Like clockwork each summer, Samsung has released their latest wearables, this time the Galaxy Watch6 and Watch6 Classic. This release offers two different form factors, including notably bringing back the physical rotating bezel on the Watch6 Classic edition. Samsung has also tweaked a number of new features on the hardware front, including a brighter screen and a slight shift in battery and processor. The screen size has also notably increased, within a 20% larger display area compared to past watches. All while adopting Google’s Wear OS 4 version, and also Samsung’s new One UI 5 watch skin.
On the sports and fitness front, the company has added a new running track mode, which snaps your GPS track and distances to the track, as well as new automatically detected/personalized heart rate zones. They’ve also expanded their sleep analytics, with sleep consistency and sleep animals symbols.
This review is heavily focused on the health/fitness/sports side of the watch, though of course I do touch on some of the new hardware features (like the bezel and battery) within the basics section. As usual, this review is not sponsored. In this case, I bought these units myself. For some odd reason where I live in the Netherlands, Samsung watches are available for purchase immediately after launch at retailers. I have no idea why this is, but it lets me buy these earlier than the rest of the world. If you found this review useful, you can use the links at the bottom, or consider becoming a DCR Supporter, which makes the site ad-free, while also getting access to a mostly weekly video series behind the scenes of the DCR Cave. And, of course, it makes you awesome.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 isn’t a major upgrade over the Watch 5, rather it’s a pretty incremental upgrade (even more when looking at sports). Nonetheless, here’s what’s new:
– Added physical rotating bezel back to Watch 6 Classic
– Increased display area by 20% compared to Watch 5 (40mm is 1.3” @ 432×432, 44mm is 1.5” @ 480×80, and 43mm Classic is 1.3” @ 432×432, and 47mm classic is 1.5” @ 480×80)
– Decreased bezel size by 30% compared to Watch 5 (15% thinner from Watch6 Classic to Watch 5)
– Doubled the peak brightness (nits) from 1,000 nits to 2,000 nits
– Minor internal chipset change from Exynos W920 to W930 SoC
– Increased battery size (mAh) slightly on all watches (300mAh on 40/43mm, 425mAh on 44/47mm)
– Include new One UI 5 Watch (which is custom skin of Wear OS 4)
– Added more sleep analytics/coaching (Sleep Messages, Sleep Consistency, Sleep Animal Symbols)
– Added new sleep mode screen at night
– Switched to invisible infrared sensors over green LED for general HR monitoring (red still illuminates at night though at times)
– Added passive irregular heart rate rhythm alerts (when paired with Samsung phones only)
– Added five personal heart rate zones during workouts (e.g. warm-up/fat burn, cardio, etc..)
– Added new Track Run sport mode (for running tracks)
– Re-introduced automatic cycling detection (was removed from Watch 4 & Watch 5)
– Added new transfer app to move between phones
– Added watch location sharing through Samsung SmartThings Find
– Added new wallet that combines Samsung Pay & Samsung Pass (on Samsung phones)
– Updated Camera Controller remote control app with Galaxy Z Flip5 camera to switch modes & zoom
– Switched to new quick-release style strap design, with just a single button (spoiler: works fine)
Note that there isn’t a new Galaxy Watch6 Pro variant, that remains the Watch5 Pro, and with that, the existing GPX route following features on the Pro aren’t on the new Watch6 models. Albeit, there are plenty of 3rd party apps that can do that.
Further, there are no changes to the optical heart rate sensors or other components here, it remains the same biosensor as last year.
On the pricing front, you’ve got the following starter options (increased by $20 for the base models, and $50 for the Classic models):
– Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 40mm – $299
– Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 44mm – $329
– Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 43mm Classic – $399
– Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 47mm Classic – $429
Then, if you want LTE to them, add $50. These are available in a handful of colors for each model range.
In the Box:
The box for the Samsung Galaxy Watch hasn’t changed much, if at all. Here’s the box of the Classic to start with (the Watch 6 non-classic boxing situation is identical, so I’ll spare both me and you from duplicate pictures):
And then we crack it open and find the watch inside:
I was mildly surprised to see the faux leather there on the strap. Though interestingly, the bottom is still a silicon strap, along with the sides. I have no idea how well this will last long term. It does not come with an extra all-silicon strap.
