(Pocket-lint) - Despite living in a smartwatch world dominated by the Apple Watch, Tag Heuer remains committed to making smartwatches - not just fancy timepieces. The Connected 2020 is the Swiss watchmaker's third-generation watch that runs on Google's Wear OS and comes wrapped up in a familiar - and rather gorgeous - Tag design.
Like the Connected watches that came before it - we reviewed the Connected 45 in 2017 and the Connected 41 in 2019 - the 2020 model is for those with deep pockets. Pricing starts at £1,495 / €1,700 / $1,799, making it about the half the price of one of its Carrera watches. You could also buy a few Apple Watches and Samsung Galaxy Watch Actives for the same money too.
The Connected 2020 clearly has a very specific audience. It's for someone who wants those extra smarts in a watch that's as lavish as one without those connected features. Something that Tag continues to achieve oh so well.
Design & Display
- 45mm watch size only
- Water resistant up to 50 metres
- Available in steel and titanium cases
- 1.39-inch, 454 x 454 resolution display
With the Connected 2020, it's a case of 'you get what you pay for'. Tag's smartwatches have always felt like the aim has been to deliver something as well crafted as its watches without smarts - and that really doesn't change here.
While it previously added a smaller 41mm model to its collection, the new Connected is available in the same-size 45mm case as the Connected Modular 45.
It measures in at 13.5mm thick, which does mean it's chunkier than the first Tag smartwatch (at 12.8mm) and only slightly slimmer than the Modular 45 (at 13.75mm). It's an undeniably chunky watch, but if you like having something on your wrist that you always know is there, and feel proud to be wearing, then it certainly delivers on that front.
There's no longer the modular design approach introduced with the last generation of Tag's watch, which let you swap in a traditional watch case for the smart one - it even let you change the watch lugs - which we think is a bit of a shame. You do still have the ability to swap out the watch straps with official options available at various prices (some adding notable expense).
Now there are four models to choose from: three of those feature stainless steel cases with the option of black and silver bezels and a rubber or steel bracelet; the fourth is a titanium case option with a black rubber strap (this bein the priciest option, of course).
On review here is the stainless steel case with black band combo. Which we can confirm is still a looker. It's clearly inspired by an array of Tag Heuer's traditional watch collection. There's elements and traits of its Aquaracer and Carrera watches that work to make this feel like another Tag.
The major design change for 2020 is the addition of two pushers (buttons) that now flank the watch crown. Like we've seen on other Wear OS watches with a similar setup, those extra buttons can be assigned to features you'd like to quick-access. Out of the box, they're setup to launch the stopwatch and Tag's new sports app.
Front and centre is of course a touchscreen display. Smartwatch screens are getting better across the board and the one on the new Tag firmly sits in that good pile. It's the same sized 1.39-inch OLED display as the Connected 45 (though the resolution has jumped from 400 x 400 up to a sharper 454 x 454).
That display still sits flush with the bezel and there's no 'flat tyre' black bar at the bottom to see here. This is a bright, sharp screen - with that resolution bump helping the colours in the various watch face options really jump out.
Wear OS & Performance
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 3100 processor, 1GB RAM
- New customisable watch faces
- 8GB internal storage
Google's Wear OS is running the software show once again, giving you those staple smartwatch features and almost the full Wear OS experience that's currently available.
There's music playback controls and a built-in music player. Google Assistant is a swipe or crown push away. There's also NFC to unlock Google Pay payments.
It does miss out on a speaker, which has become a more recent addition to the Wear OS clan. There's no cellular connectivity like you can find on the Montblanc Summit+ or the TicWatch Pro LTE to live that untethered life however.
The Wear OS smartwatch experience is still one that performs wells in parts and frustrates in others. Aspects like music features and Google Pay work without issue. Notification support still feels a little clunky, though, particularly in the way they can just pile up. Overall, Wear OS just doesn't feel the complete package yet - as we've been saying that for a while.
Tag does its best to make this feel less like you're using a Wear OS watch, largely through adding its own apps to replace Google's, plus its great collection of watch faces. It's something Tag has impressed with on previous Connected models - and it's more of the same on the Connected 2020.
There's watch faces inspired by iconic Tag Heuer timepieces and some really nice digital options that offer varying levels of customisation to add widgets and change the colour of faces. The Heuer 01c and simply named Timekeeping faces are definitely stand-out watch faces to choose.
Tag includes four of its own apps. There's the new Tag Sports app (which we'll dig into below), the Golf app (which it introduced last year), Stopwatch and Timer (which aren't the most exciting of additions, but play up nicely to Tag's timekeeping heritage).
In terms of performance, you're getting Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 3100 processor coupled up with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. That keeps that Wear OS software running nice and smooth and there's been no issues with lag or apps slowly launching.
