We compared dozens of different smartwatches, then bought the top 11 models currently available and tested them head-to-head to find the best of the best. We rated and compared the display on each wearable and how easy they are to use, as well as their battery life. We tried out and scored all the different smart features each watch has, as well as all of their health and fitness tracking capabilities. On top of all that, we compared the screens of each smartwatch side-by-side. Take a look at the complete review below to see which watches won the top awards and which are the best options for budget-conscious shoppers.
The Best Smartwatches of 2019
$209.99 at Amazon
|$400 List||$300 List|
$310 at Amazon
$269.99 at Amazon
$159.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Easy to use, great display, impressive battery life||Fantastic display, tons of fitness tracking features, smart functions||Easy to use, great display, best variety of trackable workouts||Stylish, great display, comprehensive fitness tracking||Smaller than the S3, waterproof, great for fitness tracking|
|Cons||Giant bezel, could have more smart functions||Pricey, so-so battery life||Slow to charge, limited app compatibility||Unimpressive battery life, app compatibility could be better||No built-in speaker, reduced set of smart functions|
|Bottom Line||If you want a top-notch smartwatch and have a Samsung phone, the Galaxy Watch is by far the best you can get||The Series 5 is by far the best iOS users can get||One of the best models out there, though it loses some functionality with non-Samsung phones||The Active2 is one of the best you can get for those without iOS phones||While the Gear Sport isn’t meant to supplant the flagship S3 model, this slimmer and sportier version still scored very well and is worth considering|
|Rating Categories||Samsung Galaxy Watch||Apple Watch Series 5||Samsung Gear S3||Samsung Galaxy...||Samsung Gear Sport|
|Ease Of Use (30%)|
|Smart Functions (20%)|
|Fitness Impact (15%)|
|Battery Life (15%)|
|Specs||Samsung Galaxy Watch||Apple Watch Series 5||Samsung Gear S3||Samsung Galaxy...||Samsung Gear Sport|
|Water Resistant||Up to 50 meters||5 ATM||IP68 + MIL-STD-810G||5 ATM||5 ATM|
|NFC (Android, Apple, Samsung, or Fitbit Pay)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Display||30mm or 33mm AMOLED||40mm or 44mm diagonal LTPO OLED Retina display||1.3 inch fullcolor AMOLED||44mm (1.4") or 40mm (1.2")||1.2 inch full color AMOLED|
|360x360, 278 ppi||360 x 360||360x360|
|Electrical heart sensor
|Processor||Exynos 9110 Dual core 1.15GHz||64-bit dual-core S5 processor||Samsung Exynos 7270 Dual-core 1.0 GHz||Dual core 1.15GHz||Dual-core 1.0 GHz Cortex-A7|
Best for Samsung Phones
Samsung Galaxy Watch
The Samsung Galaxy is an all-around impressive smartwatch. It is absolutely jam-packed with fitness tracking functions, has a solid set of smart features, and a great display, coupled with unmatched performance in our battery life test. It's also incredibly convenient and easy to use.
However, this watch is definitely on the larger side and is very noticeable on your wrist, making it a poor choice if you prefer your wearables to be a bit more on the discreet side. Available in a 46mm and 42mm bezel size, even the smaller bezel can look enormous on those with more petite wrists. Aside from that, we had a hard time finding any other major flaws with this product, easily making it our top recommendation for anyone with a Samsung smartphone who is looking for the absolute best you can get when it comes to smartwatches
Read Full Review: Samsung Galaxy Watch
Top Choice for iPhones
Apple Watch Series 5
Earning one of the highest scores of the entire group, it's easy to see why the Apple Watch Series 5 claimed an Editors' Choice award and is our top recommendation for anyone with an iPhone who wants the best of the best when it comes to smartwatches. This wearable looks fantastic with a sleek and stylish design and an eye-catching display. It has a comprehensive set of smart features and functions along with an impressive set of fitness and health tracking abilities, like fall or Afib detection. It is also exceptionally intuitive and easy to use.
