It’s not enough to have a smartphone these days. No, you also need a smartwatch, and Samsung intends to make it clear that this is something you’ll want in 2014, with the release of the Gear 2 Neo, a lightweight smartwatch that cuts the camera and delivers more of your phone on your wrist.
It may only have been a few months since the first Galaxy Gear smartwatch, but Samsung already has a replacement for those keen to see it, with the Gear 2 and Gear Neo watches ready for wrists in Australia, as well as the rest of the world.
Even though this review is focused on the Gear 2 Neo, we’ll touch on both in this features and specs section because outside of the camera, these two devices are practically identical.
For starters, you’ll find a 1.63 inch Super AMOLED screen rocking the 320×320 display, capable of delivering 278 pixels per inch, roughly.
Underneath this, there’s a 1GHz dual-core processor, 512MB RAM, 4GB internal storage, and a heavy reliance on Bluetooth 4.0 with support for the Low Energy (LE) form of the tech.
Both feature a remote control IR blaster at the top of the device, a heart rate monitor underneath the device, and support a battery rated for 300mAh. The five-pin charge connectors are found on the bottom of the watch next to the heart rate monitor and connect to a new snap-in recharge box.
Also, both smartwatches are now certified IP67 for dust and water resistance, meaning they’ll survive a quick dip in the drink, just don’t expect to go diving with them.
It’s also no longer just an Android phone in a watch, which was more or less what the first Gear was.
Rather, now it’s a Tizen device, hence why the name “Galaxy” is no longer part of the naming convention of this device.
And that’s more or less it, with the exception of the camera, which the Gear 2 has and supports taking up to 2 megapixel pictures from and capturing up to 720p videos from, while the Gear 2 Neo (which we’re reviewing) ditches the camera altogether.
The screen sits inside a frame of brushed metal, with the rest of the watch encased in plastic, while the watch bands are apparently a regulation size and can be replaced easily.
Second generation products usually hit the mark better than the first generation, and over in the new Gear wearable, that logic still holds true.
We’re delighted in this version to see that the camera is now optional, and while the Gear 2 has it, the Gear 2 Neo that we reviewed lacks it, which is totally fine by us, because a two megapixel shooter built into a camera that doesn’t take decent photos anyway is something we’re happy to go without.
It’s likely that this removed featured has added to its redesign, but the Gear Neo has more going for it, with a button added at the base of the screen which offers you a home button to get back to everything. Oh sure, you’ll find that you’re using touch and swipe gestures to do everything else, but the inclusion of the home button is a smart move by Samsung, as it keeps the design in line with its smartphones which all still have the centre home button at the bottom.
Pick up the new watch and the design change extends to its weight which feels a little slimmer, and better constructed, a fact which is immediately noticeable in its adjustable band. Our brownish grey suited us fine — people in the office criticised, but we didn’t mind it — and it was much more comfortable to wear than the strap in last year’s Gear.
Also, thanks to the design changes, you’ll see the way you charge the watch is a little different, with a snap-on recharger that connects to the small metal charging prongs underneath, with microUSB keeping these alive.
Charging overnight should take care of a battery, or even just a few hours at work, and then you’re ready to rock.
Switch it on and you’ll see a beautiful colour screen, with some of the best angles of any portable colour touchscreen you’re ever likely to see. It just looks stunning, and we can see that it’s perfectly suited to the excellent screen on the Galaxy S5.
You’ll need to install Samsung’s Gear Manager to get this working which is available only on Samsung Apps, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Once you’re done, though, it’s more or less just configuring what things notify you and maintaining a constant Bluetooth connection with your phone to keep the Gear Neo happy.