Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 v Galaxy Watch Active 2 compared

Which Samsung smartwatch should you go for?
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 v Watch Active 2
Wareable is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 might be the cheapest member of the Samsung smartwatch family, but it's emerged as one of our firm favourites.

While predominantly built for fitness, it has pretty much everything you'd want in a fitness smartwatch. Now that the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is on the scene though, you might be weighing up whether you need to spend big on the new watch, or save some money and go for the Active 2.

So how do the two compare? What do you lose or gain? We've spent a good amount of time with the Watch Active 2 and now know what the Watch 3 is capable of, to get a better idea of how the two Samsung smartwatches match up.

Here's our breakdown of how the new Galaxy Watch 3 weighs in up against the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 v Watch Active 2: Design

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 design with steel and leather strap

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

We think it's fair to say that these two watches promise a very different look on your wrist. Let's start with size options first, with the Watch Active 2 available in 40mm and 44mm case sizes.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 comes in 41mm and 45mm sizes.

So, those case sizes are a lot closer than they have been for the previous generation Active and Galaxy Watch instalments and we think that's a good thing. The sizing on the Watch Active 2 feels about right and it's good to see Samsung following suit for the Watch 3.

In terms of navigating watch software, all of these watches have touchscreen displays with two physical buttons, though those buttons sit flatter against the case on the Watch Active 2 to deliver a more streamlined look.

When it comes to those touchscreen displays, as we'd said plenty of times before, Samsung makes some of the best smartwatch screens in the business. Resolution-wise, all of these watches offer a 360 x 360 resolution display so you can expect sharp, bright, colourful surroundings.

Galaxy Watch Active 2 showing the apps screen

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

For size, Samsung has evened things up across the range, so the bigger Watch 3 and Watch Active 2 models feature a 1.4-inch screen and the respective smaller models include a 1.2-inch one.

We obviously have to talk about rotating bezels, which has become a signature hardware highlight on Samsung's smartwatches.

After leaving it out on the Galaxy Watch Active, it brought it back on the Watch Active 2, though it introduced a touch sensitive kind that didn't actually physically move.

The Galaxy Watch 3 does have that physical rotating bezel and it now has a more discreet look compared to the one on the first Galaxy Watch.

If you care about thickness and having a lighter watch, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 are the ones to cast your attention towards. The Watch Active 2 also comes in stainless steel and aluminium while the Watch 3 is currently only available in stainless steel.

For colours and models, there's a lot going on here. Especially for the Active 2. You'e got your pick of silver, black and gold in both size options for the Bluetooth and LTE varieties. If you opt for the aluminium Bluetooth option they come in silver, black and gold.

Active2 with yellow watch face on wrist

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

For the Watch 3, the 45mm model comes in black or silver and the 41mm option in bronze and silver. All of these watches support interchangeable bands too. The Watch Active 2 uses 20mm bands matching the 41mm Watch 3. The larger 45mm Watch 3 uses 22m straps.

To take that selection headache further, Samsung also offers the Active 2 in a couple of different editions. There's the golf edition, which brings a new strap and more golf-centric software as well as an Under Armour edition. This offers something similar adding in some of Under Armour's own watch faces and pre-loaded fitness apps.

All of these watches are marked with a 5ATM water rating, making them suitable for swimming up to 50 metres depth with swim tracking also onboard.

Ultimately, if you like the idea of a proper rotating bezel and a slightly larger design, go Watch 3. If you prefer something that sits lighter and smaller on the wrist with a more streamlined look, go Active 2.

Sponsored: Best straps for Samsung smartwatches

Nylon Strap For Samsung Gear S2 Classic
Nylon Strap For Samsung Gear S2 Classic
StrapsCo
$19.99
Vintage Leather Strap for Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
Vintage Leather Strap for Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
StrapsCo
$24.99
Metal Band for Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
Metal Band for Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
StrapsCo
$29.99
Silicone Band for Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
Silicone Band for Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
StrapsCo
$15.99

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 v Watch Active 2: Smartwatch features

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 v Galaxy Watch Active 2: What's different?

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

In recent years, Samsung has sought to offer a better consistency as far what you can expect from software across its watches. That looks to be the same story for its current crop.

Both watches run on Samsung's Tizen OS and works with both Android phones and iPhones. They can handle notifications, dishing out the weather, changing watch faces, letting you transfer over your own music or music from the likes of Spotify. You do also have access to a not so fantastic Bixby smart assistant.

Crucially, the UI is the same too, which makes best use of the moving bezels, though it's likely to be a nicer experience with a physical bezel.