In any case, here’s all the parts laid out:
The charging cable/adapter is the same as previous, and is backward compatible to other units.
From there, you’ll go through the setup process. Depending on which phone you have (Samsung or not-Samsung, it requires an Android phone), you’ll have a slew of apps to install. In total you’ll need to install the following three apps: Galaxy Wearable app, Samsung Health app, and Samsung Smart Switch app (this one I think is technically optional). Additionally, you’ll tap ‘I agree’, approximately 2,387 times during the configuration process. It’s a wee bit excessive, but, once you’re done, you’re done.
(Actually, you won’t be done, as once you go to start a workout, there’s more ‘I agree’ prompts to be had.)
In any case, with all that set, let’s get into the basics a bit.
Yes, the bezel is back. At least for the Classic edition. The non-classic edition retains the pre-existing digital bezel around the outside edge, which works as clumsily as it did in the past. But the physical bezel on the Classic edition is great, and brings back that much loved feature. For those not familiar, the outer edge of the Watch6 Classic edition physically rotates, which can be used to iterate through the tiles, as well as other menu-related options.
For the most part, each ‘notch’ on the rotating bezel will iterate one tile/choice forward/back, though every once in a while it’ll skip a selection or miss one. So while it feels really solid, it’s not quite 100% perfect, I’d say like 90-95% perfect. Still, it feels nice. Whereas on the non-Classic one, you’re left with switching around the rim/edge of the watch to achieve the same effect. It works, just not super well. I find I just end up swiping up/down/left/right depending on the scenario, which tends to work far better and more reliably.
Starting with the watch face, this is customizable, albeit I’ll say on both units, I’m really a fan of the stock watch faces. The Classic-edition white watch face with the white band just looks spectacular in person, and even the bubbly-looking watch face on the non-Classic really works well too.
If you swipe up, you’ll see all of your apps. This being Wear OS, you can install 3rd party apps from the app store. With Google now making their own watches (Pixel Watch), we’ve seen an increase in apps and quality of apps that previously was lacking. In my case for this review, I largely used the stock apps, to be better able to judge what’s on the watch by default. But of course, the world is your oyster here.
Meanwhile, from the watch face, if you swipe down, you’ll see your settings (lots of settings), and if you swipe from the left, you’ll see notifications.
Whereas, if you swipe from the right (or digital bezel rotate right), then you’ll see your list of tiles. These are customizable, but are little tidbits of information you can dive into for more details. Some companies call these widgets, or glances, but it’s all the same. The first tile you’ll see of note is your health/fitness stats for the day, shown in the shape of a heart. This includes calories, steps, and active time. By tapping into it, you’ll get further details in a longer page:
Swipe again from the right and you’ve got the sports startup screen (more about that in the next section), followed by another daily health/fitness screen, showing your current heart rate, current steps, current stress, and sleep stats from last night:
Again, you can tap on these to get more information, such as this one on stress:
With that of course, all of these pages are accessible on the Samsung Health app as well, with more details (especially historical details) found there. Both stress and heart rate ones are similar to sleep, in terms of what they show:
For the sleep side, you’ll get a sleep score, as well as sleep details including phases/stages of sleep, actual sleep time, blood oxygen levels, and skin temp.
I found that the sleep times (fall-asleep/wake-up) were generally accurate within 2-5 minutes, except in cases where I woke-up but stayed in bed for a bit on my phone. In those cases, the wake-up time was incorrectly showing whenever I actually got up out of bed (note: the wake-up time, not the in-bed time). Whereas Garmin/Whoop/Oura all largely got the wake-up time correct as when I was up and mindlessly scrolling Instagram.
In terms of sleep phases/stages, there isn’t really a great way to validate that. Even high-end comparison systems are only about 80% accurate on average in determining those sleep phases/stages, and within that there’s broad variability. As I’ve said many times, I wouldn’t compare heart rate accuracy to something 80% accurate (or even 90% accurate), so doing it here isn’t something that makes much sense to me either. As a general rule, I see wide variety/variability between different units/companies for the same data sets. Here’s two nights ago comparison on this between Garmin, Samsung, Oura, and Whoop:
Meanwhile, for both the new sleep consistency and Sleep Animal features, things are pretty minimal. You’ll see your sleep animal on the watch as well as in the app. Apparently, I’m a lion. Also, the sleep consistency seems somewhat basic, but I suppose there’s only so much you can really say on that metric.
