Fossil Gen 5 vs. Fossil Sport: Which should you buy?

fossil gen 5
fossil gen 5 (Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle

The Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle is a near-perfect smartwatch. The well-tuned exterior casing, a solid rotating crown, some thoughtful tweaks to the software help this watch hum along wonderfully with the Snapdragon 3100 and 1GB of RAM. The only caveats keeping it from perfection are the battery life, a screen that can't quite hold up under daylight, and—unfortunately—Wear OS.

Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle

The new kid

Fantastic hardware
Vibrant, colorful screen
1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage
Screen brightness struggles in sunlight
Still some battery life struggles

Fossil Sport

Fossil Sport is a good watch. It has solid, light hardware with features like the rotating crown that offer plenty of options for use. The variety of colors should appeal to a broad audience. Even though it uses the newest Qualcomm wearable processor, it's hampered by the 512mb of RAM. Pair that with a price similar to higher specced watches, and it may be a cause to pause.

Fossil Sport

The sport class

Running latest Snapdragon 3100 processor
Very lightweight for those workouts
Six unique color options
Only 512mb of Ram and 4GB of storage
Pricey considering competitors

The list of Wear OS watches that are using the latest 3100 Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm is a short one. However, Fossil has two of them in the Sport and the Gen 5 Carlyle, and guess what they are both reliable options. With many features being shared between the two devices, it can be hard to pick, which is the better option. While few, some key differences can tip the scale.

Do the specs really matter?

The Carlyle is the first watch from Fossil on its new Gen 5 platform. With that, the watchmaker introduces some subtle software tweaks that allow the user to tailor the watch to how they use it. These changes were done to help give a bit more control of battery usage and help to stretch your day with it out as much as possible. While these software features have been announced to be coming to previous versions of watches, they haven't quite made it.

However, something that cannot be changed in software is the look of the physical watch. The Sport and Carlyle do share the two-button and a rotating crown between them, but the case size and colors are not. Perhaps you prefer a lighter smaller case like the 43mm (or 41 for the white or pink) aluminum and nylon case of the Sport, rather than the slightly larger stainless steel 44mm case of the Carlyle. The Carlyle, much like its name, is going for a bit more of the classy look with its Rose Gold, Smoke Stainless Steel, and Black color options. Though the Sport does offer your more traditional silver and dark gray, if your aim is for a bit more standout style then the Sport's red, pink, or blue might be for you.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Fossil Gen 5 CarlyleFossil Sport
Dimensions44mm x 12mm43/41mm, 12mm
ColorsBlack silicone/steel,Dark Brown/black steel, Smoke stainless steelBlack, gray, red, pink, green and blue
Watch housingStainless steelAluminum frame
Nylon backplate
Display1.28" AMOLED 416x416px1.29"/1.19" AMOLED 390x390px
ChipsetSnapdragon Wear 3100Snapdragon Wear 3100
MemoryRAM: 1GB
Storage: 8GB
RAM: 512MB
Storage: 4GB
Operating SystemWear OS 2.4Wear OS 2.1
ConnectivityBluetooth smart v4.2 LE
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth smart v4.2 LE
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
1-4 days
1-3 days
Water resistance3ATM waterproof
5ATM waterproof
Heart Rate Monitor
Ambient Light Sensor
Heart Rate Monitor
Ambient Light Sensor

Looking at the spec-sheets of these two watches, it's easy to see, that though they are a generation apart, there is little separating them. They are shot for shot the matched up on sensors, each watch has the heart rate monitor, onboard GPS, and ambient light sensor. They both offer interchangeable watch bands, 18mm vs. 22mm, and solid case construction. Only when we look close, do we see that there is really one maybe two significant differences.

At times, the solution to underperforming software is simply more hardware.

That's in the RAM and storage. While the separation between the 4GB on the Sport and the 8GB on the Carlyle may not mean much to you if you don't offload much music or download many apps — the difference in RAM most definitely will. Using the two watches side by side is almost night and day in how they operate. Even though they run nearly identical software, the way each "feels" can't be denied. The extra 512mb of RAM on the Carlyle seems to make all the difference in gliding between menus, screens, and app load times. Now, the Sport is no slouch; the Snapdragon 3100 helps as much as it can. However, the ever-persistent lag of Wear OS can seemingly—in its current form—be solved by using at least 1GB of RAM.

Something both suffer from, aside from less than stellar battery life, are screens that struggle in direct sunlight. These watches have vibrant, colorful AMOLED displays that do an excellent job in most conditions. However, even on full brightness, the screens both are challenging to see while outside. They are responsive to touch cues and have crisp text and graphics that glide along nicely when navigating using the rotating crown.

These are two of the best watches available, and they happen to come from the same company. Fossil has been one of the few watchmakers to continuously pump-out these devices. They also are one of the few genuinely trying to innovate on a platform that cannot honestly be said to be doing the same. What it truly comes down to is, "how do you plan to use your watch, and what's your style?"

Both watches can carry it's own when it comes to the features and style. If fitness your primary use for your watch, you'd like it to have some style, and maybe save just a few bucks then you might be perfectly happy with a Fossil Sport. Believe me though; if you can skip that coffeehouse drink just a few more times and save those pennies, the Carlye will likely make you much happier. True it doesn't have the fun case colors, but you can swap those bands to fun colors until your heart's content. The thing that will indeed win you over is how that bump in RAM to 1GB will save you from pulling out your hair.

Chris Wedel
Smart Home Writer
Chris Wedel is a fan of all things tech and gadgets. Living in rural Kansas with his wife and two young boys makes finding ways to get and stay online tricky. By utilizing his years of experience with the tech and mobile communications industries — success is assured. When not conquering connectivity challenges and testing new gadgets, he enjoys cruising a gravel road in his UTV with some good tunes.