Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 vs Galaxy Watch 4: Which should you buy?

We detail the key differences between the two smartwatch generations
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 vs Watch 4
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The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 is officially on the scene, and, given that it looks a lot like its predecessor, we expect there now are plenty of people wondering whether to upgrade.

Over the last year, we've had the chance to thoroughly test the Watch 4's sports tracking, smartwatch features and more - and have been putting the Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro through similar tests since their release in August.

For those wondering which watch to choose, we've provided a full and detailed breakdown of the key differences between the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, Watch 5 Pro, Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 v Watch 4: Pricing

Before getting into our experiences testing the design and features, we should outline the different models available and their pricing.

It's likely the price of the Galaxy Watch 4 models will change now that the Watch 5 has launched - especially with certain third-party retailers - but here's the current pricing structure on Samsung's website:

  • Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 40mm: $299/£269, $329/£319 (LTE)
  • Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 44mm: $329/£289, $369/£339 (LTE)
  • Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro: $449/£429, $499/£479 (LTE)
  • Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 40mm: $199/£199, $249/£239 (LTE)
  • Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 44mm: $279/£219, £259 (LTE)
  • Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic 42mm: $299, $349/£389 (LTE)
  • Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic 46mm: $329/£369, $379/£409 (LTE)

A look at these prices shows that the cheapest Watch 4 option comes in considerably less than the cheapest Watch 5 - and that could play a big factor in your decision to choose it.

The jump in price from the Watch 4 Classic to its replacement, the Watch 5 Pro, is also pretty significant.

As we always advise, keep an eye out for sales around the holiday period - it's possible that both of these smartwatch generations will see a price reduction at some stage before the year is out.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 v Watch 4: Design

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 vs Watch 4 on wrist

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 (black band) and Galaxy Watch 5 (blue band)

The Watch 5 and the Watch 4 look very similar, though the Watch 5 Pro and the Watch 4 Classic are very different, signaling a clear change in design strategy from Samsung.

With the standard Watch 5, you're getting the same case sizes, physical buttons and aluminum frame as you get on the Watch 4. The key difference, which isn't something you'll really notice, is that Samsung has swapped the Gorilla Glass Dx glass for a sapphire crystal display. This is more commonly found on pricier watches to offer better protection against scratches.

There's a bit more of a difference when you look at the Watch 4 Classic and the Watch 5 Pro, with the latter (shown below) featuring a look that's more in line with the Watch 5 and the Watch 4.

You're getting a titanium case with a sapphire crystal display on the Watch 5 Pro, with a bezel that's also designed to offer some extra protection around the screen.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 vs Galaxy Watch 5 Pro

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 (left), Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro (right)

In the screen department, you've got Super AMOLED displays across the board - and all can be used in an always-on mode.

It's hard to fault Samsung's smartwatch displays; no matter which one you going for here, you're going to get something that offers strong brightness, good colors and good visibility.

We'd still say that the raise-to-wake support on Samsung's watches can be a bit hit-and-miss, but, relatively speaking, the screen performance is very good on all four of these watch models.

One difference some might care about, as we've hinted, is the control from the bezel. On the Watch 4, Watch 5 and Watch 5, you have the digital kind that lets you swipe to navigate through screens. On the Watch 4 Classic, you've got a physical, rotating version.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 vs Watch 4 sensor array

If you care about switching up bands, then you're well covered here, too. The way the connectors are designed means you'll likely need to stick to Samsung's official ones to get the optimal fit, but there are lots of color options available.

All of these watches also carry a 5ATM water resistant rating, which means you can go swimming with them and can be submerged in water up to 50 meters in depth.

Basically, if you're picking up the Watch 5, Watch 4 or Watch 5 Pro, you're looking at essentially the same design. The Watch 4 Classic stands out as the Samsung smartwatch that aspires to offer a classier smartwatch look - and, as we said, is the only option that offers the physical rotating bezel.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 v Watch 4: Features

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 vs Watch 4 home screen

We're going to talk in general terms here about all of these watches, because they all run on Google Wear OS 3, which Samsung helped to build.

They all also include Samsung's own UI, which is laid on top of Wear and feels like a mix of the Tizen OS that featured on watches pre-Galaxy Watch 4, along with elements of Google's Wear OS. All of these watches only work with Android phones (sorry, iPhone users).

The Watch runs on Wear OS 3.5 out of the box - and Samsung has started rolling out the same version of Wear for Watch 4 owners, as well. This means you can expect a similar experience in terms of how that watch software looks and behaves. Elements like the app screen and Tiles (widgets) live in the same place, and we've been hard-pressed to find any major differences here day-to-day.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 google maps

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

Features like notification support, music controls and the built-in music player all work in a similar fashion. You have payment support options with Samsung Pay and Google Wallet, too, and now even have your pick of Samsung Bixby or Google Assistant smart assistants.

Google's own assistant is a significantly more reliable performer here, in our view.

You do also have access to the Google Play Store in order to access third-party apps, too - some of which have been optimized for Wear OS 3.0 or above.

