it runs Google's Wear OS, the Watch 5 won't work with the Wear OS app.

Once you install Galaxy Wearable from the Play Store (if you're using a non-Samsung smartphone), you can pair and customize your Watch 5's smart features. You're not done, though. First, you need to download an altogether different app, Samsung Health, to take advantage of any of its health tools, and then you'll need the Watch 5 Plugin before you can really start using your wearable.

If you don't have the watch paired with a Samsung phone, there are a few compromises out of the gate. The camera app is missing from the Watch 5, so you can't use your timepiece as a viewfinder and remote shutter for your smartphone. You also can't install Health Monitor – (yes, another app) that's needed for ECG and blood pressure measuring – so these measuring tools are out of bounds. If none of that concerns you, though, then everything else on the Watch 5 seems to work well on non-Samsung Android phones, though there's no iOS support. 

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / TechRadar)

A Google heart in a Samsung body, the duality of Google's Wear OS and Samsung's interface extends far and wide. First, let's talk about voice assistants. The Watch 5 features Bixby, Samsung's own assistant by default, which works well once you're signed into your Samsung account. You can switch it out, however, to Google Assistant if you so choose after a deep dive into the settings, so a long press of the top button fires up the big G. 

Samsung Pay is also installed by default, but if you're more of a Google Wallet user, then you can switch to that instead. While we love how Samsung has opened up its Watch family to choice, there's no getting around the fact that the whole experience just feels way more fragmented than Apple's watchOS, and when you scratch the surface, more confusing too. 

As for pre-installed apps, Samsung loads up Galaxy Buds, Outlook, Global Goals, and more out of the gate. You can uninstall these, but the first two in particular are overkill.

One feature we do love is the phone call functionality of the Watch 5. Unlike some other smartwatches, you can initiate calls from the Watch 5 too, calling anyone in your phonebook hands-free (but not wrist-free). Volume was loud, and our voice was heard clearly too – though the feature won't work well if you've recently submerged the Watch.

(Image credit: Future / Basil Kronfli)

Additionally, SmartThings integration also pairs your sleep cycle with your connected smart home, meaning lights can be set to dim or switch off, and other IoT devices will refrain from making noise when the Watch 5 detects that you're going to sleep.

Samsung's smartwatches are seldom criticized for lackluster performance, but last year's Watch 4 nevertheless introduced a notably more powerful chipset in the company's own 5nm Exynos W920. This made an already good-value-smartwatch even better, future-proofing performance and delivering better power efficiency.

The Galaxy Watch 5 runs on the same W920 silicon paired with 1.5GB of RAM and 16GB of storage (for apps and media). Performance is solid: we experienced zero slowdown, app crashes, or glitches, both across pre-installed and third-party apps.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: fitness features

  • Tracks over 100 workouts
  • ECG, heart rate, and body fat measuring tools
  • Improved sleep tracking and guidance

You might be thinking that Wear OS means the Watch 5 syncs with Google Fit, and it does, but not by default. Out of the box, this is a Samsung Health gadget (and Samsung Health doesn't sync with Google Fit). You can, however, install Google Fit and switch out your defaults, but you'll be saying goodbye to the integrated metric monitoring Samsung's Watch makes a big deal of – specifically, sleep and body composition. 

Starting with sleep, Samsung Health's new sleep tracking system includes more in-depth guidance and promises to deliver better insights into your slumber, going so far as to automatically serve up a month-long sleep plan. 

While we weren't able to generate anything too meaningful with the seven nights of sleep data we fed the app, we did get tips every night on our phone, and we found out that our sleep animal is a lion. While some of the sleep tips given felt obvious and generic, others were more meaningful – dissuading us from excessive napping, for example. The Samsung Health app also gamified sleep, and rewarded us with badges for consistent bedtimes.

We found the sleep tracking accuracy to be excellent, outperforming that of the Withings ScanWatch HR, which tended to be too generous with our sleep scores. What made sleep tracking difficult was the fact that by nighttime, our Watch 5's battery was already very low on heavy-use days, even with a morning charge. This forced us to charge it up in a rush just so it would make it through a sleep, so we could track it for this review. We had the same issue with the Apple Watch, though not Huawei, Garmin or Withings watches.

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / TechRadar)

At the heart of the Watch 5's health tracking is its BioActive Sensor, which is actually an array of multiple sensors. This is responsible for sleep tracking, heart rate and blood oxygen monitoring, and ECG and body composition analysis, which measures everything from water retention and body fat percentage to bone density.

Exercise tracking on the Watch 5 is consistently good, with the automatic exercise detection firing up reliably after 10 minutes of walking, and manual workouts delivering heart rate measurements that matched our chest strap relatively closely. 

The GPS was also accurate, though the metric that was most at odds with our other tools was the bodyfat measurement. This isn't surprising – different mechanisms for measuring bodyfat generally generate different results. That said, if you just use the Watch 5, it sets a reliable starting point, even if it isn't as accurate as a caliper or full body measure.

