Price (RRP): $299
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active offers a comprehensive suite of smartwatch and fitness tracking (via Samsung Health) at a budget price of $299.
In many respects, the Galaxy Watch Active is the new breed of Samsung smartwatch. At last, we have Qi wireless charge, swim protection and not the huge proportions of the Galaxy Watch 42 or 46mm (from $499-649) with their now famous rotary bezel interface (GadgetGuy review here). While the latter has a specific market apple – especially the LTE ‘Dick Tracy’ version – the Galaxy Active is hard to beat.
The hardware and Tizen operating system used on the Galaxy Watch Active as well as the Galaxy Watch, Gear Sport, Gear S3 and even its Gear Fit2 Pro is extremely polished, well tested and works flawlessly. It is hard to go past any of the Samsung wearables range.
And perhaps the best feature – Samsung Health is way more functional than most ‘dedicated’ fitness apps. All devices work with it, and it aggregates data from all including your smartphone.
Let me explain why Samsung Health is a great fitness app
I now own Gear Fit2 and Fit 2 Pro (and an original several-year-old Gear), a Gear S3 Frontier and a new Galaxy Watch 46mm LTE. I also have two homes – one in Sydney and one on the Central Coast.
So, I wear the svelte Gear Fit2 Pro for my morning walk and to bed at night to record sleep. I wear the Gear S3 Frontier when I am working at the Central Coast and the Galaxy Watch LTE when I am out and about or working in Sydney. It is a real hoot to answer the phone on your watch!
Not only does Samsung Health aggregate the data, but it de-dupes all sources as well as the phone data (accelerometer) if you are carrying that in your pocket. Add to that the chargers are compatible within models.
But I digress – the Galaxy Active Watch may be the one smartwatch you need to own.
Review: Samsung Galaxy Watch Active Model SM-R500NZKAXSA
It is available in black, teal green, gold or silver (stainless steel and ceramic case) with a matching 20mm coloured Fluoroelastomer (silicon) strap for $299 (on special – was $349 at launch). The strap also has an extra big strap arm for different sized wrists.
You can get an array of coloured, quick-attach, straps costing $69. I think the silver body is the most neutral and flexible as it tends to go with any band colour. And because it uses standard, non-tapered 20mm watch bands there are thousands of third-party ones you can buy too.
Design wise it has a 28.1mm, 360 x 360, 463ppi, round Super AMOLED, Gorilla Glass display. It has lost the rotating bezel, but the user interface is the same – just use touch to access the app circle and initiate actions. That means a 39.5mm round and 10.5mm thick and 23g watch (plus band weight). Its new shape and size will appeal to women and those with smaller wrists.
You can download thousands of free and paid watch faces – analogue, digital and icon – as well as a huge range of apps that work with the entire Samsung Watch range. If you have already bought apps for a previous Samsung Watch, it will install them again at no extra cost.
It works with Android 5 or iOS 9 or later.
In summary, all it lacks over the Galaxy Watch is LTE (it has a mic but no speaker) for making phone calls independent of a smartphone. However, it notifies you of an incoming call, and you can answer it on the watch and continue on the phone.
PS – some reviews mention a speaker – we certainly could not find it!
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active sensors
It and most other Samsung watches have an accelerometer, barometer, gyro sensor, HR sensor and light sensor. This is way more than most fitness/smartwatches that’s use a single 3-axis accelerometer. It also has haptic feedback.
By combining various readings in Samsung Health, it can more accurately display data that is relevant and actionable. The barometer, in particular, is useful for knowing if you are flying, diving or even providing data to help correlate the impact of altitude on performance.
The HR sensor is a new single green LED and four receivers enables accurate heart rate detection.
With My BP Lab 2.0, you can connect a Galaxy Watch Active to the app and measure your blood pressure straight from your smartwatch in just a few quick touches. You can now download the My BP Lab 2.0 app to estimate blood pressure, but you must have a Samsung Galaxy S9/Note9 or later. We did not test it, but we understand it is still early days for this developing app.
