Samsung has been releasing new smartwatches thick and fast over the past year, and this means that picking between the company's range is now an increasingly challenging proposition.
At the top of the tree is the Samsung Galaxy Watch, the flagship device that released late in 2018. This has now been joined by the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 – replacing the first generation model, which only launched a few months ago.
Essential reading: Which Samsung smartwatch is best?
Below, we'll be comparing the two smartwatches in all the key areas to help you decide which is best for you. You can check out our snapshot comparison below or read on for a more in-depth look at how the two Samsung watches measure up.
|Samsung Galaxy Watch||Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2|
|Size options||42mm and 46mm||40mm and 44mm|
|Waterproofing||5ATM (up to 50 metres depth)||5ATM (up to 50 metres depth)|
|Screen||1.2-inch/1.3-inch 360 x 360 AMOLED||1.2-inch/1.4-inch 360 x 360 AMOLED, always on|
|Band sizes||20mm (42mm)/22mm (46mm), interchangeable||20mm interchangeable|
|Rotating bezel||Physical bezel||Touch sensitive bezel|
|Heart rate monitor||Optical sensor||Optical sensor and ECG|
|LTE/4G||Yes (46mm only)||Yes (both sizes)|
|Battery||Up to 4 days (42mm)/Up to 7 days (46mm)||Up to 4 days (40mm)/Up to 2 days (44mm)|
|Compatibility||iOS 9.0+ and Android 5.0+||iOS 9.0+ and Android 5.0+|
Samsung Galaxy Watch v Galaxy Watch Active 2: Design
As the names suggest, there's a clear difference between these two smartwatches – the Galaxy Watch is pegged as more of a lifestyle smartwatch, whereas the Watch Active 2 is more of a fitness-first smartwatch. Let's compare the design options.
Users can pick between quite a few different designs with these two devices. The regular Galaxy Watch is available in 42mm and 46mm, with black and gold finishes available for the smaller version and a silver model only available for the bigger of the two. There's no real differences in terms of software, whichever you decide to choose, but know that you can only get LTE/4G on the 46mm, silver version.
Related: Best Samsung Galaxy Watch faces
As for the Watch Active 2, this also comes in two different sizes – 40mm and 44mm. And there are two styles you can pick between: a lightweight, aluminium body with a silicon band, or the stainless steel, which comes with a leather band. Both styles, no matter which size you plump for, are available in black, silver and gold.
Bottom line: We recommend trying out both variations of whichever model you prefer the look of. The 46mm Galaxy Watch is a behemoth on pretty much every wrist – some will like that, but we suspect most will enjoy the less daunting measurements of the Watch Active 2.
If you want a lightweight smartwatch, there's no doubt that your best option is the Galaxy Watch Active 2.
The smaller, 40mm model weighs just 26g. Compared to the stainless steel Galaxy Watch, which weighs 49g for the 42mm model and 63g for the 46mm model, it's a big point of comparison in these watches. Particularly for those who will exercise frequently, the Watch Active 2 will likely be a more comfortable fit. Even the 44mm, stainless steel model of the sporty smartwatch weighs less (45g) than the smaller Galaxy Watch.
As we've touched upon, model sizes do vary quite considerably in both of these smartwatches. And while that also means the display size itself will also change, the same specs are available across the Galaxy Watch and Watch Active 2 lines.
Whichever you decide is the best fit for your wrist, you'll get a Super AMOLED screen with 360 x 360 pixel resolution, and all give the option to remain on at all times.
Despite being dropped for the first generation, Samsung's signature rotating bezel makes an appearance on the Watch Active 2. This lets users quickly and easily rotate their way through the smartwatch interface, just like with the Galaxy Watch, though it works slightly differently.
Read next: Best Samsung Galaxy Watch bands
Instead of acting as a separate module on the outer edge of the screen, the Watch Active 2 instead has this functionality built into a touch bezel. You might prefer the physical feedback of the Galaxy Watch over this new bezel, but at least Samsung has brought it to the Active in some form.
Both sets of smartwatches come packing both a 5ATM water rating and IP68 tag. This essentially means that both Samsung smartwatches can withstand water pressure (up to a depth of 50 metres) and be completely free from water and dust damage.
