(Pocket-lint) - Samsung revealed the Galaxy Watch Active alongside its Galaxy S10 range of smartphones back in February 2019. The smartwatch - which only comes in one size option - ditches the excellent rotating bezel found on the larger Galaxy Watch, delivering a sportier and simpler design.

It's since been succeeded by the Galaxy Watch Active 2, which ups the ante when it comes to features, but is the original model still worth considering? Here's our review.

Premium design

  • Dimensions: 49 x 46 x 13mm / Weight: 25g
  • 40mm case, 20mm strap
  • No rotating bezel
  • Four colours

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active, like the newer Active 2, is a sportier version of the Galaxy Watch, offering a smaller, neater and lighter design. Featuring a solid aluminium casing and a redesigned durable silicone strap with a case-matched metal buckle, the Watch Active is simple in its design and extremely comfortable.

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The silicone strap is similar in composition to the Apple Watch Series 5 silicone straps, making it easy to clean and barely noticeable when on the wrist - it isn't itchy or irritating, even when sweating. The super light build of the Watch Active also adds to the comfort of this device, while the buckle ensures a secure fit.

The Watch Active offers waterproofing up to 50-metres and it comes in a choice of black, silver, rose gold and green. The green isn't available in the UK however.

We had the rose gold model for our review unit, which comes with a light pink silicone strap, similar to the Fitbit Versa 2. Unlike the Apple Watch Series 5 aluminium options, however, the Galaxy Watch Active has a glossy finish on its case, making for a more premium looking device.

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Aside from its physical size and the sportier appeal, the Galaxy Watch Active has one key difference to the Galaxy Watch and its predecessor, the Gear Sport: it's missing the rotating bezel that we love so much. Samsung introduced a touch bezel on the Galaxy Active 2, which is one of the major differences if you're buying the newer model.

Brilliant display 

  • 1.1-inch AMOLED display
  • 360 x 360 resolution
  • Always On function

The Samsung Galaxy Active houses a 1.1-inch 360 x 360 AMOLED display that seamlessly blends into the casing. It's not the largest out there, and the small screen does make it a little tricky to navigate the small icons in the app tray, especially without the rotating or touch bezel.

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But it is a brilliant display. As we've come to expect from Samsung, colours are brilliantly vibrant and punchy, blacks are lovely and deep, and the screen really does pop. If the premium design of the Galaxy Watch Active wasn't enough to entice you to buy this smartwatch, the screen probably will manage it all on its own.

The touchscreen is responsive and while we miss the bezel to help us navigate the interface, we still love the elegance of the Watch Active's design. Besides, such a design has only really been possible thanks to the lack of bezel, so it's a little bit of give and take.

As with most smartwatches - though only recently with Apple Watch in the Series 5 - the Galaxy Watch Active has an always-on display, so you'll never have just a lifeless black circle on your wrist.

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Two low-profile function buttons are positioned on the right edge of the display on the solid casing taking you back to the previous screen, or to the home screen. You can also hold down the top button to activate Samsung Pay. The buttons aren't prominent, sitting relatively flush to the casing, which some may love and others will wish they protruded that little bit more.

Features and fitness tracking

  • Heart rate monitoring 
  • Built-in GPS
  • Auto exercise tracking
  • Smartwatch functionality

Aside from its fabulous display and elegant design, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active manages to deliver on the features front too. It offers built-in GPS and heart-rate monitoring, both of which perform well and in-line with other devices, like the Apple Watch Series 4.

There's also automatic exercise tracking for six exercises, in addition to manual tracking for more. Sleep tracking is also available - something the Apple Watch doesn't offer without a third-party app - and the Galaxy tracks four stages of sleep, just as Fitbit does. It performs well here too, though we prefer Fitbit's way of offering up the data.

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It's possible to choose from 60,000 watch faces, one of which is a dedicated fitness face with its own take on Apple Watch's Rings feature, placing active minutes, calories burned and workout minutes into a heart-shaped emblem.

