Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Series Review: Winning By Default

The lack of competition in the Wear OS market means Samsung's latest Wear OS-powered smartwatches are easily the best in the Wear OS market

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro Review Series
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Before heading into this review of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro, let’s take a time to acknowledge the success of their predecessors. So last year’s Galaxy Watch 4 series was a big hit for Samsung—which is mostly thanks to the new Wear OS 3 platform that it co-developed with Google. The company thus recorded its highest quarterly shipments with the Watch 4 lineup, whereas it was a big success for Wear OS as well.

So, it was pretty much inevitable that Samsung wouldn’t bring any drastic change or any major upgrade to the Galaxy Watch 5 series.

Global Smartwatch Market Share - Q1 2021 vs Q1 2022And that’s exactly what we’ve got here. The new Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro from Samsung are textbook definitions of iterative upgrades. With a more robust build quality, improved health monitoring, faster charging speeds, and such. Having said that, after using these watches for almost a month now, I’m so glad that Samsung has finally addressed a few of my biggest issues with the Galaxy Watch lineup this time—which I’ll get into shortly.

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Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, Watch 5 Pro Review: Specifications:

Watch 5 (40 / 44mm) Watch 5 Pro (45mm)
Case Material Armor Aluminum Titanium
Strap Style 20mm Sport Band 20mm D-Buckle Sport Band
Color Options Graphite, Silver, Sapphire (44mm only), Pink Gold (40mm only) Black Titanium, Gray Titanium
Dimensions & Weight 40mm: 40.4 x 39.3 x 9.8mm (28.7 gm) 45.4 x 45.4 x 10.5mm (46.5 gm)
44mm: 44.4 x 43.3 x 9.8mm (33.5 gm)
Display 40mm: 1.2″ (396 x 396 px) 1.4″ (450 x 450 px)
44mm: 1.4″ (450 x 450 px)
Protection Sapphire crystal glass
Properties Super AMOLED panel, Always on Display (AoD)
Processor Exynos W920 (5nm), 2x Cortex-A55 cores (1.18GHz)
Memory 1.5GB RAM, 16GB internal storage
Battery 40mm: 284mAh 590mAh
44mm: 410mAh
Charging Faster WPC-based wireless charging (10W)
OS Wear OS Powered by Samsung (Wear OS 3.5)
UI One UI Watch 4.5
Sensors Samsung BioActive Sensor (Optical Heart Rate + Electrical Heart + Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis), Temperature, Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro, Geomagnetic, Light
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.2, WiFi a/b/g/n (dual-band), NFC, LTE
Navigation GPS / Glonass / Beidou / Galileo
Durability 5 ATM + IP68 certified, MIL-STD-810H compliant
Compatibility Android 8.0 or higher, With more than 1.5GB RAM
Companion App Setup: Galaxy Wearable, Galaxy Watch5 Plugin
Health Statistics: Samsung Health
Price in Nepal 40mm: Rs. 39,999 (Buy here) Rs. 64,999 (Buy here)
44mm: Rs. 44,999 (Buy here)

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, Watch 5 Pro Review:

Design and Build

  • Armor Aluminum case (40/44mm)
    • 20mm Sport band
  • Titanium (45mm) case
    • 20mm D-Buckle Sport band
  • 5 ATM + IP68 dust/water resistant
  • MIL-STD-810H certified

Okay, let’s start this review of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro with the design side of things. So if you were to put the Watch 4 and Watch 5 side-by-side and ask me to figure out which one’s which based just on the looks, I wouldn’t be able to. Except for their color options, these look identical! On paper, the Watch 5 is marginally heavier by a couple of grams, but this has been a non-issue for me. Samsung has basically left its sleek design aesthetics geared towards casual smartwatch users as is.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 - Pro
Left: Galaxy Watch 5 | Right: Galaxy Watch 5 Pro

But the Watch 5 Pro is a different story entirely. And yeah, I can definitely tell it apart from the Watch 4 Classic! Actually, when I first saw the Watch 5 Pro online, I was kinda worried it would be too bulky for my wrist.

After putting it on, however, I must say that it looks pretty neat. But if you have somewhat smaller wrists, this thing is obviously going to end up looking enormous because the Watch 5 Pro is only available in a 45mm option. Unlike the regular Watch 5 which you can find in both 40 and 44mm sizes. More importantly, Samsung has replaced the beloved rotating bezel with a digital one here.

