Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Long-Term Review

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Review

This one was a long time coming. I’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 for well over 6 months now and well, it is as good a time as any to come up with a long-term review, isn’t it? Practically contributing to my good health, the Watch Active 2 hasn’t managed to get off my wrists for this long. This is also my first smartwatch, by the way. I went for the 44mm version since it offers a slightly bigger battery on top of a larger display. With that out of the way, let’s get on with the long-term review of the Galaxy Watch Active 2.

Galaxy Watch Active 2 Specifications:

  • Body: Two variants;
    • 44mm: 44 x 44 x 10.9mm; 30gm
    • 40mm: 40 x 40 x 10.9mm; 26gm
  • Display: (44mm – 1.4″ / 40mm – 1.2″); Super AMOLED; Corning Gorilla Glass DX+; 360 x 360 pixels
  • Strap: 20mm interchangeable
  • Chipset: Dual-core Exynos 9110 @ 1.15GHz
  • RAM: 768MB (WiFi-only); 1.5GB (LTE)
  • Storage: 4GB
  • Battery: (44mm – 340mAh / 40mm – 247mAh); WPC-bases wireless charging
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-fi b/g/n, NFC, A-GPS/Glonass/Beidou
  • Software: Tizen OS
  • Companion App: Samsung Health (Android | iOS)
  • Compatibility: Android: 5.0 or higher, RAM 1.5GB and above, iPhone: iPhone 5 and above, iOS 9.0 or above
  • Colors: Aluminum: Cloud Silver, Aqua Black, Pink Gold with FKM material
  • Price in Nepal: Rs. 38,999

Galaxy Watch Active 2 Long-Term Review:

Getting even a step backward, the reason I opted for the Watch Active 2 above others is.. well, there are a couple of reasons for that. First, I am using a Samsung smartphone as my daily driver, and that helps with the whole Samsung ecosystem and all. Next, it also looks way better than other smartwatches that we’ve reviewed like the Honor MagicWatch 2. While the latter looks a little too sporty to my liking, the Watch Active 2 has a more unisex aesthetics to it, which I’m a big fan of.

Design

  • Classic circular watch face with premium straps
  • Light and comfortable on the hands

Let’s start with the design. It has a really comfortable synthetic rubber strap. Besides ease of usage, this strap is really durable too. In all of my time with it, the Watch Active 2 has survived through some pretty gnarly bumps or so. Even though customization is limited in a market like Nepal, I’m quite happy with this regular aqua black color option that I have with me. Having said that, because it follows the universal 20mm watch band standard, you can always customize the look by slapping in a new pair of bands if you feel like it.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 - Design

Vivo v19 Ad

Or hey, if something more premium than silicone straps and aluminum body is what you’re aiming for, Samsung also offers an option with leather straps and a stainless steel frame. Obviously, it’s going to be a little heavier and a little expensive too. But if you don’t want to cash in a few extra bucks for a more personal look and feel, I’m happy to report that the one that you get inside the box itself is of excellent quality, and will last you just fine. It sits by you comfortably even with sweats and all and I’m yet to experience any kind of skin irritation from wearing this watch.

Comfortably Lightweight

At just 30gm, the Watch Active 2 doesn’t feel heavy on the hand either. If you’re coming from a fitness band, like me, it sure takes a day or two in getting used to. But after that, it’s smooth sailing forever. Getting to the back of the watch, you can see the heart-rate monitor, while the right frame houses a “back” and a “home” button. All in all, although Samsung hasn’t bothered to make a whole lot of changes in this sequel product (except for the minimized bezels), maybe that’s for the better and I’m happy with this uniformity.

Display

  • 1.2 or 1.4-inches Super AMOLED panel
  • Corning Gorilla Glass DX+ protection for better scratch resistance
  • Digital bezels for easy navigation

Moving to the display side of things, the Watch Active 2 comes in either 1.2 or 1.4-inches options depending on whether it’s the 40 or 44mm variant. And like I said earlier, the company has managed to narrow the bezels to pack in a larger display in a smaller form factor. Anyway, for me, the most important upgrade of them all here was the Gorilla Glass DX+ certification for the display. If you recall, the original Watch Active had the regular Gorilla Glass 3 protection which is not quite as durable.

Durable at the core!