Samsung Galaxy Watch v Galaxy Watch Active 2: Features
Like design, the nature of these two smartwatches inevitably means there are different strengths and weaknesses to each. However, since both run Tizen OS, and come from the same manufacturer, there's not an overwhelming amount of difference.
Fitness is a focus for these Samsung smartwatches – particularly for the Active 2, but there's also a raft of more traditional smartwatch features on both models.
The pair, naturally, will work with either iOS or Android devices, while you can also access Samsung Pay, notifications, storage for music and a full app store, harbouring the likes of Uber and Spotify. Samsung's own voice assistant, Bixby, also makes an appearance on both models, but, to be honest, it's still lacking.
Read this: How to set up Samsung Pay on Galaxy Watch
Naturally, notifications for texts, emails, calls and third-party apps can all be received through the watch and controlled through the companion app. And though this is naturally easier on a bigger screen (of which the Galaxy Watch can offer the biggest), the Watch Active 2 does, rather strangely, seem to be pushing some more integrated social features. Users, for example, will enjoy a richer Twitter experience, as well as being able to watch YouTube videos from the wrist.
Support for standalone connectivity works similarly on both these Samsung smartwatches. Essentially, the top-end models have the option to have LTE included – so that's the 46mm Galaxy Watch and stainless steel variants of the Watch Active 2. For the other models, connection will be limited to Bluetooth.
Fitness and wellness modes
Both the Galaxy Watch and Watch Active 2 are designed for fitness, though it's the latter that has the edge, in terms of exercise modes and dedicated features. While the regular Galaxy Watch offers 21 modes for outdoor exercise and the gym, the new Active can monitor you during 39 different types of workout, with seven, including running, walking, cycling and swimming, all tracked automatically.
It also has an updated Running Coach from the first generation, letting you keep track of your running pace in real time.
Run to the beat: Use Spotify on your Samsung watch
For both devices, you'll get round-the-clock stress tracking through Samsung Health, while sleep will also be logged in the portal. If you wanted guided meditation, that's available on both, too.
Interestingly, there's also a fair bit of difference between these two smartwatches in the sensors department. Both feature an accelerometer, gyro, barometer and GPS, though the heart rate sensor on the Watch Active 2 appears far superior.
Not only has Samsung improved the design – it now includes eight LEDs, allowing it to take readings more regularly and accurately – but it also becomes the first Samsung watch to offer support for electrocardiogram readings. This feature isn't live at launch, but Samsung indicates news on its rollout will be coming soon.
This area, as ever, is dependent on how you use the smartwatch. However, the raw numbers suggest the Galaxy Watch is the preferable option for those prioritising battery life.
For the Watch Active 2, the 44mm model features a 340mAh battery, while the 40mm edition shrinks that down to a 247mAh unit. By comparison, the 42mm Galaxy Watch manages a 270mAh battery, and the mammoth 46mm model manages to fit in a 472mAh battery. At least on paper, the bigger the device, the longer it should last.
Try these: Best Samsung Galaxy Watch apps
Samsung suggests the 46mm Galaxy Watch can eke out around a week of life, while the bigger Watch Active 2 should manage around four days. As we say, this will take a dip on the smaller models, and using features like LTE/4G will see juice drain considerably.
Samsung Galaxy Watch v Galaxy Watch Active 2: Price
Unlike the first generation, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is priced much closer to the Galaxy Watch. The 40mm version of the device will set you back $279.99, rising to $299.99 for the 44mm model. There are no details yet regarding the LTE edition, though the company suggests it will be available through all major carriers in the US, or UK pricing.
Meanwhile, the 42mm Galaxy Watch comes in at , jumping up to for the 46mm version.
Samsung Galaxy Watch v Galaxy Watch Active 2: Which is best?
If you're looking to buy either the Galaxy Watch or Galaxy Watch Active 2, it's important to know that you can't really go wrong – on paper, at least.
We're currently going through the process of reviewing the Active 2, and can't therefore give a full judgement either way, though the refined design and new features do suggest it could rival the older Galaxy Watch for the crown of best Samsung smartwatch.
As with the old generation, those who prioritise a lightweight, sporty build and more detailed health tracking will be better served with the Watch Active 2. Those, however, who want a more traditional smartwatch look and experience, with the potential for bigger battery life, may want to take a better look at the Galaxy Watch.
How we test