Talk about heartbreak!

The physical bezel was essentially why most people—including myself—loved the Watch 4 Classic but that’s gone now. Instead, the Watch 5 Pro has a sunken display and raised bezel for a more sporty, outdoorsy look.

Bye bye bezel

I know this makes using the digital bezel a little easier because I can guide my finger across through the edges, but let’s get real for a moment. It’s just no match for the pure simplicity of a physical bezel. Not to mention, it doesn’t work that well when your finger is wet/greasy, or when you’re wearing gloves.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro - Display 1

Anyway, I am absolutely loving this D-buckle sport band on the Watch 5 Pro. It is similar to the typical folding clasp layout found on metal bracelet watch straps, but with a magnetic buckle to keep things in place. It does take a bit of getting used to, like how to adjust the length and stuff like that, but once you get the hang of it, going back to the traditional pin/buckle strap is not that easy.

But this strap has one—almost hilarious—design flaw. The thing is, it doesn’t lay completely flat even when freeing up the clasp to one end. So in case I want to charge it wirelessly via a compatible Samsung phone, I have to separate the strap from the watch completely to ensure that the base of the watch makes proper contact with the phone.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro - D-Buckle Sport Band

That reminds me, Samsung also says it has improved the sensor design on the base of the watch, with increased contact area and a flatter structure for more accurate measurements.

Comfortable, secure fit

And I’m not sure if it’s because of this, the new strap mechanism—or a combination of both—but I haven’t had to manually readjust my fit on the Watch 5 Pro every now and then like I did on the Watch 4 Classic. Therefore, as far as fit and comfort are concerned, the Watch 5 duo gets a big thumbs up from me.

Not to forget, they are 5 ATM and IP68 certified against dust and water damage too, on top of the military standard 810H durability against various harsh environmental conditions. And the Watch 5 Pro is also the tougher of the two with its Titanium case, compared to the armor aluminum case on the regular Watch 5. I’m not gonna purposefully damage them to verify Samsung’s claims or anything—I’ll leave that to JerryRigEverything. But I did crash the Watch 5 Pro against a rough surface once and it survived that perfectly fine, so I’m sold!

Display

  • 1.2/1.4-inches Super AMOLED panel
  • Circular dial, Always on Display (AoD)
  • Sapphire crystal glass protection

This “improved durability” thing extends to display as well. Both of them now use Sapphire crystal glass, instead of Corning’s Gorilla Glass DX or DX+ on the Watch 4 series. Samsung’s exact claim is that the Watch 5 is 1.6 times and the Watch 5 Pro is twice as strong as its predecessor. I’ve been using them without a screen protector so far, and they’ve held up superbly.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro - Apps

And I’m especially impressed with the standard Watch 5 in this regard since it doesn’t have any protruding layer like the Pro model to protect the display.

Top-notch display, as always

As for the actual quality of the display, it’s great. Be it brightness level, sharpness, viewing angles, or colors, I have no complaint about these Super AMOLED screens. But I am pretty disappointed to see such chunky bezels on the Watch 5 because I thought that was something Samsung would work on this time. Not that it takes away from the experience in any way, but slimmer bezels would’ve certainly looked a lot nicer. Particularly on the smaller 40mm variant with its 1.2” display.

There are also a few new watch faces here, and I’m sure you’ll find the one you’ll like after a few minutes of browsing. And even if you’re not fond of what Samsung offers, no worries. You can always choose from different watch face apps like Facer and WatchMaker from Play Store too.

Performance

  • Dual-core Exynos W920 SoC (5nm)
  • 1.5GB RAM + 16GB internal storage
  • Wear OS 3.5 (with One UI Watch 4.5 on top)

In terms of performance, Samsung seems to be pretty confident with the reliability of last year’s Exynos W920 chip, which is why there’s no chipset upgrade for the Watch 5 series. Along with the same 1.5GB RAM and 16GB of storage and everything. Don’t get me wrong—the Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic weren’t laggy by any means, so this is not a bad thing entirely.

