Galaxy Watch Active 2 vs. Galaxy Watch: Which should you buy?

Galaxy Watch Active 2 Heart Rate Hero
Galaxy Watch Active 2 Heart Rate Hero (Image credit: Chris Wedel / Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

Galaxy Watch Active 2 (40mm)

If you want a sleek and sporty smartwatch that's packed with tech and offers reliable fitness tracking, the Active 2 is an excellent choice. You'll enjoy improved sensors along with some neat new features that enhance your experience.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

Modern fitness smartwatch

Digital rotating bezel
Built-in GPS
Running Analysis, VO2 Max
ECG, blood pressure monitoring
Optional LTE
Price goes up with LTE
Faster battery drain with LTE, GPS, etc.

Samsung Galaxy Watch

Samsung Galaxy Watch

For those seeking a traditional smartwatch with a sophisticated design suitable for all occasions, the Galaxy Watch is an ideal option. You'll have plenty of innovative features and decent fitness tracking, too.

Samsung Galaxy Watch

Classic lifestyle smartwatch

Physical rotating bezel
Built-in GPS
Multi-day battery life
Sophisticated design
Optional LTE
A bit heavy and bulky
Fewer exercise modes

Galaxy Watch Active 2 vs. Galaxy Watch: Different strokes for different folks

While the Galaxy Watch Active 2 and the Galaxy Watch couldn't look more different, you can expect to see some similarities with these two Samsung smartwatches. This shouldn't come as a big surprise given that the same company makes them, and they both run on Tizen OS. The prices are quite similar as well, so choosing between the two will come down to what type of experience you're looking for with your device. Either way, both of these wearables are some of the best Android smartwatches you can buy.

If your top priority to have a lightweight fitness smartwatch with accurate tracking and all the latest features, you're probably going to lean toward the Galaxy Watch Active 2. Perhaps you were hoping for a more traditional wearable experience that still offers many perks. If you want a device that's focused on providing you with essential smartwatch features, you might prefer the Galaxy Watch instead.

You'll have it all with the Galaxy Watch Active 2

Galaxy Watch Active 2

Source: Android Central Pictured: Galaxy Watch Active 2 (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is a newer device, which means you will get some improvements and upgrades that the Galaxy Watch can't match. Some of the new features the Active 2 offers include an electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor for detecting an irregular heartbeat, an advanced accelerometer, a more accurate LED-based heart rate monitor, and improved GPS accuracy. You'll also have access to blood pressure readings with the Samsung Health Monitor app.

There was a helpful update that eventually brought many other key features to the Galaxy Watch Active 2. For starters, you can now measure VO2 max, which indicates the maximum amount of oxygen you can utilize during intense activity. This will help you better your overall fitness and performance capacity so that you can work on improving your endurance. We'd be remiss not to mention the new Running Analysis feature, which helps you improve your form, become a better runner, and avoid injuries.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Galaxy Watch Active 2Galaxy Watch
Display1.2-inch AMOLED (40 mm)1.4-inch AMOLED (44 mm)1.2-inch AMOLED (42 mm)1.3-inch AMOLED (46 mm)
Dimensions40x40x10.9mm (40 mm)44x44x10.9mm (44 mm)41.9x45.7x12.7mm (42 mm)46x49x13mm (46 mm)
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi b/g/n, LTE (select models)Bluetooth4.2, Wi-Fi b/g/n, LTE (select models)
Water-resistanceUp to 50mUp to 50m
Battery247mAh (40 mm)340mAh (44 mm)270mAh (42 mm)472 mAh (46 mm)
SensorsHRM, electrocardiogram (ECG), accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, ambient light sensorHRM, accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, ambient light sensor
Operating SystemTizenTizen
Built-in GPS✔️✔️
Samsung Pay✔️✔️
Blood pressure monitoring✔️
Wireless Charging✔️✔️
Optional LTE✔️✔️

Another improvement with this update is the Fall Detection feature. When a potential fall is detected during an activity, you'll have the option to send an SOS notification to up to four pre-assigned contacts. You'll also enjoy smoother on-wrist communication. Rather than using your phone when there's a new notification, you can easily view photos and emoticons on your wrist. The Galaxy Watch Active 2 can automatically display your chat history rather than only a single new message.