If you want LTE, then you're well catered for, as all models of the Watch 5 and Watch 4 offer support. This means you're able to receive notifications, answer calls, stream music and more without the close-by connection of your phone.

If you're trying to separate what these watches offer in terms of general smartwatch features, there's very little to pick between - and that's good news for those leaning toward the Galaxy Watch 4 models.

All four smartwatches offer the same UI, the same reliance on phone apps (Galaxy Wearable, Samsung Health and Health Monitor) and, performance-wise, there's not a major leap between the two iterations.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 v Watch 4: Health and fitness tracking

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 vs Watch 4 health and fitness tracking

Things do start to slightly change when you look at the health and fitness features on offer on these watches, though we'd still say you can expect the core experience to stay the same.

For starters, these are all watches that include Samsung's same sensor setup, which gives you PPG, ECG and BIA sensors to track heart rate, blood oxygen, clinical-grade heart rate, blood pressure data and body composition analysis.

For the new Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro, Samsung says it's increased the surface area of that sensor array to improve accuracy. In our testing, though, we're not convinced we've seen a massive jump in accuracy.

All of these watches do include ECG and blood pressure monitoring features, too, as we say, though you will need a Samsung phone (no matter which watch you choose) to download the Samsung Health Monitor phone app to use them.

If you're turning to these watches to track your exercise, they're capable of doing that, but they don't offer you the best sports tracking you can find on a smartwatch right now.

There's built-in GPS across the board and support for activities like swimming (pool and open water), and cycling, with some rep counting for bodyweight workouts here, as well.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 vs Watch 4: What's new?

For the Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro, Samsung has added the ability to generate hydration recommendations based on sweat loss during workouts, and the watches will assess recovery in real-time a few minutes after a cardio workout.

The core tracking performance doesn't feel hugely different between the old-gen and new-gen Galaxy Watches, though. GPS and heart rate tracking is generally decent on the accuracy front, and you get a nice range of metrics to view for most activities.

Automatic rep counting isn't fantastic. If that's something you were hoping to make good use of, understand that none of these watches really excels on that front.

You can't pair an external heart rate monitor to improve heart rate tracking during exercise, either, and there are some basic metrics for activities like running that seem to have been overlooked (like lap pace), despite offering some more advanced ones like running symmetry.

The Watch 5 Pro does have one feature that none of the watches offer, and that's the ability to upload routes and enjoy mapping and navigation features, which is great if you're a cyclist or hiker.

This is down to the Watch 5 Pro having a larger battery than the other Samsung watches. Technically, though, these other watches offer access to third-party apps like Komoot that do offer similar kinds of support, you just might find it'll hit the battery harder when you do that.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 vs Watch 4: What's new?

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

Things get a bit better with activity tracking and sleep monitoring, thankfully.

These are all watches that will track your steps, automatically recognize when you've broken into a speedy walk and will nudge you when you've been inactive for long periods.

Samsung's sleep tracking is pretty solid across the board here, and we've had good data when testing both the Watch 4 and Watch 5, with a nice breakdown of your stats in the Samsung Health app and on the watches themselves. Both offer Samsung's new, richer sleep features, like access to coaching and plans, to help you improve sleep time, as well.

Technically, you should expect to get a better overall tracking performance on the Galaxy Watch 5 compared to the Watch 4. In reality, we don't think it's all that different. If you want the more advanced health tracking features, then you could pay less and still get them on the Watch 4 or Watch 4 Classic.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 v Watch 4: Battery life

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 vs Watch 4: What's new?

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

You might be hoping that a new watch means bigger battery life - and that's technically true if you go for the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro.

With the Watch 4 and the Watch 4 Classic, Samsung promised up to 40 hours across the board, and that's pretty much what we experienced in our testing time. It's a solid day with a bit extra. Plus, you have a good power-saving mode to push things a little further.

With the Watch 5, you're getting the same quoted 40 hours, and, again, that's pretty much what we've got when putting it to the test. Like with the Watch 4 models, you have the power saving mode to get closer to 2 days of battery.

The Watch 5 Pro promises 80 hours, meanwhile, and is capable of getting there as long as you're not making heavy use of GPS tracking and those extra mapping and navigation features.

The same features seem to offer similar drain across the Watch 5 and Watch 4, but, if you want the Samsung with the biggest battery life, then obviously go for the Watch 5 Pro.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 v Watch 4 verdict: Which should you buy?

So, those are the nitty-gritty details of how the Watch 5 and the Watch 4 models match up.

We think both generations provide arguably two of the best smartwatches available to Android users. So, which one should you buy? Here's our recommendations:

Buy the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro: If you want the best battery life and native mapping features.

Buy the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: If you want the latest Samsung smartwatch and don't mind paying extra.

Buy the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: If you want the same look, features and tracking as the Watch 5 but for less money.

Buy the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4Classic: If you prefer the traditional watch styling and the physical, rotating bezel.