Would’ve loved to see a new chip, tbh

But there are a few occasions when the Watch 5 series show a hint of delay of sorts—especially when you have a bunch of apps in memory. And after seeing Qualcomm’s claims of double performance uplift and 50% longer battery life with its latest wearable chips, I was also hoping Samsung would ditch Exynos in favor of Snapdragon on its latest smartwatches.

Kinda similar to what it did with the Galaxy S22 series in most parts of the world.

After a year of refinements, Wear OS has matured into a powerhouse of an operating system as well. Samsung and Google haven’t made many distinct changes to the UI/UX itself, but you can find a few noteworthy feature additions here. First off—and it’s kind of a big one—the Watch 5 duo comes with Google Assistant support right out of the box. And it works pretty great!

Samsung’s default keyboard also supports swipe typing now, whereas One UI Watch 4.5 brings a bunch of cool accessibility features including visibility and hearing enhancements too. And this experience is only going to get better with time since Samsung also promises 4 years of software upgrades for the Watch 5 series. So overall, I guess I’m not too bummed about Samsung recycling last year’s processor for these smartwatches.

Samsung’s Wear OS monopoly

The rock-solid software side of things makes up for that in a way, but that’s not saying much since I haven’t had the opportunity to use other Wear OS 3-powered smartwatches as of now. Matter of fact, Samsung has basically enjoyed a monopoly in the Wear OS space for over a year now because no other company has launched a smartwatch with this new unified platform. Save for the Montblanc Summit 3 which is a luxury watch that goes for a colossal $1,300!

Health, Fitness Tracking

  • 90+ workout modes
    • With automatic detection support of a few
  • Heart rate, stress, sleep monitoring, body composition analysis
  • (New) Infrared temperature sensor
  • ECG, Blood pressure reading in select regions

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro - Sensors

Now, the only major hardware upgrade when it comes to health and fitness tracking on the Watch 5 duo is the inclusion of an infrared temperature sensor. Samsung says this can give you an even deeper insight into your sleep pattern, but unfortunately, it isn’t activated yet.

No one knows what the future holds, Samsung

And as to when this feature will be available, there’s no official word, except “in the near future”. I just hope Samsung will push an update enabling the IR sensor as soon as possible. Even without the temperature sensor, I am noticing way better sleep monitoring on the Watch 5 series.

The Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic used to over-record my asleep duration most of the time, while that number is drastically down here. Other than this, it also accurately logs the time I go to bed and the time I wake up. And it can offer sleep coaching plans to help you doze off better by analyzing your sleep patterns as well.

Moving on, the body composition analysis which measures the amount of muscle, fat, and water in your body is supposedly better on these smartwatches too. But I’m not convinced about that because I’m still getting different readings on the Watch 5 and 5 Pro when taking a body composition reading with one watch on my left hand and the other one on my right.

Besides, these smartwatches can track your heart rate, stress, blood oxygen levels, and all those standard stuff. There’s still no all-day SpO2 monitoring though, whereas blood pressure and ECG measurement are yet to be available in regions like Nepal and India. On the other hand, they can also track a bunch of different workouts—far more than what I’d ever need.

Watch 5 Pro is for the outdoor workout enthusiasts

The Watch 5 Pro even has some special tricks up its sleeks. You can now import the GPX file of your workout trail to the watch itself, and it will automatically give you turn-by-turn directions. Short for GPS Exchange Format, these files store GPS location data including maps and routes. And creating one for yourself is pretty easy. Just go to Google Maps, select “Directions”, and then continue to enter your starting point and destination. You can even add multiple stops between your final destination if needed.

After all that’s done, simply copy the URL of your Google Maps page, then paste it into any GPX converter website to get the GPX file. I found mapstogpx.com to be the easiest, but there are other options as well. Then just download the file to your phone and the Samsung Health app will automatically sync the GPX file to your watch.

How does it perform?

I know all this sounds like a lot, but it’s actually quite straightforward. And I tested it on a fairly short route and I gotta say I’m impressed with how well it works—as long as you’re outdoors.

But soon as you enter a building or something, its location tracking goes haywire. And once you need to head back, there’s also the “Track Back” feature using which you can get back to your starting point on the exact same route. Sounds great! But for now, both of these features are available for hiking and cycling exercises only. And I was also pretty shocked to find out that the Watch 5 Pro can’t detect when I’ve paused my hiking, for some reason.