Moving onto other metrics, we’ve got the body composition measurement. This is done by very carefully pressing/holding the buttons of the watch with the other hand, which gives you a body composition value. I found this quite variable, even when done back to back. I did one test where there was a 3.5% swing just from changing left to right wrist.
As a general rule, even with weight scales, body fat tends to have pretty poor accuracy. The electrical impedance technology used hasn’t changed in decades, and it sucked then, and still sucks now. Back over a decade ago I did a big test with a bunch of people, you can read about it here.
Note that there are a few features which are only available if you have a Samsung phone. While everything in this review is done with a generic Android phone (Google Pixel), three specific features are only available for Samsung phone users, they are:
– ECG (Electrocardiogram): This allows you to make on-demand ECGs, which Samsung has had medically certified as a Software as a Medical Device program in the FDA (and equivalent in Europe). This is only available for Samsung phones, and only within certified countries.
– Irregular Heart Rate Rhythm Notifications: This feature runs in the background, and alerts you to irregular rhythms automatically. This too requires a Samsung phone, and also is only available in certified countries (they got FDA certification for this a few months ago).
– Blood Pressure detection: This feature automatically determines your blood pressure level, after calibration against another known device. My testing in the past found this finicky at best, as this is not a medically certified component (whereas ECG is). While there has been much talk of Samsung getting medical certification here, this hasn’t happened yet. Again, this also requires a Samsung phone.
Finally, rounding out home here on battery life, Samsung says the battery should last 30 hours in always-on mode, and 40 hours in gesture-mode. And in my testing, that’s pretty much spot-on. I’ve been doing always-on mode, with what averages out to be roughly 60-75 minutes of workouts per day (GPS). And almost to the minute for some days, 30 hours and kaput, it’s done. Yet other days, it burned through a bit faster and I was around 24 hours. That said, the phone I’m using/paired doesn’t get as many notifications as my primary phone, so that may give me a bit more battery than some might get on a busier-notification phone.
In my case, for sleep tracking, I left on the advanced bits (but not snoring detection), and it’s clear that those advanced bits take a big hit on battery life, about 25%-40% overnight for the sleep tracking components. Meanwhile, during workouts, it appears a simple rule of thumb across all my workouts is about 15-20% an hour (be it cycling or running). Thus realistically, you’re looking at about 4-5 hours for workout time, that’s it.
Note that for all of these, I left all the screen brightness details at defaults, but did use always-on display the entire time.
Next up, let’s dive into sport usage. To begin a sport you’ll either rotate the digital or real rotating bezel over to the sports screen. You can then tap on one of the sports on that screen to start immediately, or you can choose the ‘More’ button to select other sports modes:
When you choose the ‘More’ button it brings up a list of sports that you can rotate left/right through, as well as shows your heart rate status and GPS status at the top:
Down at the bottom you’ve got a settings/options button for each sport mode. Most of these settings are the same across sports modes, and allow you to specify a target (usually some form of intervals – more on that in a second), a heart rate zone guide, auto lap, auto pass, audio guide alerts, and whether or not to auto-start or manual start.
In looking at the ‘Target’ option, this seems at first glance like intervals, but the challenge here is you can’t specify a warm-up or cool-down, just the set of repeats to do. The same goes for setting a target on the phone, it’s more or less just a single value to target.
Instead, you can download programs from the phone, where there are workouts that have variety in them, both for running as well as a slate of other gym sports. These are largely part of entire programs though, which you can add to your calendar.
There does not appear to be any way to create a fully custom one-off workout (such as a mild to complex interval workout, such as mixed 400m and 800m sets) within the Samsung app. Certainly, you could use 3rd party apps, but that’s a bit messier. Within the watch you can create a basic interval workout, including cool-down, but nothing more complex.