Here, the DX+ from Corning has scratch-resistance and anti-reflective properties. As a result, the Watch Active 2 can survive far worse fumbles, drops, or bumps. And that it did! During my time with the device, it has managed to overcome some nasty collisions without any significant scratch whatsoever. Living in a city like Kathmandu which is full of dust, I was worried if the surrounding would be too harsh on the watch. However, the Gorilla Glass DX+ has firmly proven its worth.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 - Display

Keeping the durability aside, its circular AMOLED display is equally amazing. The 360 x 360-pixel density has remained the same from the original Watch Active, though the panel itself is still just as vibrant. Brightness has been of no concern as the Watch Active 2 gets plenty bright even when I’m outdoors. It is sufficiently sharp to the eyes and has an excellent contrast ratio too. In a typical AMOLED fashion, the blacks are deep, the whites are bright, and the viewing angle is just great. The native apps and practically every Samsung app have been well optimized to fit & function in the screen, though the same cannot be said for a few selections of third-party applications.

Easy navigation

It also retains the Always-on Display feature if you’re into that. But in my case, I’d had it turned off since it takes a significant toll on the battery, and raising the wrist to wake the screen works just fine. Navigating around the screen is easy and the touch-response is fluid as well. The thin bezels around the edge of the screen are actually touch-sensitive and mimic the more traditional rotary controller, similar to a physical rotating bezel found in Samsung’s own Gear S3 and other smartwatches.

Scrolling through the menus via the touch bezel also gifts you with a subtle haptic feedback every time, which is a nice touch. Apart from using the dial, you can also swipe or scroll through the display to navigate through the watch. To sum up, the Watch Active 2 has an excellent display all-around and Samsung’s pivot towards a digital dial, while definitely not making up for its physical counterpart, is still a welcome addition in my opinion.

Performance & UI

  • Dual-core Exynos 9110 SoC (10nm)
  • Up to 1.5GB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage
  • Runs on Tizen Wearable OS 4.0

Now, the performance on the Watch Active 2 is, satisfactory to say the least. It is powered by Samsung’s own Exynos 9110 chipset manufactured under 10nm process node. It is a dual-core processor with Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.15GHz. This has been complemented by up to 1.5GB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage.

While the base storage remains constant for every configuration, you’ll have to get by with only 768MB of RAM if you have the non-LTE variant. The thing is, unlike its predecessor, the Watch Active 2 is also eSIM compatible and that’s where you’d enjoy 1.5GB of RAM. This would obviously translate to a smoother transition between the apps though my non-LTE watch served me fine as well.

Tizen OS

And running the whole show is once again Samsung’s proprietary Tizen Wearable OS 4.0. The user interface feels very well designed, snappy, and I noticeably felt it got better with consequent updates. With heavy splashes of One UI throughout the UI, the Watch Active 2 is quite easy to get around and the native Samsung apps run without any trouble. However, the confinement into the company’s own ecosystem definitely feels limiting when it comes to app choices.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 - Watch Face

I mean, while the onboard and downloadable Samsung apps may be enough to some, many would argue for a larger selection of apps which is just not there on Tizen OS. As a result, Google’s Wear OS and Apple’s watchOS are still streets ahead of Samsung’s wearable ecosystem. One more unfortunate thing is that the Spotify app doesn’t work here in Nepal. I wonder why? Thus, I had to manually add songs into the on-board 4GB of internal storage in case I wanted to listen to music through my Bluetooth headphones when I didn’t have my phone around me. This was especially frustrating since Samsung wearables and select Garmin smartwatches support offline play on Spotify, provided you have a premium subscription. Yeah, not even Wear OS or watchOS supports offline play on Spotify.

Notifications

Here, you can directly connect your headphone to the watch and play music or listen to notification alerts. Furthermore, Watch Active 2 also lets you receive calls directly from the watch itself and the call quality is fantastic. Notifications work fine, and every app you’ve installed into the watch like Gmail, Messenger get constantly synced and you can also reply to messages or perform different actions to the received notification. With this, you won’t have to get distracted to your phone itself and can just subtly replace this with swift action on the watch.

Strong Haptic Feedback

The haptic feedback on receiving any notification is quite strong too and you’ll rarely miss out any of them. In terms of watch faces, there are a lot of options to choose from via the Galaxy Store. Yet, I’m happy with this default one which shows all the details I generally lookout for like time, date, battery life, weather, steps taken, calories burnt, etc. Earlier, I’d also mentioned the back and home button. Well, double-tapping the home button also calls up Samsung’s digital assistant Bixby. Disappointingly, it is not quite responsive as I’d like and is equally slow too.

