Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Watch Active Review

Samsung's new wearable signifies a shift in its approach to smartwatches and showcases new fitness technologies all at the same time.

First Impressions

A worthy successor to the Samsung Gear Sport that boasts an attractive design and worthwhile new features for the price.

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £229
  • 1.15GHz Exynos 9110 chipset
  • 768MB RAM
  • 4GB storage
  • 40mm aluminium casing
  • 20mm quick-release silicon straps
  • Swim-proofing up to 5ATM
  • IP68 certified
  • MIL-STD-810G tested
  • GPS, Glonass, Beidou & Galileo
  • Heart rate & blood pressure monitoring
  • 1.1-inch circular 360x360 AMOLED display
  • Tizen OS 4.0 w/ One UI

Samsung has just unveiled its Galaxy S10 family of smartphones, as well as giving us our first real look at the Galaxy Fold foldable hybrid. However, those paying close attention will have also spotted several new wearables, including a new fitness-focused smartwatch in the form of the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active.

Rumoured and leaked almost as much as the S10 phones it launched alongside, the Watch Active is the second of Samsung’s smartwatches to sport the “Galaxy” name. While the underlying experience it offers bears some resemblance to the vanilla Galaxy Watch, the Active marks a turning point for Samsung’s wearables beyond its sporty nature.

Related: Best smartwatches

Galaxy Watch Active – Price and release date

With a price of £229 in the UK, the Galaxy Watch Active undercuts the regular model (the 42mm Galaxy Watch starts at £279, while the 46mm version can be had for £299) as well as notable rivals such as the Apple Watch Series 4 and new Fossil Sport. It’s available for pre-order right now and ships on March 20.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active buttons

What is it like to wear the Galaxy Watch Active?

Samsung is offering a pleasing level of personalisation and customisation when it comes to the Active’s hardware, with its 40mm (39.5 x 39.5 x 10.5mm) casing available in one of four finishes: black, silver, rose gold and (sea) green.

These can then be paired with one of eight quick-release, 20mm silicon straps, available in light grey, black, green, pink, yellow, white, light blue or orange. Naturally, the standardised position of the lugs means you can essentially throw any 20mm watch band onto the Active, so you’re not solely limited to Samsung’s own first-party offerings. This is welcome, although based on my brief time with the watch so far, Samsung’s straps feel sufficiently comfortable.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active quick-release strap

The casing itself takes the form of brushed, rounded aluminium, with pillowed Gorilla Glass 3 protecting the wearable’s compact 1.1-inch, circular AMOLED display. It sports a beautifully minimalist and modern design that’s nice to wear; it doesn’t attempt to emulate the aesthetics of a traditional timepiece and is all the better for it.

It’s unobtrusive nature also makes for a noticeable change to the comparatively bombastic Diesel On Full Guard 2.5 that I’ve been testing of late.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active buckle on wrist

There’s no rotating bezel here. The Active relies more heavily on touch interaction, which might cause difficulties, depending on how it handles sweaty fingers. Two hardware buttons set into the right side of the watch’s body offer further interaction.

Internally, the watch’s 230mAh battery sounds small compared to its siblings. However, Samsung appears confident that the Active can last four days per charge – a claim that will undoubtedly be put to the test come time for a full review. There’s also a dock in the box to recharge the Active wirelessly.

As for the rest of the hardware, the Active runs on the same Exynos chipset as the other Galaxy Watches, with a 1.15GHz clock speed, 768MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. In my opinion, the latter is best used for offline Spotify tunes – a standout feature of Samsung’s current smartwatches.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active fitness UI

There’s also integrated GPS (plus Glonass, Beidou and Galileo support) for phone-free route tracking, a barometer, gyro, optical heart rate sensor and NFC for use with Samsung Pay. This all comes wrapped in a design that isn’t only stylish, but is swim-proof up to 5-ATM, IP68-certified against dust and water ingress and MIL-STD-810G tested.

Related: Best fitness trackers

The Galaxy Watch Active is also the first consumer smartwatch able to monitor blood pressure by way of a specialised “My BP Lab” app, which has been co-developed by Samsung and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Such stats are all fed into Samsung Health, which in turn make recommendations on your “wellness routine” suggesting healthier practices in your daily life.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active UI

The software experience feels noticeably different from the one currently on offer from the Galaxy Watch, with Samsung’s new One UI user experience also making its way onto its smartwatches, starting with the Active. While there are familiar elements, and it still runs on Tizen (OS 4.0), there’s a new visual style and colour palette at play, along with refined fitness experiences.

The watch is able to automatically detect 15 different types of workout at launch, with the number slated to grow to 45, in addition to monitoring general fitness, sleep and schedule tracking, plus manual tracking modes for an even greater array of activities.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active back angled view

Samsung’s Bixby assistant can be used to send messages or set alarms and reminders as needed. During the watch’s unveiling, Samsung also confirmed that additional language support is inbound for Bixby, expanding its usability to many more markets.

Tempted for the Galaxy Watch Active? Let us know your thoughts on social @TrustedReviews and stay tuned for the full review.

A ’hands on review’ is our first impression of a product only - it is not a full test and verdict. Our writer must have spent some time with the product to describe an early sense of what it’s like to use. We call these ‘hands on reviews’ to make them visible in search. However these are always unscored and don’t give recommendations. Read more about our reviews policy.