15dec first look samsung gear s2 hero

First Look: Samsung Gear S2

It’s an odd way to start a review, but I really like this watch – though I like it because it doesn’t pretend to be a normal watch.

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The version of the Samsung Gear S2 I tried was silver and white with a minimalist design. It looked futuristic and sleek, if a little large. As such, I didn’t feel I needed to choose a watch face that looked like a real watch. I went for a dark-red “neon” face that looked like a sonar ping.

The Gear S2 has different preloaded watch faces. More than just being able to change what “complications” you want displayed, such as the date or the weather, you can also change the face colour, the hands’ colour and shape, even whether it shows you Roman or Arabic numerals or just pips.

To control the watch, you swipe the touchscreen or use the rotating bezel and buttons. The bezel is the best part; it’s easy to use with either hand and is faster than swiping. Its two buttons are set at two o’clock and four o’clock and while the bottom button can be fiddly to access , you’ll use the top button more anyway as it’s for returning to the previous screen.

Notifications work as expected, though I did notice my phone buzzed as well and usually a second before the watch. This means you get a secondary buzz if you miss your phone’s one. It seems useful, but felt like overkill to me. Notifications are quickly read via the bezel too. Just rotate to the left to see notifications – rotate right to get to your apps.

The Gear S2’s internal storage lets you transfer photos and music. Useful for listening to music while you’re exercising but don’t want to carry your phone. This feature doesn’t work if you use Spotify, like I do, because you don’t have individual music files. But you can still control music playing on your phone from the watch.

The downside of the Gear S2 is the software needed to use it. It will work on newer Android phones, but you’ll need to download the Gear app and other “behind the scenes” apps to get the phone and watch to communicate. It worked perfectly with the Sony Z5 and, unsurprisingly, the Samsung S6 Edge +, but it wouldn’t stay connected to the Huawei P8 for longer than a minute.

The Gear S2 comes in two models: the S2 and S2 Classic. The Classic looks more like a “real” watch and is slightly smaller and lighter. It also comes with changeable leather straps. But the insides are the same.

Overall the Samsung Gear S2 is great smartwatch. It’s simple to use and does everything I wanted.

Price: $549

Our writer received a Samsung Gear S2 on loan for this First Look. First Looks are trials of new or interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons.

By Hadyn Green.