What’s the best Wear OS watch? – ty vs. Google Pixel Watch

What the Apple Watch is to the iPhone, the new Wear OS watches should be for Android: a true companion to your phone, with apps on the watch and phone that work seamlessly together and let you search, command, and command easily from your wrist and reply to messages.

Last year, with the updated Wear OS 3 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, we got a first look at Google’s latest vision of the smartwatch. A year later, we test the new Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and the Pixel Watch, Google’s first watch. Both use Wear OS 3.5 and only work with Android phones, but that doesn’t mean the watches are identical except for their appearance.

It was a bit of a strange situation when Google and Samsung announced at the beginning of last year that it was mothballing Wear OS again. Google’s operating system for smartwatches was almost dead at the time. Google no longer seemed to care, many apps were no longer updated and, apart from the Fossil group, there was hardly any manufacturer that released Wear OS watches. That changed with the announcement of Wear OS 3 in May 2021, with Google clearly stating that it would work again on its OS for watches.

It finally took until August last year for the first Wear OS 3 watch to actually hit the market. That was the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, a watch with which Samsung did everything to make the look and feel very similar to that of its predecessors, which ran on Tizen. I was excited about the Galaxy Watch 4, but also wondered what the new Wear OS would look like without Samsung sauce.

Now I can answer that question. Because according to Google, how Wear OS 3 should be can be seen on the Pixel Watch, the first watch that Google releases and which is of course equipped with Google’s UI and Fitbit software for health tracking and sports functions. The Pixel Watch is not officially for sale in the Netherlands, but you can easily order it from foreign webshops. I bought the watch from Fnac in France where I paid 380 euros for the wifi version.

Samsung’s new Galaxy Watch 5 is available in two variants, a normal and a more expensive Pro variant. We chose to compare the Pro version with the Pixel Watch, because it comes closest in terms of price, but the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is still a few tens cheaper than the watch with a retail price of around 360 euros. Google.

Appearance: Curves versus clean lines

Before we look at the software, the possibilities and the daily ease of use, it is good to start with the appearance of the two watches, because there are already major differences.

Pixel Watch

The Pixel Watch comes in an almost cube-shaped package made entirely of cardboard. The all-around watch is available in one size. The case has a diameter of 41 mm and is 12.3 mm thick at its thickest point. The watch has a 1.2″ AMOLED screen with a resolution of 450×450 pixels, which blends seamlessly into the surrounding black bezel. The screen is hidden behind Gorilla Glass, which curls over the edge of the case to about halfway up the side of the watch. watch. On the right, the digital crown catches the eye, which serves as a rotary and push button. Above the crown, running away to the bottom of the watch is a second physical button. If desired, you can also turn the watch turn it over and use it ‘upside down, placing the buttons on the left side of the cabinet.

I bought the black version of the Pixel Watch, where the side of the case is also black, just like the front that is hidden behind the glass. In addition to black, the watch is also available in silver and warm gold, with that accent color reflected in the crown and the side edge of the case.

The watch actually has no other striking features; there is no logo on the housing and when viewed from the front you really only see the black, abyssed glass plate and the crown. The Pixel Watch uses a new system to fasten the watch bands, where they click into the case, with no external attachment points visible. A recessed button can be found right next to the strap attachment points. If you press it in, which is not easy with thick fingers and short nails, you can slide the strap aside, over the button to release it. Mounting the straps is a reverse movement: press the button with the end of the strap, then slide that strap sideways into the housing, after which the button pops up and the strap is secured. Sound complicated? correct, And that’s it. But it is beautiful because there are no external mounting points that protrude outside the cabinet. Unless you want to, because there are optional ‘classic’ straps for sale that do add (metal) attachment points to the outside of the watch to which a normal 20mm watch strap can then be attached.
This design ensures that the appearance of the Pixel Watch is mainly determined by the watch strap and watch face used; the round hardware is mainly a blank canvas in terms of design. The standard silicone strap of our test model, like the watch, is black in color and has a closure that resembles the standard strap of the Apple Watch.