One thing that these wearables have in common is that they both offer optional LTE connectivity. This means you'll be able to make calls, send/receive texts, and stream music without having to be near your phone. The Active 2 is more advanced in this department as you have a more interactive experience from your wrist. Whether you're liking a tweet or watching a YouTube clip, you'll be able to do more in terms of interaction with your content.

Both smartwatches offer fitness tracking, including automatic activity tracking, heart-rate monitoring, and sleep tracking

Both smartwatches offer fitness tracking, including automatic activity tracking, heart-rate monitoring, and sleep tracking. However, if you're looking to go further with health and fitness features, the Active 2 is the better choice. For starters, the Running Coach feature is improved. It monitors your pace in real-time and offers mid-route feedback by tracking your precise location through the GPS and accelerometer. You can also expect to receive these readings faster thanks to the improved sensors.

While you'll enjoy a rotating bezel for easy navigation on both of these wearables, they each function differently. The Active 2 boasts a new, innovative bezel that's fully digital. The black border surrounding the display is a touch-sensitive strip that allows you to scroll through menus by running your finger over it. This is an adjustment, especially if you're used to a physical bezel found in the Galaxy Watch. Once you get the hang of it, you'll probably never want to look back. You can't argue that it provides a cleaner, less bulky appearance without the extra moving parts.

The Galaxy Watch proves that size matters

Samsung Galaxy watch

Source: Android Central Pictured: Galaxy Watch, 46 mm and 42 mm (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

The Galaxy Watch is available in 42mm and 46mm. Unless you've got a giant wrist that needs the larger size, it's hard to imagine the 46mm model being comfortable. It weighs in at a whopping 63g, which is more than twice the weight of the 44mm aluminum Active 2 model at just 30g. No matter which size you pick, the Galaxy Watch gives off a more masculine vibe. It has a heavy-duty feel thanks to the military-grade durability rating. The color options include silver, midnight black, and rose gold. You can always swap out your Galaxy Watch bands as you see fit.

One of the advantages of these larger models is that both of them offer bigger batteries. This means that you can expect longer battery life in return. The 46mm model promises to last up to seven days, while the 42mm model should last up to four days. Again, you'll want to bear in mind that this all depends on how you use your watch. You might be able to stretch it to the full amount if you don't utilize the more battery-consuming features too often.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

Source: Android Central Pictured: Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, 40 mm and 44 mm (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

On the other hand, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is available in 40mm and 44mm. You can choose between an aluminum model with a fluoroelastomer band and a stainless steel model with a leather strap. The aluminum model comes in aqua black, cloud silver, and rose gold. The stainless steel model keeps things traditional with black, silver, and gold. As usual, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 bands are also interchangeable.

Since these two options are smaller than the sizes offered by the Galaxy Watch, the batteries are also smaller. The number of days you'll be able to get out of each will vary based on numerous factors. If you're using the LTE model, you can automatically expect the battery to drain faster. The same logic applies if you'll be a frequent user of GPS along with the always-on display. Of course, there are battery-saving techniques you can try. Nevertheless, you should prepare to charge the Active 2 every couple of days or so.

Galaxy Watch Active 2 vs. Galaxy Watch: Which should you buy?

Either of these wearables will prove to be a great investment, but it's true they cater to entirely different audiences. If it's a full-blown fitness experience you want from your smartwatch, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is the obvious choice. You'll have the new ECG feature that'll alert you of irregular heartbeat, improved sensors, GPS, Running Analysis, VO2 Max, and blood pressure monitoring. Plus, you can automatically track several activities: running, walking, cycling, swimming, rowing machine, elliptical machine, and dynamic workouts. If fitness is your focus, you can't go wrong with the Active 2.

If you aren't too worried about the health and fitness feature, you might be better off with the more traditional smartwatch experience that the Galaxy Watch offers. While this wearable can also provide you with plenty of health and fitness metrics—it's simply not the primary focus of the device. If your main priorities include LTE connectivity, GPS, Samsung Pay, music storage, app support, and notification support in the form of a style-driven smartwatch, the Galaxy Watch will win you over.

Courtney Lynch

Courtney Lynch is a freelance writer at Android Central. She's obsessed with all things health, fitness, and music. At any given time, she can be found checking out the latest and greatest gadgets while simultaneously petting her dog and sipping iced coffee.