Samsung Gear 2 vs Gear 2 Neo vs Gear Fit review

The smartwatch concept may carry some geeky baggage from the days of the Casio calculator watch, but Samsung’s new wrist-borne devices are nothing if not elegant. The flagship is the imposing brushed-metal Gear 2, but the understated plastic of the Gear 2 Neo is no less pleasing in its own way. The lightweight Gear Fit, meanwhile, reaches out to a more minimalist audience. Depending on the model you choose, colour options range from a sober black to a rich, rusty orange.

The screens too are a world apart from the LCD displays of yore. Both the Gear 2 and the Neo boast 1.6in square Super AMOLED screens that radiate with vibrant, bright colour. A 320 x 320 resolution works out at 278ppi, yielding perfectly sharp text and graphics at typical viewing distances.
The band-style Gear Fit uses an attractive curved 432 x 128 display at 244ppi.

Samsung Gear

The only thing spoiling this excellent first impression is the design of the thick rubber straps on the Gear 2 and Neo: the bulky clips get in the way when you’re typing, and we found the metal clasp dug into the flesh. Still, unlike the original Galaxy Gear (which embedded a camera into the wristband), these models use a standard 22mm strap fitting, so you can easily fit a replacement of your choice. It’s also possible to replace the band on the Fit, should you so wish; here the rubber band simply pulls off to allow a replacement to be snapped on.

Staying in touch

The Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo are very similar devices, and while the Gear Fit is evidently aimed at a different market, it offers the same basic interface. All three are controlled by touchscreen, with the only mechanical control being a single power button below the screen (or alongside it in the case of the Fit). The difference in price comes largely down to features: where the Gear 2 sports a built-in camera and an IR transmitter, the Neo drops the camera and the Gear Fit lacks either.

Whichever model you choose, the first job of your Samsung smartwatch is likely to be advising you of the arrival of new emails, text messages, calendar appointments, Twitter notifications and so forth. The watch has no data connection of its own, but the Gear Manager app for Android hooks it up via Bluetooth to any of 17 Samsung Galaxy devices, ranging from the 4.3in Galaxy S4 Mini up to the outsized NotePRO 12.2. Thereafter, any alert that pops up on that device can be echoed on the watch: the body optionally beeps and vibrates while flashing up the icon of the app, and a short preview of the notification appears, which you can read at more length by swiping across the watch’s face with a finger.

Samsung Gear

Interestingly, you’re not limited to textual notifications. On all three devices you can screen and reject incoming phone calls with a simple tap of the touchscreen, and on the Gear 2 and Neo, you can also make and answer calls, either via a headset or by using the watch as a sci-fi style wrist communicator. To place a call, you can browse your contacts on the device, tap a number into the built-in dialler app, or use the S Voice feature to issue verbal instructions via the tiny built-in microphone. The speaker isn’t loud, but so long as you’re not on a crowded train platform, you can make out the other end of the conversation well enough.

What you can’t do is type out answers to emails, SMS messages and the like directly on the watch. In most cases this is because there’s no direct interface between the watch and the relevant app; instead you get a tappable link that opens the originating app on your phone or tablet, so you can respond directly from there. If you’re using Samsung’s default Messaging app then you can respond to text messages with a template, or use the S Voice voice-recognition system. The forthcoming third-party Fleksy app promises a keyboard that can be used to tap out replies to text messages on the Gear 2 and Neo, but we’ve yet to lay eyes on it.

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