Galaxy Watch 5 Pro

As mentioned, the Galaxy Watch 5 is available in two flavors. The standard version is available in 40 and 44mm. The Watch 5 Pro that we test has a diameter of 46mm. The watch comes in an elongated box made entirely of cardboard. Both models have a traditionally styled watch case with external attachment points that accept standard 20mm watch straps. Unlike the Pixel Watch, the Galaxy Watch 5 has straight sides, clean lines, and sharp angles.

The Pro version of the Galaxy Watch 5 is not only slightly larger than the 44mm version of the regular version; it’s also thicker, with the bezel of the case protruding well above the screen. Unfortunately, the physical rotating bezel of the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic has disappeared, instead, you can now swipe along the inner edge of the housing around the screen to navigate through menus. That also works, but a little less nice. The case of Pro version is made of titanium, instead of the aluminum of the normal model.

The 40mm version of the Galaxy Watch 5 has a 1.2-inch screen with a resolution of 396×396, while the 44mm version and the Watch 5 Pro both have a 1.36-inch screen with 450×450 pixels. Both models have sapphire glass, with the Pro version using a harder variant. The watches have two elongated buttons that protrude slightly from the right side of the case, the upper one of which has a red border.

What is striking about the Watch 5 Pro that we are testing is that the watch looks quite thick. Now, at 15mm, the watch is certainly not thin anyway, but that is visually enhanced by the edge protruding above the screen and the straight, unrounded side of the watch case. Both variants of the Watch 5 come with a silicone strap, in the case of the standard Watch 5 with a normal buckle clasp, while the Watch 5 Pro has a folding clasp.

Wear OS 3.5

The Pixel Watch and the Galaxy Watch 5 both run Wear OS 3.5, a minor update over version 3.0 that the Galaxy Watch 4 released last year. What exactly is new or improved between version 3.0 and 3.5 is unfortunately difficult to find out, a recent update of the Galaxy Watch 4 to Samsung One UI 4.5 and Wear OS 3.5 added several functions, including dual SIM support, the option to favorite watch faces , qwerty text input and the ability to switch between keyboard, handwriting and voice input while composing messages. Those seem to be Samsung improvements, rather than OS-based upgrades, for the most part.

Wear OS 3.5 builds on the foundation of Wear OS 3 anyway, which is a big improvement over Wear OS 2. That old version was based on Android 9, API Level 28; the new Wear OS 3 is built on Android 11, API Level 30. Wear OS 3.x is a lot smarter with energy than Wear OS 2, especially when it comes to reading sensors used to collect motion and heart rate data. collect. Wear OS 3 uses the new Wear Health Services that collect data in a more efficient way. In a Reddit post Fossil also claims that Google now sets much stricter requirements for the quality of the sensor data if a watch wants to use Wear OS 3. That’s to be welcomed, because I’ve seen Wear OS watches in the past where the accuracy or, for example, the heart rate and GPS data was lousy.

An important improvement for the user is the new Ongoing Activity API for Wear OS 3, which makes it possible to show apps a small icon on the watch face if these apps are not running in the foreground. This makes it easier to return to those apps and switch apps. Examples of apps that could benefit from this are timers, music players, and sports and navigation apps that don’t always need to be running in the foreground, but that you like to call up again easily.

Wear OS 3 also includes changes to the user interface. It is now designed according to the Material You design and uses different icons, improved typography and an endless scrolling function for the tiles. Wear OS 3 also offers the option of reversing the buttons of the watch at the system level, which is nice for left-handed people. In addition, Wear OS 3 has an improved quick settings menu and gives the option to activate the voice assistant in multiple ways. Watch manufacturers can also put their own UI over the OS, a functionality that Samsung makes good use of.

Wear OS 3 watches no longer use Google’s generic Wear app to connect between smartphone and watch. That app was an annoying must with Wear OS 2, because most manufacturers still placed their own app next to it. This caused confusion among users, because it was not always clear which functions and settings could be found in which app. With Wear OS 3 that is a thing of the past: every manufacturer now provides an app for its own watch. Google has a new Watch app for that, Samsung uses the Galaxy Wearable app, and the updated Fossil Gen 6 now connects through the Fossil Smartwatch app.

Wear OS on the Pixel Watch

The Pixel Watch naturally uses the standard version of Wear OS 3.5, designed according to Google’s Material You design. We know that design from Android 12 and makes extensive use of (rounded) shapes and mainly uses the slender Roboto font for text.