Meanwhile, in that same area you can change your data pages. For running for example, you can create two custom pages, plus a heart rate page, and a page of running efficiency metrics. For the custom data pages, you can put up to 7 metrics on a page:
Samsung has most of the core data fields you’d want, though not quite near as many as their endurance-sports-focused competitors from Garmin/COROS/Suunto/Polar/Wahoo. Apple also has more, as well as more data page configuration options/graphs. Samsung does not have any running power, as the rest of those companies do.
– Heart Rate
– Average Heart Rate
– Max Heart Rate
– Average Pace / Average Speed
– Pace / Speed
– Percent VO2 Max
– Elevation Gain
– Lap Pace
– Lap Distance
– Lap Duration
– Lap Speed
– Lap Calories
Finally on the configuration front, one of the new features here is the new automatic custom zones after an initial 10-minute run, it’ll create new zones for you that are custom. You can also tweak this to be a custom zone target if you want.
Ok, with all that set, let’s head out for a run. Here you can see the data on the fields as you’d expect. Like virtually all AMOLED/LCD display watches, even in always-on configuration, it’ll dim the display when your wrist is down, and then brighten it back up again when you raise your wrist. I found the Samsung watch (while running or cycling) a bit slow on the wrist-raise detection. Not horribly slow, but certainly noticed it compared to the Apple Watch Series 8/Ultra, and the Garmin Epix Pro. But it’s certainly still readable while dim, even in bright summer sunny conditions.
You’ll see both your heart rate zones as well shown on a dedicated page, and then once within a zone target (if set), it’ll show a confirmation of that custom heart rate zone target as well.
Note that by itself, the Samsung watch doesn’t appear to broadcast your heart rate over Bluetooth Smart to make it available to other devices (albeit, there is a setting under Connectivity for Exercise machines discussing heart rate, but I can’t get anything to see it). However, for some companies like Peloton, they do have Wear OS apps that will utilize your heart rate from the watch on your Peloton hardware. Further, Samsung does not support pairing of any sensor types natively – such as heart rate straps, cycling sensors, etc… There are 3rd party apps that do however.
Once you’ve finished a workout, it’ll give you a summary screen of your status, including a bunch of graphs of some of those statuses, like heart rate and pace:
If you’re within interwebs range, it’ll also enumerate a full map with your track, which is a nice touch, and something Apple lacks on their summary screen. If not within internet range, it’ll just show a breadcrumb-style trail.
All of this gets synced to the Samsung Health app, which then allows you to see more details there on the app. Also, you can send it to Strava, or use 3rd parties to grab the data and sync elsewhere. I use the app called ‘FitnessSyncer’, which works well to sync to various platforms like Dropbox/etc, albeit can be pretty confusing to use/setup. But because Samsung won’t push any indoor workout (non-GPS workouts) to Strava, it’s the only way to get indoor workouts uploaded to any platforms from Samsung Health.
Speaking of routes/tracks, there are no routing/navigation options on either the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 or Watch6 Classic. Only the previous Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has a minimal routing feature, but for whatever odd reason that wasn’t carried through here. It’s even more odd because that would have been a really easy software port to these watches, and an obvious win against many other Wear OS watches, or even versus Apple (of course, very few people are directly deciding between Samsung and Apple watches, given the walled gardens of both platforms).
Now, Samsung does have a new running track mode. When it comes to track modes (which have been around for years), there’s two basic ways of doing it. The first and most common way is that you go to a track, tell the watch which lane you’re in, and then after a few laps of the track it’ll figure out the track, and all subsequent laps will be crazy-perfect – both in distance as well as the recorded GPS track. The second way, which only Apple does, is that it has a pre-populated database of tracks in certain countries, and the moment you step onto the track, it knows you’re at a track and all the details about it.
The algorithm way is better globally, because it works at any track anywhere. Whereas the Apple way is better if you’re in one of those handful of supported countries.