Dear Samsung, please understand that I can’t go on hour-long hiking sessions without taking any breaks, thanks.

And maybe Samsung could’ve worked with Google to make importing GPX files a bit easier as well. Not that doing so is complicated by any means—even for a first-time user like myself—but I think some built-in option inside Google Maps would’ve been pretty cool instead of having to use a third-party service.

And you know what? Maybe Samsung should bring this feature on the regular Watch 5—and even the Watch 4 series too—because the Watch 5 Pro doesn’t really have any exclusive hardware built into it that enables all this.

What about the audio and haptics?

Like always, all your health and fitness data sync with the Samsung Health app. It’s quite well-designed to give you a quick overview of all the data at a glance, while also being sophisticated enough to give you loads of additional information for an even better understanding. The on-wrist phone call quality is also quite nice here and I’m particularly fond of the haptic feedback on the Watch 5 Pro. But the one on the Watch 5 is just… not that great.

Battery

  • Watch 5:
    • 40mm: 284mAh / 44mm: 410mAh
  • Watch 5 Pro: 590mAh
  • Faster WPC-based wireless charging support (10W)

Finally, I am absolutely loving the battery life of the Galaxy Watch 5 series. Especially the Pro model. It has been consistently lasting me 3 days on a full charge—with continuous heart rate and stress monitoring turned on, alongside overnight blood oxygen tracking and about an hour of GPS usage in total. This is pretty much double of what I was getting with the Watch 4 Classic.

I know that’s nowhere near what Huawei, Amazfit, or Xiaomi smartwatches manage, but for a Wear OS-powered watch, this is largely impressive.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro - Charging

The Watch 5 also features a 13% larger battery over the Watch 4 although I didn’t notice any improvement in the actual battery endurance itself. Just one day of usage and it would be back on the charging station. And aside from battery life, Samsung has also upgraded the charging speeds this time. Up from 5W to 10W.

So you can get around 40% juice with just 30 minutes of charge—which is almost enough to last you through the day. Or at the very least, a full night’s sleep tracking. A 100% fill-up still requires like 2 hours for the Watch 5 Pro and roughly half an hour less on the standard Watch 5 though.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, Watch 5 Pro Review: Conclusion

So wrapping up this review, the new Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro are pretty outstanding smartwatches from Samsung. They bring a few incremental but substantial upgrades over last year’s Galaxy Watch 4 lineup to further solidify Samsung’s dominance in the Android smartwatch space.

With these, you get the right balance of a premium design, an extensive set of health and fitness tracking features, and also half-decent battery life. The Watch 5 Pro takes things a step further with its bolder design and enhanced durability—while also introducing a few features to complement the outdoorsy, adventurous nature of the watch itself.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro - Buttons

I still don’t think Galaxy Watch 4 owners will find these worth the upgrade though. Or if Samsung is winning the Garmin or Suunto crowd anytime soon with the Watch 5 Pro. But I feel like it’s got the perfect package to convince a casual smartwatch enthusiast its way—especially if you own a Samsung smartphone. For now.

As I mentioned earlier, Samsung is practically sitting unopposed in the Wear OS market right now. However, that’s coming to an end pretty soon—starting with the long-awaited Google Pixel Watch which is arriving next month. And if you’d like to explore even more options, Wear OS-powered smartwatches from Fossil and Mobvoi are reportedly launching this year as well.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, Watch 5 Pro Review: Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Robust build quality
  • First-class display
  • Wear OS
  • Nice health and fitness monitoring features
  • Great battery life on the Pro model
  • Supports faster charging

Cons:

  • Still some Samsung exclusivity
  • Digital bezel (instead of physical)
  • Watch 5’s haptics is bad
  • Could’ve used a chipset upgrade
  • The temperature sensor doesn’t do anything yet
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design and Build
Display
Control
Battery
Software
Health, Fitness Tracking
Assorted Features
Companion App
Value for Money
samsung-galaxy-watch-5-pro-reviewThe new Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro are easily the best Wear OS smartwatches you can buy right now. From their display, build quality, and all the health and fitness tracking features, to even battery life on the Pro model, these two are a fantastic set of smartwatches. If you're coming from the older Watch 4 lineup, you may not find any substantial upgrades here though. But Samsung's free reign on the Wear OS market means the Galaxy Watch 5 series wins by default.