In Google’s Watch app you can currently choose from nineteen different watch faces, each with different color and theme variants. These watchfaces were made by Google, especially for the Pixel Watch. Many watch faces have customizable complications . These small, often round information blocks can display additional information, such as steps, battery percentage, calories, day and date, heart rate or shortcuts to specific apps. If there is nothing to your liking, you can also download hundreds of other watch faces from the Play Store.
The interface of Wear OS 3.5 on the Pixel Watch is unlocked. If you swipe from the top down from the watch face, a menu with quick settings will appear from above, where you can, for example, switch on the flashlight function and airplane mode, turn off the sound or continue to the settings menu. Prominently at the top of this menu is a shortcut to Google’s Home app, so that you can access the controls of, for example, the lamps in your home with a swipe and a press.

If you swipe from the watch face in the reverse direction from bottom to top, you will see notifications. Notifications are displayed as cards below each other, where clicking on the notification takes you to the corresponding app, just like on an Android phone.

If you swipe left or right from the watchface, you will see tiles of installed apps. Tiles are full-screen information or control screens that show, for example, how many steps you have walked or what the local weather is, a tile can also have buttons to, for example, immediately start a workout from the installed fitness app. The list of tiles is endless, so once you’ve finished, you’ll come back to the watchface.

The Pixel Watch’s crown lets you navigate the interface just like swiping up or down on the screen does. A push of the crown brings you back to the watch face from anywhere. If you press the crown from the watch face, the overview with all installed apps opens. A double click of the crown opens Google Pay and a long press on the crown opens a menu where you can turn off the watch, reboot it or send an SOS message.

The second button, which is on the side above the crown, shows an overview of recently used apps after a short click, with which the button serves as a physical app switcher. Long pressing the button activates Google Assistant.

Wear OS and Samsung One UI

Just like its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 uses Samsung’s One UI, which means that the look and feel is different and the menu structure is fundamentally different on a number of points.

If you swipe down from the watch face, you get a menu with quick settings, just like with the Pixel Watch, with shortcuts to a number of apps and functions. Unlike the Pixel Watch, this menu, which Samsung calls ‘Quick Panel’, isn’t vertically scrollable, but consists of side-by-side pages that you navigate horizontally through.

If you swipe from left to right from the watch face, you will see one or more tiles with notifications, an action for which you have to swipe from bottom to top with the Pixel Watch. If you make that movement with the Galaxy Watch 5, you get a grid view with icons of all installed apps instead of notifications, while that app overview with the Pixel Watch is hidden behind the pressure function of the crown.

Swiping from right to left from the watchface also provides access to all available tiles at Samsung. Unlike the Pixel Watch, this is not an endless menu with the Galaxy Watch 5 in which you automatically return to the watch face.

The Galaxy Watch 5 has two elongated buttons on the right side of the case. Both buttons have multiple functions. The top button, the ‘start key’, always takes you back to the watch face after a short press. If you hold the button longer, it activates the Bixby voice assistant by default, but you can also configure it to call up your Google Assistant. If you press the button twice in quick succession, it will take you back to the last used app by default, but you can link any installed app to this double click.

The bottom button acts like a back button. However, you can also choose to show an overview of recently used apps with one touch. The bottom button has no double-click or long-click function.

Google x Fitbit

Fitbit has been part of Google since the beginning of last year. Before the acquisition, Fitbit was an independent manufacturer of wearables that were mainly aimed at people who aspire to an active lifestyle but do not necessarily fall into the diehard athlete category. Fitbit has both larger smartwatches and compact fitness trackers in its range, all of which use Fitbit’s software. That software is well put together. Fitbit offers clear insights into sleep and stress, encourages you to move enough and offers support for a fairly large number of sports, of which you receive clear summaries in the app after registering on the watch.

What exactly Google wanted with the acquisition of Fitbit was unclear for a long time. Google did not make its own wearables until the introduction of the Pixel Watch, but Google Fit already had an app that offered overlapping functionality with that of Fitbit. Android Wear 2.0 watches used Google Fit as the default platform to log things like steps, sleep and sports activities.
This is no longer the case with the Pixel Watch: the watch comes with Fitbit software and not Google Fit.