Galaxy Watch 3 showing conversation

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

You can download apps and take calls when using LTE models and generally we've found Tizen's OS pretty easy to get along with. Particularly in comparison to Google's Wear OS.

In terms of performance, it's likely you can expect a relatively smooth experience across the board. Both watches offer a decent amount of RAM, while the Watch 3 gives you a more to play with as far as storage is concerned (8GB compared to 4GB).

The Galaxy Watch 3 will offer some additional features over the Watch Active 2, like smarter, more contextual replies for messaging, though we shouldn't rule out these features coming to the Watch Active 2 as well. As we said, Samsung has got into a good habit of rolling out software updates, and we hope some of the Watch 3 features will be on the way.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 v Watch Active 2: Health and fitness features

Galaxy Watch 3 black with black strap showing asymmetry

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

The Active 2's big play is to be a better fit for tracking your fitness and with the smaller, lighter frame, it's one we've enjoyed running, swimming and using for HIIT sessions. With the Galaxy Watch 3 offering a similar size, we anticipate it's going to be a good fit too. Especially as it offers pretty much all of the same features and more.

Both watches offer heart rate monitors, built-in GPS and an accelerometer for indoor tracking. There's the likes of 24/7 fitness tracking, stress monitoring, guided breathing and some really useful motivational features to keep you moving.

When you're ready to go beyond steps and sleep, there's automatic activity recognition, and dedicated modes for the likes of running, swimming and cycling. Those features have been solid across the board for us on the Active 2, and we expect to see more of the same with the Galaxy Watch 3.

Samsung is promising some additional features for its newer Watch 3 including advanced running metrics and the ability to follow workouts that make use of the onboard heart rate sensor to relay live data. That aside, it seems these two will offer much the same in the way of sports and fitness tracking.

Galaxy Watch Active 2 step tracking

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

Health monitoring has become a big push for Samsung, which really kickstarted with the Active and the promise of blood pressure monitoring. With the Active 2 and the Watch 3, you're getting an ECG sensor to help detect serious heart-related conditions. Both offer the ability to take blood pressure measurements too, once you've calibrated the watches with a cuff-style blood pressure monitor first. The Galaxy Watch 3 additionally promises to take blood oxygen measurements.

Following in Apple's footsteps, you can also expect the new fall detection mode that works in similar fashion to the feature that's included on the latest Apple Watch. Like ECG and blood pressure features though, these features have not been turned on in countries outside of Korea. In the case of the serious health monitoring features, it will need to seek the necessary approval to allow users to start making use of them.

So it's fair to say that these two watches are level pegged when it comes to what they can track and promise to track in the future.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 v Watch Active 2: Battery

For battery life, Samsung has pushed to improve things. It might not be able to match Fitbit or Garmin's week-long battery life, but things are getting better.

For the Watch Active 2, Samsung states that you should get 3-4 days with either size for typical use. In our testing, we'd say it was more two days, when making use of most features.

On the Watch 3, Samsung doesn't state battery life, but it mirrors the battery capacity found on the smaller and larger Active 2. That would suggest a similar type of battery performance.

With its Watch only mode, that will push things further, though with more restrictive access to those big smartwatch features.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 v Watch Active 2: Price

So how do the watches compare in terms of pricing? Let's start with the Galaxy Watch 3, which is $429.99 for the 45mm version and ($399.99) for the 41mm model. If you want 4G/LTE, that jumps to $449.99 for the 45mm model and £439 for the 41mm Galaxy Watch 3.

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 in comparison costs $249.99 for the 40mm option and $269.99 for the 44mm Active 2. Throw in that extra LTE/4G into the mix and then you're looking at $379.99 in the 40mm and $399.99.

So that's a considerable difference in price for the Bluetooth/WiFi only versions, and you'll have to pay a premium for LTE on both watches.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 v Watch Active 2: Initial verdict

If you had to pick between the Galaxy Watch 3 and the Watch Active 2, which one should you go for? These watches are the closest they have been in terms of what they can offer in the way of those core smarts and health and fitness features.

The designs promise to feel similar on the wrist and have that attractive, clean look about them. There's not a huge gulf in case sizes either.

We still think the Active 2 is one of Samsung's best smartwatches and an option to consider if you prefer a smaller, lighter watch to exercise with. The Galaxy Watch 3 has a bit more of that classic watch-style look about it and feels a bit more at home outside of a gym or swimming pool.

It speaks volumes that the Watch 3 has more in common with the Active 2. Samsung has clearly realised it got a lot right with its sportier option and filtering that into its top end watch can only be a good thing.