However, this all can draw quite a bit of power and we weren't overly impressed with the performance of the Series 5 in our battery life test. We would plan on charging the watch daily unless you were very power-conscious in your use of it. The Series 5 also comes with one of the highest price tags of the group. We still would highly recommend it to anyone that wants the best. However, Android and Samsung users are out of luck, as the Apple Watch is only compatible with iPhones — it won't even work with iPads!
Read Full Review: Apple Watch Series 5
Best Budget Buy
The TicWatch E2 distinguished itself from the rest of the group not by its performance but by its exceptional value, earning it the Best Buy Award. This watch runs on WearOS, allowing you to use the integrated microphone to use the Google Assistant to control all the features and functions the TicWatch has. It can run standalone apps and allows you access to the Google Play Store — even if you have it paired to an iPhone. Besides, this watch also offers a solid set of fitness tracking capabilities, largely helped by its built-in GPS module and heart rate sensor.
However, while the E2 is an exceptional value, it can't compare to the top-tier offerings from Samsung or Google and did pretty much finish at the back of the group in overall scores. This watch is also exceptionally plain — bordering on downright boring — when it comes to looks, so it isn't the best choice for someone who wants a truly stylish smartwatch. Despite these flaws, we still highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to save some cash and is ok with a relatively bare-bones and simple smart timepiece.
Read Full Review: TicWatch E2
Fantastic for Fitness-Minded Users
Fitbit Versa 2
While the Fitbit Versa 2 isn't one of the top overall scorers and doesn't have the best set of fitness tracking features, this watch did stand out as a great option for very fitness-focused people. It grants you access to the extensive set of competitive and non-competitive challenges in the Fitbit app and even has a built-in coaching app. It also is quite a bit less expensive than the top products and is a much more discreet form factor.
Unfortunately, it doesn't have a built-in GPS unit, instead relying on your smartphone's. It also doesn't track quite as many activities as the top products, like the Galaxy. It also isn't the best at tracking heart rates, tending to show some variations and erratic measurements when your heart is at an elevated level. However, while it does have some flaws, it is a great value option for someone looking for a smartwatch that is more in line with a traditional fitness tracker.
Read Full Review: Fitbit Versa 2
Why You Should Trust Us?
To decide which watch topped them all, we began with tons of research, going through hundreds of user reviews and all of the available information we could find on each watch. We then picked out the most promising models to buy and test head-to-head. We bought all the watches in this review from standard retailers at normal prices; TechGearLab won't ever accept free units to review, so you can be confident that our reviews are completely unbiased and we have no financial incentive to pick one product over another. For the past three years, our smartwatch testing process has been pioneered by Austin Palmer and David Wise. Both have extensive experience reviewing smart home and wearable products, having reviewed dozens and dozens of fitness trackers, pedometers, GPS watches, and VR headsets in addition to smartwatches. We pushed these watches to their absolute limits to test their maximum battery life and fitness tracking abilities, even checking the step accuracy against a manual mechanical counter. We also looked at all their different smart features and functions, as well as having a panel of judges rate the ease of use and screen quality of each one.
Related: How We Tested Smartwatches
Analysis and Test Results
We tested the performance of these products side-by-side, subjecting them to our comprehensive testing process. This process is composed of over 25 different tests, divided up among five rating metrics. These metrics — Ease of Use, Fitness Tracking, Smart Functions, Battery Life, and Display — are each weighted proportional to their importance, with the results and performance of each watch compared below.
Related: Buying Advice for Smartwatches
There is a strong correlation between price and performance when it comes to these products. Our top picks, the Apple Watch Series 5 and the Samsung Galaxy are both impeccable products but the base price of these products is significantly more than most of the other products, with additional features like a larger screen or standalone LTE connectivity increasing the price even more. These products make sense if you want a ton of functionality right on your wrist but you are better off considering a less expensive model, like the Versa 2 or the TicWatch E2 if you just want something to show you notifications and have some basic fitness tracking abilities.