The Pixel Watch uses Fitbit’s platform to record steps, calories burned, breathing rate, heart rate, heart rate variability, stress, recovery, sleep duration, sleep phases and sports activities. In addition, the watch can manually make ECG videos, a function that is being seen in more and more watches. To use this functionality, you must install the Fitbit app on your smartphone in addition to the Watch app. The Pixel Watch is therefore actually a Fitbit, but with Wear OS as the underlying platform instead of Fitbit OS.

It should be noted that a number of functions of the recent Fitbit smartwatches are not (yet) available on the Pixel Watch, such as measurements of blood oxygen saturation, skin temperature, and continuous measurement of heart rhythm abnormalities. Data for the ‘recovery score’ that Fitbit calculates with its latest generation of watches is also missing from the Pixel Watch. It is unclear whether these functions will be added later. The necessary hardware, including the temperature sensor, is present in the watch in any case.

Premium at extra cost

At least the same as with Fitbit watches, you get basic insights for free, but you have to subscribe to Fitbit Premium for advanced sleep analysis, Fitbit’s daily recovery score, a PDF health report, longer-term health insights period, and an extensive catalog of video workouts. Fitbit was the first manufacturer to charge the full price for its hardware and also charge a monthly fee for access to all the insights of those watches. Google continues that unchanged: just like with Fitbit watches, you have to pay 8.99 euros per month to access all data.

I don’t mind the fact that you have to pay extra for access to the training plans and accompanying videos, but the fact that you can’t look back more than seven days in the past with the standard version is a limitation that makes it impossible to recognize trends in, for example, your sleep pattern, resting heart rate and stress. Also with Premium you only get these insights for the last 90 days, where other manufacturers offer this data for free and unlimited back in time. I hope that Fitbit, and now Google, does not become a trend setter with this form of data hiding behind a paywall.

That said, Fitbit’s software is well put together. The app provides clear information about steps, distance walked, calories consumed and the number of stairs you walk per day. The Pixel Watch also (automatically) analyzes how stressed you are based on heart rate variability, and resting and sleeping heart rate. The Pixel Watch can measure blood oxygen saturation, but it doesn’t (yet), or at least not fully. It’s currently not possible to see the exact blood oxygen percentage, but the app displays a graph with “estimated blood oxygen saturation” with the sleep reports, albeit with no values ​​​​on the y-axis of that graph. It will probably be due to medical certification that this feature is not yet fully available.

sleep analysis

Fitbit’s sleep analysis is extensive and known for being quite accurate. Fitbit provides insight into sleep duration and sleep phases via the sleep dashboard, and analyzes how well the recovery has been during sleep based on heart rate data. From those three ingredients, the software distills a sleep score that indicates how well you slept on a scale of 0 to 100. Overall, that score matches pretty well with how I rate my sleep and level of rest as well.

Sport

With its watches, Fitbit focuses on a broad target group of consumers who want a healthy lifestyle, but are not necessarily looking for the most extensive sports analysis. The same applies to the Pixel Watch. The Ftibit Exercise app on the Pixel Watch offers over 30 different workouts, ranging from walking, running and cycling to yoga, martial arts, tennis and stand-up paddle boarding. What I’m less excited about is what you see when you start a workout. For example, if you select running, you have the option to start an open session or choose a time, distance, or calorie goal. Structured workouts such as interval sessions are not supported, which is a real loss for people who train towards a goal. Also the data that you see during exercise, isn’t great. While running, you can see the elapsed time at the top of the screen, with a smaller distance, heart rate and pace below it. And small is really small, because these three metrics are next to each other on the modest 1.2” screen. You can swipe sideways for a scrollable page with more information, but navigating a scrollable page doesn’t work well during exercise.

Of course, you are free to install other apps to register sports. For example, I find the new Strava app a lot more practical than Fitbit’s. The disadvantage is that the data will not end up in Fitbit’s overviews unless you have both apps register workouts at the same time. That is possible but does not always work flawlessly.

