Samsung Gear 2 Neo review

The best full-featured smartwatch from the biggest of the big tech companies
Samsung Gear 2 Neo

Why launch one wearable into the market when you can launch three? Samsung has enough resources to throw a clutch of them at the wall and see what sticks, and the Samsung Gear 2 Neo might just be the one to survive.

Get up to date: Samsung Gear S2 review

The Gear 2 Neo only works with Samsung smartphones but it's a fitness tracker and notifications system in one and there's a built-in heart rate monitor to boot. Sure, it might not have the camera of the top-of-the-line Samsung Gear 2 watch but for our money, that's no great loss.

Gear 2 Neo features and design

If we were forced to label the look of the Samsung Gear 2 Neo, we'd choose “business casual". It's nearly chic but the square face, plastic strap and 55g housing mean it's better suited to city-types than trendy fashionistas – it's more Canary Wharf than Dalston, more Manhattan than Brooklyn. Orange is the best of the bunch for us, but there's also charcoal black and grey.

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Any of the three can be spiced up with customisable straps but you'll want to make sure you get the core choice of shade correct. The star of the show has got to be that 1.63-inch, 320 x 320 Super AMOLED touchscreen, and with a Samsung screen pedigree behind it, it's of little surprise that it's nothing short of stunning both in look and feel.

The colours are bright, heavily saturated and it's a joy to navigate the user-interface with soft flips of your thumb across its surface, and gestures so intuitive you can forget about the home button underneath.

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As with most smartwatches the Gear 2 Neo connects to your smartphone by Bluetooth to alert you to communiqué with a vibration on your wrist. It makes it harder to miss than a buzz against the old tissues that line your pockets, and whether you respond or ignore is up to you.

Along with email, SMS and phone call traffic, you get on-watch apps like a stopwatch, timer, weather reports, access to your calendar and the Find My Phone feature which pages your mobile for those moments when you've misplaced it. They all work very nicely indeed. It's easy to feel slightly evolved when you glance at your watch to find out what's going on rather than breaking your step for a fumble in your trousers or taking your hands off the wheel when you're supposed to be driving.

It's not all perfect, though. The Neo won't give you all the text from your emails - you'll need to look at your phone for that – and things aren't always entirely clear when you've got multiple new messages in your inbox.

If that wasn't enough, evolution jumps the shark with S Voice, that transforms you into a prize berk as you orally ask your watch to make calls or perform searches that you could do quicker by hand. Don't bother, a least not in this generation.

Gear 2 Neo activity tracking

The Gear 2 Neo doesn't do a bad job at tracking your activity, although obviously without the ubiquity, accuracy or detail of a dedicated sports watch. The accelerometer, gyros and the optical heart rate monitor – all located on the underside of the watch, pressed against your arm – all work in unison to figure out what you're up to and how hard you're doing it.

It has a basic understanding of how many steps you've taken according to how much you've been swinging your arm, and that forms the bedrock of the pedometer's functionality. There's also the dedicated running, walking, cycling and hiking modes where you can set goals according to distance, time or even the number of calories you'd like to burn.

As we say, though, none of these are super accurate. There's no GPS, for starters which mean running distances are all going to be estimated from your arm movement, which can lead to vastly exaggerated running distances; this might be good for the ego, but not for your training.

It's all based on some fairly loose approximations of your pacing. If you're idiot enough to want to game a system that's trying to get you fit, then you could waggle your arm all day long and the Neo might think you've run a marathon. All the same, Samsung doesn't claim that its wearables are trying to compete with the dedicated running and multi-sports crowd such as TomTom and Garmin and, if you'd just like some features along the same lines as a FitBit Flex, then what's here will be sufficient.

Gear 2 Neo sleep tracking

As with many wearables at the moment, the sleep tracking on the Gear 2 Neo is something of a con. Its only job is to monitor accelerometer activity in the interim period. In other words, if you move, it knows. So, the app keeps a count of how long you're asleep for and how restless you were in the night.

It's not exactly the cutting edge of human biology and really doesn't tell you much at all about the details of your nightly routine which might actually be of tremendous importance to your well-being if the Neo could measure it. If it's proper sleep tracking that you're after, then try the Basis B1 smartwatch which actually keeps tabs on how much light, deep and REM sleep you're getting and might offer a clue as to why you're such a moody so-and-so come the afternoon.

Gear 2 Neo app

There's a lot to like about the Gear Manager app. It's the one-stop-shop for customisation of your Samsung wearable experience. Any changes you make through the app go straight to your Neo. You can change the appearance of the wallpaper, the clock face and even upload your own images and colours through the home screen styler. You can browse and download Samsung Gear apps and you can tinker with the settings to make sure you're only buzzed with the notifications that matter to you. It's a slick, usable app that does everything you need.

Gear 2 Neo battery life

Adding yet another device to charge up overnight is not the most compelling part of owning a Samsung Gear 2 Neo, or indeed any of the company's wearable devices. In fairness, the battery on this smartwatch will last about three days before you need to juice it up again but that comes down to charging it every other night just to be sure.

Ultimately, this isn't one of those wearables with seemingly endless power but that's because it has many more features to drive than those kinds of gadgets. The three-day battery life buys you a couple of nights away from your charger, but whatever you do, don't leave the small, plastic USB cradle/adapter in your hotel room. Without it, you won't be able to charge your device at all.


Samsung Gear 2 Neo
By Samsung
It's £70 cheaper than the top-end Gear 2 and only missing the questionable camera and the superior metal finish. It still looks good, has a superb screen and brings all the notifications away from your phone and straight to your wrist in a very effective and usable manner. If you’re a Samsung Galaxy smartphone user looking to jump into wearables, the strong features and performance here will see you right.

Hit
  • Lovely display
  • Smart notifications
  • Good price
  • Simple yet effective
Miss
  • Questionable tracking accuracy
  • Sleep features terrible
  • Plastic build​
  • Tizen, not Android Wear

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