Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2: First Run Impressions Video Up!

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We’re gonna follow in the footsteps of last Friday’s super quick post I did around my Apple Watch Series 5 first impressions video, but this time from the Samsung camp. Yesterday morning I unboxed the new Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 and after some test bike commutes I put it to the test this morning on a run around town.

For this post I’m going to re-cap in a tiny bit more details my video. But expect a more detailed post down the road in October. I know that there’s surprisingly little overlap between my readership here on the site and that over on YouTube. So this post mostly serves as a heads up that if you’re looking for some initial first run data, I’ve got it for ya below.

Now like last week I’m going to give myself a quick time limit. The Girl is out for a walk and is probably 15-20 minutes away from getting home. Whatever I can fit before she walks through the door – we’ll do. Got it? Good. Let’s go!

– This is the 2nd edition in this product line, which follows after the Gear Sport product line. Keep in mind the first Active 1 watch came out just this past February/March (full review here), so we’re only talking 6 or so months later. That’s nuts!

– I configured the watch with always-on display set to enabled, and in that mode the day to day aspects of watch-face and time is very similar to the Apple Watch Series 5 and Garmin Venu (and Fitbit Versa 2). The only difference is the Samsung Active 2 (my abbreviated variant of the full official name) occasionally will show the wrong date/time for about 0.5-1.0 seconds before it refreshes the screen. Super weird, but consistently happening today around the office. Brilliance/screen clarity/general touchability is on-par with the other watches noted earlier in this paragraph. No major differences.

– The new touch bezel is a step-up from no touch bezel. However, bizarrely Samsung didn’t enable it by default. Merely looking at YouTube end-user (non-media) reviews of the watch demonstrates that even the most ardent Samsung fans don’t realize it’s not enabled and fumble around trying to figure out how to enable it. Just like me. Turns out you need to enable it under Settings > Advanced > Touch Bezel. There, I just saved you hours of frustration.

– Battery life seems inconsistent. Or at least, incorrectly managed by the system. When I went to bed last night it showed 22 hours of battery life left. When I woke up 5 hours later, it was already dead. Not sure why.

– Sleep tracking was roughly in the ballpark, at least until the battery died at 6:34AM apparently.

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– Due to my extensive experience with trying to get fitness/workout data out of the unit, I used the Endomondo watch app to record the run. I did record my bike commutes using the regular built-in app, and didn’t notice any difference between those rides and my run workout. In my case I have it paired to my Pixel phone, though I’ll switch it over to the iPhone in the next day or so. Note that no phone was taken with me on the run.

– I was blown away by how poor the permissions approval process is on the watch. I counted no less than five times that I had to approve permissions for GPS/HR Sensors/data access for either the native app or Endomondo to use. It’s nuts. And in some cases it doesn’t even tell you that it needs access, you have to figure it out yourself when you can’t get GPS working right.

– GPS accuracy wasn’t bad on the whole. Some blips, but in looking at all the GPS tracks in this set (Garmin FR945, Polar Vantage V, and Apple Watch Series 5), it was roughly in the middle. The Polar Vantage V was by far the worse, and the FR945 and Apple Watch S5 mixed and matched in various sections. You can look at the entire set here. For the most part we saw Samsung make really solid strides in the Active 1 earlier this spring, so this seems on-par with that.

– The new HR sensor is visibly very different than the past Active 1 sensor. Gone is Samsung’s quad-LED design (shown in the first 90 seconds of the video), and in comes Apple’s design some other design. This new design may have something to do with ECG (which isn’t available/enabled yet), though, it does seem to look a crazy lot like Apple’s Series 4/Series 5 design.

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– HR accuracy started off pretty rough during the run for the first 4-5 minutes, with a huge difference to the other units. It then went through a few minutes of variability, however, it did eventually even out a bit and looked pretty clean for the remainder of the run. In fact, all of the units and HR sensors matched very strongly for the high-paced sprints I did at the end:

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– As a random aside, this is the first workout in the last week I didn’t see any dramatic Series 5 HR spikes/dropouts (no change in software), however, I did see one moment where the Series 5 clearly overcommitted (early on). Not sure why today was different – aside from being the only workout where I was out in the dumping rain.

– From an always-on display during a workout standpoint, like Apple, 3rd party apps can’t be shown until your wrist is raised. So instead you get the time, and then you get a delayed refresh of the app – and then about 2 seconds after that you get the actual current app data. Apple’s 3rd party mid-workout always-on display experience isn’t great, but this is super not great. Usability during rain was rough for the touchscreen, I’d say about 70% of the time it got the swipes, but the initial swipe often missed (perhaps clearing the rain). I had zero issues with the touchscreen in the rain on the Apple Watch Series 5.

– Size and feel wise I got the 40mm (because it was available). Feels good, and the strap is really good.

With that, The Girl is back, so I’m outta here. I’ll circle back down the road with more data sets as I wrap up a number of wearable reviews including the Apple Watch Series 5, Garmin Venu, Vivoactive 4, and Suunto 5. Intermixed within all the indoor cycling stuff. Fear not, October won’t be quiet at all!

Have a good Friday!

