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Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 review: The best Samsung smartwatch yet

The Galaxy Watch 5 is an incremental — yet attractive — upgrade

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 has a new skin-temperature reader, more scratch-resistant display and a longer-lasting battery life. It's the best version of Samsung's smartwatch yet.

Pros

  • +

    Sporty, yet versatile design

  • +

    Stronger, scratch-resistant screen

  • +

    Added skin temperature sensor

  • +

    Longer-lasting battery life

Cons

  • -

    Skin temperature reader not functional at launch

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 specs:

Starting price: $279
Colors: Graphite, Silver, Sapphire, Pink Gold
Size : 44.4 x 43.3 x 9.8 mm (44mm) / 39.3 x 40.4 x 9.8 mm (40mm)
Weight: 1.18 oz (44mm) / 1.01 oz (40mm)
Display: 1.4 in, 450 x 450 (44mm) / 1.2 in, 396 x 396 (40mm)
Processor: Exynos W920
Memory: 1.5GB RAM + 16GB
Battery life (rated): 50 hours
Durability:
5ATM + IP68
Connectivity: Bluetooth, LTE, NFC, GPS
Compatibility: Android 8.0 or higher

With the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, Samsung has found its stride in the smartwatch space. No, it’s not all that different from last year’s Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, but the handful of upgrades have incremental, yet ample appeal. 

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5’s battery life is up to 10 hours longer, while the device is also more durable against scratches thanks to a sapphire crystal glass display. The bottom curvature is reshaped to fit wrists more naturally and increase the amount of surface area that actually makes contact with your skin, improving the accuracy of sensor readings. 

Speaking of health sensors, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 has a new one to offer —  a skin-temperature reader. It doesn't actually work yet, but when it does, it'll inform sleep tracking and be open to third-party health developers.

After spending a full week with the device for this Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 review, it's clear it's the best Samsung watch yet for most people, and the best smartwatch overall for anyone with a Samsung smartphone.

Still, be sure to check out my hands-on Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro review. It goes over all the key differences between the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 vs. Galaxy Watch 5 Pro.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 price starts at $279 for the 40mm Bluetooth model. The 40mm LTE model starts at $329. The price goes up to $299 and $349 for the 44mm configurations for Bluetooth and LTE, respectively. I’ll note this is a consistent $30 price hike compared to the Galaxy Watch 4. Samsung has changed the prices of the Galaxy Watch every year, so I’m not necessarily surprised.

Meanwhile the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, the new “rugged” or outdoor sports watch offered this year, costs $449 for Bluetooth and $499 for LTE. It comes in a singular 45mm size. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic remains on sale as well.

Both watches are available for pre-order now, with full availability on August 26.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 vs. Galaxy Watch 5 Pro

There are key differences between the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 vs. Galaxy Watch 5 Pro that could make one of the versions of this year's watch offerings better for you than the other. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is an all-new model looking to cut into Garmin’s market with an 80-hour battery life, ultra-durable design and outdoor sports-specific features.

These perks come at price — as I mentioned above, the the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro starts at $449. I still haven't conducted a full review of of the Watch 5 Pro, but I did speculate on who the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is for, based on what I've seen so far.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 review: Design

As you might recall, last year the standard Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 offered an updated shape and feel compared to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3. It was still sporty, and even reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, but it had a more refined case and a seamless transition from watch to watch strap.  The overall look of the Galaxy Watch 5 is still a bit athletic, but found customizing my watch face added enough versatility.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

(Image credit: Future)

Unlike the option between the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 vs. Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, there’s no rotating bezel offered for the Galaxy Watch 5 lineup. The rotating bezel amassed fans over the years, including some of our own writers. Personally, I’m fine seeing it phased out, but I know many others (including my fellow Galaxy Watch 5 reviewers) will protest. It keeps the watch slim, and again, if you love the bezel that much, just get the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic.

Otherwise, the Galaxy Watch 5’s reshaped curvature on the bottom creates more surface area for watch-to-skin contact, which Samsung says helps with accuracy on data collected from the biometric sensor. As for durability, the watch remains water resistant up to 5ATM with a IP68 rating. The display is made of sapphire crystal glass, which Samsung claims is stronger against scratches by 60% more than before. 

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy Watch 5 comes in four colors: Graphite, Silver, Sapphire (44mm only) and Pink Gold (40mm only). It comes with silicone straps but Samsung sells a number of interchangeable bands. I tried a few of the newer strap designs out during this and appreciated the variety.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 review: Skin temperature sensor

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

(Image credit: Future)

The most notable new internal Galaxy Watch 5 feature is the addition of a temperature analysis sensor, which appears to exist separately from Samsung’s 3-in-1 BioActive sensor. Debuted last year, the BioActive sensor reads heart rate, SpO2 and body composition via BIA (bioelectrical impedance analysis.) The skin-temperature reader sits slightly off-center on the bottom of the Galaxy Watch’s case.

