LG G Watch R Review: The best Android Wear smartwatch to date

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While the Moto 360 is enjoying a considerable amount of hype due to its good looks and roundness, the G Watch R is looking to steal some thunder with its fully round display. It doesn’t have a flat tire, but there’s more to the story than just being round. The G Watch R has a better processor, bigger battery, and a P-OLED display. On the downside, the display is a little smaller, the bezel is larger, and many would argue that it isn’t as good looking as the Moto 360.

Unless you’re in love with the square look, The G Watch R and the Moto 360 have to be at the top of your list. So how does the G Watch R measure up? Well hit the break and let’s get started.

Design

The G Watch R is the second Android Wear smartwatch from LG, with the G Watch being the first. Putting the round aspect aside, the G Watch R is miles ahead of the G Watch in terms of quality. The G Watch was cool about 5 months ago because it was one of the only Android Wear offerings, but after the Moto 360 and the G Watch R releases, it looks more like a toy.

While the G Watch is made of plastic, the G Watch R is made of stainless steel, with a plastic bottom. It just feels a lot more substantial on your wrist. Interestingly enough, it’s not any heavier, it’s actually lighter (62 grams vs 63 grams).

Probably the biggest bone of contention has to be the bezel with the G Watch R. The watch itself is nearly identical in size (the round part of the body) as the Moto 360, but the display sizes are different. The G Watch R comes in at 46.4 x 53.6 mm while the Moto 360 comes in at 46 x 46 mm. However the display on the G Watch R is only 1.3-inches vs 1.56-inches on the Moto 360. Why the difference? In Motorola’s case, they decided that a larger screen that isn’t completely round made more sense than the added bezel. LG felt that offering a fully round display made more sense. Motorola used the bottom part of the display for the components giving it a flat tire look. LG was able to utilize the extra bezel for their display components. Instead of leaving this extra bezel blank, they added a “tachymeter look” to it that many feel isn’t classy. I put that in quotes since it’s not a true tachymeter in that you can’t rotate it. Some people will argue that the flat tire look of the 360 is ugly, and others will say the fake tachymeter bezel of the G Watch R is equally ugly. I never had an issue with the flat tire look of the 360, and I don’t necessarily feel the fully round display is the bomb either. As I said in my opening, there’s a lot more to these watches than just being round or roundish.

You might have noticed that the G Watch R’s dimensions aren’t fully round like the Moto 360. That’s because it has a more traditional look in that it extends at the top and bottom for the watch band connectors. The Moto 360 has the watch band connectors inside the base of the watch itself.

Speaking of watch bands, the included band is made of leather, but it doesn’t feel as soft as the Moto 360’s. It’s actually so rigid out of the box, you will wonder if it’s really leather. After a week or so, it does soften up though.

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If the included band doesn’t suit your fancy, you will be able to swap it out with any other 22 mm watch band. That’s the same size for all Android Wear smartwatches, including the Moto 360. However, you might have more choices with the G Watch R since it’s more of a traditional fit. With the connectors inside the base of the Moto 360, many watch bands won’t fit correctly.

The included charging pad is similar to what comes with the G Watch, except it’s round. It’s magnetic so it “sticks” to the bottom of the watch, and it has a micro USB port for power. It certainly isn’t as elegant as the Moto 360’s wireless dock that becomes a nightstand clock, but you still have to bring either one with you when you travel. The one issue with the G Watch R’s dock is that it’s not really suited for when you are sporting a watch band without a buckle. There is no way for it to lay flat on your desk or nightstand. However, since it’s magnetic, it can certainly sit on its side.

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Unlike the G Watch, the G Watch R sports a heart rate sensor at the bottom, but it does sport the same pogo pins that connect to the charging plate. It also has a button on the right side that looks like a traditional winder. It serves as a way to wake or turn off the display as well as provide quicker access to the settings (push and hold). The Moto 360’s button functions the same way, but it’s a bigger button on the G Watch R. Because of that, I find the watch going into the Settings on it’s own when my wrist is bent up towards it. An example would be doing push ups, which causes the top of my wrist to hit the button just enough. Not a big deal, but something worth noting.

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The G Watch R comes in at 11.1 mm, so it’s slightly thinner than the Moto 360, which is 11.5 mm.

The design and looks of the G Watch R will to come down to personal preference. I will say that I prefer the look of the Moto 360, but the G Watch R is no slouch. I think one of the reasons I like the Moto 360 better is the choice of silver as an option. The G Watch is only available in black, and I would like to see it in silver. In fact, I would love to see it in some sort of two tone like the bezel in silver and the base in black.

