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Samsung Gear 2 Neo Review

By Simon Thomas on 19th May 2014


3G Total Score
Pros: Cons:
+ Better price than the Gear 2 - On the large side
+ Lovely, bright display - Display didn’t always wake up when we wanted. .
+ Ideal companion when exercising - Disappointing battery life

Verdict: 

"Samsung has moved one step nearer to producing a perfect smartwatch with the Gear 2 Neo. It’s a better price than the Gear 2 – thanks to the plastic chassis and lack of snapper. Wearable tech is not quite perfect yet, but it’s getting there."

The alternatives:

Samsung Gear 2 | Samsung Gear Fit | Samsung Galaxy Gear

Full Review and Specification for the Samsung Gear 2 Neo

 Samsung Gear 2 Neo Review Photo 1

Here we have the Samsung Gear 2 Neo, a less pricey version of the Gear 2 smartwatch, thanks to its plastic chassis and lack of camera, which makes it £70 cheaper than its predecessor at £180.

Apart from these two things, the Neo is just like the Gear 2, with a heart rate monitor that works in connection with the S Health app. This allows it to record your running, walking and other exercising, while synching data to a Galaxy phone with Bluetooth connection.

Samsung Gear 2 Neo Review Photo 2

This smartwatch also allows the user to make and accept phone calls thanks to an integrated microphone and speaker, as well as control a TV using the infrared blaster, play music to your wireless headphones, show notifications from text, email, social networks, calls and so on, and control your phone using S Voice.

We’re still waiting for Samsung to bring a really great piece of wearable tech to the market –is the Gear 2 Neo going to be the one? 

First impressions 

At first glance the Gear 2 Neo looks just like the Gear 2, except it has no camera and the metal body has been replaced with plastic. There’s a slim plastic bezel around the 1.63in display, which is attached to a rubber strap – but you can swap this for any watchstrap if you wish. A metal clasp secures the strap, allowing it to be adjusted to fit pretty much any size of wrist.

Beneath the screen sits a home button, along with the infrared blaster, which lets you communicate with your TV. Turn over the device and you’ll find the charging port, and the heart rate monitor. The charging port has to be connected via a bespoke microUSB adapter to the mains plug that comes in the box. It’s a pity Samsung didn’t see fit to include a regular USB port.

Samsung Gear 2 Neo Review Photo 3

Measuring 37.9 x 58.8mm, the Neo is a tad bigger than the Gear 2, although it’s lighter and its thickness is the same. It may be around the same weight and thickness as your average man’s watch, but it is much longer at 58.8mm. This could be a deal breaker for many.

But putting its size to one side, the Neo’s build quality is impressive. It has soft-touch plastic around the display, but unfortunately the back and edges are made of a rather cheap feeling plastic. Nevertheless it does feel good, and it does make one question why you would pay an extra £70 for the Gear 2, with its metal edges and camera.

On display

The same 1.63in Super AMOLED display from the Gear 2 appears on the Neo, offering a 320x320 resolution. The display is wonderfully sharp and bright and offers impressive viewing angles too. There’s also a good backlight.

One problem we did have, though, is that the screen was hard to switch on. The Neo wakes up when the home key is pressed, and shows the date and time – along with how many steps you’ve walked that day, should you wish. But if you can’t press the button, you must rely on the device’s accelerometer. This should mean that it wakes up when you flick your wrist, but we found we needed a really deliberate movement to get this to work.

Samsung Gear 2 Neo Review Photo 4

The reason behind this is battery life conservation – the Neo would die before the day was out if the screen was always on, but as you can’t just glance at it, as you would a watch, it loses some of its appeal. Hopefully Samsung will improve the movement detection, so that it wakes up when you move your wrist to glance at the Neo.

The display is bright enough when at level 6 (which is outdoor mode) but unfortunately it drops to level 4 once five minutes have elapsed. Should you still be outside it is then hard to see the screen to get back to the settings menu where you can up the brightness again. Why Samsung didn’t just include an ambient light sensor like those seem on smartphones is beyond us. 

Maybe it’s to do with battery life – and speaking of which, we got a good two days and nights out of a charge.

Tizen OS

The Neo runs on Tizen, which is Samsung’s own operating system – it has the same UI as the Gear 2 – only the camera app is excluded. So you can see a carousel of screens, with each showing four app icons on a page. Plus there’s a phone dialler, contacts, pedometer, music player, stopwatch and heart rate monitor. There is S Voice to control your phone using spoken commands and the app Exercise, which tracks your cycling, walking, hiking and running.

Samsung Gear 2 Neo Review Photo 5

Tizen is a good choice for wearable watches although it’s not as fast as the top Samsung smartphones. Mind you it only has a fraction of the performance, thanks to a 1GHz, dual-core chip and 512MB of RAM. It does seem a tad slow when skipping through menus – not what you expect from what is a relatively pricey device.

What the device does excel at is bringing you notifications of social media messages, emails and tweets – you’re alerted by vibration. It’s simple  to glance at your wrist to see if a text has arrived when you’re in the pub – easier than getting your phone out of your pocket in the middle of having a conversation. 

Fitness freaks

It is possible to see the data from either watch or your phone on the handset but the numbers seem different -  we experienced discrepancies of 2,000 steps a day. Also you can only use the Neo if you have a compatible Samsung Galaxy device.

Samsung Gear 2 Neo Review Photo 6

Happily the heart rate monitor is easier to use - tap to fire it up, hit start then keep still and the device will measure your heart rate. We did find it didn’t always do this right first time.

Our conclusion

We reviewed the Gear 2 a few weeks ago and at the time said its £250 price tag was not justified. Samsung has made a decent start by getting rid of the camera on the Gear 2 Neo, but to really make it a success Samsung needs to focus on user experience, rather than trying to ram it full of features,

Samsung Gear 2 Neo Review Photo 7

The £180 pricetag is certainly an improvement, although its plastic chassis does make it feel cheaper. We reckon that Samsung is definitely heading in the right direction with the Neo but it’s not there yet.

The screen not showing all the time is an issue – and if it is to save battery life then this too needs looking at. Until then it is hard to see the Gear 2 Neo – or any smartwatches – really having mass appeal. The wearable tech revolution is on its way, but it’s not here just yet.

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Samsung Gear 2 Neo Review Scoring

  • Style and Handling
  • User Friendliness
  • Feature set
  • Performance
  • Battery
  • Overall Score

Samsung Gear 2 Neo Phone Specification

GENERAL

Type of device

Watch

Dimensions

37.9 x 58.8 x 10mm

Weight

55g

Form factor

Touchscreen

Input

N/A

Processor speed

1GHz dual-core

CPU

1 GHz Dual-core

Announced

February 2014

Status

Available

DISPLAY

Screen size

1.63in

Screen type

Super AMOLED

Resolution

320x320

Display type

SUPER AMOLED

Memory

RAM

1GB

Internal storage

4GB

Memory card slot

 No

Sound

3.5mm Jack

No 

Audio recording

No

Radio

No

Messaging

SMS

Yes 

MMS

No

Email

Yes

IM

 No

Connectivity

Wi-Fi

No 

Bluetooth

Yes

USB

Yes

NFC

No 

GPS

No 

Battery

Standby

up to 3 days


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