While the Samsung Gear Sport didn't quite score well enough to oust the Samsung Gear S3 as an award winner, it still scored very well and is worth considering on its own merits. This slim and sporty smartwatch packs in an impressive array of features and functions in a very small form factor, along with an excellent battery life. This a great choice for a Samsung user who found the Gear S3 to be too large and want to place a greater emphasis on activity tracking, rather than smart features.
Samsung Gear Sport Review
Pros: Smaller than the S3, waterproof, great for fitness tracking
Cons: No built-in speaker, reduced set of smart functions
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Gear Sport finished near the top of the pack, right behind the Apple Watch Series 2 and above the Huawei Watch 2. The Gear Sport is a little better at tracking fitness and has a better battery life than the Apple Watch, but falls short when it comes to smart functions, lacking standalone LTE connectivity and a built-in speaker or microphone. The Gear Sport is far easier to use and has a much better display than the Huawei Watch 2, though the Watch 2 has an even larger set of fitness tracking capabilities than the Gear Sport — an impressive feat!
To determine which smartwatches are truly the best, we bought the top models available and pitted them head-to-head in a handful of different rating metrics. These metrics are Ease of Use, Smart Functions, Display, Fitness Impact, and Battery Life, each weighted based on their significance. The sections below detail the performance of the Gear Sport in each metric and how it stacked up against its peers.
Ease of Use
Earning the most weight out of any of our metrics at 40%, Ease of Use is the most important metric of our tests. We evaluated how responsive the touchscreen is to inputs and the quality of any other interface methods, the charging setup, water resistance of each wearable, and the ease of swapping bands. The Gear Sport scored quite well, earning an 8 out of 10 for its performance.
The Gear Sport has a very responsive touchscreen, with no frustrating lag whatsoever. In addition to a touchscreen interface, the Gear Sport also features the trademark rotating bezel of the other Samsung smartwatches.
The Gear Sport is waterproof up to 50 meters, making it suitable for tracking aquatic activities, like swimming or paddling. It is also very easy to charge the Samsung Gear Sport, which fits securely into an inductive charging cradle.
It also is very easy to take screenshots of the information shown on wearable, holding the home button and swiping to the right.
Making up 20% of the total score, our Smart Functions metric assessed the compatibility of each smartwatch with major apps, whether or not you could make standalone calls, control your music, pay for things, and if there was a dedicated GPS module in the watch. The Gear Sport scored alright, earning a 5 out of 10 for its performance.
This watch does have a built-in GPS module, but lacks any standalone cellular or LTE connectivity. The Gear Sport notifies you that you have an incoming call and you can answer or reject it, but you have to pull out your phone to actually talk or hear whoever is calling you, lacking a built-in speaker or microphone in the watch that can be used for phone calls. However, you can answer the call if you also have your phone paired with a set of Bluetooth headphones, precluding the need to pull your phone out.
The Gear Sport also has a basic set of music controls, allowing you to skip songs, adjust volume, and play/pause the track, but you don't have the ability to give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down.
You do have the ability to pay for transactions with the Gear Sport, using Samsung Pay.
Unfortunately, the Gear Sport doesn't have the widest range of compatible apps, only working with Spotify and Uber out of our sample set of test apps.
Accounting for 20% of the overall score, our display metric assessed the quality of the screen on each smartwatch, as well as its readability and the different viewing modes. The Gear Sport delivered an excellent performance, earning an 8 out of 10 for its superb screen.
The Sport has an exceptionally Super AMOLED nice screen, measuring in at 1.2" in diameter. This 360x360 only was outmatched by the Retina displays on the Apple Watch Series 3 or the Apple Watch Series 2.
It's reasonably easy to read the Sport's display in bright light and very easy to read it in dimmer conditions. The display is fully-circular, with no clipped, "flat tire" section on the bottom of the watch. This watch also has the option to be set to automatically adjust the brightness of the backlight, based on ambient light and to have the display be always on.
Comprising 20% of the total, our Fitness Impact metric judged the capabilities of each wearable at tracking your different activities or workouts. We ranked and scored how well each watch counted steps and flights of stairs climbed, measured a heart rate, and tracked a workout. The Samsung Gear Sport, as its name implies, is a sport and fitness tracking focused smartwatch, and scores very well in this metric, earning it an 8 out of 10 for its performance.
The Gear Sport is extremely accurate at tracking steps, deviating from the true manual count by only 4 steps on a mile-long walk, or less than 0.5%.
We found the heart rate monitoring to be quite accurate, matching that of the Samsung Gear S3. It stayed very close when measuring a resting heart rate and only began to deviate when we hit maximum intensity in our workouts.
This watch will also automatically start tracking your workouts when it detects that you have been active for 10 minutes. It also has designated tracking profiles for walking, running, cycling, elliptical, stationary bike, treadmill, lunges, jumping jacks, yoga, and swimming, with its water resistance of 5 ATM.
This model of watch can record a variety of different fitness stats while you workout, including duration, time, distance, estimated caloric burn, average speed, heart rate, GPS track, and weather. Finally, we weren't terribly impressed with this watch in our final assessment: stair climbing. We found that the Gear Sport tended to miss a decent number of flights of stairs climbed, but we were testing at a higher altitude, which may have influenced the results.
For our final metric, worth the remaining 15% of the total score, we evaluated the battery life of each model. We timed how long each watch lasted with normal use and how long it took to charge each model. The Gear Sport did reasonably well, earning it a 7 out of 10.
The Gear Sport lasted for 72 hours with normal use, where we sent the same schedule of phone calls, texts, and notifications to the watch throughout the day, as well as waking it up on a regular basis.
However, while it did have a solid battery life, the Gear Sport took a reasonably long time to charge. It took about 75 minutes to charge to 50%, and 180 minutes to completely charge.
The Samsung Gear Sport isn't necessarily a great value overall, but it is a solid value option for those that want a Samsung smartwatch and don't want to foot the bill for a Gear S3.
All in all, the Samsung Gear Sport, is a great, sports-centric smartwatch that won't disappoint. It has a good battery life, a solid set of smart functions, and does a phenomenal job at fitness tracking, all in a much smaller form factor than the flagship Gear S3.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer