Samsung's newly announced Gear S2 smartwatch is instantly appealing. It offers a compelling combination of touch and physical controls, a sharp colorful interface and two distinct flavors of hardware. Read on for Gizmag's full hands-on impressions.
Like many smartwatches these days, there are two variants of the Gear S2. There's only one size on offer here, but two very distinct models – the sporty Gear S2 and the more traditional looking S2 classic.
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Not only do the straps differ between the two versions, but the way they attach to the body also varies (it disappears into the body on the standard model),. The design of the bezel is also simpler on the standard model, with a smooth aesthetic as opposed to the ridged look on the classic. The design of both versions is clean and appealing. It's easily the best-looking smartwatch that Samsung has ever made (and it's made quite a few).
Both the rubber and leather bands feel comfortable, and the proportions of the watch as a whole are about right – it's not too bulky, but also feels reasonably substantial on the wrist. We prefer the look of the classic version, as it's a little more refined, high-end and closer to the look of a traditional watch.
The circular screen packs a 360 x 360 resolution, and because that's only over 1.2-inches, you're getting a pretty sharp 302 pixels per inch. Graphics looked crisp and clear on the AMOLED panel, and colors were vivid and bright.
Navigation of the Tizen OS software is handled through a combination of touch input, two physical buttons on the right hand side of the case and a rotating bezel. You turn the bezel to scroll through menus, tap the screen to make selections, and use the buttons both to go back and to access the app menu.
After five or ten minutes of use, the combination of controls is intuitive and enjoyable, and makes smartwatches with touchscreen-only input feel a little more basic than they did before.
The software has multiple layers, including a main app carousel and dedicated app menu. There are also complex, multi-screen apps for fitness, calendar, email, and much more. The UI is far more complicated than an Android Wear-based wearable, but nothing felt too cramped during testing, with clean and simple menus and graphics.
The Gear S2 is a very promising smartwatch. The physical product looks great, the software has a unified, appealing aesthetic, and the rotating bezel input adds to the experience.
Luckily, you won't need the latest and greatest Samsung smartphone to pair it with, as it will work with any Android handset running version 4.4 of the OS and up, with at least 1.5 GB RAM (that includes just about every high-end phone from the last two or three years, along with plenty of mid-ranged handsets). Android Wear watches recently got iPhone support, though, so Samsung's Tizen is still behind them in terms of compatibility.
Samsung's new wearable is set to land in October; no official pricing info just yet.
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