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LG G Watch R review

Tom Morgan
6 Nov 2014
Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
219
inc VAT

LG's second attempt at a wearable is lightyears ahead of the original - the G Watch R is the best Android Wear device around

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Specifications

Screen size: 1.3in cicular, Screen resolution: 320x320, Processor: 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, Storage: 4GB, Size: 46x53x9.7mm, Weight: 62g, Operating system: Android Wear, Warranty: One-year RTB, Details: www.lg.com, Part code: LGGW100R

Motorola has hogged much of the Android Wear limelight with its Moto 360, but LG isn't far behind with a circular smartwatch of its own. Fans of wearable technology may have a new favourite now that the G Watch R has arrived; it’s a bold and bulky Yang to the svelte Moto 360’s Yin.

DESIGN

More than a little reminiscent of a Casio G Shock, the G Watch R is certainly eye-catching. It has a chunky bezel, finished in black metal and marked out with five minute intervals just like a diving watch. There’s also a crown which acts as a shortcut button, turning the screen on and off or jumping straight into the settings menu. The whole thing is IP67 dust and water resistant, meaning you won’t have to cover up if you get caught in the rain. A matching black leather strap completes the look, although it feels rather plasticky and not nearly as premium as the Moto 360’s Horween strap. Thankfully you can swap it out for another strap easily, as it uses a standard 22mm fitting - a black, articulated steel strap will set you back around £10.


Plenty of people like oversized watches, but not everyone will appreciate strapping on the giant G Watch R - particularly those with small wrists. It was wider than the entire wrist of some of the writers on the Expert Reviews team, and at almost 10mm thick you might struggle to get it in and out of a shirt cuff. If you wear a watch to make a statement, however, the G Watch R certainly works as intended. Whether you think it looks better than the Moto 360 will fall down to personal taste; we feel that the G Watch R is intentionally big, whereas the Moto 360 really wishes it could shed a few milimetres.

SCREEN

As soon as you look beyond design, the stunning circular display instantly grabs your attention. The Moto 360 was ‘almost’ circular, with a small indent at the bottom for an ambient light sensor; many people weren't bothered by the small black bar, but others couldn't see past it - especially with Google's white notifications constantly popping up on their wrist. That's not an issue for the G Watch R, though - it's entirely round. 

LG has also used OLED technology for the panel, which not only produces punchy, vibrant colours, but should also help reduce power consumption - particularly when using a watch face with a black background. Compared to LCD-equipped smartwatches, where we frequently disable the always-on screen mode, we could happily leave the screen in ambient mode without any significant impact to battery life.


Images and text both looked very sharp from arm’s length thanks to the 320x320 resolution, and viewing angles are great - just as we would expect from an OLED display. We could always see the time clearly, even outside in direct sunlight, without having to push the brightness further than 60%.

PERFORMANCE

Where the G Watch R differs most from the Moto 360 is its internals. LG has opted for a newer Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor rather than the outdated TI OMAP chip Motorola has used in its smartwatch. The Snapdragon CPU is more power efficient, meaning it should last longer between charges, even if it makes little actual difference in terms of performance; Android Wear feels just as snappy and responsive here as it does on all the other smartwatches we’ve tested to date.

Throughout our testing, we managed well over 36 hours of basic use on a single charge, with the watch in always-on mode. Even if you’re constantly getting notifications and interacting with the screen, you should easily manage an entire working day without running out of juice. Switching the screen off completely when not in use comfortably bumps that time up to beyond 48 hours.


These are both significant improvements over the Moto 360, which struggled to last an entire waking day on a full charge. Although it still falls behind E Ink smart watches like Pebble, it’s among the best we’ve seen from Android Wear.

Once you do run out of battery, you won’t be waiting long to fill back up; the G Watch R took around an hour to go from practically empty to full. The watch sits on a dock and uses proprietary charging pins, which isn’t quite as slick as Motorola’s wireless cradle, but it’s certainly faster.