Tracking & Fitness

  • More than 40 workout modes
  • Built-in GPS, Heart Rate Sensor, ECG

When it comes to fitness tracking, Watch Active 2 has a massive arsenal of them. You can track over 40 workouts and see each of their detailed breakdown inside the Samsung Health app, or the watch itself. It also has an updated running coach that gives you audio & visual cues under seven different running workouts from light jogging to endurance running.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 - Strap

I have set up a daily goal of 6500 steps and the watch consistently pushes me towards achieving the daily target. Say, I’m already home from the office and have only walked through 80% of the aim, I am motivated towards reaching the full 6500 steps. Also, I’m someone who is basically glued to a desk throughout the day when I’m at the office. Time and again, the Watch Active 2 would prompt a notification saying “How about a walk?” and I’d make time for a quick jog. These are such little things, but end up making a huge impact on the overall user experience.

Built-in GPS

It also has an in-built GPS which would easily lock-in to your position after a few seconds of calibration. Using this, you can go on a hike or something similar without having to go through the hassle of carrying a phone. The watch can also track your sleep and I found it to be quite accurate. You can also review the detailed report of your sleep cycle including factors like asleep time, different stages of sleep like REM, light, deep, burned calories, etc.

Moreover, it is also 5 ATM water-resistant. What this means is that you can take the Watch Active 2 to up to 50 meters deep in water for up to 10 minutes. It can also be your swim partner as it is swim-proof and one of the many workout-tracking modes also includes swimming. There’s also this cool “water lock mode” which prevents any touch input when you’re enjoying a swim. When you’re done, you can simply press and hold the home key to turn it off, and the watch will then play a sound then eject water through vibration.

Other health-oriented features

Likewise, it can also track the menstruation cycle. While this feature was not available early on, Samsung finally provided a menstrual cycle tracking feature in its Health app a while ago. Here, the Watch Active 2 also ships with a dedicated ECG (Electrocardiogram) sensor. Basically, it can record electrical activities of your heart and can check for different heart conditions. We’ve already seen such a sensor inside a smartwatch from other companies like Apple, in its Watch Series 5. Using this, you’ll be able to get a better reading of blood pressure compared to optical sensors found in common smartwatches in the market.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 - Heart Rate Sensor

However, the disappointing thing here is the fact that this hardware hasn’t been complemented with software that makes its use. But turns out, Samsung has faced some big hurdles in rolling out this feature. And months after the launch of the watch itself, the company finally pushed an update to its South Korean customers in June 2020. This was only possible after receiving clearance from the country’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. For users elsewhere, Samsung says the feature will be available from Q3 2020. So… fingers crossed!

Battery

  • Either 247 or 340mAh battery
  • Wireless charging

Finally, let’s talk about battery life. Watch Active 2’s 40mm option has a smaller 247mAh battery while the 44mm one that I have with me comes with a bigger 340mAh cell. And during my review period, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 lasted me somewhere between 3 and 3 and a half days. With the power-saving feature turned on, that number would easily jump up to a week. My usage mostly revolved around light workouts and jogs now and then, a few minutes of listening to Spotify, frequently working through calls, notifications, and so on. With all this, I’m pretty satisfied with the battery endurance.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 - Wireless Charging

For charging, you get a wireless charging dock inside the box. And because smartwatches are a long-term investment, Samsung has been clever enough to implement a rather slow charging speed so as to preserve the battery health for years to come. With this, the comparatively tiny 340mAh battery takes about 2 hours to fully charge.

Conclusion

Time to wrap it all up. Samsung’s Galaxy Watch Active 2 is a solid smartwatch with a great design that you can be comfortable with, in almost every occasion. It has an excellent display panel while the UI/UX itself is decent too. Yeah, I agree that the Tizen Wearable OS is nowhere near its nearest competitors but I believe most of us can get by with what’s available inside the Samsung ecosystem itself. This watch is loaded with fitness tracking features as well, though the whole ECG delay feels annoyingly half-baked.

Its battery life isn’t that bad either, considering it’s a full-fledged smartwatch. With all this, the Watch Active 2 is definitely something you should check out if you’re in the market for a premium smartwatch and can’t quite break the bank for Apple’s best. But hey, if the money’s tight and all you want is a good enough fitness tracker, there are a bunch of other options in the market from brands like Xiaomi, Realme, etc.

  • Watch our video review of the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2!

Galaxy Watch Active 2 Review: Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • A classic circular design with sleek looks
  • Navigating around the watch is easy thanks to the digital bezel
  • Bunch of health tracking features like sleep tracking & heart rate monitoring
  • Decent battery life compared to other more expensive smartwatches
  • The watch’s UI is pretty well designed

Cons:

  • Tizen OS still doesn’t stack up to Google’s Wear OS or Apple’s watchOS
  • Samsung’s digital assistant Bixby isn’t that responsive
  • The built-in ECG hasn’t been complemented with a software support
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design
Display
Control
Battery
Software
Sensors (& their accuracy)
Fitness Tracking
Assorted Features
Companion App
Value for Money