After a workout, the Fitbit app provides extensive information about distance, pace, number of steps, heart rate data, energy used and intermediate times. Data can also be exported automatically or manually to third-party services such as Strava if desired, and Fitbit also offers a web portal where you can view and analyze dashboards and activities on a larger screen. In addition, Fitbit offers a large number of video workouts for cardio, strength and yoga through its app for Premium users. Unfortunately, most of these workouts are only available if you have a Premium account.

Samsung Health

Samsung has been using its own Health app for years, both in combination with its smartphones and smartwatches. The Galaxy Watch 5 can do everything its predecessor could in terms of health tracking, but uses an improved heart rate sensor that should provide more accurate data. You can read more about that accuracy later in this review. The Health app for Android and the health and sports tracking functionality on the Galaxy Watch 5 are largely the same, with a few enhancements and improvements.

Like its predecessor, the Watch 5 continuously measures blood oxygen levels throughout the night during sleep; during the day the watch still does not do this. During my test period, the data from these measurements regularly showed strange downward peaks that other wearables do not register. At this point, the Galaxy Watch 5 is not yet reliable in my experience. The sleep recognition has been improved: unlike its predecessor, the Watch 5 no longer seems to incorrectly recognize sitting still as sleep, so that the actual sleep duration is better estimated.

The option to make ECG videos has also remained, a function that works well, just like with the previous model. Also taken from the Watch 4 are the measurements of blood pressure and body composition. Be sure to read our review of the Galaxy Watch 4 for more information on this; the results of these measurements are comparable to those of the previous model. They offer good insights, but successive measurements show fluctuations that are too large to sail blindly on.

The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has a number of new functions that the Watch 4 and the normal version of the Watch 5 do not have: the ability to load routes and a trackback function to navigate back to the starting point during a sports activity. Loading routes is quite cumbersome: you first have to create a GPX file, for example based on a previous workout or an external app. Then you need to download this GPX on your smartphone and open it with Samsung Health via the file manager. The Health app then asks if you want to use the GPX as a route for a walking or cycling activity; other sports are not supported. If you load the route, you will see it neatly on a map, where you will receive spoken route instructions via the watch.

The trackback function works in a similar way: if you want to take the shortest route back to the starting point at any point during a workout, trackback helps you get back to the starting point with a visual representation on the map and spoken directions.

Sports registration on the Galaxy Watch works well and the watch offers clear data screens that you can also adjust to your own liking. Samsung has also built in an audio guide, which gives you a summary of the most important data after every kilometer. In our review of the Galaxy Watch 4 last year, we complained that the watch didn’t write heart rate data every second, but did so at random intervals of five to 20 seconds. That is no longer the case: the Galaxy Watch 5 stores both location and heart rate data every second.

Ease of use and battery life

The previous pages were about the functions of the watches, but at least as important is of course how the ease of use is in practice, including the working time on a battery charge.

As mentioned earlier, the Google Pixel is available in one size: a 41mm case and a 1.2” screen. That sounds small, and it is. The Pixel Watch is also nice and thin and thanks to the rounded sides, the watch looks even smaller than it is; which is nice for people with small wrists. Unlike many other smartwatches, the Pixel Watch will fit just about anyone. The disadvantage of the small screen is of course that it is small. The screen also has wide bezels and is therefore smaller than it appears. Fortunately, those bezels are not very noticeable in practice: Wear OS makes extensive use of black backgrounds so that the screen blends invisibly into the edges. I have used the watch non-stop for several weeks and the screen is still completely scratch-free after that period. Keep in mind that the Gorilla Glass used is harder than normal glass, but it can get scratched and break. The latter is a risk, because the glass runs all the way around the outside of the cabinet without any protection.

Google has built the Pixel Watch around Samsung’s Exynos 9100-10nm processor, an old beast from 2018. This processor is assisted by an economical Cortex M33 coprocessor, which should help take over tasks from the relatively inefficient Exynos processor. , with the aim of saving energy and not draining the 290mAh battery too quickly. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work very well. With the always-on function of the OLED screen turned off and the listening function of Google Assistant inactive, I got a maximum of 24 hours on a battery charge during my test period, maximum, because the Pixel Watch sometimes races through the available battery capacity faster. This seems partly explicable: when you play media or use Google Maps on your phone, the watch automatically launches (in the background) a companion app that provides media control and navigation support from the watch. Even when you don’t let those apps run in the foreground, they seem to draw a lot on the battery. For example, after using Google Maps on my phone and forgetting to end the route, the Pixel Watch drained its battery by 11 percentage points per hour over the following hours. I noticed the same image when using YouTube or Spotify on my phone; even then, the Pixel Watch consumes significantly more energy than usual. It is striking that other users also seem to do longer with a battery charge at comparable settings. Being on Reddit, among others they seem to draw a big change on the battery. For example, after using Google Maps on my phone and forgetting to end the route, the Pixel Watch drained its battery by 11 percentage points per hour over the following hours. I noticed the same image when using YouTube or Spotify on my phone; even then, the Pixel Watch consumes significantly more energy than usual. It is striking that other users also seem to do longer with a battery charge at comparable settings. Being on Reddit, among others they seem to draw a big change on the battery. For example, after using Google Maps on my phone and forgetting to end the route, the Pixel Watch drained its battery by 11 percentage points per hour over the following hours. I noticed the same image when using YouTube or Spotify on my phone; even then, the Pixel Watch consumes significantly more energy than usual. It is striking that other users also seem to do longer with a battery charge at comparable settings. Being on Reddit, among others even then, the Pixel Watch consumes significantly more energy than usual. It is striking that other users also seem to do longer with a battery charge at comparable settings. Being on Reddit, among others even then, the Pixel Watch consumes significantly more energy than usual. It is striking that other users also seem to do longer with a battery charge at comparable settings. Being on Reddit, among othersto read user experiences that match mine , but also from people where the Pixel Watch easily lasts more than a day .

With the screen’s always-on feature turned on and the microphone activated to continuously listen for the Google Assistant’s “Hey Google” wakeword, battery life decreases even further and runs out after about 18 hours, and sometimes also faster. That’s a shame, because the Pixel Watch is otherwise well put together. Despite the somewhat older SOC, the watch allows quick navigation through the interface and apps start quickly. Notifications are clearly displayed, and you can easily respond via an onscreen keyboard or text-to-speech. The integration of Google Pay also works flawlessly; paying from your watch is no problem with the Pixel Watch. The digital crown also works fine and offers good haptic feedback. The recessed second button is also easy to press and has a nice click feeling. Although I would prefer a slightly larger screen, the quality and sharpness of the OLED screen is very good. The microphone also works well, if you call via the watch, you are perfectly audible to the other person. Conversely, that can be more difficult, because the speaker in the Pixel Watch could be better.

The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is considerably larger, which makes it less suitable if you have a narrower wrist. As mentioned earlier, the watch is also quite thick, so you can easily bump it. Fortunately, the titanium housing can take a beating, even after prolonged use, our test model still has no scratches or dents.

In our opinion, the ease of use of the Galaxy Watch is at least as good as that of the Pixel Watch. As described, a number of things work slightly differently and I think Samsung’s app overview, where apps are displayed as icons on a grid, works a bit better than the list view of the Pixel Watch. The larger screen of the Watch 5 Pro makes navigating the interface and especially selecting small menu items or complications on the watchface a little easier. The Watch 5 Pro uses the same Samsung Exynos W920-5nm-soc as its predecessor and has 16GB of memory. That’s half of what the Pixel Watch has on board. In practice, that will not be a disadvantage, unless you want to store a lot of music locally on the watch.

A clear disadvantage of the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is that the watch, much more than other smartwatches with a touchscreen, gets upset when (a lot of) water comes on the screen. If you take a shower with the watch without turning off the touchscreen first, the Watch 5 jumps from one screen to the next. It also happened to me several times that the watch had selected a different watchface after taking a shower, or even tried to purchase a new watchface.

So far they are minor differences with the Pixel Watch. A big advantage of the Watch 5 Pro over the Pixel Watch is the battery life. Thanks to its more efficient processor and twice the size of the 590mAh battery, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro lasts about three times as long on a battery charge in practice. With the always-on function of the OLED screen turned off and the listening function of Google Assistant inactive, I usually got three full days on a battery charge. If I enabled both functions, the working time decreased to just under two full days. That is still a lot less than, for example, some Garmin watches, but they also offer less extensive smartwatch functions.

