BERLIN: KOREAN TECH BEHEMOTH Samsung unveiled its latest Smartwatch at the IFA tech show in Berlin earlier this week, updating its Gear S3 flagship wearable with more fitness-focused features, such as a water resistance rating of five atmospheres, as well as a focus on nutrition, with the ability to monitor your calorie balance throughout the day.
We got out hands, and wrists on the Gear Sport to see how it lives up to the almighty Apple Watch, and how it compares to previous Samsung wearables. Here’s our initial thoughts.
The Gear Sport is much more svelte than its predecessor, the Gear S3, measuring 11.6mm in thickness, and weighing in at just 50g, but still measuring in taller, wider and thicker than the biggest Apple Watch. Even so, it felt quite comfortable on our wrist in our hands-on test. It never felt excessively bulky or heavy, and benefits from a light, soft silicone strap, shipped as standard. Supposedly, this can be swapped out for a raft of different straps comprising different designs, colours and materials.
However, the best feature design-wise is the rotating bezel, which we saw on the Gear S3. It still works as delightfully as before. Turning with a tactile clickiness; it’s a clever and intuitive way to switch between apps, scroll through news articles and search through photo galleries. It’s far smoother and easier for these purposes than flicking at the screen with a finger, which blocks out most of the view anyway, and requires no force to move.
Backing up the bezel are Home and Back buttons on the right-hand side of the devices. These aren’t quite as revelatory as the spinning ring, but they’re just as functional as they need to be, and make the user experience just a bit more like that of a smartphone, which we are fans of.
The Gear Sport might have a slightly smaller 1.2in screen than its predecessor, the Gear S3, measuring 01in smaller, but at least it borrows the same Super AMOLED tech of Samsung’s smartphones, which we love. Colours pop out with incredible vividness, even on the modest 1.2in screens, and blacks are beautifully deep, which is good considering that the UI makes heavy use of them.
The 320×320 resolution might be lower than the Gear S3, but it’s more than sharp enough to read text at arm’s length. The display’s only real problem, besides being something of a fingerprint magnet, is reflectivity. It can be hard to make out in direct light.
Operating system and software
The Gear Sport runs Tizen, a Linux-based OS co-developed by Samsung and Intel. We’re still sceptical that Tizen is able to offer the range of apps that Android Wear or Apple’s watchOS does, but there is at least a decent selection of apps on the models we tested, including all the expected messaging, fitness, utility and news apps.
It’s worth noting that Tizen makes full use of the circular screen, organising apps in a circle around the curved watch face. There’s also a handy Android-esque Power Saving mode. This turns the screen greyscale, disables most non-essential apps and adopts a very basic watch interface, which will undoubtedly prove useful to those away from their wireless charger for longer than a day or so.
With access to all-new fitness programs and a heart-rate sensor as standard, along with a way to help you complete your weight loss goals, the Gear Sport is also more health-focused than previous Samsung wearables, which will be a boon for health and fitness-obsessed users.
Those not so into keeping fit will benefit from being able to connect to Samsung’s smart TVs via the Samsung Connect app, which also means it supports the company’s Samsung Pay service with its NFC hardware.
Thanks to its dual-core 1.0 GHz processor and 786MB of RAM, the Gear Sport is super-snappy in terms of responsiveness. This is especially noticeable when using the bezel to, say, quickly flick between a packed photo album. This is much faster than doing so by touch, but the hardware keeps up easily. Apps open and close without delay, too.
However, we’d need more time living with a Gear Sport to truly judge its performance. We’re curious as to how quickly its Samsung Pay functionality will work, too, But for now, the range certainly seems powerful enough to challenge its premium competitors.
The Gear Sport isn’t just much more slimline than Samsung’s other efforts, making it much more pleasurable to war, but its deceptively lightweight and offers bold displays and high capacity for user-end customisation. With more health and fitness-focused features built-in, it definitely lives up to its new Sport moniker, and will be of particular interest to those fitness fanatics out there, who are looking for a more understated-looking smartwatch, with a good all-round nippy performance.
Pricing and availability for the Gear Sport is still forthcoming. µ
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