If these high price tags are giving you cause to panic, then you should consider the TicWatch E2. This is our favorite watch when shopping on a budget, even though it didn't score the highest overall, it offers a solid performance at a price that is a fraction of the cost of the top models. On top of that, it can usually be found at a discount and has most of the essential functions that you would want from one of these products. The Fitbit Versa 2 is another attractive budget option, especially if you are particularly interested in the fitness tracking features of these products. It is a bit more expensive than the TicWatch, but quite a bit better overall, as well as granting you access to the extensive Fitbit fitness ecosystem. Unfortunately, it does lack a dedicated GPS, relying on a connected one instead.
Ease of Use
Initially, you may be surprised that Ease of Use is the highest-weighted metric for these products, comprising 30% of the total score. These watches are meant to be worn daily, seamlessly integrating into your life, all while allowing you to maintain a constant connection to your digital ecosystem. A watch that is frustrating to use will quickly cease to be worn, instantly losing practically all of its utility.
We checked if these watches were waterproof, whether or not there was a crown scroll, how hard it was to take a screenshot, how they charged, and the difficulty of swapping wristbands. We also placed a great deal of importance on-screen responsiveness, evaluating it through two different tests. These products will turn off their displays when your arms are at your side, turning them back on when you swivel your wrist to look at the screen. This proved more difficult in practice, with some model having a much longer delay than others. In addition, we compared the interface of each model — how easy it was to use the touchscreen to navigate through different menus.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch, Gear S3, Gear Sport, and the Apple Watch Series 5 all tied for the top score in this metric, each earning an 8 out of 10. These watches all have exceptionally responsive touch screens for navigating through menus on the device and will wake up with practically zero delay when you turn your wrist to view them.
The Apple Watch Series 5 utilizes a crown scroll — the dial on the side can be rotated to scroll through menus — making it exceptionally easy to navigate quickly.
All three of the Samsung smartwatches lack a crown scroll, instead utilizing a rotating bezel for a physical interface. The Samsung smartwatches all rely on a charging cradle, establishing an easy to use and extremely secure connection.
The Apple Watch Series 5 uses an inductive charger that mounts to the back of the watch with magnets. The connection is quite strong, but the charger can be knocked off with sufficient force. However, you can purchase bases for the standard charger that turns it into a charging cradle or stand if you prefer a more secure connection.
These watches are all waterproof enough to take swimming or in the shower. The Apple Watch meets a slightly more rigorous standard than the Gear S3, ISO 22810:10:2010 compared to IP68+, while both the Galaxy and the Gear Sport are rated for up to 5 ATM or 50 meters of water resistance. All of these watches even have a dedicated profile for tracking your swimming workouts.
It is a little easier to take screenshots on the Apple Watch than on the trio of Samsung watches by pressing both buttons simultaneously, which will automatically send the photo straight to your phone. You hold down the "Home" button and swiping to the right to take the screenshot on the Galaxy, Gear S3, or the Gear Sport, but it won't automatically sync to your phone, requiring you to manually send it from the gallery.
It was very easy to swap wristbands on all of these models, taking very little time at all, though it is a tiny bit faster and easier to swap between bands on the Apple Watch. Unfortunately, it is a little more difficult to locate compatible bands for this watch than for the Samsung smartwatches, as the Apple Watch doesn't use the typical watch mechanism.
The Samsung Galaxy Active2 came just behind the top-tier of watches when it comes to ease of use, earning a 7 out of 10. It is comparably easy to the Galaxy Watch when it comes to changing wristbands and is also water-resistant to 50 meters/5 ATM. It has a great touchscreen that is exceptionally responsive to swipes and taps and illuminates almost instantly when you raise your wrist.