In any case, with Samsung (the algorithm way), you’ll choose the track mode from the list of sports:
It’ll then ask you which lane you’re in, and show the GPS status as well as a ‘Start’ button:
From there, off you go. As a test, what I did the first time was give it two laps (the same as I’d give Garmin or COROS) to recognize a new track. That usually works really well for those. And you can see it’s a bit rough on the first two laps after saving, compared to the Garmin, or the Apple Watch Series 8 with automatic track mode:
At this point though, it seemed it needed a bit more learning. So, I gave it another four laps. By now the other watches were all good, but you can see the Samsung watch coming around and slowly getting tighter and tighter on the loops:
So after 6 laps, I saved it again. And then did another test of a single loop, to see how it handled:
Ahh, there we go. Nice and crispy loop, except one solid problem: It’s totally offset/off-angle. That’s wonky.
Unfortunately, once it learns a track, there’s no way to ‘un-learn’ it. At least none that’s published. Thus, I’ll forever have an offset/off-angle track at my home track.
Thus, I went to another country and tried another track. I got track mode started, got GPS, and then ran 1,600m. Except, as I was running it was showing really weird numbers. Turns out, it lost GPS lock for some reason, and never regained it. I didn’t notice it at the time, because how/why on earth would it not only lose GPS lock, but then loose it for an entire 1,600m (four loops) in open sky conditions?
I have seen numerous times both Samsung Watch6 units briefly lose GPS right after it says it’s acquired, but it then re-acquires it within 2-3 seconds. This didn’t either show that message, or re-acquire. So I have nothing for that track. Worse yet, I then did a 6,000m workout after that (15 loops) and it again said it had GPS, but didn’t. And somehow, over the course of 30 minutes, it failed to re-acquire GPS at all. Thus again, another totally lost workout.
Thankfully, my friend Des was out suffering with me, and his did retain GPS, and thus, we saw the same 2-4 lap learning pattern as my previous track, but also the same off-set/off-angle track pattern:
Both of these tracks are regulation high-quality tracks, and both tracks with entirely open-sky views. Thus clearly Samsung has some issues here to work out.
Next, unrelated to running tracks, for lack of anywhere else to put it, when doing a workout, if rain or significant sweat is on the screen, it’s nearly impossible to get to any functions using the touchscreen. While Garmin’s touchscreen is mostly good in wet conditions, the Samsung is not. Apple tends to be more towards the Samsung side, but I can usually get it to cooperate with a bit more love. A funny tidbit where I couldn’t get the screen to respond after a very rainy ride to end the ride, I ended up blowing on the screen, which actually successfully ended the ride just by magically triggering it to hit the end/stop button.
Ultimately, I’m kinda surprised by Samsung to see such little progress on the sport side. After them last year launching routing on the Watch5 Pro, I thought we’d see them expand that to other watches this year, as well as continue down that trend. Especially given both Google (with Pixel Watch) and Apple, have significantly started expanding their sport/fitness components over the last year. The writing was on the wall, but somehow Samsung didn’t see it. Certainly, the new track mode and heart rate zone is appreciated, but those are really the only two improvements in a year.
GPS & Heart Rate Accuracy:
It’s that time of year again – to see whether or not Samsung has finally solved their accuracy problems in both the heart rate and GPS realms. While the company has made progress each year, it tends to be minimal, and usually lags years behind their competitors (any of them). So, putting to the test both editions against a variety of trusted sensors in both heart rate (chest straps and optical sensors) as well as GPS (other watches and bike computers), we can see if they’ve finally made some gains.
First up we’ve got an interval run of sorts. Basically every 1KM I’d do a hard interval for 40 seconds, then I’d recover till the heart rate got to 140bpm, before I’d continue on again at long-run pace, and then rinse/repeat each kilometer. Here’s how things compared, against a chest strap (Garmin HRM-PRO Plus), the COROS Heart Rate Sensor (optical band), the Whoop 4.0 (optical band), the Polar Verity Sense (optical band), and the Garmin Epix Pro (watch with optical HR sensor):
As you can see, both wristwatches struggled till the first interval. The Garmin Epix Pro on the left side was low, and the Samsung Watch6 on the right side was high. Oddly, this was the most chill warm-up section I’ve run in a while. Very easy ramp into it. Go figure. However, once we got past that first interval/recovery, the Samsung Watch6 (and everyone else except Whoop), really nailed it. Well done.
