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Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 review: A minimalist update

Our Rating :
$219.00 from
£289.00 from
Price when reviewed : £270
inc VAT

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 is barely different to its predecessor and is likely to make the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro look more appealing


  • Stylish design
  • Larger battery
  • Plenty of apps with Wear OS


  • Fiddly health features
  • So-so activity tracking
  • Barely any change from the Galaxy Watch 4

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 is a strange beast that’s pretty hard to get excited about – assuming you’re the kind of person to get excited about a new smartwatch.

It’s the very dictionary definition of an iterative upgrade on the Galaxy Watch 4 and the reason is obvious: this year Samsung has introduced a new premium timepiece called the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro. Not wanting to upstage the new member of the Galaxy Watch family, upgrades here are, therefore, pretty thin on the ground.

That’s not to say it’s a bad wearable – it plainly isn’t – and it’s a great smartwatch if you have a Samsung smartphone to pair with it. But if you already own a Galaxy Watch 4, then there’s only really one reason to upgrade.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 review: What you need to know

That reason is battery life. To Samsung’s credit, it appears to have taken criticism of the Watch 4’s mediocre battery life to heart, and it has seriously upped the capacity of both the 40mm and 44mm models, without changing the dimensions and adding only a few grams of weight. Otherwise, you’re looking at slim pickings, with most of the upgrades reserved for the Pro model.

The 40mm watch now has a capacity of 284mAh, while the 44mm model packs a 410mAh cell – both big upgrades on the old models’ 247mAh and 361mAh batteries. That larger battery charges faster, with the Galaxy Watch 5 capable of hitting 45% full in just half an hour. There’s also a new temperature sensor, although this wasn’t functional at the time of writing.

Otherwise, it’s all the same, right down to the Exynos W920 chipset and 1.5GB of RAM. In fact, there’s also a downgrade thrown in: there’s no longer the option to buy a Galaxy Watch Classic version with its physical rotating bezel. The touch bezel first introduced on the Galaxy Watch Active 2 replaces it here, but it just isn’t the same.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 review: Price and competition

Despite the minimal change, the price has gone up. While the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 started at £249, the new version comes in at £269 for the 40mm model reviewed here and £289 for the 44mm model. If you want LTE and the luxury of an internet-connected watch without a phone, you’re looking at prices of £319 and £339 respectively.

Of course, it could be more. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, with its rugged design and massive 590mAh battery, comes in at £429 or £479 if you want LTE.

There are no shortage of rivals but if you want Wear OS, the best alternative comes in the form of the £339 Google Pixel Watch, which delivers an experience built by the operating system’s creators.

While all of these have built-in GPS for tracking exercise, if you’re a fitness fanatic, you’ll probably want something by Garmin instead. The Garmin Forerunner 255 is, at £300, in the same ballpark as these but cheaper and more expensive options are available.

The elephant in the room here is the Apple Watch Series 8. It’s the best smartwatch you can buy but, just as the Apple Watch won’t work with Android devices, the Galaxy Watch 5 won’t work with iPhones so it isn’t relevant unless you’re comfortable having your choice of phone dictated by your choice of wearable.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 review: Design

At a glance, you’d struggle to tell the difference between the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and its predecessor. Or, for that matter, any of the last few Galaxy Watches.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Apple Watch has barely changed, after all, and the design of the Galaxy Watch is nicely understated. Yes, it’s still chunky compared with a traditional wristwatch at 9.8mm thick but, as smartwatches go, it’s very handsome indeed.

What we’re missing is an equivalent to the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic and its rotating bezel, which made scrolling through apps and menu items incredibly intuitive and easy. That model has now been removed completely – for no apparent reason – and it’s a shame.

In its place is a touch bezel. This ostensibly does the same thing but it does so with less reliability and without the satisfying tactility of a genuine moving part. Ultimately, I expect people won’t use it and will instead revert to more traditional swiping and tapping: it’s simply not as much fun.

Otherwise, it’s all good. The supplied band has a standard watch buckle (Fitbit, take note) and, if you don’t find it comfortable, you can sub it out for any other 20mm watch strap, making it as dressy or sporty as you like to match the occasion.

As mentioned above, Samsung has squeezed in a larger battery here without changing the dimensions, and that’s an impressive feat. Note, though, this doesn’t result in a huge improvement in stamina. We were sent the 40mm version for this review and with a bump from 247mAh to 284mAh, you’ll still be looking at daily charging if you use the fitness features; it will just be less touch and go as to whether you make it through the day.