Unfortunately, the skin-temperature reader will be functional at launch. That said, Samsung has clarified what the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 skin temperature sensor will do. I can't help but wish I could try it now, but it'll be worth testing out once it's live.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 review: Fitness tracking

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

(Image credit: Future)

In my Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 workout test, I found the Galaxy Watch to be a capable fitness companion. If you follow my my Twitter account you might've seen more more day-to-day fitness experiences with Samsung’s latest smartwatch already, but I'm glad to report it's still a solid activity tracker for more than just counting steps (though, it can do that, too.)

It can track familiar workout types such as running, cycling and pilates but also specific workout movements with form guides, like push-ups and bicep curls. All the while, the device tracks heart rate, calories burned and time elapsed.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

(Image credit: Future)

One of my favorite Galaxy Watch 5 fitness tracking features is auto-tracking for walking (among other activities). Living in a city, I walk almost everywhere I can. The Galaxy Watch 5 automatically started tracking my walking data after 10 minutes, and automatically ended my walk about 10 minutes after I stopped moving as well. The auto-pause feature for walking came in handy for stopping at traffic lights, too.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

(Image credit: Future)

Of course, the Galaxy Watch 5 continues the body composition analysis feature. Taking a BIA reading on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 is easy and quick, especially compared to the effort it would take to get your physical makeup tested at a doctor's office. If I were looking to track my fitness journey, an on-wrist bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) test once a week or so could help me see how my body changes over time.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 review: Sleep tracking

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy Watch 5 features an updated sleep coach, designed to offer actionable sleep plans based on how well (or not) you’re catching zzz’s. After wearing the Galaxy Watch 5 overnight for a few days, I established a baseline. Luckily, I'm on a regulated sleep schedule, and the time the watch detected I was asleep seemed accurate.

I could review my snoring and sleep stages data on my wrist or on my paired Samsung phone. I could also check my respiratory rate overnight thanks to the blood oxygen (SpO2) sensor in the Galaxy Watch 5. That said, this sensor is one that cuts into battery life, but more on that below.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 review: Wear OS

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 runs Wear OS powered by Samsung, which basically means Google’s smartwatch software is at the foundation of the experience but it’s layered by many of Samsung’s in-house apps, watch faces and menus. It also means that the smartwatch pairs and syncs effortlessly with other Samsung devices in the same user ecosystem.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

(Image credit: Future)

Wear OS 3’s biggest perk is its inclusion of Google services, namely Gmail, Google Maps and, more recently for Galaxy Watch devices, Google Assistant. These are all things the Google Pixel Watch will have when it debuts, but for now, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 is shaping up to be the best smartwatch for Android

If you're looking to see how the wearables are stacking up, check out our Galaxy Watch 5 vs Google Pixel Watch preview. I'll note that I recently tried out the Montblanc Summit 3 and found it felt more like the Wear OS of old, compared to Samsung's tailored version. The contrast surprised me, but shows the Galaxy Watch 5 user experience will be individualized one.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 review: Battery life and charging

The Galaxy Watch 5 has a 15% bigger battery than the Galaxy Watch 4, promising up to 50 hours of battery life. That’s about 10 more hours than before, and I definitely noticed the improvement. On a full charge, my Galaxy Watch 5 unit lasted more than two days before kicking into a low-power, time-only mode.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

(Image credit: Future)

That said, when I enabled the always-on display and SpO2 monitoring, the Galaxy Watch 5 lasted closer to 30 hours in my testing. Though I usually prefer AOD, for extending the Galaxy Watch 5's battery life, it seemed worthwhile to turn it off.

As for charging, Samsung says an 8-minute charge should get you 8 hours sleep tracking, and the smartwatch can recharge to 45% in just 30 minutes. I actually got to 48% from dead in a timed 30 minutes, which should mean a complete charge in one hour.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 review: Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 introduces a small, yet respectable collection of incremental upgrades. It doesn’t make any radical changes, but improves two pillars that are typically important to smartwatch users: health-tracking and battery life. The temperature sensor is particularly interesting, though as it’s not available yet, there could be a reason to wait to buy.

But for those with Samsung phones looking for the best wearable accessory, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 is a no-brainer. It looks great, is a capable fitness tracker and, starting at $279, is a fair value. Especially when you compare it to the Apple Watch, which starts at $399.

It's hard not to draw comparisons the Galaxy Watch and Apple Watch, as they've diverged as two different devices for two different product ecosystems. To me, it seems like the Galaxy Watch is following the Apple Watch's M.O. by making an annual minor upgrade to what was already a popular smartwatch. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Kate Kozuch is an editor at Tom’s Guide covering smartwatches, TVs and everything smart-home related. Kate also appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account (opens in new tab), which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her on an exercise bike, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.