If you've been sitting for too long, the Galaxy Watch Active will give you a little nudge to get you moving - much like other devices do, including Fitbit and Apple - in a bid to keep you active in a subtle way. 

There's even stress level monitoring on board, while blood pressure monitoring is possible - but you need a special app, which can only be downloaded to a Samsung phone.

In terms of smartwatch functionality, the Galaxy Watch Active has everything you'd expect here: smartphone notifications come through to your wrist as they do on the Galaxy Watch and other smartwatches. There's also Samsung Pay for wrist-based payments.

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Unlike the Galaxy Watch Active 2 and Apple Watch Series 4 and 5, there is no ECG monitor or fall detection for the Galaxy Watch Active, nor an LTE option for connection without your phone.

Samsung's Health app is at the centre of the Galaxy Watch Active in terms of data collection and there is some support for third-party apps, including Strava and MapMyRun. That makes it a good fitness tracking companion for those who aren't after huge levels of data (as you would get from a Garmin, for example).

Hardware and battery performance 

  • Exynos 9110 processor
  • 236mAh battery
  • 4GB storage 

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active runs on the company's dual-core Exynos 9110 processor, keeping things ticking along nicely. There's Bluetooth 4.1 for pairing, along with Wi-Fi connectivity, but no LTE connectivity.

It also offers a fairly small battery capacity, but the 236mAh cell is enough to get you through around a day and a half. Compare this to the smaller Apple Watch Series 4 and the Samsung is slightly better, but compare it to the Fitbit Versa 2, for example, and the Galaxy Watch Active doesn't even come close.

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There is a great low power mode though, which will push the battery for that extra half a day to get you to the two day mark, and you'll still get notifications through with this mode selected. We'd like to have seen a slightly better battery though, especially given the Galaxy Watch gets near the four day mark.

The Active also supports wireless charging, meaning those with any of the Galaxy S10 devices, Note 10 devices or compatible Huawei devices will be able to charge their Galaxy Watch Active from the back of their smartphone, which is great, while the rest of us will need to use the accompanying disc. 

Software

  • Tizen OS, One UI
  • Works with iPhone and Android

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active runs on the Tizen OS platform with the One user interface, offering a simplified user experience than previously. Everything is very easy to navigate and you'll learn how to use this device in no time if you are new to the Tizen experience.

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There's plenty to like, even if we would trade Bixby for Siri or Google Assistant any day of the week. The software means the Galaxy Watch Active pairs with most smartphones though, including both Android and iOS devices.

App support is more limited compared to the likes of Google's Wear OS or Apple's WatchOS, but many of the core fitness apps are available and we rarely use the apps on our Apple Watch Series 4 or our Michael Kors WearOS smartwatch, so apps aren't something we are overly concerned with here. You might be, though, so it's worth bearing in mind if you are.

Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is a simple and sophisticated smartwatch that offers a smaller, sportier version of the Galaxy Watch. It offers a fabulous display, good battery life for its size, easy-to-use interface, and its premium finish is up there with some of the best-looking smartwatches on the market.

It will be too small for some given that it only comes in a 40mm size, while the lack of apps available on the Tizen OS platform compared to Wear OS and WatchOS might put others off. But the Galaxy Watch Active's biggest problem is its successor: the Galaxy Watch Active 2 not only keeps the same glorious design but it adds extra features, a touch bezel for easier navigation, an LTE model, and different size options. 

With the launch of the new and improved model though, the Galaxy Watch Active is likely to be available at an even better price. And that makes it well worthy of consideration. After all, it's a lovely-looking smartwatch with a great build quality, good performance and plenty of features.

Also consider

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Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

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The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 has everything the Galaxy Watch Active does, but it adds a touch bezel for easier navigation, along with the option of different sizes, LTE connectivity and extra features like ECG and fall detection.

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Fitbit Versa 2

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The Fitbit Versa 2 isn't as premium looking as the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active, but it has built-in Amazon Alexa, an easy-to-use interface and it's a great fitness and sleep tracker, with Fitbit presenting data in a simple and easy-to-read format.

Writing by Britta O'Boyle.