Still, the battery does charge faster, going from flat to 45% capacity in just half an hour. Be warned, however, that you’ll need to find a USB-C socket to attach the wireless charger to as there’s no power adapter in the box.

While not strictly a physical design issue, it’s worth highlighting that, once again, Samsung has not made setup easy. You’d have thought the move to Wear OS have improved things but, no. To get going, you need to download a whole host of Samsung apps: Galaxy Wearable, Samsung Health, Samsung Health Monitoring (yes, that’s a different app) and Samsung Pay. That’s a lot of bloatware if you don’t already have a Samsung Galaxy phone where some of these are pre-installed.

It’s also a lot of software to learn and manage and it can be very confusing finding your way around. While calibrating the ECG reader in Samsung Health, for example, I was informed that if I wanted to change the hand I wore it on, I’d have to go into the settings of Galaxy Wearable – a different app entirely – to change it before proceeding. That’s ludicrous.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 review: Performance

Let’s talk about these health features, though, because they’re clearly key to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5’s appeal. First of all, the temperature sensor isn’t working yet, so that’s out; a bit of a pain, given it’s one of the only things separating this from its predecessor but there we are.

Then there’s the ECG and blood-pressure sensors, both of which, maddeningly, require the use of a Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

Fortunately, I had a test Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus to hand, and can confirm that the former works well enough. To use it, you simply select the app from the watch, and then rest your fingers on the button for 30 seconds while trying to stay still. The results are binary: either you have atrial fibrillation, or you don’t. I don’t.

I wasn’t able to test the blood-pressure monitoring, however, because it requires you to use a traditional blood-pressure cuff to calibrate it. I don’t have one any more; however, I did when I reviewed the Galaxy Watch 3, which introduced the feature, and I can confirm that it gave pretty accurate results.

What wasn’t clear, however, was how much the watch was cribbing its answers off the old-fashioned hardware’s initial assessment. If I suddenly gained two stone, would the watch pick up on a difference without further calibration? Either way, it isn’t a feature you’ll be using every day.

Something you might use more regularly, however, is the body composition measurement, which gives you a quickfire Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis measurement to assess your skeletal mass, body fat, fat mass, body water and BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), simply by touching the buttons for a short period.

The results clearly aren’t flawless, fluctuating even between successive readings, but they’re presented neatly, showing changes between readings clearly, and it’s a nice way of keeping track of your fitness journey’s general direction of travel.

Speaking of journeys, the Galaxy Watch 5 wouldn’t be much of a fitness tracker if it didn’t keep tabs on your steps and other activities. It does all the core stuff pretty well, and there are also shortcuts to a dizzying number of exercises, covering everything from ballroom dancing to scuba diving.

This even includes individual gym workouts (arm curls, lateral raises and lat pull-downs are three different things in Samsung’s world) although while this might seem impressive at first, adding every part of your fitness routine to the watch would make the on-watch UI unusable.

For outdoor activities, as is often the case for Samsung wearables, I found the GPS tracking to be a little off the pace. While the super-accurate Garmin Forerunner 245 on my other wrist measured three runs at 4.99km, 5.01km and 5.01km, the Galaxy Watch 5 pegged these at 4.87km, 4.82km and 4.93km.

These are far from the worst numbers I’ve seen from wearables’ built-in GPS sensors, and are probably good enough for most. But zooming in on the post-run minimaps shows the culprit quite clearly: corners are cut, and there are moments where the watch thinks I’m running through people’s houses and gardens rather than on the pavement outside.

Heart-rate tracking fared better. In fact, the Galaxy Watch 5 matched a dedicated chest strap nearly exactly on one test run, with both reporting a maximum of 167bpm and an average of 153bpm, which is hugely reassuring.

One final note about these health metrics: looking all of this up is far harder than it should be, because Samsung Health still has no desktop interface. It’s the app or nothing, which personally I find maddening. As with the GPS, your mileage may vary, of course.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 review: Verdict

When I reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 all the way back in 2019, I concluded it was a better smartwatch than it was a fitness tracker. That sporty subbrand doesn’t exist any more, but it remains true with the Galaxy Watch 5: the fitness features are not quite well implemented or accurate enough to tempt dedicated athletes. As a smartwatch, however, there’s a lot to like. It looks snazzy, is easy to read and the continued use of Wear OS means there are plenty of apps to expand its utility.

But with very little to separate this from the last generation other than the currently non-functional temperature sensor, there’s really no reason to upgrade. You may be better off getting a bargain on last year’s model.

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