Little things about Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review: The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 could be a minor upgrade on its predecessor, adding a digital rotating dial, bigger version, currently inactive ECG, and LTE option. But it is also considerably more costly, putting a hefty price on only some extra features. The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is barely an upgrade on its predecessor, which came out earlier in 2020 but lacked the rotating bezel that made its beefier sibling, the Samsung Galaxy Watch, such a hit. But the refined version of Samsung’s sporty smartwatch comes with a digital bezel and some other tricks to become the most effective wearable within the company’s lineup.
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If anything lives up to Samsung’s claims about the Galaxy Watch Active 2, it’s battery life. With typical use, our Active 2 lasted through two full days. While that’s approximately the four days that our original Galaxy Watch survived for, it’s over may be said of the Apple Watch line.
That battery life diminishes with plenty of activity: playing music or running the GPS (through those workouts, say) can drain capacity at a more rapid pace. It all depends on what proportion you employ it, and there’s a battery-saving setting (switching on grayscale, switching off Wi-Fi) to eke out more life between charges.
The actual capacity of the 40mm model is 247mAh, slightly larger than the 230mAh of its predecessor. The 44mm’s 340mAh capacity might provide it the sting over its smaller sibling (the only 1 we tested), though that’s also powering a bigger screen.
The Watch Active 2’s fitness apps and features haven’t changed much: there are still 39 workout-tracking modes, like running, walking, cycling and swimming.
The exercise modes generally work fine for the cardio-related routines but struggle with those defined by motion.
The ‘Crunches’ mode, for instance, only counted reps when the hand (and thus the Active 2) was extended far over the knees…meaning anyone performing a crunch with arms crossed over their chest is out of luck. It’s an odd specificity that extends to other workouts, like Arm Extensions and Jumping Jacks, which were similarly finicky.
But we didn’t have any problems when taking the Active 2 for a jog, where it tracked our runs and gently vibrated when it sensed we’d stopped moving and may be finished the workout (or was just telling us to bring to a close our break). The smartwatch also connected effortlessly with Bluetooth headphones, which made it easier to listen to the Active 2’s occasional vocal updates on workout progress.
Listening to music was more of a chore, especially when connected to an iPhone, that adding music could be a multi-step process. Syncing up a Spotify account is simple enough, though the frequent alerts and notifications momentarily muted audio, with multiple disruptions per song. It’s odd, especially when a non-interruption feature looks like such a logical addition for a workout mode.
The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is IP68-rated for water and mud resistance and might survive being submerged up to five meters in liquid and getting a bit grimy. There’s even a ‘water lock’ mode that disables touchscreen functionality and vibrates to shake out excess water.
The watch also has an ECG (electrocardiogram), which may be accustomed to detect the electrical activity and rhythm of your heart. it is a feature we’ve already seen on the Apple Watch 4 and 5 and might be accustomed detect the likes of cardiac arrhythmia.
However, while the hardware is present here, the feature isn’t available at launch, as Samsung needs approval for its use in each country.
Performance and software
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 has an Exynos 9110 dual-core chipset, identical to its predecessor – and also the original Galaxy Watch, for that matter – but at 1.15Ghz, it’s fast enough. The smartwatch’s 768MB of RAM is okay for switching in and out of apps, though that’s upgraded to 1.5GB for the LTE model.
That’s enough power to zoom round the interface, though we still wish Samsung had been able to fit over 4GB of storage in there – especially since, once the package and baseline apps are loaded up, you’re left with 1.5GB to manipulate. Enough for many of songs and apps (most of which take up barely a megabyte apiece), but not leaving much room for bigger, bolder software.
Like its predecessor, the Active 2 runs on Samsung’s One UI overlay over Samsung’s trusty Tizen software, and not much has changed since the initial Active. The rotating dial makes it noticeably easier to sift through apps on your home page or notifications on the most ‘watch face’ screen, though it’ll take a bit getting accustomed for precision navigation (i.e. not zooming past the correct stop).
There are other new integrations Samsung is championing – like taking a photograph on a phone with the Samsung Wearables app and creating an algorithmically chosen color-and-pattern watch face design. Ostensibly, this can be to sync your Active 2 with whatever you’re wearing, but you’ll also snap photos of a selected hue or natural color if you fancy.