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Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro revisited: The good and the bad six months later
At the risk of ruining the punch line, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is still every bit the winner it seemed at launch. The premium wearable’s refined build, extended battery life, and full suite of Google tools deliver one of the best smartwatch experiences available. We even named the watch our pick for the best wearable of the year at the end of 2022.
However, while Samsung continues to ride the wave of its Wear OS 3 success, a number of competitors are also making moves. Meanwhile, some changes we’d hoped to see hit the device via software updates haven’t arrived. How well does the self-proclaimed pro hold up six months later? Find out in our Android Authority Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro review revisited.
When the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro first launched, we awarded it 4.5/5 stars, noting it as the refined version of an already successful previous generation. We swooned for the extra battery life, specialty navigation features, and durability specs that seemed to be the impetus for the Pro moniker. On the other hand, we docked minor points for its price tag and a few compatibility limitations. Not much has changed since then and the arrival of new competition hasn’t swayed our initial take. Six months later, we’d happily slap another Editor’s Choice badge on this device for most of the same original reasons.
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is a looker. It may not have the formal aesthetic of the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic (or an elevated rotating bezel), but it sports plenty of details that will turn heads. The first is its sheer dimensions. The Pro’s 45mm titanium case edges into oversized territory with accompanying watch lugs that make for an even larger impression. When awake, the device equips a crisp, colorful super AMOLED display worthy of its real estate. The screen is also protected by a thick layer of Sapphire crystal to keep the statement watch safe from damage. And I do mean safe.
With a hefty build and impressive durability specs, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro remains a statement piece in mint condition even six months later.
After six months of use, I can say with relief that my smartwatch doesn’t show any signs of wear or tear. That’s despite joining me on hikes, dinging against coral and paddle boards, traveling haphazardly in backpacks, and regularly bashing into the walls of my home when I cut corners too tight. (It’s truly shocking how often this happens and yet I continually fail to adjust.) The case, display, and band remain intact and unscathed, earning the device its reputation for durability (and my gratitude). Officially speaking, it boasts an MIL-STD-810H durability rating plus 5ATM and IP68 ratings.
Perhaps most importantly, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is exceptionally comfortable. Despite its size and big-ticket build materials, it remains light on the wrist and plenty secure for workouts. The weight of some large-scale watches can sometimes affect a device’s ability to maintain a snug fit which is problematic for fitness tracking. This disrupts sensor accuracy and can even cause skin irritation. I experience neither issue with the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro nor its proprietary D-buckle band. In fact, the band is surprisingly comfortable and stable for something that is clearly meant for style. Resizing it remains a process, but that’s solved by not messing with it once you find your fit.
While I haven’t ventured from the band that shipped with my device, I have run the gamut on Galaxy Watch faces. You know that person who spends more time scrolling movie options than watching movies? That’s my basic relationship with the Galaxy Wearable app’s face gallery. Samsung offers plenty of customization and complications so it’s easy to build a face that is both attractive and useful. It’s also freeing to opt for something simple or quirky, like the Ball face picture above, which was released in a software update post-launch.
The star of Samsung’s watches is the tag-teamed Wear OS platform the company co-developed with Google. The improved Wear OS elevates these Android-friendly devices to something more akin to an Apple Watch, granting users snappy load times and extensive third-party app support. The experience hasn’t changed much from the Galaxy Watch 4 series to the newer models, which only means both generations offer a fantastic user experience. The devices all also share the same Exynos W920 chipset. That said, I do feel the watch improved even more over time with software updates in regard to smooth navigation and responsiveness.
Samsung Galaxy Watches remain the most powerful Wear OS options available on the market.
Between onboard Google Assistant, smartphone mirroring, and the Google Play Store, the watch supports most basic smart features users might want on their wearable. Notifications, on-wrist phone call support, and digital payment support all work flawlessly. Convenient syncing with popular apps like Strava and MyFitnessPal makes it easy to add even more tools to the wrist and compensate for any niche tools that may be lacking natively.
Samsung also released a Connected Device Diagnostics tool in the Samsung Members app to allow users to check on the performance and health of their devices. The feature runs performance tests on everything from the battery to the watch sensors, checking for updates, accuracy, and bugs. You can test all features at once or check the status of a single component.
For some features, you will need to interact with the device. For example, to test the touchscreen you will swipe an onscreen pattern, and to test the speaker you will confirm that you hear audio playing. To test the mic, I advise asking a friend to make a ridiculous noise. All of the tests are straightforward with easy-to-follow prompts and digestible results. The entire process takes less than ten minutes.