SENSORS AND FITNESS

Rather than simply squeeze the internals from the original G Watch into a circular chassis, LG has also added a whole host of extra sensors to the R. As well as a 9-axis accelerometer, which can also act as a digital compass, the G Watch R has a built-in barometer for measuring altitude and an optical heart rate sensor for tracking your pulse when exercising. Step counts were the most accurate of all the readings, while altitude was the most questionable; it reported our fifth floor office as being 200m in the air, when in reality it was more like 50m.


Google’s newly released Fit app pulls part of this data from the watch automatically, importing step counts and exercise time to count towards your daily goals, but it doesn’t yet appear to take heart rate into account. It’s far more basic than Apple’s HealthKit, although that currently relies on third party fitness bands and gadgets. You have to manually force the watch to take a heart rate reading if you haven't told it you're doing a particular type of exercise - it doesn't appear to take periodic readings like the Moto 360. Although this likely saves on battery, it would have been nice to make it an option to turn on-and-off as you choose.

LG has since confirmed that it would be adding a periodic heart rate mode to the G Watch R when Android 5.0 Lollipop arrives, but only for its flagship G3 smartphone at first. That defeats the point of Android Wear, which can be paired with any Android smartphone, but it is at least a small step toward parity with the G Watch R's biggest rival.


The watch will also work with third-party Android apps, saving you the need to wear a separate heart rate monitor or step counter when using Runtastic or Runkeeper.

ANDROID WEAR

As we’ve come to expect from Android Wear-powered smartwatches, LG hasn’t done much to customise the G Watch R. The card-like Google Now notifications, ‘OK Google’ voice commands and rather limited functionality are all present and correct, just as they were on the original G Watch. Google’s pastel shades and cartoon-like graphics look a little out of place against the R’s chunky black bezel and bold design, so we’re hoping the company will eventually let manufacturers tweak the look and feel of the OS to better match the watches themselves.

That’s not to say the experience is entirely vanilla though. LG has created a short list of custom watch faces to choose from, which mimic chronograph watches by putting useful information in smaller dials 'beneath' the watch hands. The Hiking face incorprorates a compass, altimeter and shows the number of steps taken, while the Fitness face shows the number of steps and bars of pressure. We frequently had to recalibrate the compass when switching watch faces, which involves twiling your wrist in an exaggerated figure of eight motion; a notification constantly reminds to to calibrate it if you haven't already, which can be annoying if you just want to use the Hiking watch face for its looks.


When not in use, the screen dims and defaults to a simpler design, which probably uses significantly less power but is still be able to show you the time. When you get a notification it lights back up, so you don’t have to tap it to wake it. You can of course set the screen to turn off completely, then wake it with a tap on the screen or a press of the crown button. Unlike the Moto 360, there's no ambient light sensor, so you'll have to change the screen brightness manually if it's too dim to see, or so bright it illuminates the room - a real issue when driving at night or in the cinema. We had to take the watch off in both situations as it proved too distracting.

The latest software update to Android Wear finally made it possible to hide notifications, but not dismiss them, eliminating one of our longstanding gripes with the operating system. Now you can swipe a notification away on the main screen to reveal the watch face, but not delete it from the stack entirely.

Otherwise, we’re still waiting for Google to add permanent music controls rather than a reactive notification, brightness and Wear app shortcuts, and a greater degree of customisation to match Android on smartphones and tablets. None of these concerns are LG’s fault, of course, but if you’re buying into Android Wear at all it’s still worth keeping in mind. Hopefully with Android 5.0 now essentially finished, the team will start on a major update for Android Wear too.

CONCLUSION

If the original G Watch was a tentative first step into wearables, The G Watch R is LG’s confident second stride. It’s an eye-catching gadget with excellent build quality, battery life that competes favourably with its rivals, and most importantly, an appearance that looks more like a watch than a piece of technology.

The size and shape will put off some, and it’s the most expensive Android Wear device around, but we think it’s worth it; Google’s wearable OS might still be finding its feet, but the G Watch R is an excellent demonstration of its abilities.

SPECIFICATIONS
Screen size1.3in cicular
Screen resolution320x320
Processor1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
Storage4GB
Size46x53x9.7mm
Weight62g
Operating systemAndroid Wear
WarrantyOne-year RTB
Detailswww.lg.com
Part codeLGGW100R

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