Review, Smartwatch, Wearable

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Quick Review: Still the Best Smartwatch for Android

When it comes to smartwatches for Android, Samsung is easily at the top of the list with its excellent wearables. The Galaxy Watch Active, for one, is a great smartwatch with decent value for money. Now, we have its successor, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2.

What makes the Watch Active 2 particularly interesting is the return of the bezel controls. But it’s not a physically rotating one; rather, it’s a touch-sensitive bezel. So should you get Samsung’s latest smartwatch? Read on to find out.

What It Is

Not surprisingly, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is similar to its predecessor, but there are some notable changes. The most obvious one is the addition of the touch-sensitive bezel. The size of the bezel surrounding the display has also been reduced, so the screen size is actually slightly bigger now. This 40mm model is sporting a 1.2-inch 360 x 360 Super AMOLED display.

Besides that, the Active 2 also comes in a number of different case materials. This one right here is the Stainless Steel model, which looks and feels great; it really gives the smartwatch a premium touch. Of course, like every other Samsung smartwatch, this wearable runs on the company’s own Tizen software, which is reasonably good…for the most part. More on this later.

Other specifications of the Galaxy Watch Active 2 include an Exynos 9110 dual-core processor paired with 768MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage, a 247mAh battery, 5 ATM / IP68 rating, as well as a heart rate sensor with support for ECG. However, the ECG feature is not enabled yet at the time of this review. No word yet whether it’ll be activated in Malaysia either.

The Good Stuff

Since the touch-sensitive bezel is the biggest addition to the Galaxy Watch Active 2, let’s talk about that first. Generally, it actually works reasonably well. Once it detects the first “click,” the bezel does follow my finger movement quite accurately. However, it is by no means as accurate or as satisfying to use as the physical rotating bezel of the bigger Galaxy Watch.

Nonetheless, let’s move on to the Galaxy Watch Active 2’s battery life, which is actually better than its predecessor. Previously, I could only get around one and a half day of use with the always on display enabled. With the Active 2, however, I can comfortably get two days of battery life. That’s quite impressive for a smartwatch of this calibre.

To get this level of battery life, I left the smartwatch at its default settings, though I did set it to measure my heart rate continuously. If you want even better battery life, you can disable the always on display and set the heart rate sensor to only activate every 10 minutes – or not at all.

And then there’s the fantastic circular Super AMOLED display. Samsung manufactures one of the best – if not the best – displays in the market, and it really shows on the Galaxy Watch Active 2. It can get quite bright (it’s still very legible under bright sunlight), it has vibrant colours, and this being an AMOLED panel, you also get deep, true blacks.

Oh, the always on display on the Active 2 is slightly tweaked too. Instead of a static image that only refreshes every minute, the watchface is now animated, complete with a ticking second hand. It’s a small touch, but Samsung’s attention to detail here is very commendable.

Having the smartwatch on my wrist for long periods of time is surprisingly comfortable too, and the leather strap on this particular variant holds up reasonably well after a few weeks of use. Swapping out the straps is also a fuss-free affair, thanks to the quick release pins.

Another feature I really like on the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is the ability to reply to certain notifications. This can be done with pre-written texts, emojis, the T9 keypad, or using the touchscreen to “draw” my message one letter at a time. It’s the same feature found on its predecessor, and I’m glad it’s unchanged with the new smartwatch.

Of course, as with any smartwatch worth its salt, every notification I get on my phone is pushed to the Active 2 accordingly. Any notification I dismiss on the wearable is also reflected on the phone, and vice versa. Personally, this is the best reason to get a smartwatch, and the Active 2 (as expected) does this very well.

The Bad Stuff

Given its similarities to its predecessor, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 also shares the same weaknesses. For one, third-party app support is still limited. Tizen on its own is still a good platform with an intuitive user interface, but don’t expect good quality third-party apps with this smartwatch.

Aside from that, despite its “active” moniker, the workout detection of the Active 2 isn’t particularly fantastic. Sure, it’s able to detect certain workouts effectively – it managed to track my jogging and badminton sessions – but for exercises with minimal arm movement, the smartwatch struggles to detect them accurately.

Granted, it’s a limitation many smartwatches struggle with. After all, there’s only so much data the Watch Active 2 can collect from the wrist. Nonetheless, this smartwatch does have a wide list of exercises it can supposedly track.

Last but certainly not least is the price of the Active 2. This particular variant, the 40mm Stainless Steel model, retails for RM1,299. In comparison, the first Galaxy Watch Active only went for RM799 at launch; that’s RM500 less. Granted, you can get the 40mm Under Armour model or the 44mm Aluminium model for RM1,099, but that’s still RM300 price difference.

Is It Worth It?

Is the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 a good smartwatch? Yes. Is it worth a recommendation? Yes; but only if you don’t already own the first Galaxy Watch Active. Even then it may be more worth it to get that instead of this new model to save a good chunk of money.

That being said, there’s no doubt the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is the superior smartwatch. It has a slightly bigger display thanks to the smaller bezels, it has better battery life, and this Stainless Steel model (despite its high asking price) gives the impression of a much more premium device.

If you want the absolute best smartwatch for Android smartphones right now, and you don’t mind its steep price tag, give the Galaxy Watch Active 2 a gander or two – you won’t find a more complete wearable for the money.