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38 Comments

  1. Tom

    …waiting for swim test 🙂

  2. Farzhira

    Hi ray. Can u also re view the huawei watch gt 2.. Heard a lot about the device. Not sure if it is any good..

  3. Mimmo

    Please I’m witing for swim pool review ! 🙂 How many days the battery life ?

  4. These blips for mini-impressions are awesome – you should do them every time. You’re so experienced in tracker-evaluation you can pin down 8x’s the things a normal human could (over a week) within a 5 minute time frame, and quickly throw it out there – thanks so much!

  5. Moskw

    I have to buy a new smartwatch after selling my Vivoactive HR.
    I will use the smartwatch for pool swimming and running, so I would like a good tracking, good battery life and HR accuracy (even under water).
    The additional fucnctions for daily use, are welcome.
    My favorites are :
    – Garmin Vivoactive 4
    – Garmin Venu
    – Huwaei watch GT2 (more functions than Garmin and cheaper, also phone call with watch)
    – Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 (no information about battery life and sensor accuracy)
    Can you help me ?

  6. Mosk

    You mean Garmin ?
    I’m 45 and I do two workouts a week for swimming (about 3.000 mt for each workout) and few run workout (only for fitness, not for triathlon)
    Some races (3 or 4) during the year.

  7. Bob

    Bummer. I was considering moving from a Vivoactive 3 to the Galaxy Active 2. HR accuracy is my first priority. But, I appreciate a great screen and great touch response or all buttons. Now I’m hoping the Garmin Venu is the answer.

  8. Jeff K

    You did all that in 20 minutes? I feel like such a slacker! My Fenix 3 is feeling dated, but I don’t see anything out there worth the upgrade. The galaxy watch doesn’t play nicely in the data-sharing sandbox (this is disappointing because I have a galaxy phone). The Venu has a better screen for reading data, but doesn’t read my power meter. I’m figuring that venu screen is going to be incorporated into the next Fenix or forerunner series and I should wait.

    Garmin will also get me to upgrade with wireless charging.

    Best, Jeff

  9. Mark

    Guy riding the bike with an umbrella has some commuting skills!

  10. Ana Cepeda

    Might sound like an odd question, but can you confirm the HR readings are working ok after showering with watch on?
    I purchased the 1st Galaxy Active when it came out and I was annoyed that every time I showered, it showed 170+ readings for 5 – 10 minutes, even after shower, I would take it off, unlock the “water mode” and it would still do crazy readings… (I’ve read more ppl had this problem too)
    I’m thinking about buying this one but wondering about this bug.

  11. James Liu

    As always, thanks for the quick insights.

    I would like to see if it can pair to a external Bluetooth HR sensor on iOS platform and also to see if it supports any other 3rd party fitness apps other than Endomondo and Record.

    Thanks.

  12. I am throwing my galaxy watch away. I used the Strava app, the health app, and mapmyrun ap, and they all are horrible. Only the strava app will transfer well to TrainingPeaks and Strava, the other two leave out almost all the data with just dots all over the workout.
    Strava ap is horrible, constantly crashes, and if anything happens during the run like a phone call or text message it starts all over again. Last weekend it did this to me half way through a 5k, and then it posted I ran 3.1 miles at a 3:50 pace!

  13. Gordon

    Hi guys,

    Just bought couple of days ago the nez active 2 watch… The GPS built in sells not working; I already double checked and enabled all géolocalisation on my mobile and watch but still when I go with my bike doesn’t follow me; I can go for like 3 km and still it will say I went for 0km not average speed! Why is that? So expensive to have just a toy… Thanks in advance

  14. Guido

    I was willing to upgrade my galaxy watch active 1 to the new iteration if Samsung improved on the GPS. Accuracy and shorter interval is what I am looking for. From what I gather from the article I shouldn’t bother? Or do you think they did improve the sensor?

  15. Topi

    Looking for swimming laps review

  16. Tams

    Optical HR just isn’t going to accurate underwater, especially on such a loose place as your wrist. Your best bet is a chest strap, but they do not go well with swimming.

  17. KOREA

    It doesn’t make sense. Currently, Active 2 is facing growing controversy in South Korea over its Gps. Controversy is growing over the problem of poor positioning with gps, the difference in speed, and the location path is very inaccurate. Samsung said it appears to be aware of the problem and is scheduled to make an update, but there is no fixed amount of information on how far it knows and when the update will go.

  18. Mark van Wijk

    I got an Active 2 last week, couldn’t get the GPS working most of the time though (just once actually).

    Before a run the GPS icon just blinked away (signaling it didn’t have a lock I assume…). I started the tracking anyway, thinking the GPS would pick up during the run, alas that didn’t happen and no GPS data at all was logged (I tried this on 4-5 different occaisons, GPS data was logged only once).

    Not sure if it was a defective unit or just really bad GPS tracking on Samsungs part…
    Will be getting my replacement unit tonight, see if that’ll do better…

    • Gordon

      Hey there,
      I understand your disappointment! Don’t bother to change it, I already did, the problem persists!
      The only thing that seems to work is to restart the watch… Really annoying and unprofessional!

