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Monday, September 9, 2013

Samsung Galaxy Gear hands-on review: Samsung's attempt at a smartwatch

Samsung has jumped into the wearable tech market with its Galaxy Gear smartwatch. Here's our Samsung Galaxy Gear hands-on review from IFA 2013.

It's up to you whether you like the look of Samsung's shiny new Galaxy Gear smartwatch, but we think it looks pretty sleek and sexy – a apart from the boil-like lump on the strap for the camera. It comes in a range of colours so you're likely to find one that suits you.

If you can't wait to get this gadget strapped to your wrist, hold on a minute. Unlike Sony's smartwatches, the Galaxy Gear only works with Samsung's Galaxy smartphones, and only a handful of them. It works with the freshly announced Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 edition), and an incoming software update will add compatibility for the Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3, and Galaxy Note 2 – next month we're hearing.

It's disappointing that you need to have one of these devices to use the Galaxy Gear to its full potential. If you are a Samsung user with a compatible device, what exactly do you get for your $299? (UK price tbc).

Well, as we said, the Galaxy Gear looks great with its stainless steel body and we're surprised by, but love, the lack of a big Samsung logo. The strap is a bit plasticky and stiff however, so we'll have to see if it gets uncomfortable when we wear it properly. Note that the device has a bulky security clamp to stop it getting stolen from IFA.

The Galaxy Gear can do a number of things when paired to a smartphone over Bluetooth. You get, as you would expect, notifications of incoming calls and plus have a conversation via the in-built speaker and microphones although this will only work in quieter situations.

S Voice means you can control it by voice commands and it can be used to control the media playback on the paired smartphone. Auto Lock will secure the companion device if it goes further than 1.5 meters away from the Galaxy Gear and Find My Device will help you locate one device from the other.

There's fitness apps and of course that built-in camera for when you just can't get your smartphone out quick enough. It will take 1.9 Mp photos and 720p video and our test footage looked pretty good. Storage is limited to 4 GB so apps and footage from the camera is likely to fill it up quickly.

The 1.6 in screen which you do all this on looks nice with its 320 x 320 resolution (higher than the Sony SmartWatch 2). There's an 800 MHz processor inside with 512 MB of RAM which, unfortunately, don't quite run the Galaxy Gear as smoothly as we'd like.

There is a noticeable lag when navigating around the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean OS and opening apps which is more than a shame for a device as expensive as this. Apart from the single power button, everything is done with touch gestures and although we hadn't been briefed on how to use the gadget, we managed to find our way around relatively easily.

Battery life is going to be a key factor and one which we can't test fully until we get our review unit. The Galaxy Gear has a 315 mAh battery and uses low energy Bluetooth 4.0 so we'll have to see how far it can stretch. Samsung touts about a day, so it's likely that the Galaxy Gear will be another charge every night gadget.

Keep an eye out for our full Samsung Galaxy Gear review soon.

Follow Udara Madusanka and @netudara on Twitter.

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