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Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 hands-on: Should you go Pro?

The entire Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and Galaxy Watch 5 Pro lineup
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

A new wave of wearables is coming later this month with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 series, and one of them comes with an upgrade we've been craving for years in the world of flagship smartwatches — but you'll have to stump up some extra cash for it. 

Yes, Samsung has just announced two new Android smartwatches, and we've even had an opportunity to try them for ourselves. First up, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 comes in 40mm and 44mm display variants, and initially appears to be a modest upgrade on the Watch 4. 

There's no Classic model this year, as the new Galaxy Watch 5 Pro steps into that top-tier category, with a 45mm display and a range of other upgrades. One enhancement in particular might just push your inner Philip J. Fry into "take my money" mode.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro family

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

80-hour battery anyone?

Yes, battery life might sound like an odd feature to highlight so early on in our first official look at the new Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 models. However, this is the situation Samsung and Apple have put us in over the years with consistently disappointing runtimes.

Overall, I'm a big fan of last year’s Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, but the battery life just isn't able to keep up with the device's ambitious selection of tracking features, especially compared to some of the other best fitness trackers. The sleep-tracking is one of the watch's best features, but taking advantage of it removes the simplest option of charging it overnight to ensure you're always charged and ready to go in the morning.

But the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro promises a charge that will last 80 hours, thanks to the new 590mAh battery — that's 63% more mAh than the largest Watch 4 Classic. While the much cheaper Watch 5 can't flex the same, it has had a capacity boost of around 15%, which might see us reaching for that charger just a little less, or leaving the house with a bit more of a "we can make it" attitude.

Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

I'm also super keen to test Samsung's claim that a mere eight minutes of charging from flat will provide eight hours of charge. That's super handy for giving it a major boost just before you head out for the day, or if you realize you're almost out of juice before working out. The switch to a USB-C wireless charging dock will also help achieve some of this new speed.

Of course, I've not had a chance to see if these encouraging battery claims hold water, as I've only had a limited hands-on session with the device. There will, of course, be caveats to these times. I'm assuming running an always-on display or all the health tracking features constantly will see it miss that standard, but we'll let you know once our review units come in.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 with Z Flip 4 in Bora Purple

(Image credit: Brendan Griffiths / Android Central)

What's new with the Galaxy Watch 5?

You'll have to look fairly close to spot the differences between the Galaxy Watch 5 and last year's model. First up, the frame attached to the watch strap has been reshaped to better sit on your wrist with a more appealing curvature. 

The display's surface area has been improved too, making it easier to use the touchscreen taps and swipes to navigate through apps and settings. The skin contact area of the BioActive Sensor has been increased too, which should make for more accurate readings for the heart rate sensor, sleep tracking, and more — this might be better if you were having to wear the Watch 4 a notch too tight to get decent readings.

The new Sapphire Crystal glass on the display is supposedly 60% stronger than before. That inspires a bit more confidence in the exposed glass design of Galaxy Watch 5, which had the more clumsy among us a little worried for the durability of the Watch 4 — it's certainly one of the reasons I opted for the bezel protection of the Classic version instead last year.

Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro Golf Edition

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

The Galaxy Watch 5's battery is around 15% larger than before, which isn't much, but more advanced software might mean we get even more time between charges. The 40mm has a 284mAh battery, and the 44mm has 410mAh. 

We don't expect the larger one to last longer though, as it's powering a larger display. As with the previous model, despite being quite large-looking on smaller wrists, I'd still opt for the 44mm version, as it makes a big difference reading smaller text or making Google Maps a bit easier to follow.

The basic Galaxy Watch 5 comes with a selection of colors this year, albeit split across the two sizes. The 40mm is available with cases in Silver, Graphite, and Pink Gold, with straps in Bora Purple, Graphite, and Pink Gold. On the 44mm model, the case comes in Sapphire, Silver, or Graphite, with straps in the same colors. I was also told that Galaxy Watch 4 bands will also be compatible with the Watch 5 series.

Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro Golf Edition

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

What's special about the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro?

Is the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro just a new name for the Classic? Well, it is the top-tier version of the flagship smartwatch series, but there are a few notable changes in the physical design, and some of you might not be pleased.  

That's right folks, all those rumors about Samsung ditching the rotating bezel have indeed turned out to be true. I'm still not convinced its omission is a good thing, especially as you’re still paying a premium price for a flagship smartwatch that is now harder to navigate and control. To be fair the large 45mm display does seem to do a decent job of scrolling between apps just with sideways swipes.

The titanium case extends above the display, which could prove very useful as an extra layer of protection from larger impacts. I have to say though, it did seem to get in the way a little as I tried to access the edge of the screen's quarter-circle swipes to swap between tiles — perhaps I'll have to adapt to swiping motions instead.

Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Either way, you’re still covering part of the display whenever you have to interact with it in this way. I was fond of using the bezel rotations to scroll vertically through longer items like my sleep report or settings menus. Plus, not touching the display as much helps reduce the number of smudged fingerprints left on the glass.

It's certainly a large beast to go on your wrist, and it only comes in one size. At just 46 grams though, it's six grams lighter than the latest Classic 4 model, and does feel incredibly light when you pick it up. However, there's no way this thing is going to slide under a shirt sleeve's cuff.