However, the Active2 does away with a physical rotating bezel interface, replacing it with a capacitive touch bezel. This is still better than the touchscreen-only interfaces in our opinion but we liked it a little less than a truly mechanical one. The charging interface on this watch is also similar to the Apple Watch and is a little more prone to being accidentally knocked off than the charging cradle types.
Next, the TicWatch C2, the Fossil Q Explorist HR, and the Fitbit Versa 2 all earned a 6 out of 10 for being above average in terms of ease of use, but each having a few drawbacks that made them slightly more of a hassle than the top watches.
The Fitbit Versa 2 is water-resistant, rated for submersion up to 50 meters, making it more than suitable for accompanying you in the shower or the pool. It also has one of the most secure charging cradles of the entire group, actually clamping the watch in the place to the point where no amount of reasonable shaking would knock it loose.
It can be a bit finicky to swap the bands on the Versa 2. The touchscreen is quite responsive, though occasionally the Versa 2 does have a slight lag compared to the top watches when raising your wrist, being a bit slow to wake from sleep mode. There isn't any sort of physical rotational input, like a crown or bezel scroll, but it does have a few buttons so you aren't completely reliant on the touchscreen to interact with the watch.
Unfortunately, you can't take screenshots of the information on the screen, though this functionality may eventually show up.
The Fossil Explorist HR has a decently responsive touchscreen but also has a crown scroll as an additional input method. It's fairly easy to swap wristbands, but we did wish the charging connection was a bit more secure, being noticeably more prone to accidental disconnects than the Apple Watch Series 5 or the Galaxy Active2. It also is rated as water-resistant to 30 meters, making it suitable for tracking swimming laps or wearing in the shower.
The C2 also relies solely on a touchscreen as an input method, which we found to be a bit finicky throughout our testing, periodically misreading a tap as a swipe and vice-versa.
We also found that the C2 is one of the slower watches to wake when sleeping, taking almost a complete second for the screen to light up when we raised our wrist to look at it. We also wished that the water-resistance of this watch had been increased, as it is still only marked as rain or sweatproof, not suitable for total submergence or swimming. However, we did appreciate that it is extremely easy to swap the watch bands — almost on par with the Apple Watch Series 5 — and that the magnetically coupled charger attaches very securely, once you have it aligned.
The TicWatch E2, the Huawei Watch GT Classic, and the Fitbit Ionic each received a 5 out of 10 for their average ease of use. The TicWatch E2 is rated as water-resistant for up to 5 ATM/50 meters. It lacks a rotating crown or bezel, so you are restricted to using the touchscreen to navigate the menus, but the screen is quite responsive to swipes and taps, as well as waking quickly when you raise your wrist. The charging setup is so-so and it is about average when it comes to swapping wristbands.
The Fitbit Ionic has a water resistance rating of up to 50 meters as well, along with a dedicated profile for tracking swimming workouts. We found the Ionic to be equally responsive of this group, waking just as quickly as either the E2 or the GT Classic, with all three taking less than a second to light up when you raise your wrist to view the screen. However, these all have a slightly noticeable delay — especially when compared to the near instantaneous wake of either the Apple Watch or one of the Samsung products. However, it is easier to swap bands on the Ionic than the Apple Watch — about the same as the Galaxy. The Fitbit Ionic has a charging connector that plugs into the back of the watch, but we found it could easily be disconnected with only minor movement.
The Huawei GT Classic also relies on the touchscreen as its sole input method and is water-resistant to 5 ATM. It did stand out from the E2 and the Ionic by having the most secure charging connection and by being a little easier when it came to swapping wristbands.
This metric encompasses the main set of features on these products, comparing the compatibility with popular apps, whether or not you could take phone calls on your wrist, control your music, pay for things, or navigate with a built-in GPS. To test app compatibility, we picked a sample group of 10 common apps (Uber, Facebook Messenger, Spotify, Strava, IFTTT, Evernote, Shazam, Instagram, and a Twitter viewer) and tried to install them on each model. This group of tests makes up 20% of the total score.
