In 2021, Samsung finally released a smartwatch with Google’s Wear OS. The company is back with a sequel, the Galaxy Watch 5. There was a lot of excitement about last year’s watch. Now, Samsung looks to refine the experience.
The Galaxy Watch 4 was Samsung’s first departure from Tizen OS since all the way back in 2014 with the Gear Live. However, it was not a typical Wear OS smartwatch. Samsung has its own One UI skin and features on top. The Galaxy Watch 5 continues this approach.
There are two different models this year—the Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro. This review is for the 40mm Galaxy Watch 5. The Pro model has a larger battery and a more durable design, but the features are mostly the same.
Hardware and Design
- Dimensions: 40mm (40.4mm x 39.3mm x 9.8mm) or 44mm (44.4mm x 43.3mm x 9.8mm)
- Weight: 28.7g (1.01oz), 33.5g (1.18oz)
- Ram: 1.5GB
- Storage: 16GB
- CPU: Exynos W920
- Build: Aluminum frame, sapphire crystal display
- Water and dust resistance: IP68
You might have a hard time telling the Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 5 apart. Samsung stuck with the same design this year, but that’s a good thing. The design works for many situations with a simple band swap. It looks great with a silicone band on the running trail or a leather band for drinks on a patio.
Size wise, Samsung claims it’s the same size and thickness as the Watch 4, but the latter is simply false. I have both watches and the Watch 5 is visibly thicker. However, I will say it doesn’t feel thicker. The contours on the back help with that. I’m not a fan of chunky watches and the Watch 5 doesn’t fit that mold.
The Home and Back buttons are on the right side, and again, they feel very solid and tactile. I mentioned bands earlier, and Samsung has once again stuck with standard lugs. You can use any regular watch band that fits the Watch 5 model you have. No proprietary straps here.
In terms of hardware, the standard Galaxy Watch 5 is made from aluminum—the Pro model is titanium. The bigger story, though, is the new sapphire display. Sapphire is significantly stronger than the previously used Gorilla Glass displays. Theoretically, the sapphire display should stay scratch-free forever—though it can still get cracked.
Sticking with durability, the Watch 5 has an IP68 water and dust resistance rating, and is MIL-STD-810H compliant. The water resistance goes up to 50m, making it a perfect swimming companion. This is a watch that can handle your day-to-day.
Under that display is an Exynos W920 processor and 1.5GB of RAM. Samsung watches run Wear OS very well. Even during the initial setup, which is where smartwatches can get bogged down with installing apps, the watch felt snappy. I haven’t run into any lag or bugginess.
Overall, this is an attractive watch that can easily fit right in with your personal style. It has a very durable display, buttons that feel good, and solid performance.
- Battery size (40mm): 284mAh
- Battery size (44mm): 410mAh
There’s one area of hardware that I haven’t touched on yet—battery life. This is one of the biggest features when it comes to smartwatches. A smartwatch with bad battery life is almost worse than a phone with bad battery life since they’re more annoying to charge.
The Galaxy Watch 5 has a slightly bigger battery than last year’s Watch 4. Whether or not that makes a difference to you depends on your usage. People who use their watch for sleep tracking may notice more improvements than others. As someone who charges every night, I’ve never run into the “low battery” warning.
After an average day of taking the watch off the charger around 8AM, and using it without the display always on, I end the day around 11PM-12AM with over 50% remaining. I could easily use the “Always-On Display” feature and still make it through the day.
The days where battery life struggles a bit more are when I’m tracking activities. Tracking a run for an hour takes up a decent chunk of the battery, but I’m still able to make it through the day. You may run into battery anxiety if you’re doing a lot of workout tracking, sleep tracking, and using the Always-On Display.
In general, I give the battery life a passing grade. It’s not what I would consider stellar battery life, but it’s perfectly in line with what I expect from most smartwatches. Samsung has also finally switched the charger to USB-C, which makes for faster charging and easier traveling.
- Wear OS version: 3.5
- Samsung One UI version: 4.5
The Galaxy Watch 5 runs Wear OS 3.5 with Samsung’s One UI 4.5 enhancements. Now that Google Assistant is finally available on Samsung watches, you’re getting the best of Google and Samsung on one device. It’s a nice blend of functionality.
The software experience is very good. Everything is only a couple of swipes away. I never feel like I’m using the watch too long to accomplish something. From the watch face, each direction takes you somewhere different—quick settings, widgets, apps, and notifications.
The biggest problem with Samsung watches before the company switched to Wear OS was lack of apps. That’s no longer an issue. You can now download apps and watch faces directly from the good ‘ol Google Play Store.
Bixby and some other Samsung apps are still present, but it’s easy to ignore the ones you don’t like. Google Assistant can be set as the default assistant app and be mapped to long-pressing the home button. Samsung Pay is locked to long-pressing the back button, but you can select Google Wallet by double-pressing the Home button.
Wear OS with One UI is essentially exactly what it sounds like. It’s Google, it’s Samsung, and they mostly work well together.
One of the biggest areas of focus for smartwatches is fitness, and Samsung has a lot to offer. The combination of hardware and software makes the Watch 5 a worthy workout companion.
Samsung’s Health app is much more comprehensive than Google Fit. You can track a huge variety of workouts and activities, record your sleep, measure heart rate, ECG, steps, blood oxygen, and even Body Composition.
The thicker design is thanks to an improved sensor, which Samsung says makes better contact with your skin. I haven’t noticed a huge difference in the data collected by the sensor, but I also never felt like the old sensor was inaccurate.
Speaking of that new sensor, it includes the ability to measure temperature. However, it’s not terribly useful. There’s no way to take a temperature reading on demand. It’s apparently being used for sleep tracking and may be put to more use in the future.
Personally, fitness is one of the areas that I care about the most for smartwatches. Samsung Health is an impressive suite of fitness tools on its own, but it’s even better when paired with a Samsung watch. For my money, Samsung stands only behind Apple when it comes to consumer-friendly fitness smartwatches.
What About the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro?
Before wrapping up, we should talk about the second Galaxy Watch model this year—the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro. So what’s the difference? As briefly mentioned, there are a couple of things to note.
The Watch 5 Pro has a 590mAh battery, whereas the 40mm Watch 5 has a 284mAh battery (the 44mm Watch 5 battery is 410mAh). That’s a big difference, and it equates to the Watch 5 Pro being able to last nearly three days on a charge.
Size is another big difference. The Pro model has the same size display as the 44mm Watch 5 (1.36-inch), but the body is slightly wider and thicker. It’s a big watch, coming in at 46mm in diameter and 10.5mm thick. The body is made of titanium as well.
Basically, the Pro version is a bigger, beefier version of the standard Watch 5. You get better battery life, a larger footprint, and essentially all the same features as the standard Watch 5. All of that comes at a price—$450 to be exact.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro
$375 $450 Save $75
A bigger, thicker version of the standard Galaxy Watch 5 with better battery life and titanium design.
Should You Buy the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5?
It’s time to answer the big question—is the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 worth buying? As always, that depends on where you’re coming from and the phone you use. However, I will say the Watch 5 is a better choice than the Watch 5 Pro for most people.
The Galaxy Watch 5 is easily the closest competitor to the Apple Watch. Samsung has done an impressive job at rivaling Apple’s great fitness features. It’s not quite on the same level, but it’s very close. If you want the Apple Watch equivalent on Android, the Watch 5 is your play.
If you already have the Galaxy Watch 4, I don’t think the Watch 5 is a significant upgrade. You won’t notice a ton of improvements compared to the Watch 4. However, Tizen-based Samsung watch owners will notice a big difference. Google apps and a much better app ecosystem can’t be overstated. Plus, you’re not giving up the Samsung features you know.
The Galaxy Watch 5 may not be as flashy as last year’s Watch 4 and Samsung’s long-awaited return to Wear OS. However, this is a super solid, polished, and refined smartwatch. It perfectly blends the line between fitness companion and high-class watch.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5
- Minimal design looks great in any situation
- Sapphire display should improve long-term durability
- Fitness features remain top-notch
- Access to Google apps completes the Samsung experience
- Battery life is good, but not incredible
- Getting a little thick, especially for sleep tracking