Samsung Gear S review

The Samsung Gear S is a standalone smartwatch ... with some caveats

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Our Verdict

The Gear S isn't very comfortable and definitely not a smartwatch for everyone but the device still has a few perks.

For

  • Slick OS
  • Nice AMOLED display
  • Can be a standalone phone
  • Decent battery life

Against

  • Large and bulky
  • Strap is unwieldy
  • Still needs a Samsung phone
  • Expensive
Ratings in depth
Samsung Gear S review
Samsung Gear S review
Samsung Gear S review
Samsung Gear S review
Samsung Gear S review

Samsung has jumped into the wearables war with gusto and launched quite a lot of smartwatches and fitness trackers in 2014. Aside from odd features here and there - like the camera on the Gear 2 which it thankfully got rid of with the Gear 2 Neo - Samsung looks like its slowly but surely improving its wearables selection.

The Gear S for instance, is the first Samsung standalone watch that makes calls ... with a few caveats. You still need a compatible Samsung phone for the smartwatch to work. More on that later.

Regardless it's definitely a leap forward in functionality and can potentially make Samsung mobile devices the go-to for wearable fans who want to carry around one device. Granted, the Gear S isn't exactly there yet but it's one of the closest independent smartwatches out now.

However, cooler features means a higher price tag and the Gear S isn't cheap at $350 (£329, AU$449). That said, it's not much more than a LG G Watch R and seems to do more. But is the standalone smartwatch option enough to make the Gear S a standout smartwatch?

Display

The first thing you'll notice on the Gear S is its unique, curved AMOLED screen that's an even 2-inches. The 360 x 480 resolution display has a higher pixel count than already-released Android Wear and Samsung Gear watches.

Samsung Gear S

Like the Gear Fit, the screen is curved to better sit on the wrist. It really is quite lovely and drew a lot of eyes whenever I wore it out. But it's also gigantic - which also probably caught a lot of eyeballs. In comparison, I thought the the circular LG G Watch R (1.3-inches in diameter) was massive but it seems like Samsung thinks bigger is better and went a full inch larger. In some ways, it is nice and makes sense since you can use the watch to make calls and text - but it doesn't make it very comfortable.

With the ambient light sensor, the display will also automatically brighten when you're outside. Even though the curved glass fits your wrist better, it doesn't help the glare. At its peak brightness, the screen is still difficult to see.

The bezel itself takes up a lot of real estate and is part of why the watch face is so large. Perhaps Samsung should consider cutting down the bezel on future iterations to allow more screen space.

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