The Apple Watch Series 5 took home the top score when it came to smart functions, earning an 8 out of 10. This model was compatible with Uber, Facebook Messenger, Strava, IFTTT (If this, then that), Evernote, Twitterific, and Shazam. It also has limited functionality with Spotify, though there are rumors of a full-featured app in the works. The Apple Watch Series 5 lets you take calls on your wrist, using its built-in microphone and speaker. The sound quality was about average, being able to easily hear the other party talking with your arm bent at a 90-degree angle.
This watch has a built-in GPS that will automatically turn on when the phone is out of range, as well as standalone LTE connectivity if you paid for the upgrade. It also has NFC communication and is usable with Apple Pay. This model also has music control and the capability to open Pandora from the watch itself, as well as voice control through Siri.
A set of Samsung watches all followed, with the Galaxy Watch, Gear S3, and the Galaxy Watch Active2 all earning a 7 out of 10. These watches don't have the largest library of standalone apps compared to the Apple Watch but usually have all the most popular ones, with more being added all the time. They do work fairly well with messaging apps, offering a set of preprogrammed quick responses that you can also edit in the app.
These watches have a microphone and speaker, allowing you to make or receive calls right from your wrist, with the audio being about average in quality. They have the standard music controls and integrated NFC and GPS abilities. This allows you to use the watch as a payment method or provides more accurate locations and fitness-tracking abilities if you don't have your smartphone paired to the watch. On top of that, you can upgrade to a version with standalone LTE connectivity if you want your watch to be internet-enabled at all times.
The Explorist HR and the Ticwatch C2 followed, both earning a 6 out of 10. These watches run on Wear OS, so they have essentially the identical set of app compatibility. The Explorist HR is also compatible with Android Pay and has a built-in GPS, but does not have let you take calls on your wrist, lacking a speaker.
The TicWatch C2 expands on the smart functions of the original TicWatch E, adding NFC communication so you can use it as a payment option with Google (Android) Pay. It also has a microphone for voice control and an integrated GPS module but doesn't have a speaker for taking standalone calls. It also has the standard set of music controls available on the Wear OS watches.
Next, the Samsung Gear Sport and the Fitbit Versa 2 earned a 5 out of 10 for their middle-of-the-road set of smart functions. The Samsung Gear Sport had a smaller range of app compatibility, identical to the other Samsung watches. It will notify you of incoming calls, though you have to answer them on your phone, rather than on the device itself, compared to the Galaxy or the S3 that have built-in speakers. However, if you also have your phone paired with a set of Bluetooth earbuds or headphones, it will allow you to answer the call from the watch itself. The Gear Sport does have a built-in GPS, as well as the ability to pay for transactions using Samsung Pay and control your music.
Fitbit is a little late to the smartwatch game compared to Samsung or Apple but the Versa 2 is slowly getting more and more compatibility with third-party apps. It also has basic music controls and can be used for transactions with Fitbit Pay if you have the special edition of the watch. It doesn't have a speaker, so you can't take a call on the watch, but it does have a mic for voice control. The Versa 2 also does not have an integrated GPS module, relying on the unit in whatever phone it is connected to for location information.
The TicWatch E2 and the Fitbit Ionic came next, both earning a 4 out of 10. The TicWatch E2 is a Wear OS watch, so it has a modest amount of third-party app compatibility, able to work with Uber, Messenger, Spotify, Strava, and IFTTT. This watch doesn't have an integrated speaker but it does have an internal microphone — mainly used for voice control features.
The E2 gives you basic control of your music and has a standalone GPS module but lacks integrated cellular or NFC modules. The Fitbit Ionic is a little lacking when it comes to smart features and functions. More and more functionality is added all the time though.
Some of the main apps that these watches are currently compatible with are Uber, Starbucks, Strava, Yelp, New York Times, Spotify HR and Pandora, along with a few other third-party health apps.
You can't take phone calls on the Ionic and it lacks standalone LTE connectivity, but it does have Fitbit Pay and the ability to control your music.
