In some ways Samsung's Gear S2 soars to the highest of smartwatch heights, but it also sinks to some frustrating lows that prevent it from being our top recommendation. Let's see how it compares to one of our top choices of the year, the Huawei Watch.
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No major size differences here. Generally speaking we'd describe these watches as "medium" on most men's wrists and "somewhat large" for most women.
Note the two different versions of the Gear S2: the standard edition (far left) and the Classic, which has more of a traditional watch look. For categories where there are no differences between the two, we'll only show the Classic.
Both watches have stainless steel bodies.
These are the color options you have to choose from at checkout (Huawei's colors are tied to overall different styles).
Band material (default)
Huawei ships the Watch in several different styles. This is the entry level (leather band) model you see in these images, but there are also variants with steel bands.
Quick release band
If you want to swap out that default band, both watches have quick-release mechanisms to let you do that without tools (though in the Huawei Watch's case the quick-release switch is on the band itself, so your replacement strap probably won't have that).
The Gear S2 is the first Tizen-running Samsung Gear that works with most Android phones (running Android 4.4 or higher, with 1.5 GB or more RAM), rather than just Samsung phones.
It isn't as robust an experience as you'll get when paired with an Android phone, but the Huawei Watch will pair with an iPhone and still deliver the core Android Wear essentials (notifications, voice control, etc).
The Huawei Watch's screen is 36 percent bigger than the Gear S2's. We wouldn't necessarily call this a big advantage, though, as Android Wear's simple, card-based UI doesn't get any more immersive on a bigger screen.
Based on pixel density, the Gear S2's screen is almost 6 percent sharper than the Huawei Watch's.
Both watches use AMOLED display panels.
Watch face covering
The Gear S2's unique – perhaps even innovative – feature is its rotating bezel. Similar to the Apple Watch's Digital Crown, it lets you scroll through widgets, messages and menu items by twisting the front of the watch. We think it feels more natural than swiping over and over on a tiny screen, like you do with the Huawei Watch.
The Gear S2 also has two (back and home) buttons on its side, while the Huawei Watch has one.
Built-in fitness tracking
Both watches can automatically track your daily steps (or distance) in the background. For individual workouts, Samsung's built-in S Health can do the trick, while you'll need to download a third-party app to do that on the Huawei Watch.
Heart rate sensor
Like pretty much every modern flagship smartwatch, both of these have built-in heart rate monitors on their backsides.
One of our favorite wearable features (first seen in Jawbone fitness trackers) is an idle alert that can give you a little nudge if you've been sitting still for too long. Samsung's built-in S Health can (optionally) do that for you.
There are a few third-party Android Wear apps that supposedly do this as well, but we've yet to see any that are completely reliable (though Google still features some of the inconsistent ones in the Android Wear section of the Play Store).
This is a clear-cut win for the Huawei Watch, as Google Now's voice control is far superior to the Gear S2's S Voice (Google Now does more and recognizes your voice faster and more accurately).
Bafflingly, the Gear S2 doesn't give you one of the most convenient smartwatch features you could have on your wrist. If you want to schedule a reminder with Samsung's watch, tough luck – you'll have to whip out your phone, perhaps enough to make you wonder why you spent US$300 or more on this wrist computer in the first place.
The Gear S2 has a virtual keyboard that lets you respond to messages. Voice control is still the faster way to reply, but the keyboard can come in handy if you're out in public and would rather keep your messages private.
There are two keyboard options on the Gear S2: a phone dial pad layout, with three letters on each number (and pretty good word prediction) and a slower option that makes you scroll through each letter using the Gear's rotating bezel.
Though our review unit doesn't yet support it, the Gear S2 will eventually support the NFC portion of Samsung Pay.
Both watches give you the option of having a dimmed clock face on the screen at all times, avoiding the dead device look that you get from the Apple Watch.
In our experience, both watches last a full day with those always-on display settings turned on (though the Huawei Watch will finish the day with more left in the tank). With that setting turned off, you're probably looking at about 2 days on the Huawei Watch and 2-3 days on the Gear S2.
It hasn't released just yet, but Samsung will soon have a (thicker) version of the Gear S2 with a cellular radio inside. If it's like last year's Gear S, then it won't be a truly standalone smartwatch, still requiring a remote connection with a paired phone (it's just pairing over 3G instead of Bluetooth).
Both watches let you accept or dismiss calls from the watch, but once it comes time to talk, you'll need to grab your phone (this is a reversal from Samsung, as all of its previous Tizen-running Gears let you make calls on the watch itself).
We wouldn't get too worked up over the core and clock speed advantage for the Huawei Watch's processor; both of our review units ran everything they were supposed to run quite smoothly.
Nothing exciting here, as just about every flagship smartwatch so far has had 4 GB internal storage.
Ditto for RAM, 512 MB is the current industry standard.
The Gear S2 runs Samsung's Tizen for wearables, while the Huawei Watch runs Android Wear.
Android Wear has the third-party app advantage, as the Gear S2's selection isn't very good. On the other hand, the Gear has the potential of providing a deeper experience. Android Wear's simple UI provides all the smartwatch essentials (including that superior voice control), but its touch-only navigation and card-based interface feels a bit thin compared to the Apple Watch and (if Samsung ever plugs some of its frustrating holes) the Gear S2.
The standard Gear S2 is currently on sale, but the Gear S2 Classic isn't yet widely available.
The standard Gear S2 starts at $50 cheaper than both the Gear S2 Classic and Huawei Watch. And when it launches, it looks like the 3G-enabled version of the Gear S2 will cost around $350 as well.View gallery - 31 images