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Galaxy Watch 5 and 5 Pro hands-on: Refining the best Wear OS watches [Video]

After a somewhat successful reintegration with Wear OS last year, Samsung is back with the Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro. The duo share some of the same DNA with their predecessor, but with refinements and even a few removals.

From afar, you’d be forgiven for wondering just what is new on this duo, in particular, the regular Galaxy Watch 5. The size, shape and even the weight is fairly similar with the aluminum chassis and exact same side-button placement.

One thing that stood out straight away was the improved Sapphire display; it’s said to be almost twice as strong as the Watch 4, but it initially seemed to be brighter and more vibrant. One could easily argue that this is the placebo effect given that my own Watch 4 is now almost a year old and certainly worn in. However, it’s something we’ll check extensively when we get a longer hands-on period to determine if the circular panel has been altered or improved.

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Familiar 40mm and 44mm size options are available once again with 1.2-inch and 1.4-inch AMOLED displays respectively. Annoyingly though, the best colors of the regular Galaxy Watch 5 like the Bora Purple, can only be had in the smaller 40mm variant. The 44m model sticks to more muted Sapphire, Silver, and Graphite case options.

You can switch things up with an expanded array of accessories and watch straps to add a little extra flair or go one further and create your own design with the Galaxy Watch 5 Bespoke Studio, which lets you choose case color and strap for over 1,000 combinations according to Samsung.

Even without size increases on either model over their predecessors, Samsung has managed to squeeze in even larger batteries to the Watch 5 series this time around. There is a big bump from 247mAh to 284mAh on the 40mm series and 361mAh to 410mAh on the 44m Watch 5. Given that the Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic offered a moderately acceptable lifespan, this will undoubtedly mean even better longevity. This could tackle one of the few sore points from the previous generation almost right out of the gate.

While the regular models are similar to what we’ve seen before, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is a behemoth in comparison with a 45mm titanium chassis and at over 10mm thick, this is not the most lightweight wearable. Using tougher materials is certainly a way to add mass, but added chassis strength is certainly welcome.

You can see some of the influences from the likes of Garmin and Suunto among others, but with the Galaxy Watch, flavor is retained. It’s clearly aimed at the most active people with enhanced GPS functions for trail running, cycling, and hiking in conjunction with the extensive suite of fitness tracking modes you would expect. For all intents and purposes, this feels like the Galaxy Watch Active rebirth in all but name.

We’re not entirely sure how big the entire market is for those features, but the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has 60% larger internal 590mAh battery than the Watch 4. Samsung boldly claims that this can last up to three full days, but again, we’ll save judgement until we can test this for ourselves. Even if you do not care for enhanced fitness functions, we can probably all agree that multiple days without needing to find the charger is an enticing prospect.

Samsung made a big deal of the improved charging speeds, but we were unable to test this during our brief hands-on session. The magnetic puck is used again with the Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro, but the connector now comes with a USB-C connection rather than USB-A.

Ahead of release, it was unclear if the Galaxy Watch 5 would include a skin or body temperature sensor. All three models include the new sensor for enhanced sleep tracking, which offers even more in-depth data than the same function available on older models.

You may be wondering where the Watch 5 Classic is this time around. Well, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is effectively the replacement wearable. It comes with a larger build and the rotating bezel — a staple of the Watch 4 Classic — has been removed.

We can see this might be a pain point for many Galaxy Watch enthusiasts and put off potential buyers or upgraders. It’s not clear if it will ever return, but this does mean that the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro uses the edge swipe “digital bezel” gesture for navigation in menus and app sections. The removal does come with one benefit, as there is now a range of extra rugged accessories that clip on for enhanced shock or bump protection.

Both Galaxy Watch 5 models are set to come with Wear OS 3.5 installed, which at first seems like a notable bump over version 3.2 currently available for Galaxy Watch 4 owners. In reality, there is little difference, with no way to visually indicate that a newer version of Google’s wearable OS is installed and new features are not readily apparent. One UI 4.5 offers a few extra fauna and flora-inspired watch faces alongside some enhancements that take advantage of improved sensors. It’s more of the same slick performance that you’ll find on the Watch 4 series today, but with the lightest of tweaks.

A year on from the rebirth of Wear OS, we now have the Google Assistant, improved and growing app support, plus the upcoming Pixel Watch might help boost that even further. Samsung did not need to reinvent One UI or Wear OS this time, just offer more of the same and, at least at this stage, the Watch 5 delivers.

9to5Google’s Take

At this early stage, the regular Galaxy Watch 5 might not be the upgrade that some people had hoped for. However, the Watch 5 Pro is certainly a big step into rugged wearables and creates a better separation between the series offerings. For most people, the standard Galaxy Watch 5 will suffice. If you’re looking for a more integrated fitness wearable then the Watch 5 Pro is available.

Samsung opened up a big lead over comparable Wear OS watches by including the 5nm-based Exynos W920 processor and 1.5GB of RAM last year. Sticking with the same core internals for a further year might allow some of the upcoming 4nm-based Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1 wearables a shot at the Galaxy Watch crown — and that could give Samsung a major shot in the arm for the next generation. At least until we get to see the next wave of Wear OS-powered smartwatches from the likes of Oppo, Mobvoi, and Fossil, Samsung is clinging to its crown as the best Android companion.

The Watch 5 starts at $279.99, while the Watch 5 Pro comes in at an eye-watering $449.99, with all models will officially go on sale from August 29. Given the minor upgrades, last year’s Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic can be had at a substantial discount and might be a great alternative.

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Avatar for Damien Wilde Damien Wilde

Damien is a UK-based video producer for 9to5Google. Find him on Twitter: @iamdamienwilde. Email: