At first glance, Samsung was very docile with the upgrades to its Galaxy Watch6 series. But you could argue that there was very little wrong with the Galaxy Watch5 series and that all the upgrades we got were useful or thoughtful.
The new watches use the new Exynos W930 chipset, which is nearly identical to last year’s W920. Both are made on a 5nm process and have dual-core Cortex-A55 processors, but the new chip has a higher 1.4GHz clock speed, which Samsung says makes for an 18% increase in speed. The Watch6 series also bumps the RAM up to 2GB.
On the software side, the Galaxy Watch6 runs Google’s Wear OS 4 with Samsung’s OneUI 5 on top. The watch generally feels and looks the same as its predecessor, but there are some subtle design tweaks to widgets and there are a few new watch faces.
Build quality and design
Samsung brought back the Classic model with a physically rotating bezel but left the Vanilla model looking relatively unchanged. Look a bit closer and you’ll notice that the Galaxy Watch6 pushes the bezels further in, making for a slightly bigger display in the same casing.
Speaking technically, we get the Galaxy Watch6 in the same 40mm and 44mm casing options as last year but the bezels shrunk and the respective screen sizes are 1.3-inch and 1.5-inch – 0.1-inch bigger than the Watch5 series. It’s a noticeable change when you put last year’s watches to this year’s.
The new watch is even slightly smaller overall than the Watch5, but they weigh the same.
This review is of the 40mm Galaxy Watch6 in Gold. It ships in an environmentally-friendly box made from recycled paper, containing the watch and a wireless charger ending on a USB-C cable.
One of the changes this year is the new push-button watch bands. They use a single button to detach and attach, instead of the typical spring bars. It’s a better way of doing things and makes swapping bands easier. However, if you already have a selection of 20mm bands with spring bars, they’ll work just fine on the new watch.
Samsung’s new bands
The Galaxy Watch6 is built with identical materials to its predecessor, which is no bad thing. You get an aluminum casing and sapphire crystal top and bottom glass. This means that it’s nearly impossible to scratch or break the watch glass.
Unsurprisingly then our unit is pristine after a week of vigorous testing – no scratches or dents.
The watch is also IP68-rated for water and dust resistance and complements that with 5 ATM rating for 50 meters of worry-free diving.
There are two buttons on the side of the Galaxy Watch6 – a Home button, accented in red, and a back button. The Home button can take you home with a single press, open Bixby with a long press, or take you to your last-used app with a double press. You can customize those options to some extent – for instance, you can change the long press to wake the Google Assistant or give you the Power off menu, and make a double press to open any app, open an exercise, or go to accessibility options.
You can also get jiggy with gestures – flip your wrist down to dismiss a call, raise it up to answer a call, or open a chosen app with a double wrist pump fake, but we had a dodgy time with those.
Fitness and health tracking
Samsung made improvements to health tracking thanks to software improvements to the infrared skin temperature sensor from last year’s Galaxy Watch5 series. The watch will still use the sensor to track women’s monthly period, ovulation cycle, and fertility windows, but will also use it for more detailed sleep tracking.
The Galaxy Watch6 will give you a breakdown of your sleep cycles – awake, REM sleep, as well as light and deep sleep, show you an overall rating of your sleep, and give you helpful pointers to improve on certain areas. Stop looking at your phone right before bed is one example. Samsung’s solution to this is to turn your phone’s screen black and white the moment you enable the watch’s sleep mode.
Finally, after a few days of sleep tracking, the watch will assign you a sleep animal. Sleep tracking is useful once you’ve isolated certain patterns and have begun making minute changes to correct bad habits. You’ll need to wear the watch every night, which the unobtrusive 40mm Galaxy Watch6 is ideal for.
Like its predecessors, the Galaxy Watch6 can measure your body mass index using its BIA sensor. Short for Body Impedance Analysis, the sensor tries to measure your body’s skeletal muscle, water, and fat mass changes using electrical impulses.