Wrapping up this metric, the Huawei Watch GT Classic earned a 2 out of 10 for its meager set of smart functions. This watch moved away from Wear OS to Huawei's own Lite OS, which unfortunately was accompanied by a significant reduction in smart features.
It doesn't appear to have any third-party app compatibility and does not allow you to take calls on your wrist. It also does not have any NFC or standalone cellular units but does have a GPS module.
None of the assorted smart features on any of these products are of any use if you can't actually see the information displayed on the watch. We evaluated the screen quality, its visibility in bright light, whether or not the brightness could automatically adjust to changing light conditions, or if an always-on mode was available. We also awarded points if the screen was a complete circle and not truncated at the bottom. This metric made up 20% of the total score.
Once again, the Apple Watch Series 5, the Samsung Galaxy, the Active2, the Gear S3, and the Samsung Gear Sport all have exceptionally eye-catching displays, tying for the top spot and earning an 8 out of 10.We found that we slightly preferred the Apple Watch Series 5's OLED Retina display to the AMOLED display on the Samsung smartwatches but the overall image quality is excellent on all of them. The Apple Watch Series 5 is available with a 40mm or 44mm screen, having a resolution of 324x394 and 368x448, respectively.
It is super easy to see the screen of this watch in both bright sunlight and dimmer conditions. However, the Apple Watch will not automatically adjust the brightness but you do have the option to set the display to be always on. The Samsung watches all have both of these features.
We found the image on the Samsung watches to be very similar, though the larger Galaxy watch and the S3 have slightly larger 1.3" screens, while the Gear Sport and the smaller Galaxy have a 1.2" screen. The Active2 is available in two sizes, with either a 1.2" or 1.4" diameter display. It's super easy to read the display on all of these watches in even bright sunlight and we found the ability to turn the backlight to be always on or to automatically adjust to be quite handy.
The pair of smartwatches from Fitbit came next, with the Versa 2 and the Ionic both earning a 7 out of 10 for their excellent, but still second-tier screens. The Fitbit Versa 2 has a very visually stunning square LCD display, measuring in at 1.34" across and having a resolution of 300x300.
Unfortunately, it is a bit hard to read the text in bright lighting conditions, mainly due to the white-on-black color scheme they picked, with the sun usually washing out the text when outside on a sunny day. We did like the automatic brightness adjustment modes but would have liked to see the ability to set the display to be always-on at any time, not just when using the watch to workout.
The Fitbit Ionic also has a great display, almost matching that of the Samsung Gear Sport or the Galaxy. It is a rectangular 348x250 display that will automatically adjust its brightness to ambient light conditions, but it is still a little harder to read than the Apple or Samsung watches in bright lighting conditions. It also can only be set to be always-on during workouts, rather than at any time, like the Samsung watches.
Next, the Fossil Explorist HR, the TicWatch C2, the E2, and the Huawei GT Classic all merited a 6 out of 10 for their slightly above average displays. Both of these watches have essentially the same size display and are about the same in image quality — good, but noticeably worse than the Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy. The TicWatch C2 has a 1.3" AMOLED display. It's reasonably high quality, improving on the display of its predecessors, but still can't quite compare to the Retina or Super AMOLED displays of the best models.
The E2 has a similar display but is slightly higher quality than the C2. It has a 1.39" AMOLED displays with a resolution of 400x400, compared to the 360x360 of the C2. The Huawei also has a 1.39" AMOLED screen but has an even higher resolution of 454x454.
All of these except the Huawei GT have an always-on mode available, but the TicWatch C2 and the E2 can't automatically adjust the backlight brightness to ambient lighting conditions. Additionally, none of these are all that easy to read in bright daylight.
The technology in these products has progressed to the point that it is now possible to fit in a full suite of fitness tracking abilities, in addition to all of the smart functions. We compared the accuracy of the step counter and heart rate monitor, as well as evaluated the workout tracking and stair tracking abilities.