It has a 230mAh battery. Standby – no use is around five days.
If you are just using it minimally Samsung quote up to 90 hours – 3.75 days. If you use it flat out with GPS, then 15 hours is max. We have only been reviewing it for a few days but as a watch, with notifications, sleep monitor (uses about 10% of battery each night) and more, two days is doable.
Charge time is quick – on the mini 5V/1A (5W) wireless charge pad supplied it is around an hour. And it may work with standard Qi wireless charge pads. We say ‘may’ because that is what we found.
If you have a Samsung Galaxy S10, you can use its reverse Qi charge feature to charge the Galaxy Watch Active. Here it was about two hours to charge fully.
I have never had issues pairing Bluetooth buds or cans of any make to a Samsung watch. This is perfect too using BT 4.2 LE (with SmartThings support). It has about 1.5GB memory for at least 300 MP3 songs, and it handles MP3 and AAC (as well as many more types).
I think anyone who has had issues has tried to use the same BT Buds one too many times. Typically buds allow pairing with two devices before you have to reset them and start again.
It supports A2DP (stereo music stream), AVRCP (Audio/Video Remote Control Profile) and HID (touch on the watch) profiles and uses a standard SBC CD standard codec.
We tested with Spotify on a Galaxy S10+, and it accesses downloaded playlists from the phone. It displays the song name but album metadata. You user the Gear app to load on device tracks. It apparently can access your Spotify account over Wi-Fi – it is doable, but you need more screen real estate to be useful.
It has NFC that supports the PayWave style of Samsung Pay (and Google Pay if you are using another brand of Android phone).
It is a world standard with GPS, Glonass, Beidou, and Galileo. The screen does not show maps, but you can use it in the Samsung Health and other apps to see your exercise routes.
Water – swimmingly
It is rated to 5 ATM (50m) with a swim tracker app as well. It is also IP68, and MIL-STD-810G rated so its perfect for the gym and outdoor adventures.
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active Features
Different watch faces can highlight different features. For example, some are focused on heart/walking/date and time. Others are more suited to running with sprints and splits.
Underlying that is
- Daily activity – an overall monitor of daily exercise
- Stress levels. It can estimate stress levels from heart rate and your activity and bring up a stress relieving regimen. No, it is not a gimmick but a very useful tool.
- Sleep. It now measures four levels of sleep – awake, light, deep, and REM. It is to do with restlessness, turning over, laying dead still and heartbeat. Again incredibly accurate and useful.
- There are several swipe left/right screens to access commonly used screens or use the Samsung user interface.
Samsung Health is the real star
I have been using Samsung Health since V1.0. Today it is up to 6.1.1XXX showing some years of development and meeting user requests.
To cover it fully would take a full review, so I will let you read all about it here and just point to some salient uses.
- Walking, running, jogging, cycling, floor climb and over 30 other exercises including GPS mapping. Automatically activates a minute or so after the exercise is detected
- Heart rate
- Calories burnt (important for calorie based diets)
- Stress (an amalgam of the sensors)
- Point, scan and keep track of food intake with Bixby Vision. I wish I could say it worked as advertised – we found it was fine with common foods, but you can also use the log meal function for manual input and include a photo. Bixby is also available for other uses. It does not support Google Assistant.
- Goals, badges, friend and community challenges – as if you need the motivation to exercise
- Data stored on the Samsung cloud and protected by Knox means good portability
- Additional third-party apps and programs as well as add on BT devices (scales, chest straps, glucose-metre, thermometers, etc)
GadgetGuy’s take: My wife swiped the Galaxy Watch Active!
My wife uses a Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro, and the moment she saw the adorable smaller watch on my meaty wrist, I knew she would get it.
Because it is a modern, elegant, premium device and uses Samsung Health it is an easy swap for her.
At $299 it is the affordable crossover fitness/smartwatch. For 99% of Joe and Jane Averages, this plus Samsung Health is way more than you need. If you only buy one smartwatch, this is it.