So, what about the GPS on that run? Well, it was drunk. Like, the entire run, it was off 30-80 meters to one side or the other. It massively cut a number of corners by a football field’s worth, and then blazed through buildings when I (obviously) went around them. At a high level, you might not notice the issues. This is in comparison to the COROS APEX 2 Pro, Garmin Forerunner 955, and Garmin Epix Pro. Here’s that data:
But once you zoom in, you see how the Samsung is always off somewhere else, no matter which direction I’m heading. This route had light tree cover initially, and then more solid trees and occasional buildings after that. You can see towards the right side where it cut across numerous turns/corners:
And then this section here where I purposefully did an ‘s’ turn around some 15-story buildings, it just pretended they didn’t exist:
Essentially it was off-course at virtually every opportunity, only briefly matching the other units (which, somewhat surprisingly all managed to agree for once).
Next, here’s another run, this time in the dense city buildings of Amsterdam Zuid (business district). But first, an overview of the route, which includes a boatload of very significant challenges including huge highway underpasses (more than 100+ meters wide), buildings, tunnels, and more. It’s like a theme park for GPS accuracy testing.
Now, looking at the approach into the buildings, you can see that the Samsung Watch6 struggles a bit, but so does the Apple Watch Series 8 (which lacks multiband, whereas the Apple Watch Ultra has it). Neither massive from either, but you can see some initial challenges:
Then we get into the core of the business district, which looks like this from the ground – towering buildings on all sides. I zig-zag up and down it, and you can see that while the Samsung watch struggles, it’s actually the Apple Watch Series 8 that has a really rough go in one turn. I purposefully go back and forth on this route, so that wrist-side no side is favored. In fact, on that middle section, I even switch sides of the street half-way down the street. The most accurate here is the Garmin Forerunner 955, followed by the COROS APEX 2 Pro. After that, it’s kinda a wash between Apple and Samsung. Apple made one massive mistake next to where it says ‘CoolBlue’, yet on the lower portion it was spot-on, whereas Samsung did some other corner-cutting and offsets for other portions. Neither were great, but they both sucked in different ways.
Switching over to cycling momentarily, here’s a 90-minute outdoor ride, mostly but not entirely farm land. At a high level, things look pretty close:
And in general, this ride wasn’t too bad, albeit it did make a few mistakes here and there:
Or this section here, as it meandered about this very straight path:
On the heart rate front, things were not good, as evidenced below. Ableit, optical heart rate on the wrist while riding a bike is one of the more challenging things to do for a watch (far easier for an upper arm band like the Polar/COROS/Whoop bands). Still, it was basically wrong 100% of the time here.
The next day, I did the same route again. The GPS tracks were actually worse the second day, cutting almost all the same corners, or otherwise being somewhat drunk:
And again here:
However, the heart rate was different (not better, not worse, but equally bad). I did a number of hard sprint intervals here and there, and in every case, it totally lost the plot. All the other units did just fine (I switched the Apple Watch Series 8 for Apple Watch Ultra here – albeit the Ultra did briefly miss one recovery interval).
Next, let’s look at a track workout, specifically the heart rate portion. We already talked about the GPS situation up above. Here’s a slate of 400m repeats:
You can see that it has a rough go in what was actually a secondary warm-up. Meaning, I actually did an entire 6-lap warm-up before I recorded this file (on a different file, getting the track learning done), and despite that, it still failed the warm-up. That said, for the main 6 intervals seen above, it actually did just fine save the 2nd to last one, which oddly missed it from just before the end of the interval.
Taking that interval concept up a notch, here’s a look at a mostly out-and-back, interval workout I did. We can see how the tracks compare between the two Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 units here, Classic and non-Classic – one per wrist (versus the Garmin Forerunner 955 & COROS APEX 2 Pro hand-held). In short, we can see that at all times, at least one of the two Samsung watches (blue and red) is offset from the trail/rest of the watches:
And in these sections as well:
Meanwhile, here’s the heart rate data. As you can see, things are pretty substantially different between the two Samsung watches (one per wrist), and the chest strap, Polar Verity Sense, and Whoop:
The green line dropping is when I went to lick the strap for a second to add moisture, I realized a minute in I forgot to do that (normal for chest straps), and just wanted to be sure it was good. In any case, that aside, you’ll notice that this too wasn’t too bad, except for the warm-up section where the Classic went all kinda wonky, and then even throughout the run, there’s a few moments where the classic is a bit more offset (slightly) than the others).