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is a very capable fitness tracker, especially for anyone with a casual interest in their calories, steps, and basic activity data. The watch also offers auto-detection for workouts, which is not something all Wear OS watches can claim, and heart rate tracking is reliable enough for the average user. Throughout this second Galaxy Watch 5 Pro review, my data largely agreed with that of my Polar H10 chest strap.
During stationary bike workouts and on long walks, the watch matched up easily, reflecting similar highs, lows, and intervals. On runs with more arm movement, the accuracy fell off slightly, though not enough to warrant panic. Six months ago, the sensor tended to record a slight delay when I dialed up a run with a short sprint. During this testing period, I saw less of that deviation.
On the other hand, the heart rate sensor showed the most inaccuracy on a hike with some light bouldering. This was likely because of the strain on my wrist and the disruption of a consistent fit. While my Apple Watch Ultra was able to maintain alignment with my Polar strap, the Galaxy Watch faltered slightly, though again, it showed enough accuracy for most users.
While not everyone will take their Galaxy Watch 5 Pro off-roading, the device is equipped to accompany users to their favorite trailheads. It packs niche navigation tools for hikers and cyclists including the ability to upload GPX route files. You’ll find access to turn-by-turn navigations, off-course alerts, and backtracking, all of which make the watch a useful tool on favorite or new routes.
If, like mine, your hat blows off in the wind and you have to venture off the trail to retrieve it, your trackback data will unfortunately include that detour. RIP blue baseball cap. Luckily the watch also equips a compass. A non-endurance company venturing into new territory is encouraging, even if it’s not going to happen overnight. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro still won’t replace a Garmin Fenix 7, for example, but it represents Samsung’s interest in this direction.
Niche navigations features and accurate GPS-tracking make for an all-around reliable device for outdoor workouts.
GPS acquisition definitely needs attention. If I’ve said it once I’ll say it a thousand times, I can’t be left with extra time to back out of a run. The device is inconsistent in this regard, sometimes taking ten seconds and other times needing a full minute. That may not sound significant, but it’s long enough to muddy distance data. It’s also more than enough time to list three reasons you don’t need to go for a run after all. That said, GPS tracking deserves its spot in the “good” list because once initiated, it’s quite reliable.
Throughout this Galaxy Watch 5 Pro review, the device recorded nearly identical distances to my Apple Watch and Garmin Venu 2 Plus. On hikes, it stayed on track despite tree coverage and elevation changes. On neighborhood runs, it kept up with my zigzags when I repeatedly crossed the road to avoid stray cats. All in all, it’s an easy watch to recommend for runners or cyclists.
Many of us had high hopes that the Wear OS platform would bring more efficiency to battery usage on Samsung’s wearables, but that wasn’t the case. Even with battery-saving settings enabled, the Galaxy Watch 4 puttered out after a day and a half. In this generation, Samsung faced the music head-on, dropping a massive 590mAh battery cell into the unit.
Battery life on the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is significantly better than the last generation. It’s also better than that of the base model from this series. Even with the always-on display turned on, sleep tracking, and multiple hours of GPS-based workouts, I consistently hit two full days of use. It’s always a relief when you’re getting ready for bed and you have enough juice to hit the sack rather than the charger.
This is easily a two-day device in terms of battery life, and fast charging makes it convenient to fill up when needed.
When the Galaxy Watch 5 series first launched, we hedged our recommendation, encouraging readers to keep the incoming Google Pixel Watch in mind when shopping. Now that we’ve had plenty of time with both devices, we can heartily recommend the Samsung flagship, and battery life is one of the major reasons. The device also charges up faster than previous generations, hitting 100% from zero in around 85 minutes. So, when you do finally hit empty, it’s a shorter wait to have the watch back on your wrist.
The not so good
The biggest complaint I can lodge against the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is its self-imposed limitations. It is truly baffling that Samsung chooses to limit key onboard sensors to specific users. Blood pressure monitoring and ECG recordings are both only accessible when the watch is paired with a Samsung phone. This is because both of these tools require Samsung’s Health Monitor app which cannot be added to third-party smartphones. As arguably the best smartwatch option for Android users, it’s disappointing to have key tools limited to a select group.
The Galaxy Watch lineup should be the best choice for anyone without an iPhone, but Samsung continues to limit key tools to Samsung phone users.
