If you want yourself a classy-looking smartwatch these days, you don't have to turn to the hybrids. More and more we're seeing full-fat devices that would have most Swiss watchmakers turning a little green. Samsung and Tag Heuer have found success in the Gear and Connected devices respectively, and chances are, if you're on the look for a smartwatch, you'll have stumbled across them.
Both are good looking wearables, but the offerings are also quite different, so it's worth reading up on all the facts before you make a decision between them. For example, you're getting two entirely different operating systems.
Which reigns supreme? Which is best smartwatch for your needs? We've been using both for quite some time, and this is our verdict.
Samsung Gear S3 v Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45: Design
Tag created a real beauty in its 2015 Connected smartwatch, and the new Modular is no different. This is a real looker, with Tag's design DNA plain to see. The 45mm, 13.75mm thick body makes it quite chunky, but we didn't find it was too overbearing - even with the titanium strap on. It's still definitely a watch aimed at men, but Tag has plans for a women's version later in the year.
The headline feature of the new watch - something that Samsung's doesn't have - is the modularity (hint hint, it's in the name), letting you change up the body, strap and lugs. Tag boasts 56 different combinations, and you can even swap in a mechanical face if you want to temporarily go without smarts altogether.
Samsung's Gear S3 similarly has a round face and, should you go for the Classic option, a dapper design too. The Gear S3 also comes in the Frontier variant, which has a more rugged look and is clearly aimed more towards the adventurer/fitness aficionados. Both edge out the Tag on size just a fraction, measuring in at 46mm, and there's no denying that we were disappointed in Samsung's decision to bulk up after the slick Gear S2. Beyond swapping the straps, the Gear S3 doesn't have the personalization of the Tag Modular.
Oddly, only the Tag Heuer is really built to sustain a dunking, as it's waterproof to 50m while Samsung's Gear S3 is only IP68 rated, so 1.5 meters for 30 minutes. However we'll throw Samsung a few extra points for that lovely rotating bezel, which the Tag Heuer lacks.
We reckon Tag takes it on design easily, with a less hefty feeling smartwatch that's more robust to boot.
Samsung Gear S3 v Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45: Features
Features between the two smartwatches are naturally going to be quite different as they're running different operating systems. The Gear S3 is using Samsung's Tizen software, while the Tag is an Android Wear watch.
One external feature difference is the heart rate monitor, which you'll only find on the Gear S3, so Samsung wins that one by default (even if its HR tech isn't amazing for serious running). Another big one is that rotating bezel, as this is a key way to navigate around the operating system - and we can't get enough of it. Despite Android Wear 2.0 enabling rotational input, we're yet to see anyone utilize it this well.
On the whole, we like Tizen a lot, and reckon it's got enough to give Android Wear a run for its money in looks and ease of use. Where it falls down is in apps; Samsung's artillery is still smaller than Google's, despite Tizen having been on the scene for quite some time now. Samsung boasts 10,000 apps, but it's still lacking some of the big ones. Android Wear 2.0 is a significant leap ahead of its former version, and with it has come better featured apps, as well as standalone ones.
Both watches support mobile payments, however while both work with contactless terminals, Samsung Pay has the advantage of being compatible with magnetic strip transitions, meaning it's more widely supported.
As for iPhone users wondering if any of this applies to them, Tizen and Android Wear both now support iOS these days, but just bear in mind that you won't be getting the full experience, so check what you'll be missing out on if you do want one of these smartwatches.
Samsung Gear S3 v Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45: Health and fitness
Both watches come with built-in GPS for tracking workouts, but as mentioned, you're only getting the heart rate sensor on the gear S3. In terms of the platforms, Samsung Health has definitely made leaps and bounds, and we reckon it's better than Google Fit right now. That said, both can pair with many of the third-party apps you may already be using, so you can share data between them. You'll be able to track exercise through the likes of MapMyRun, Endomondo and UA Record if you'd prefer.
In testing, we found the GPS to be solid on both watches, but it's clear that Tag sees its smartwatch as less of a fitness companion as Samsung sees its own. The integration of Samsung Health with the Gear S3 is definitely notable, and you're getting a watch that's a bit more geared towards fitness out of the box. However, as said, you've got plenty of third-party apps that will let you get more out of the Tag as a running/cycling device if you so wish.
Samsung Gear S3 v Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45: Battery
Always an important category, this, and the one where Samsung is the clear winner. The Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 can last the day, maybe a day and a half at a push, but when GPS comes in though you're looking at significantly less than that.
With the Gear S3, we've managed to get about three days of use from it, and found the GPS sucking much less power than on Tag's. Really, the Gear S3 wipes the floor with most of its rivals in the battery department right now.
Samsung Gear S3 v Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45: Price
Another wide difference. As you might expect, Tag's offering does not come cheap. Or even moderately priced. While the cost varies depending on the model/parts you opt for, you're starting at $1,650 and moving up to $17,000 if you really want to go all out. Yup, it's a lot.
The Gear S3 has just got a bit of a price cut, bringing it down to $299, and is significantly less than Tag's watch. Comparing the two prices might be a bit pointless in this case, but there you are - Samsung's the "budget" option, relatively speaking.
Samsung Gear S3 v Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45: Verdict
It's quite tough to compare these two, because if you're considering the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 then design is probably an important factor. However, for us it comes down to this: is sports and fitness also important? If it is, you're better looking to Samsung; if not, then despite an inferior battery life, the Tag Heuer just manages to win this battle.