I’ve already reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Gear and the Gear Fit over the past months and now it’s the turn of the Gear 2 Neo to step up. The device was launched at MWC 2014 with the Galaxy S5 and the Gear 2, plus the Gear Fit. The device is priced at $199 on Amazon, by the way.
I am using this smartwatch in tandem with the Galaxy S5, as shown in the video review, but you can pair it up with over a dozen devices. The design involves a 10 mm waistline, a weight of 55 grams and you have to know that the Gear 2 Neo is lighter than the Gear 2, that weighs 68 grams. The design actually resembles the Galaxy Gear a bit, aside from the material of the case, plastic instead of metal and the placement of the only physical button upfront.
This model is lighter thanks to the plasticky case, but it also feels less premium. It feels light on the wrist and at the front, aside from the Home/On/Off button you can also find the infrared emitter, at the top. At the back of the watch there are charging pins and the heart rate sensor. You can buy this model in black or gray, but apparently there’s also an orange version. The Gear 2 Neo is both dust and water resilient and it uses a rubber belt, that gets kind of sweaty after a workout session or long hours of wearing the watch on the wrist.
The belt has a jagged texture, so it can better adhere to your hand. There are 10 holes made in the belt to adjust the size to the size of the wearer’s wrist and the metallic mechanism that latches it up takes a while to get used to. Finally, you should know that this product can be sunken into up to 1 meter of water for about 30 minutes. On the hardware side we’ve got 512 MB of RAM, 4 GB of storage and a 1.63 inch display with a 320 x 320 pixel resolution.
The screen uses a Super AMOLED panel and moving further, there’s Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, as well as infrared and a dual core 1 GHz CPU inside rests inside the smartwatch. In the section called “others” we’ve got an accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate sensor and a Li-Ion 300 mAh battery, that on paper provides 2-3 days of usage. I reached a max of 2 days, but if notifications come often, you may even reach less. The charging takes about 2 hours and few minutes and overall the battery could be better.
In order to charge the device, you need a special small cradle that attaches easily to the plastic case and offers a microUSB port for the charger. Now moving over to the acoustics, this device actually has its own speaker, so you can listen to music on it independently without a phone in the mix. You can store the music using the 4 GB of storage or blast tunes on Bluetooth headphones.
The player does MP3, AAC, OGG and M4A and the speaker is reasonably loud. You can transfer songs from your pair device via the Gear Manager and there are features like shuffle, repeat or volume available here. Clarity is quite good. Speaking of pairing, there are about 18 devices compatible with this watch. On the screen/video side we’ve got a bright and crisp panel, with nice colors, deep black and 278 ppi density.
The display behaves great outdoors and if you keep the Home button pressed you can even trigger a special outdoor mode to face the sunnier days. You can flick the wrist to turn the screen on and overall this is an excellent Super AMOLED panel. Now we leave hardware behind and move over to OS and UI. This time we’re running Tizen OS at the core, but the UI is pretty much like we left it on the Galaxy Gear. You can swipe sideways to access various apps or options, tap to execute an app and swipe to the bottom to close an app.
The Homescreen displays customizable shortcuts and that’s pretty much it on the UI side. Now let’s see the sections of the homescreens. First up there’s Notifications, that can display a missed call, text, email, app notification etc. They are shown through a brief lighting up of the display, plus vibration, plus the screen shows a highlight of the notification. Next up there’s Logs, showing you the calls you made and received.
Then we’ve got the dialer, allowing you to start calling people, since this smartwatch does have a mic and speaker. Of course calls are made with the aid of a handset, since the Gear 2 Neo does not have a SIM slot. By the way, calls are not crystal clear on this model, but that’ll have to do. Next up there’s Contacts, showing a list of contacts, then Apps and Settings, where you can customize the clock, homescreen, wallpapers, sound, vibration strength and many more. You can tweak the brightness, timeout, font size and style, wake up gesture (what app to trigger), home icon size, edit the home screen and do a privacy lock or reset the Gear.
We move on through the UI and we find the music player, a minimalistic experience, that also includes playlists. WatchOn allows you to remote control TV sets and set top boxes from the watch, change the TV channels, turn the TV set off and other such features. S Voice is your voice control service, but it doesn’t always work flawlessly. The idea is to allow you to set a timer, call people or tell you the weather via voice command.
Finally, we’ve got a Find My Device feature, a Voice Memo and a Pedometer. The latter displays the number of steps you’ve taken, your history, goal and gives you the option to share the progress via Facebook. You can also see the kilometers, calories and steps for each session. Then comes Exercise with 4 main sections: running, walking, cycling and hiking. Each of them has a History, a goal (distance, time, calories), a coaching mode and the option to display heart rate while working out. Just like the Gear Fit, this is not intended for people who work out indoors like me, since it can’t tell what you’re doing on the threadmill and requires outdoor movement.
We have reached the app list area where we find both preinstalled apps and the ones we’ve installed. There’s Email, the standard Samsung client, with the option to reply to email with a few templates. We’ve also got the option to jump to the Galaxy S5 or other device to see the full mail with a single tap. Another app is the Gallery, that pretty much speaks for itself and here we also found the Heart Rate sensor feature. This one felt more precise than the Gear Fit and also seemed to work a bit faster. It can sync with S Health and show your pulse readings there, by the way.
Media Controller allows you to control music and video on the Samsung device paired with the watch, then we’ve got Messages, Schedule, Stopwatch, Timer, Weather and Sleep. This last feature was also seen on the Gear Fit and it’s a sleep monitor based on an accelerometer. It senses whether or not you’re sleeping well, depending on how much you move during sleep. I installed a game called Flappy Spaghetti, a poor imitation of Flappy Bird, but easily playable on the watch, as well as the apps CNN, Sleep Genius and Facebook QuickView, all of them with minor or major problems in their use.
Moving over to the Gear Manager, the app you need to install on the paired device, this one allows you to use a Home Screen Styler to tweak the look of your watch’s homescreen, transfer info to S Health, select the apps that will offer notifications and access a My Apps area, where you can send music tracks to the watch for example or play with the settings of other apps. You can also transfer a voice memo by the way.
Samsung Apps is the place where you download new apps for your watch, but there aren’t any interesting names right now and the store seems focused on social networking and customization. Then there’s Find My Gear, Settings (text templates, voice command and such) and that’s about it. At the end of the review I did a demo of voice calling with the Galaxy S5 and the Gear 2 Neo and it worked pretty fine. Overall, this a slightly beefed up fitness tool and also a way to take the music on the wrist, plus manage calls with it.
And now the Pros and Cons of the product! Let’s see the Pros:
- light case
- infrared emitter
- crisp display
- speaker included
- 4 GB of storage
- make calls and take calls
- you can listen to music independently
- the learning curve is small
- nice notification system
And the Cons:
- less premium materials
- battery not great
- belt makes you sweat easily
- hard to latch on the belt
- not many nice or useful apps
We give the Gear 2 Neo an 8 for design, 8.5 for hardware and a 8.5 out of 10 for OS and UI. The final grade is 8.33 out of 10 and this is basically a cheaper Gear 2, for people who are not willing to pay the full amount. I’d prefer to pay a bit more, but get a bit of metal, but that’s only me…