These health tools aren’t the only features locked away in a Samsung tower either. Do not disturb mode synchronization and Bedtime mode are only available to Samsung phone users, as are Samsung SmartThings integration and customizable AR emoji watch faces. I’ll admit that the last one doesn’t bother me: AR emojis are unsettling. Non-Samsung phone users cannot access camera controls either, and even some Samsung phones aren’t supported. In short, non-Samsung phone users who found themselves left out in primary school might find the watch triggering.
Samsung’s Wear OS competitor, the Google Pixel Watch, doesn’t kneecap itself with limited accessibility. Granted, the Pixel Watch has enough of its own shortcomings to keep itself busy, but if the second generation addresses some of the first’s weaknesses, Samsung may have a real competitor on its hands. In that instance, Samsung might opt to stop designating special tools for special users in order to maintain market share.
Underutilized temperature sensor
When products launch with headlining features not yet enabled, it feels like a bait and switch. When Samsung took months to bring Google Assistant to the last series, it started to feel downright shady. This time, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro hit shelves with a built-in temperature sensor. Unfortunately, the novel feature remained dormant with an undisclosed timeframe for its actual use.
Months later, Samsung finally announced that its temperature sensor will be used for more than just sleep tracking. It turns out the company teamed up with Natural Cycles to bring advanced temperature-based tracking tools to the Galaxy Watch lineup. The upgraded menstrual tracking is set to launch sometime in the second quarter of 2023. This is an exciting announcement, but it would have been nice to see it roughly six months ago.
Samsung's habit of launching without headline features enabled is tiresome.
In the meantime, the Samsung Health app remains relatively simplistic. Though the company expanded its sleep tracking suite with useful sleep coaching, most health and fitness data lacks in-depth analysis. A revamp of the app could go a long way in attracting more dedicated athletes to this lineup. That said, it is commendable that Samsung hasn’t jumped on the subscription bandwagon. Instead, the company allows users to access tools and data without a fee. Well, at least Samsung phone users.
Design (especially if you’re petite)
As mentioned, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is only available in a single 45mm case size. This isn’t a gigantic device compared to some wearables from brands like Garmin, but if you’re upgrading from a previous generation, the footprint is a jump. The base version, on the other hand, is available in 40 and 44-mm versions.
While Apple’s Ultra model also offers a significantly larger screen, the rectangular shape makes the bump in size result in more real estate. Conversely, I don’t know that the extra bulk of the Pro brings anything extra to the table. The lugs in particular pose an issue for petite wrists as they cause significant gaping. In my initial Galaxy Watch 5 Pro review, I didn’t mind this too much. Returning to the device after testing other better-fitting wearables makes the issue more prominent by contrast.
While I'm all about a statement accessory, the lug design of the watch isn't ideal for small wrists.
The device is also only available in Phantom Black and Gray. Unless you’re Batman, there’s a good chance you’re interested in utilizing more of the rainbow. Instead, you’ll have to rely on a splashy watch face or band to bring energy to the accessory.
Finally, complaints about the missing rotating bezel have not died down. Instead, conversations about a future Galaxy Watch 6 are ripe with demands to bring the feature back. A touch bezel is certainly less satisfying and can be finicky compared to the tangible turn of the old design. On the flip side, it’s much harder to jam up a touch screen than a moving part.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro review revisited: The verdict
Two Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro reviews later, we still say the device offers the best smartwatch experience you’ll find as an Android user. If you’re fortunate enough to operate inside the increasingly walled-off Galaxy garden, the device is even more impressive for Samsung phone owners. Its build, battery life, and advanced feature set bring more to the table than any other option on the Wear OS platform. Its sensor package is extensive and reliable for tracking important health and fitness stats. Sure, we wish more users could tap into its most powerful tools. We’d also take it in a second size for smaller wrists. However, we’d be hard-pressed to call the watch anything less than a success.
Is the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro still worth buying?
Most importantly, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro proves Samsung isn’t resting on its laurels. The Galaxy Watch 4 series enjoyed a great launch. Afterward, Samsung cashed in on exclusive access to a new Wear OS platform for some time. Now, a swell of ambitious Wear OS devices join Samsung’s party, and yet so far, Samsung remains at the crest. The Pixel Watch ($329 at Amazon) feels like a first-generation device and Fossil’s lineup is missing a number of popular features. The only real smartwatch rival Samsung faces is the Apple Watch, particularly the Apple Watch Ultra ($659 at Amazon), but the two attract different user bases. In short, the Samsung Watch 5 Pro is simply a great buy for anyone outside Apple’s ecosystem.