Taking home the top score in this metric, the Series 5 earned a 9 out of 10 for its excellence fitness tracking performance. This watch was exceptionally accurate in our step count tests, having an average discrepancy from the true count of fewer than 10 steps in our three mile-long walk. Its heart rate monitor aligned almost perfectly with the chest strap monitor we used as a control when measuring a resting heart rate and was accurate about 85% of the time with an elevated heart rate. The Series 5 also has an ECG and can detect if you are going into Atrial Fibrillation.
The Series 5 also has a ton of different profiles to choose from when it comes to tracking your activities and provides a solid amount of data about your workout, as well as automatically detecting if you start or stop a workout. However, this watch only registered about half of the staircases that we climbed in our test.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch, the Active2, the Gear S3, and the Gear Sport all tied for the runner-up position, each earning a score of 8 out of 10 for their fitness tracking features. All of these watches are highly accurate at counting steps, with the largest discrepancy for any of these watches being about 34 steps in any of our mile-long walking tests. This group also delivered solidly accurate results in our heart rate, though we found them to be more prone to being off with an elevated heart rate than the Series 5.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch is the clear winner when it comes to workout tracking, having the most different profiles and automatically detecting if you start being active and recording it and even chain together up to 6 different exercises if you switch activities mid-workout.
The S3, the Active2, and the Gear Sport all offer a ton of different workout profiles but don't appear to have the ability to chain together different exercises like the Galaxy Watch can.
However, these Samsung watches all fare poorly when it came to counting flights of stairs climbed, with only the S3 even coming close to recording all 10 flights of stairs we climbed in the test.
The TicWatch E2, the Huawei GT Classic, the Fitbit Ionic, the Versa 2 and the Explorist HR came next, each receiving a 6 out of 10 for their decent fitness-tracking abilities.
The Fitbit Ionic less than stellar performance was a bit of a surprise, especially given Fitbit's origins as a fitness tracking company. It was decently accurate at counting steps, only deviating about 1.8% from the true manual count, but we weren't impressed by its performance at measuring a heart rate in our tests. We found it to be a little erratic and it took a long time to settle on a stable reading. It also deviated substantially from the chest strap heart rate monitor we were comparing the reading to during a mild workout. The Ionic did have a decent number of workout profiles and is quite accurate at tracking flights of stairs climbed.
The Versa 2 had a slightly bigger discrepancy in our step counting tests than the Ionic, having an average error of 26 steps. However, we did find that the Versa 2's heart rate monitor aligned much better with the chest strap than the Ionic. We did still notice some issues when it came to measuring an elevated heart rate.
The Versa 2 has a handful of different workout profiles, though much less than the top models, but did impress us with its accuracy at counting the number of flights of stairs climbed.
The Explorist was highly accurate in our step tracking tests, only deviating from the true count by about 8 steps in its worst trial. However, it was much more erratic when it came to measuring heart rate and does not track the number of stairs you climb. This watch runs on Wear OS and used the Google Fit app for workout tracking, which provides a respectable amount of different workouts that you can track and a solid set of recorded stats.
The E2 was decently accurate in our step count tests, only differing from the true manual count by 10-30 steps or so over a mile-long walk. However, it wasn't the most accurate heart rate monitor that we have seen so far, tending to have a discrepancy of up to 10 bpm at a resting heart rate in our tests. It got even more erratic with an elevated heart rate while working out, exhibiting a discrepancy of 42 bpm at one point in our tests.
It also has a ton of different workout profiles in the Google Fit Workout app but does not count the number of flights of stairs you climb throughout your day.
The Huawei GT was equally accurate in our step counting tests as the TicWatch E2 but we thought it was just a little bit less accurate in our heart rate assessments. It was about the same as the E2 at a resting heart rate but was wildly inaccurate compared to the chest strap while exercising. It also has a modest amount of workout profiles and lacks an altimeter to track flights of stairs climbed.