We measured these readings against a Withings Smart Scale and got nearly identical readings, but the entire method of these measurements is rather iffy and we wouldn’t trust their absolute reported values. They can be useful for tracking changes if you make sure to always take the measurements with a similar hydration level.
Far more useful can be the Galaxy Watch6’s Fall detection. If the watch’s sensors detect a fall, you’ll get options to call an emergency number or a preset contact.
Naturally, there’s also fitness tracking with over 90 workouts. Certain modes support a dedicated coach to give you pointers. You can even customize your own workouts.
This reviewer does a combination of running, ‘other workout’ (weights and body weight training), and hiking (it’s a bit early for skiing, sadly). He’s also a veteran Galaxy Watch user. And I can tell you the Galaxy Watch6 is a superb fitness tracker. It never once lost my heart rate during a session or had any glitches.
One serious annoyance I have is with Samsung Health – the linchpin to Samsung’s smart wearables and its smartphones. I run on a weekly basis and have accumulated certain records for myself. The Galaxy Watch6 thought my first run with it was my first run ever, my first completed kilometer was my first ever, and so on. I didn’t have my full tracked history at any point of using the Galaxy Watch6, which wasn’t ideal.
The workout homescreen is also rather limited. It can show three workouts and a more tab – it seems Samsung could easily manage to squeeze in more.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch6 40mm has a 300mAh battery – up from last year’s model’s 284mAh. The 44mm’s battery is 15mAh larger than the Watch5’s at 425mAh.
You can expect the same performance from the Galaxy Watch6 40mm/44mm as last year’s model. That means a full day of heavy use and a night of sleep tracking after that, with always-on-display enabled.
I wear the watch all day at work, then use it to train a few days a week after work, and then take it off until it’s time for bed at around 11 pm. I put it on to track my sleep, and then it wakes me up at 9 am. I get to the office at around 10 am with 30%-40% of battery left.
I also did an extreme test with the Galaxy Watch6 40mm against the Galaxy Watch3 41mm and Galaxy Watch4 Classic 42mm – we went together on a 5:44 hour hike – 12.5km, 1,859m of elevation gain. The Watch3 clocked out at around the 5-hour mark, the Galaxy Watch4 at around the 5-and-a-half-hour mark, while the Galaxy Watch6 completed the hike and had 17% left at the end of it. A clear step up from before, and not bad for the smallest watch in Samsung’s lineup.
On a less positive note, the Galaxy Watch6 claimed the distance was 12.5km, the Watch4 said it was 13.5km, while the Watch3 was 1km behind – all three used GPS the entire time – weird.
As ever, the Galaxy Watch works best with a Galaxy phone and that’s the norm these days. Keep in mind that it won’t work with an iPhone at all, but what did you expect?
On one hand, Samsung made a boring update to last year’s Galaxy Watch5 series. Objectively very little has changed and what has doesn’t warrant an upgrade if you’re a Watch5 series owner.
On another hand, this is a smartwatch – the idea is to look great, be useful, track your movements, and add some fun to your day. The Samsung Galaxy Watch6 is excellent on all of these fronts. There’s also the underestimated bonus of being familiar to Galaxy Watch users – it felt like home on this reviewer’s wrist.
Whether you should buy one is a bit tricky to answer. There isn’t enough new to warrant an upgrade from last year’s Galaxy Watch5 or even the Galaxy Watch4. All three essentially have the same chipset and health and fitness tracking. Samsung Galaxy Watch3 users will get a healthy bump in features thanks to the move to Google’s OS.
Android users who don’t use a Galaxy smartphone should perhaps look elsewhere – Google has a Pixel Watch and there are some excellent Wear OS options available for less money. Finally, there are those that have just now gotten their first Samsung phone and are looking for their first Samsung smartwatch – this is the best one yet, just decide if you need a physical bezel or not.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch6 is available in Graphite (both sizes), Silver (44 mm only), and Gold (40 mm only). Prices begin from £289/$299 and reach £369/$329 for the LTE-supporting larger wearable.