While there's no Apple Fitness Plus style service from Samsung, which means the watch can't feed into a polished TV workout and display on-screen heart rate, third-party solutions like FIIT are available and work well.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: battery

  • Higher capacity battery than Watch 4 series
  • 40mm Watch 5 lasts one full day with 30m exercise
  • New USB-C charging faster and more convenient

With only a small 13% increase in capacity over the Watch 4, while the Watch 5 should offer better battery life than its predecessor, expecting more than a day from it is optimistic. 

As far as numbers go, the 40mm model has a 284mAh battery, while the larger 44mm option clocks in at 410mAh; we only tested the former. If you don't use any exercise tracking and fire up the power-saving feature, you might eke out a couple of days from the watch, but you really have to make an effort. If, like us, you use your watch as a pedometer and track around 30-60 minutes of exercise a day, you'll need a charge every 24 hours. 

What Samsung has markedly improved is the charging process for the Watch 5, thanks to a new USB-C-ended charger. On top of charging the Watch 30% faster, the new USB-C charger works when plugged into most USB-C phones. So even if you don't have a Samsung phone with Wireless Power Share, your smartphone can still top up your Galaxy Watch 5.

Scorecard
AttributesNotesRating
DesignNeutral at its core with highly customizable flourishes through Samsung's Bespoke service plus premium, hardy build quality.4.5/5
DisplayBright, easy to see, responsive and vibrant – while the 40mm size may be too small for some, Samsung offers options and all sport quality displays.4.5/5
Software and performanceWhile the Watch 5 performs well, if you don't use a Samsung smartphone, your experience is dialed back. More notably, the crossover between Samsung and Google's fitness features, and lack of syncing between Samsung Health and Google Fit are frustrating.3.5/5
Fitness featuresLoads of fitness features, accurate tracking and a new temperature sensor make the Watch 5 one of the best smartwatches for casual exercisers.4.5/5
BatterySpecifically with regard to the 40mm version, if you don't work out, you might scrape through two days; but if you do, expect no more than a day of battery life from the Watch 5. If you're coming from a long-lasting smartwatch like the Huawei Watch GT series, it's a serious adjustment.2/5
ValueThe Galaxy Watch 5 is a powerful smartwatch that packs loads of features, which help to justify its price.4/5

Should I buy the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5?

Buy it if...

You like clean and simple style
You've heard of the little black dress? This is the little black watch – it goes with everything thanks to its neutral, clean, elegant style.

You want apps and use Android
The Apple Watch of the Android world, the Samsung Galaxy Watch runs Wear OS, so has superior app support to alternatives like the Huawei GT and Amazfit GTR series.

You're a casual exerciser who means business
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 isn't a sports watch in the typical sense – this won't survive a triathlon before its battery conks out. That said, it has powerful fitness-tracking features, so for anyone who's more 10k and gym every other day, it could fit the bill perfectly. 

Don't buy it if...

You aren't prepared to charge your watch nightly
There's no getting around it: just like the Apple Watch, Samsung's Galaxy Watch is smart, powerful, and has really mediocre battery life for a watch. If you're okay charging every day, that's great. If you're not, look to the much less smart Huawei Watch GT 3 or Withings ScanWatch Horizon.

You don't have a Samsung phone and suffer from FOMO
To get the most from the Galaxy Watch 5, you need a Samsung phone. That way, your watch can double up as a camera viewfinder, take your ECG reading, and more. Non-Samsung Android users don't get those features, and iPhones simply won't pair with the Watch 5.

You like rotating crowns and bezels
Everything about the Galaxy Watch 5's interaction is digital other than its buttons, so if you're coming from a Watch 3 or Watch 4 classic, and are hoping for a rotating bezel, or an Apple Watch-style crown, you're out of luck.

Also consider

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Huawei Watch GT 3
Dialed back smarts meet dialed up battery life – the GT 3 can last a full two weeks on a single charge. So if you just want your timepiece to tell the time and track your workouts, this could be the Galaxy Watch 5 alternative for you.
Check out our Huawei Watch GT 3 review (opens in new tab)

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Withings ScanWatch Horizon
With its more premium, almost Omega Seamaster-styling, and long-lasting battery life, while the Withings ScanWatch Horizon isn't as smart as the Galaxy Watch 5, it'll last a whole lot longer.
Check out our Withings ScanWatch Horizon review (opens in new tab)

(opens in new tab)

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro
All the features of the Watch 5 (and a few extra), with more unique styling and a larger battery, the Watch 5 Pro will give you a few days on a single charge, and features a more premium clasp strap.
Check out our Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro review (opens in new tab)

Basil Kronfli is the Head of content at Make Honey and freelance technology journalist. He is an experienced writer and producer and skilled in video production, digital marketing and brand development.