Likewise, if we look at a road ride in the mountains (with basically two major climbs and two major descents), here’s how the two watches handled side-by-side, compared to the multiband-equipped Garmin Edge 840. You’ll notice that right out of the gate, on lazy switchbacks in fields with no mountain blockages, we see the Samsung already offset.
On some of the straightaways, it’s a bit better, but you can still see the slight wobble on both Samsung watches compared to the pristine GPS track from the Garmin:
And then of course, once we get into the switchbacks, the Samsung is careening off every corner.
And then perhaps the biggest difference we see is here on the heart rate:
You can see that the Watch 6 non-Classic (purple) immediately struggles for the first 10 or so minutes of the climb. Given this is low-speed and buttery smooth roads, this should be easy for any watch. Trivially easy. Not here. We see the pattern repeat itself as I begin the second climb, again taking about 10 minutes to finally lock. The Samsung Watch 6 Classic (red) also struggles a little bit here as well, though not heavily so. Finally, it’s worth pointing out the slight bits of chest strap artifacts you see on the higher-speed descent portions, as my jersey is likely fluttering a bit in the wind and the chest strap is picking that up just slightly with tiny variations of 2-4bpm swings on the low HR sections. It’s something you really only notice when you have comparison sets.
Ok, so overall where do we stand?
Well, essentially we’re the same as we are every year with Samsung watches and accuracy: Very tiny improvements but overall mediocre to poor performance. I fundamentally don’t understand how a company as big and resource-laden as Samsung can have such poor performance year after year in these categories. If tiny companies like COROS and Polar (in comparison to Samsung), or also-big companies like Apple, Google, Huawei, and Garmin, can have good to exceptional accuracy, then certainly Samsung can at least have passing performance in these categories.
Let alone the fact that Samsung decided to release a multiband/GNSS top-end watch in 2023. Virtually every sports watch from every company (small or big) has launched with multiband this year. I could have perhaps understood if Samsung’s cheaper non-Classic units didn’t have it and Classic did. But for neither of them to have it, and more critically, still be easily beaten by other non-multiband offerings (Apple Watch Series 8) is pretty bad.
Hopefully next year will be the year we’ll finally see some big improvements in GPS and heart rate accuracy. But then again, I say that every year.
(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy portions were created using the DCR Analyzer tool. It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, running power, GPS tracks, and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)
Starting off on the hardware front, the Samsung Galaxy Watch6 Classic is by far the nicest looking Samsung Watch they’ve ever made, or at least to my eyes it is. The feel of the watch is solid, and the overall look is on point. As for the little sibling, the non-Classic, well…it’s exactly what the Samsung Watch4 and Watch5 were, thus no differences there. To me, I’m still not a huge fan of the touch bezel (and many people agree with me), it just never works out as reliably as you’d hope. Whereas the rotating bezel on the Classic edition works quite reliably, and is easier to control.
On the software side of things, while the unit got the new Wear OS 5 and updated Samsung skin, the other changes are pretty minor. A handful of sleep metrics and a running track mode that doesn’t seem to be fully baked yet. Likewise, on the accuracy side, neither heart rate nor GPS seem to be competitive with units from years ago, or units half their price. I will give Samsung credit that GPS acquisition time has improved dramatically (it used to take many minutes in some cases), whereas now it acquires almost all the time within a few seconds. Unfortunately, sometimes it’ll randomly lose that GPS signal right as you press the start button, and fail to acquire it again.
Ultimately, I think I just remain a bit surprised that for as many resources as Samsung has as a company, the watch lineup continues to get seemingly little internal attention. It receives very minor updates each year, and has seen only tiny improvements in accuracy over its numerous editions. Compare that to Apple, Google/Fitbit, Garmin, Huawei, and plenty of others who have poured in tons of new features and functionality into their watches, as well as dramatically increased accuracy over the last few years.
As always, maybe next year will be better.