It's a good thing it's rocking a slick new design on the strap then. Gone is the traditional buckle, in favor of a more stylish clasp that can be adjusted to an exact fit. Although adjusting the size is a little fiddly if you're prone to switching between sizes when wearing the watch in casual and workout modes.

Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is made for hikers 

Just look at this thing. It's like it wants you to drag it up a mountain face first. Keen hikers hitting the trails might also want to consider the Watch 5 Pro as an alternative to the best Garmin smartwatches, as the GPS feature (complete with GPX file support) will help keep you on the right path. 

Not only will you be able to see your pre-planned route on the larger 45mm display, but leaving the GPS running will also keep track of where you've already been, making it very easy to backtrack if you need to change your route or make your way back when not completing a looped circuit trail. 

Leaving the GPS tracking constantly running on a map can be draining on a smartwatch battery, but Samsung says you'll get 20 hours from the Watch 5 Pro in this mode, which is perfect for one-day hikes. If you're heading out into the wilderness for a few extra days, you'll be best suited to top up the wearable with something from our best portable charger guide.

Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Anything new in Wear OS?

Not as far as I could tell with my brief hands-on session. Wear OS integration didn't seem to have a major impact on the Watch 4 beyond the Play Store and Google Maps being added, and the interface still feels the same so far on the Watch 5 series, which I have to admit is disappointing.

Time will tell once we get to use it out in the real world as to whether it runs any smoother this time. But Samsung needs to give the OS a makeover, as it's felt very same-y for years now.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro (black) next to the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro Golf Edition (white)

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Fitness and sleep tracking on the Galaxy Watch 5

Both versions of the Watch 5 come with a strong selection of trackers for fitness and sleep. Looking at the specs list, the only brand new health tracker feature seems to be a skin temperature sensor, which we assume someone out there is excited about; perhaps it works in tandem with some of the other sensors for more accurate results. 

ECG and heart rate monitoring will be some of the most useful features for most people performing exercises. I never had much faith in the BCA (Body Composition Analysis) last time around, as you could get wildly different results at different times of the day. Even if your arm was in a slightly different position, the blood oxygen readings seemed to be all over the place on the Watch 4.

The general steps/heart-rate monitoring might be enough for many users, but the Watch 5 wants to dive deeper for those who crave extra data. Yes, you're now going to get recovery data for post-cardio heart rate, and even tips on how much water to drink after a workout.

Sleep tracking returns on the Galaxy Watch 5, and Samsung is taking steps to make it even better. While I didn't get to see how it reports the data at scale on a phone, which I'm hoping leans more on actual sleep rather than attempted sleep this time, there will be a whole new sleep coaching program.

This will be a lot more in-depth than before, as you'll get a tailored month-long guided program that will adapt over time as it learns your sleep patterns. I'm very interested to see how this pans out, as it looks like it will try to accommodate various users who might sleep shorter hours or shifts and do what it can for the individual. 

After all, we all know we should get eight hours of sleep, but life isn't like that. Let's see what you've got Samsung, beyond pinging me and telling me off, saying I've been going to bed later than my usual time.

A circular wall display of Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 models and watch bands

(Image credit: Brendan Griffiths / Android Central)

Should you preorder the Galaxy Watch 5 or Watch 5 Pro?

Prices for the standard Samsung Watch 5 start at $279.99 for the Bluetooth version ($329.99 for LTE). While the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro will cost $449.99 for the Bluetooth version ($499.99 for LTE).

2022's nemesis, inflation, is likely (or partly, at least) the reason behind the price increases compared to last year's models. The Watch 5 is $30 more, but the Pro is dramatically more expensive than last year's Classic 4; previously $349.99 and $379.99 for the 42 and 46mm versions, respectively. 

At this early stage, I'm not quite convinced there's enough of an upgrade on the Pro to justify the jump to such a high price, even accounting for inflation. 

The price difference between the Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro is significant, especially if your main incentive for going Pro is the alluring 80-hour battery life. Given how irritating daily charging can be, you might find it hard to resist. If you have a very active lifestyle and need a tougher smartwatch, then the Watch 5 Pro looks like it can take a serious beating, and the extra GPX functionality will have its appeal for fans exploring the great outdoors, at least. 

A 15% increase for the battery of this year's standard Galaxy Watch 5 might alleviate some of last year's charging concerns on the base model, and the much more subtle design will be more appealing for most users, as will the cheaper price than the Pro. 

You're getting all the same fitness features here, and are only really compromising on battery life and extra armor. Even though daily charging really grinds my gears, this is the model I'm eyeing up right now.

If you're thinking of diving in, there are already some great preorder incentives on the official Samsung store (opens in new tab). Stay tuned, and we'll highlight some other offers as they come in. We'll have full reviews of both smartwatches soon, too.  

Brendan Griffiths
eCommerce Content Director - Android Central, Windows Central, iMore

Brendan oversees content strategy for our buying guides and deal pages here at Android Central and also our sister sites iMore and Windows Central. He's a former freelance games journalist, then the first-ever Deals Editor for TechRadar, and then the Managing Editor of eCommerce & Hardware at GamesRadar before joining us. When he's not rummaging through online sales or trying to appease the Google algorithm you'll find him binging boxsets and Game Pass titles, testing PS5 SSDs, and trying to decide which phone he loves more between the Fold 3, Flip 3, and Note 20 Ultra.