Styling is only one piece of the puzzle, so let’s move on.

Hardware

The G Watch R features a 1.3-inch P-OLED 320 x 320 display at 348 ppi, a 1.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400, 500 MB of RAM, 4 GB of internal storage, accelerometer, digital compass, gyroscope, heart rate sensor, IP67 rating for water and dust, and 410 mAh battery.

Performance

The G Watch R sports the Snapdragon 400, which is a quad-core that is probably tuned down to one-core. It’s very snappy with very little to non-existent lag, as well as great responsiveness to touch. That’s all you can really ask for. It’s not like you’re going to be playing Dead Trigger on this thing. The Moto 360, on the other hand, sports an OMAP processor, which is as ancient as it gets. After a few updates, the Moto 360 is running nearly as smooth, but one has to question the longevity of such an out-of-date processor.

The display is P-OLED, which is probably the best display we’ve seen on an Android Wear smartwatch. It sports 6 levels of brightness, but it doesn’t have an ambient sensor like the Moto 360. However, you can pretty much set it at 3 or 4, and never have to change it. The G Watch R’s display is slightly better than the Moto 360 in that the colors pop a lot more with deeper blacks. The display also performs very well in sunlight. If you’re at the beach on a very bright day, you might have to turn the brightness up to a level of 6 though.

The area where the G Watch R totally outshines the Moto 360 is the Always-On display. With most Android Wear watches, you can set it to show your watch face at all times in a dimmed state. The Moto 360 offers something similar, but they call it an Ambient Screen. The difference is that the display doesn’t stay on all the time. Not only does the G Watch R display stay on all the time, but it’s also a lot brighter. The Moto 360’s Ambient Screen is very dim in order to conserve battery. As you will see in the battery section, the G Watch R doesn’t need to play games because battery isn’t an issue. Now one could argue that the G Watch R’s Always-On display is actually too bright, but I would rather have it than not. If you were to set the main display at a brightness level of 1, you will have a hard time telling the difference between the Always-On and Active display. You will most likely need to turn it off when in darker environments so that you don’t annoy others. What we need is the ability to control the brightness of the Always-on display, and I am sure that will come soon.

I have had a few discussions about the Always-On display with others on Google+. Many Moto 360 owners feel that it’s unnecessary, but what I have found is that the majority of people that feel that way, never owned a smartwatch before. I have been using a smartwatch for the past few years starting with the WiMM One. One of the coolest aspects of smartwatches is customization as in watch faces. You want to see your watch face at all timex. I can’t stand looking at a “black screen of death” as I call it on the Moto 360. The bottom line is that once you have it, you won’t want to go back to the black screen.

Battery

The G Watch performed very well with battery life so we expected nothing less from the G Watch R. With the Always-On display enabled and using third party watch faces like Facer, it easily lasted 24 hours. Not into the Always-On display? Then you can expect to get about 2 days when it’s disabled. The bottom line is that I have never felt like I was running out of juice. I run the Always-On display and always have at least 35% to 45% battery life left when I put it on the charger at bedtime. The Moto 360 does perform better after updates, but you still can’t use the Ambient Screen and get through an entire day. However, since the Ambient Screen is useless, getting through a day isn’t an issue when it’s disabled. Still, the G Watch R performs better since it can run 24 hours with the display on all the time.

Software

There isn’t a whole lot to say about the software since it’s Android Wear and LG doesn’t offer anything additional. I did get the 4.4W.2 update within minutes of turning the watch on, so I can’t say if it made an impact on performance. What I will say is that the best feature of the update is the ability to hide notification cards from the watch face in both Always-On and waked modes.

Also with the update is the ability to transfer music to your watch giving you the ability to leave your phone at home if you’re going for a jog. You can now connect your Android Wear watch to a Bluetooth headset and listen to the music that is on the watch. There is also a new actionable menu for all music apps (streaming from the phone as well), which gives you ability to skip tracks forward or backwards and adjust the volume.

It should be noted that all of these features are available with all Android Wear watches updated to 4.4W.2.

