June 5, 2014

Review: Samsung Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, and Gear Fit

The Samsung Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo and Gear Fit push the edge of wearable technology. The lineup offers a range of features and aesthetics.

When Samsung released its first smartwatch last fall, critics didn’t hold back on the capable, but imperfect Galaxy Gear. AT&T sent us Samsung's latest trio of wearable technology field providing us with a pair of new Gear 2 smartwatches and the Gear Fit fitness band.

Despite seeming polarizing, smartwatches draw attention. I fielded a lot of inquiries over them so the interest is there. I was asked to to take control over TV sets and make calls.

I issued the Gear 2 Neo to a teacher and it became the buzz of the school. Her third graders at Frank Porter Graham Elementary in Chapel Hill tried to leverage math questions in exchange for questions about the watch. There were pleas to call mom and brag.

The $299 Gear 2, $199 Gear 2 Neo, and $199 Gear Fit all have comprehensive health and fitness tracking capabilities and a heart rate sensor. All three have great looking color displays with water and dust resistance. None of the three will be compatible with non-Samsung devices.

Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smartwatches

Big changes include a switch from Android to Samsung’s Tizen operating system, and some evolutionary design tweaks. The new wearables are just slightly smaller and do away with the exposed screws of the original Galaxy Gear. There is a square home button mounted on the bottom of the watch face.

Both new watches have the same 1.63-inch, 320-by-320 Super AMOLED display that is readable outdoors. They pack a 1GHz dual-core processor, heart rate sensor, pedometer and an IR remote control. They also both offer up notifications, voice control, media control and a “Find My Device” feature. You can also install and run apps, make calls, and send messages. There are a number of built-in watch faces to choose from, but I found an app that let you create your very own.

The Gear 2 has a 2-megapixel camera. Samsung moved it from the band of Gear into the watch itself. This means you can swap wristbands like any other watch. It takes decent images and video for what it is. The Gear 2 Neo skips the camera for a lighter and less expensive package.

Battery life has been extended to two to three days of typical use and several days of low usage. A small charging cradle clips over the rear of the device.

The biggest limitation for the watches is that they depend on, and are only compatible with a handful of Samsung devices.

What’s hot
IR remote
Robust fitness tracker with heart rate monitor
Accepts standard watchbands
Bright 278 ppi color display

Needs work
Compatible with only Samsung devices
Battery life better, but still on the short side

Wearable technology is still very much emerging. Anyone who buys in should expect rapid change in the coming months with rumors of other products from competitors like LG, Google, Apple and others. Though pricey, the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo are worth considering for those with compatible Samsung devices and who have an interest in Samsung’s health tracking apps. The lower price of Gear 3 Neo may give it the edge. I doubt few will miss the camera.

Samsung Gear Fit

The Gear Fit is Samsung’s fitness band, but it can very well be considered a smartwatch. It too features a suite of fitness tracking capabilities including a heart rate monitor. It can track cycling, hiking, running or walking.

It also features “Find My Device” functionality and delivers call, email, text and alarm notifications. You can reply with custom message shortcuts like “On my way.”

Distinguished by its curved 1.84-inch Super AMOLED display, the Gear Fit is perhaps the most attractive wearable on the market despite the plain rubber band. The display can be set to horizontal or vertical orientation. The screen is readable even in bright daylight.

The Gear Fit lacks the IR remote and has no camera, but is lighter with longer battery life than either of the Gear 2 duo. Unlike the Gear 2 and Neo, the Gear Fit cannot make calls, but that’s unlikely to be a problem since most users will use their phone regardless.

What’s hot
Attractive design
Bright 432 x 128, 245 ppi color display
Robust fitness tracker with heart rate monitor

Needs work
Compatible with only Samsung devices
3-4 day battery life still on the short side

Samsung’s current crop still may not be perfect, but they do push the edge of wearable technology. The line-up offers a range of features and aesthetics among the three watches. The price and style of the Gear Fit appeal most to me.

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