Samsung Gear Live review

An Android Wear smartwatch for early adopters who can't wait for Moto 360

Samsung Gear Live review
The surprise smartwatch at Google IO with an unsurprising design

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Donning the chunky, but solidly-built Samsung Gear Live is a comfortable enough experience, but the company hasn't refined its smartwatch formula much at all.

That means the watch design is not only unoriginal, it's beset by the same pros and cons we found when we first latched the Galaxy Gear onto our wrists.

Samsung Gear Live review

There's one button. That's one more than the buttonless LG G Watch.

Gear Live returns things to a cleaner look thanks to a right-side-located button that matches the one on the Galaxy Gear. Gone is the tacky home button that was front-and-center on the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo.

You won't find a similar power switch on the irritatingly buttonless LG G Watch. It has to be turned off in the settings menu and be plugged back in to turn on again.

Samsung's single physical button doesn't get in the way, thankfully, even when bending your wrist and hand at a right angle. It's flush with the side of the watch face.

This button is actually non-essential for illuminating the watch. Tapping the screen or flicking your wrist wakes the display, while palming it with your hand puts the device into a dimmed always-on mode.

Samsung Gear Live review

Saying 'Okay Google' when the screen is lit prompts voice search

Adjacent to the power button is a tiny microphone that picks up "Okay Google" initiated commands. There's no micro USB port for charging on the side.

Instead, a proprietary Pogo charging terminal is around back, directly above the heart-rate monitor. There are also the "presto pins" that release the watch straps.

I made use of these spring-loaded pins right away, as if someone at Samsung curiously designed the Gear Live for left-handed shoppers at Ned Flanders' "Leftorium" store by default.

Samsung Gear Live review

Just two colors options by default, but the straps are interchangeable

Switching the straps around wasn't difficult, though the four miniaturized pins holding them in place look as if they could be prone to failure one day.

There is also a lack color options at the moment. The LG G Watch at least offers a white and gold option to brighten up the watch bands a bit and a softer, traditional watch clasp.

Samsung designed the Gear Live to be compatible with watch 22mm bands, so a variety of alternative straps are already possible – just very few out-of-the-box options.

For now, the default straps are either black or wine red, and though Gear Live is lighter at just 2.1oz (59g) vs LG's 2.2oz (64g), it inherits its predecessors' stiff rubber material and the Gear Fit's two-pronged clasp.

Samsung Gear Live review

The clasp is almost as annoying as the Fitbit bands

It's more of a premium build compared to the similarly shaped and hard-to-button Fitbit Flex and Fitbit Force clasp, but can be just as annoying to fasten in a rush.

The troublesome clasp could actually be a deal breaker for some folks who struggle at first. Even though it gets easier with practice, it's been an immediate turn off when we showed others the watch.

Matt Swider