New Atlas is in attendance at all this year's big press events at IFA, and we've just been getting an advance look (and feel) of the Samsung Gear S3. It's an impressive device on paper – so how does it measure up on the wrist?
We tried the Frontier first, then the Classic. Both are smooth and fluid to use, and Samsung has certainly hit on a good trick with that rotating bezel, which feels like a natural way to operate a smartwatch. We suspect others may follow Samsung's lead there.
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These models are slightly bigger than last year's Gear S2, and those of you looking for a smartwatch that doesn't look rather chunky on the wrist are going to be disappointed yet again (though Samsung is keeping the Gear S2 around, so it's still an option).
With nearly-identical internal specs, the biggest difference between the two new models is the design, and we prefer the more rugged Frontier. Samsung has made much of wanting to make a smartwatch that looks like a watch, and the Frontier hits the mark the closest. That said, the Classic is elegant too, in its own way. It's mostly going to be down to personal preference.
The Frontier also includes LTE cellular data, so those outdoorsy types Samsung is marketing the watch towards can have the option of leaving their phones at home on their Bear Grylls-esque wilderness journeys.
Holding them up against each other, there wasn't any noticeable difference in dimensions (in fact they're listed as being the same), and of course you can use any of the available straps on either.
The screen quality is another plus point, as you would expect from Samsung, and there were an impressive choice of watch faces on our demo unit. From instant heart rate readings to pilot-style faces, you're going to be spoilt for choice, and it's a fun watch to play around with.
With the positives out of the way, actually wearing and handling the Frontier and Classic left us a little disappointed. Samsung has done well to get the weight of these smartwatches down but as a result they somehow lack that premium feel that comes with extra heft, both in the hand and when operating them.
The leather and rubber straps we tried veered towards the cheap side in how they felt too, although it's worth bearing in mind you can attach any 22 mm strap to the Gear S3, so you can go as expensive and luxurious as you want in this department.
If you take specs, sizes and features out of the equation, the Asus ZenWatch 3 that we checked out earlier at IFA feels a lot more high-end and premium on the wrist, though of course that's not top of everyone's checklist.
With that in mind it's going to be interesting to see where the Gear S3 comes in price.
In short, these watches look great, handle just as well as the Gear S2 and are packed with more features than ever before; but when we strap them on we don't quite feel like we're wearing a watch that oozes quality from every material. If you were hoping Samsung's smartwatches would continue to move in the smaller/more compact direction, you'll be disappointed too. For premium watch owners looking to switch to a smart model, both of those points could make a big difference.
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