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Samsung Gear Live Review

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Pros:

Slim

Has Android Wear

Includes a heart rate monitor

Cons:

Low battery life

Unoriginal design

Software needs some fine-tuning

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For Samsung, Gear Live is not their first foray into the world of wearable devices. They’ve already tested the market with Galaxy Gear in September 2013, which didn’t go as well as they hoped. The following two attempts with Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo were more a success.

Does the Samsung Gear Live continue the “tradition” and is it worth cashing $200 to see who emailed you or sent a message on Facebook? What about the apps and the design? Does Gear Live “live” up to what is expected of one of the biggest consumer tech companies in the world?

The answer is in this review.

Interface and Performance

Samsung Gear Live runs on Android Wear and has a mostly card-based interface, which leans on Google Glass UI and Google Now.

Moving around the different notifications on this watch requires only swiping up or down and a simple finger-flick to the right dismisses those you don’t want to see. A swipe to the left while on the notification card will open additional options inside the notification such as “reply”, “open your phone” or “delete”.

If you don’t want to swipe (no one can blame you for it), you can just say “Okay Google” and dictate your message or tell the watch to open a specific app. Still, the old swipe is for the moment the more reliable option due to the predicted occasional glitches/ misunderstandings with the voice recognition.

Samsung Gear Live has 512MB of RAM memory and 4GB or internal storage, which makes it a good piece of tech, especially with the 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, so it can handle most apps you put on it with ease and doesn’t lag. It runs with Android 4.3 and Android 4.4.

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Display

The display itself is Super AMOLED, 1.63 inches big, with a very good 320 by 320 resolution producing 278ppi.

Samsung compromised a little on the battery life in order to incorporate its always-on screen which automatically adjusts itself to the highest brightness as you tap the touchscreen or rotate your wrist.

The problem comes up when you try to read something on the watch while you’re outside and the sun is hitting the Take a look at the LG G Watch, for instance. It has an LCD IPS display with “only” 280 by 280 resolution and 240ppi. What would you rather look at between these two?

Design

Don’t expect a premium design from Samsung Gear Live, because there is nothing fancy about it. In fact, it is a little on the chunky side, but that is not to say it is not comfortable when you wear it, or its ugly, it’s a watch!

It would have been nice if Samsung put a little more effort into this though.

In fact, it looks like Samsung has turned back to the design of the original Galaxy Gear with Live, as it put back the right-side button instead of the front-and-center one it had on Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo. If you’re asking me, this is a welcome change.

Having just one power button means less chance to press something by mistake and still not freaking out for the lack of one like with the LG G Watch.

Right next to the button is the microphone that picks up your voice commands.

What was a bit surprising at first was the fact that the micro USB port for charging was nowhere to be found. Instead of it, Samsung included a Pogo charging terminal on the back, just above the heart-rate sensor.

The straps themselves are replaceable and are held with spring-loaded pins, which look suspiciously prone to failure. You will be happy to hear that nothing happened while I was wearing this smart-watch and it certainly didn’t pop right out of my wrist.

If we’re talking about dimensions, Samsung Gear Live is one of the lighter smart-watches you will have the privilege of wearing, at just 59 grams (2.1 ounces).

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Apps

When it first came out, the Samsung Gear Live smart-watch had a distinct lack of apps you could fill it with. Little by little, though, developers have jumped on the train and you can now download apps from calendars to new faces to Evernote or games.

The most notable app on this watch is the “Play: Turn Down for What?” This pushes the track you want to listen to your smartphone and plays it. Since the watch does not have a speaker, it’s a nice addition, especially if you’re running or are in the gym.

Another good point is the Google Maps. Unlike on your smartphone, where looking for the destination may require two or more taps, on Gear Live, it takes only one and can be started with “Ok Google”.

Finally, the watch also includes a heart rate monitor, Google Fit, but to be honest, it’s not the most accurate.

Battery

As we already said, Samsung Gear Live has a 300mAH battery inside, which will run it for about a day or so. This is actually a downgrade from Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, which could go on for two or three days of use without recharging.

Normally, we wouldn’t be bothered much with poor battery life, but since Samsung has decided to omit the standard micro USB charger for a Pogo proprietary one you can lost at any moment, we just can’t help to ask: “Why the hell”?

Verdict

It has been a while since Samsung Gear Live arrived on the smart-watch scene and though it was probably the best Android Wear at the time, it has been since outrun and left in the dust by faster, better designed watches like Moto 360, or by watches with a better battery like Pebble Steel.

For someone who is just buying his or her first smart-watch, Samsung Gear Live will be a good introduction into the world of wearable devices.

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