Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 initial review: Marking time

(Pocket-lint) – Samsung has, for a number of years, enjoyed the position of basically having the most compelling watch for Android users.

Moving from Tizen to WearOS in Watch 4 only compounded this position, to the exclusion of iPhone users – but as we said of the 2021 model – it’s probably the best smartwatch experience you’ll get if you’re in the Android ecosystem.

Following up with a refresh, the Galaxy Watch 5 builds on the Watch 4, while sitting alongside a more advanced model, the Watch 5 Pro.

Our quick take

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 makes a couple of tweaks to the design of the Watch 4 to give better protection, while offering a bigger battery and a couple of new features. First impressions are solid: this looks like it’s going to deliver a comprehensive offering and is likely to remain one of the top choices of wearables for pairing with an Android phone.

With two sizes to choose from and a range of straps to make it your own, the Galaxy Watch 5’s display really pops, leaving lesser devices to shame. Integration with a lot of services through Google and Samsung means there’s plenty of functionality to get to grips with. Exactly how that performance plays out we’ll need to investigate further in the coming weeks.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 initial review: Marking time


  • Great display
  • Sapphire crystal protection
  • Loads of functions
  • Plenty of customisation options

  • Design is a little safe
  • Overshadowed by the Watch 5 Pro
  • Doesn’t work with iPhone

Watch 5 vs Watch 5 Pro: What’s the difference?

  • Price: Watch 5 from £269; Watch 5 Pro from £429
  • Size: Watch 5 40 or 44mm; Watch 5 Pro 45mm
  • Materials: Watch 5 aluminium/sapphire; Watch 5 Pro titanium/sapphire
  • Battery: Watch 5 284/410mAh; Watch 5 Pro 590mAh

The Watch 5 and the Watch 5 Pro have a similar design, but the Watch 5 Pro only comes in one size, 45mm, although it feels pretty much the same on the wrist as the Watch 5.

The Watch 5 Pro uses more premium materials, choosing titanium for the body and an enhanced sapphire crystal display cover, which is more scratch resistant than the Watch 5.

Pocket-lintboth watch photo 1

It’s also thicker to accommodate a bigger battery, while the bezel design provides a lip to protect the display further, so it’s chunkier overall.

The functionality is broadly similar, but the Watch 5 Pro offers some advanced GPS tracking features that the Watch 5 doesn’t, as it’s being pitched for longer outdoor adventures, with up to 20 hours of GPS tracking – but it’s more expensive as a result.

Design and display

  • 40mm: 40.4 x 39.3 x 9.8mm, 29g, 1.19in display
  • 44mm: 44.4 x 43.3 x 9.8mm, 32.9g, 1.36in display
  • Aluminium frame, sapphire crystal glass
  • Quick fit straps
  • IP68, 5ATM waterproofing

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 looks pretty much the same as the Galaxy Watch 4, with the aluminium body running out to the lugs, supporting quick-release straps, with the round body of the watch sitting in the middle.

It’s pretty slim for a smartwatch at 9.8mm, avoiding the bulk of many such devices, but overall having a fairly minimal design. It’s safe, which some might take as being a little on the boring side to look at – but equally there’s nothing hugely offensive about it. It offers IP68 or 5ATM water resistance.

Pocket-lintSamsung Galaxy Watch 5 photo 12

The Watch 5 comes in two body sizes – 40 and 44mm – while there are a choice of colours for the body and strap so you can choose something to suit your style.

It’s actually a pretty comfortable watch to wear, based on our short time spent with it, but the design does make it a little broad.

Wearing the 44mm watch it doesn’t sit so well on our wrist because of the lug and strap design; we’ve found this with some smartwatch manufacturers in the past where the strap attachment point just isn’t flexible enough to accommodate as wide a range of wrist sizes as you might get from the likes of a traditional watch brand, or someone like Garmin.

Pocket-lintSamsung Galaxy Watch 5 photo 11

There’s an AMOLED display which accepts touch navigation, as well as two buttons – so the control is basically the same as the Watch 4. There are two display sizes 1.36-inch on the 44mm watch and 1.19-inch on the 40mm – although both have the same 330ppi pixel density, so both are equally sharp when it comes to the visuals.

First impressions are of a display that really pops – it looks great – and the interface is nice and smooth to scroll through and find the apps you want. Of course, the Watch we played with was in demo mode, so we were limited in what we could actually experience. 

There are three body colours – Graphite, Sapphire or Silver.

Features and functions

  • BioActive sensor
  • Fitness tracking
  • Sleep tracking
  • Body composition
  • WearOS

When it comes to functionality, there’s a lot plugged into the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5. Many of the functions revolve around the BioActive sensor on the rear of the watch, which supplies a wealth of data, including heart rate, ECG, and blood oxygen.

Pocket-lintSamsung Galaxy Watch 5 photo 10

Combined with motion tracking and other sensors, the result is a watch that will gather a full range of data to feed into fitness and activity tracking. This will include guiding you through things like interval training, it will keep an eye on recovery and can also advise on hydration.

One of the tools available is body composition. This uses the buttons on the side to run a composition analysis – you just put two fingers on those buttons to create a circuit around your body, and it will come back with body fat percentages and muscle mass and other data.

Again, this is for guidance only, but it can also play a part in revealing body changes over time thanks to sticking to an exercise routine. We tested the body composition and got results that appeared in line with what we’d expect.

Pocket-lintSamsung Galaxy Watch 5 photo 4

There’s sleep tracking, with sleep scores awarded, with Samsung now assigning you a sleep animal that matches your sleep type – along with missions to try and help you sleep better.

This can also link into other connected devices through SmartThings, so when you fall asleep, for example other smart home routines can be triggered, like dimming the lights.

This all sits on WearOS, so you have all those Google functions too, as well as services from Samsung to make a comprehensive offering. There’s a lot more to explore – and exactly how seamless and useful it all is – which will happen when we have the opportunity to complete a full review of the Galaxy Watch 5.

Battery and performance

  • 40mm: 284mAh
  • 44mm: 410mAh
  • 8 hours in 8 mins charging

There’s a 284mAh battery in the 40mm Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, with a larger 410mAh cell in the 44mm, which should see you through the day, although we’ve not had the chance to do any sort of testing on the battery life that it offers.

Charging is wireless, via the magnetic pad that attaches to the back, which can connect to USB-C. This battery is bigger than in the Watch 4, which is welcomed, while the charging is faster too – with Samsung saying you’ll get 8 hours of use from 8 minutes of charging.

Pocket-lintSamsung Galaxy Watch 5 photo 5

We’ll bring a full rundown of the performance of the watch once we’ve had the chance to test it fully.

To recap

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 makes a couple of tweaks to the design of the Watch 4 to give better protection, while offering a bigger battery and a couple of new features. First impressions are solid: this looks like it’s going to deliver a comprehensive offering and is likely to remain one of the top choices of wearables for pairing with an Android phone.

Writing by Chris Hall.


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