- New Tag Heuer Sports app
- Improved heart-rate monitor
As far as sports tracking features, the Connected 2020 retains the onboard GPS that Tag introduced on the Connected 45, with further support for GLONASS, BeiDou and QZSSl satellite systems. There's a heart-rate monitor too, which can be used for all-day monitoring and for real-time data during workouts.
However, the big deal here is that Tag has decided to introduce its own Sports app. You do still have Google's suite of Fit apps present and you can still download third -party fitness apps too. If you want to bypass those, you now have an alternative place to track workouts.
Data from the new Tag Heuer Sports app is synced and can be viewed in its own companion app, not the Wear OS one, but you need to have both the Tag app and Wear OS one to set things up. Workouts can also be fired over to Apple Health and Strava, which will come as a source of good news for runners and cyclists.
The new app builds on the Golf one that Tag introduced with its Connected Modular 45 Golf Edition last year. That's still present and lives inside and outside of this main Sports app. Now there's the ability to track running, cycling, walking and general fitness workouts.
Unsurprisingly, it's a really nice looking app. When you launch it from the app drawer, you'll see small animations to indicate the different tracking modes. Away from sports modes, you can view workout history and there's a handful of settings to play around with. You can adjust units of measurement and tinker with running-focused settings like turning on auto splits and a low-power mode to give you more battery life for sports tracking (it'll disable the heart-rate monitor, for instance).
When it comes to putting that sports tracking app to use, it's definitely a bit of a mixed bag. As far as tracking a workout, it's nice and straightforward. There's a decent collection of sports tracking modes, though we were surprised to not see something designed for treadmill running. From an accuracy point of view, it matched well in general on runs against a Garmin Fenix 6 for GPS data. Heart rate data was generally good, delivering near identical average and maximum heart rate data.
When we took it inside on the treadmill and used the Other tracking option to primarily measure heart rate, it was generally fine too - although there were some odd spikes in heart rate in very evenly tempoed runs when compared to a Polar H7 chest strap.
Reviewing the data inside of the Tag phone app for a run gives you a simple breakdown of route, pace, heart rate and splits. It's clean, easy to decipher and just keeps things nicely basic. One issue we did encounter was that if you accidentally track a workout, it gets saved and synced. There doesn't seem to be any obvious way to delete it.
- 430mAh battery capacity
Like other smartwatches that rely on Google's operating system, Tag Heuer is still restricted when it comes to battery life, despite the watchmaker bumping up the battery capacity (at 430mAh). The Modular Connected 45 delivered 24 hours of use (at 410mAh), while the Connected 41 gave us around the same (here at 345mAh), but didn't really impress with its staying power.
On the Connected 2020, you're slated to get all-day battery life, including one hour of sports tracking. That's largely what we found in our time with it.
When you factor out sports tracking and just make use of the smartwatch features with the screen on full brightness, we found it managed a day and a few more hours the next morning. From full battery at the start of the day it was down to around 65 per cent around 15 hours later. Pretty much the norm for Wear OS watches.
When you throw in a 30 minute workout, it's inevitably going to be less than that. Using the GPS for a 30 minute run, there was a drop off of around 15-20 per cent battery life in that short period - because the watch is being asked to do so much more.
Unlike a lot of newer Wear OS smartwatches, it doesn't seem to include Qualcomm's new battery saving modes to push things further. There's just the basic battery saver mode, which has been knocking around on Wear OS watches for awhile. The watch will switch between active and ambient modes depending on what you're doing on the watch to help preserve battery, always letting you see the time.
When it's time to charge, there's a similar charging disc found with previous Connected watches, which covers the entirety of the back of the watch case and takes an hour and a half to charge from zero to full.
If you want a smartwatch that looks like a traditional Tag, the Connected 2020 fully delivers. That attractive design now includes an upgraded screen and the extra software additions help to make it feel less of a Wear OS watch. The included watch faces are great, while the new sports app certainly shows good potential.
Its sports tracking skills can't really rival what you'll get from a serious Polar or Garmin sportswatch, but if you're more 20 minute treadmill runner than marathon racer, it should more than do the job.
There are other brands like Montblanc and fellow LVMH stablemate Louis Vuitton that have noticeably raised their game on the luxury smartwatch front. But Tag Heuer remains ahead of the pack as far as building a truly desirable smartwatch that feels worthy of that steep price tag.
There's no getting away from it: the Tag Heuer Connected 2020 is a beauty of a smartwatch.
Apple Watch Series 5
The look of the Apple Watch might not be for everyone, but there's no doubting it still offers the best all round smartwatch experience. There's plenty of models and looks to choose from and it offers more robust sports features than the Tag Heuer Connected 2020.
Skagen Falster 3
If you're looking for a stylish smartwatch that costs less than the Tag, the Falster 3 certainly fits the bill. It has all of the same features, so you're not missing out on the smarts front either.