  19. Alex Tatiyants

    Great review, thank you. How would you compare this watch to the Garmin Venu? I’m trying to decide between the two models and any insights would be appreciated.

  20. Tom

    hi. galaxy active 2 work with polar oh1?

  21. Michael

    would be nice to see a comparison to the Garmin Vivoactive 4 as both are new watches……

  22. Stan Sokol

    Hi Ray, thanks for great review. Any chance you would review link to powerwatch.com. It has interesting claim that it never needs charging…

  23. Gordon

    Hey there,
    I understand your disappointment! Don’t bother to change it, I already did, the problem persists!
    The only thing that seems to work is to restart the watch… Really annoying and unprofessional!

    • GARY BRETT

      Hi Ray, would you say its better at tracking than the Galaxy Watch 46mm, that in my opinion is truly shocking at tracking HR during workouts. Flat-lines on every workout I’ve ever done in 13 months, only fix is a reboot which isn’t great mid workout.

      I spoke to some devs a few weeks back via the Samsung EU forum, they told me that calorie burn on the Galaxy has nothing to do with effort or HR intensity, its calculated by whichever workout you choose on the watch! So basically a 60 minute lunchtime stroll burns the same calories as an hours circuit training sweating my nuts off. to test it I set my workout to swim while doing the usual hour circuit training (300cals), on swim the same workout registered 760 calories burnt.

      Likewise, they also told me that resting heart rate is now measured (since OneUI) by you lowest HR reading during waking hours, I had queried why my RHR had gone down to 48 daily, before OneUI it was an average of 59/60.

      Im about to ditch it for the Garmin Venu, hoping that tracks fitness/health much better, it cant do any worse.

      Anyway hoping the Active 2 workos out better for all those on board with it..

  24. Noel Tan

    Hello..
    I was wondering if I can pair a Bluetooth speed/cadence sensor on this watch for indoor cycling or outdoor cycling.

    thanks
    Nel

  25. Bjørn Are Østerlie

    I’ve read several comments in various forums that GWA2 doesn’t use the heart rate sensor to calculate calories burned. Instead it’s just an estimate based on age, weight, height, bmi and the type of workout. If this is true it sucks big time as it renders the HR function kinda useless imo. Brands like Garmin deploys the HR sensors to calculate calories burned. This would give more accurate results based on what I’ve read. Thoughts on this?
    I also see that Samsung doesn’t license any of the FirstBeat features like for instance Garmin and even Huawei does.
    link to firstbeat.com
    link to firstbeat.com

    • GARY BRETT

      Bjørn Are Østerlie – That is exactly what is happening and the same reason I am here looking at Garmin Venu. I’ve tried for over a year to make the GW work for me in regards to fitness tracking but it simply isn’t up to the job in my opinion, none of it not just calories, but HR is woeful, sleep is neither here or there & stair count has some random calculation.

      I stuck eith it as I thought Samsung may fix it but after speaking to the devs (eu) it appears they thinks its fine. Real shame as its a beauty of a watch, looks nice, lovely screen and great smartwatch features, just dreadful fitness.

      Hoping the Venu can fill the gap for me..

  26. Ivar

    With the Samsung watches, the most useful “app” has been Sporty Watch link to qooapps.com
    It enables external heart rate sensors and is overwhelmingly over packed in a convenient solution as a watch face.

    It worked with gear s3 and galaxy watch – does it work with the galaxy active 2?

    without this watch face I would not have bought the Samsung watch, even the native strava app is quite useless compared to this watch face , which can also automatically sync with strava.

    • Aleksander H

      I wish Samsung would just add support for connecting to a bluetooth heart rate monitor via the settings, and then any app that requests heart rate would get it from the hrm strap if it’s currently connected. Seems like such a basic thing for a sports watch.

  27. Aleksander H

    There is a high accuracy mode hidden in the settings for activities in samsung health on the watch. Have you tried turning this on to see what effect it has? Also curious if it effects other apps such as endomondo/mapmyrun in any way.

    • GARY BRETT

      Aleksander H, the problem in my humble opinion is not hardware related but software, specifically Samsung Health and the algorithms. During my testing I installed UnderArmour Record and did the same workouts over a week using that. The HR tracked every single minute of it and calories burnt was way higher, the same with Gear Tracker app which actually restarts the sensor when it fails (19 times in 60 minutes).

      I fed all this back to Samsung with logs but they don’t really want to know to be honest, from what I read the same thing is happening with the Active2 now, HR marginally improved but overall poor fitness tracking compared to Garmin, Polar & even Apple.

      I hoe they do sort it one day, but to do that they have to admit they have got it wrong which they wont so only time will tell.

  28. William Hill

    Hey, love your product and they have helped me a great deal. Do you plan on doing an in depth review of the Galaxy Active 2? Just bought 1 after returning a Suunto 5 because of the dim screen and navigation. I’m having some issues with using Strava on the Active 2 and was hoping for your guidance. Is there a way to load Strava routes on the watch. That was one thing I liked with the Suunto 5 because I could explore some routes I hadn’t previously tried.

    Thanks again,
    William Hill