GPS and heart rate registration during sports

To assess the accuracy of the heart rate and GPS tracking during exercise, I wore both watches during multiple running, cycling and mountain biking sessions, each on a different wrist. I also wore a chest strap that registers the heart rate through an ECG measurement. The latter method can be seen as a real reference; heart rate measurement via electrodes still remains more accurate than optical measurements. I exported all logged data as TCX or FIT files, which I then analyzed with the DCR Analyzer tool. For a more detailed test account, readthis pagefrom last year’s roundup.

Heart rate data

As we wrote in previous reviews, all optical heart rate monitors havelimitations. Optical registration sometimes has difficulty registering sudden heart rate changes immediately and for a good measurement result it is important that the watch moves as little as possible relative to the wrist. Large arm movements in running are usually not a problem, but fierce, intense vibrations during mountain biking can be. In practice, the latter also appears to be the case: during various mountain bike rides that I have done with the watches, they both regularly lose track completely. This is in line with what we see with other watches; it would be special if these devices could handle such difficult situations well.

It is more interesting to look at running, a scenario in which we can expect that the optical heart rate monitors provide virtually error-free data. The above examples of two running sessions show that the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro (blue) in particular follows the ECG chest strap (red) very well. The Pixel Watch (green) occasionally loses the thread, but then quickly finds the correct heart rhythm again. This image also lingers when I view the data of more workouts: both watches offer good heart rate registration, with the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro even scoring very well overall.

GPS

The Pixel Watch and Galaxy Watch 5 support multi-GNSS, which means they can do positioning using GPS, Glonass, BeiDou, and Gelieo. Multi-band GPS, which allows more accurate positioning, is not supported by either.

The accuracy of the built-in GPS receivers appears to be quite sufficient in practice, but not as accurate as that of watches that do have multi-band GPS, such as the Garmin Epix, which I have included as a reference in red in the above maps. Samsung seems to have improved its algorithms over the past year, as the Watch 5 (blue) shows slightly better GPS traces than the Watch 4 did during our test last year. Just like its predecessor, the Watch 5 Pro continues to suffer from erratic outliers and the watch is clearly not in its element among the high-rise buildings in Rotterdam. The position registration of the Pixel Watch is better: the green line of this watch is a lot closer to the route that I actually walked. What’s striking,especially during cycling activities where the speed is higher than running, the Pixel Watch often goes off track. By that I mean that the watch only really seems to pick up on changes of direction after a few seconds, and then have to correct to get back on the real path.

Conclusion

The Google Pixel Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 both run Wear OS 3.5 and have a lot in common, but they are completely different devices. This is not so much because Samsung has adjusted the look and feel of Wear OS with its One UI, but in terms of functionality, it is mainly because Google uses Fitbit for health and sports registration, while Samsung uses its Health app. Which option is better depends on what you’re looking for. We think the Fitbit app is better for tracking general health trends. A pain point is that you have to take out a subscription to Fitbit Premium to access all insights, which costs you an extra nine euros per month.If you do not take out that subscription, you will receive fewer insights into your sleep, for example, and those insights will also be limited to the past seven days.

As far as sports registration is concerned, Samsung is the better one. The app offers clearer data screens that you can adjust to your own liking and also provides much more information afterward in the app that helps you analyze your performance.

Furthermore, both watches work well with Android phones. Whether it concerns media control, navigation via Google Maps, responding to notifications with voice, paying via Google Pay or controlling, for example, lamps in the house via Google Assistant; it works reliably and quickly with both watches.

Still, if I take everything into account, I have a clear preference for one of the two watches, where the battery life is of decisive importance. On that point, the beautiful, compact Pixel Watch scores very poorly and that is a pity. If you don’t mind charging your watch every day or night and you want a compact, unobtrusive watch, then the Pixel Watch is worth considering. But do you also want to be able to track sleep and don’t want to have to charge it every day? Then the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is without a doubt the better choice. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is larger and thicker, which has advantages and disadvantages. The larger screen is just a little easier to operate and certainly easier to read during exercise. The downside is that the Watch 5 Pro may be on the large side of a smaller wrist.