The TicWatch C2 is about average in terms of fitness tracking functions, earning a 5 out of 10. It does have a fairly accurate step counter and a decent suite of different workouts you can track, either by using the default Google Fit app or a third-party app, like Strava or Runkeeper. It also will try and auto-detect the type of workout you are doing, though it does need a bit of training before it starts to work correctly.
However, this watch does not monitor the number of stairs you climb each day and there was usually a huge discrepancy between the chest strap heart rate monitor and the heart rate recorded by the C2 in our tests, particularly with active heart rates.
Similar to our display metric, none of the various features and functions of these products are any good when the battery is dead. We tested how long each watch lasted with normal use, how long it would take to completely charge a dead watch, and how long it would take to charge to 50%, all combining to be worth 15% of the overall score for each smartwatch. This is because the batteries in these watches don't charge linearly, and will rapidly charge up most of the way, then slow down to top off. We sent a variety of notifications, texts, and calls to each watch throughout the test on an identical schedule for each model and recorded how long they lasted.
Delivering an unmatched performance, the Huawei Watch GT Classic easily claimed the top spot for this metric, earning a 10 out of 10. This watch did significantly better than the rest, lasting for 1.5 - 2 weeks in our tests but its smart features are so limited compared to the rest that it almost seems unfair to compare them. It also charges exceptionally fast, only taking about 30 minutes to reach 50% from being completely depleted and 87 minutes to completely recharge.
The Samsung Galaxy watch followed, earning a 9 out of 10 lasted for a whopping 118 hours in our test, or just shy of five days — solidly impressive for a watch that has a decent set of smart functions. It also states that you can get up to 24 hours of use from the GPS with a fully-charged battery. However, this watch does take a long time to charge, taking over an hour to reach 50% and almost three to completely recharge.
The Fitbit Ionic came next, earning an 8 out of 10 for its superb battery life. It lasted an impressive 96 hours of normal use.
It also charged decently fast, hitting 50% in just 45 minutes of charging and 100% after 123 minutes.
The Fitbit Versa 2, the Gear S3, and the Gear Sport all tied for third place in this group of tests, all meriting a 7 out of 10 for their solid battery life.
The Gear S3 lasted the longest of this group, holding on for an amazing 76 hours before the battery was completely dead, followed by the 72 hours of the Gear Sport. The Versa came next, remaining on for about the same (72 hours) of our testing process before calling it quits.
When it came to charging, the Versa 2 did a bit better than the pair of Samsung watches, taking about 40 minutes to reach 50% battery and 105 minutes to completely recharge. This is substantially better than the Gear S3, which took 63 minutes to get to 50% and over two hours to completely charge and the Gear Sport, which took about 75 minutes to get to 50% and about three hours to charge.
The Samsung Galaxy Active2 delivered a slightly above average result, earning it a 6 out of 10. We got around 48 hours of use out of it before the battery was all the way depleted with moderate use. This watch also recharges fairly quickly, taking 105 minutes to completely recharge and 40 minutes to reach 50%.
Next, the Apple Watch Series 5, the TicWatch C2, and the TicWatch E2 all earned a 5 out of 10 for their average battery life. The Series 5 lasted for 30-36 hours in our battery life assessments and takes a little over two hours to completely recharge. The TicWatch E2 lasted for about 25 hours in our normal usage test — one of the shortest times of the group. This means you might get 2 days out of the watch, but most likely you are going to want to charge it every night or at some point every day. However, this model does charge quite quickly, only taking about 32 minutes to hit 50% and 75 minutes to completely top off a dead battery.
The C2 is about the same, though it usually lasts 3-5 hours longer than the E2 and has a roughly identical charging profile.
Sorting through all the different specifications and matching different models to your needs can be quite a difficult challenge, but hopefully, we've helped you narrow down to a top few contenders to make your final decision.
— Austin Palmer, David Wise, and Jenna Ammerman