Closing

The G Watch R trumps the Moto 360 in just about every category. It has a better processor, better display, and a bigger battery. It also sports a proper “Always-On” display, although a little too bright at times. The Moto 360 looks better, but it has an ancient processor and its battery life is questionable. Probably the biggest factor for me is the “Always-On” display. I have no interest in spending close to $300 on a smartwatch and looking at a black screen all day. The better processor, display, and battery life is just icing on the cake. The only reason to buy the Moto 360 over the G Watch R is if you think it looks that much better. It does look better, but as I said before, it’s not like the G Watch R is a slouch. Whatever shortcomings it has in the looks department, it more than makes up for it in every other category.

The G Watch R costs $299, which is $50 more than the Moto 360. Some people might balk at that, but if you think about it, it should cost more since it has better components.

Both are great watches, but at this point in the game, the G Watch R is the best Android Watch available.

 

 


About the Author: Robert Nazarian

Robert lives in upstate New York where he was born and raised. Technology was always his passion. His first computer was a Radio Shack TRS80 Color that used a cassette tape to save programs, and his first laptop was a Toshiba T1200FB that sported a CGA greyscale screen and two 720kb floppy drives (no hardrive). From the early 90’s through late 2011, he only owned Motorola phones starting with the MircroTAC all the way through to the Droid X. He broke that streak when he bought the Galaxy Nexus. Now he's sporting a Galaxy Note 4, and absolutely loves it. He has a wonderful wife and a 6 year old son. In his free time he enjoys sports, movies, TV, working out, and trying to keep up with the rapid fast world of technology.


  • Pedro Fernandez Ruiz

    I think I would prefer Moto 360, only because LG put that tachymeter bezel :(

  • Qbancelli

    Was this a review, or a Moto 360 hating piece?

    Watch the Droid Life Moto 360 unboxing
    Side by side this watch looks like a joke.

    • http://1 Robert Nazarian

      If you’re trying to say that I had an agenda, nothing could be further from the truth. I am big time Motorola fan boy. I wanted to love the Moto 360, but I didn’t. I just think the G Watch R is better and it only makes sense to compare the two watches since they are both the best available.

    • Discuss

      ROFL, you wish. The moto doesn’t even have a full screen. Much less a crappy processor and halfassed design. Looks like an unfinished piece of metal… Here’s what iVerge said about the LG, “The LGG Watch R is powered by a Snapdragon 400 that handily outperforms and outlasts the Moto 360’s dated Texas Instruments processor.”

  • Prady

    it depends on the design of watchfaces, agreed that there can be only limited faces coz of that ‘tachymeter’ on the front. the watch will look much better if the watch face uses the ‘tachymeter’outline as part of a watch face.. right now most of the faces have inner circle and then permanent outer circle, which definitely looks weird. other than that its all good.. although $299 may be a bummer… $250 for me is a sweet spot..

  • Andy Bartels

    I couldn’t agree more about the screen brightness of the “Always-on” screen, it needs to be adjustable, and maybe an ambient sensor would come in handy. In the dark my watch is a little flashlight on my wrist, and is bright when I accidentally wake it by moving it. Does anyone know if that could be disabled? Because it should be a feature that’s disableable.

    • Garry Holmberg

      I set the watch r to the lowest brightness (1). Through the android wear app settings I turn off tilt to wake screen and leave the always on screen box checked.

      When I go to sleep at night, I uncheck the always on screen box so that my room is dark-I hate any kind of night light, moonlight, etc messing with my sleep.

      In the morning I pick up my phone, check the always on screen box, grab my watch from the charger, and I am off.

      I am running android wear 5.0.1 and I get more than 2 days on a full charge.

      In some activities, like driving at night, the always on display is too bright, even at the lowest setting. I use two watch faces, Red for most times, has day of week, month, and works well with diver watch look. And I use Sapphire which also looks well with the diver watch, but the always on display is much less bright (less bold white is used).

      I also leave tilt to wake off. I don’t like that when I move my arm/wrist that the watch activates since the always on screen looks different than the activated screen in terms of brightness and what is visible like 60 minute marks vs 10, and a sweeping second hand.

      If I want to activate the display I simply touch it, and if a text message comes in or phone call, the display is automatically activated–even when tilt to wake is off.

      Turning off tilt to wake just seems to work better for me, and leaves the watch face in one state, unless I need to take action. It may be why I get 2 plus days on a charge, although software updates may have improved battery life compared to what was reported here.

      Hope that helps.

  • Cole Walter Tague

    What makes you say that the snapdragon 400 is probably tuned down to one core? I’m curious is all. Don’t you think if they were going to do that that they would just opt out for the snapdragon 200 to save on money. It’s a dual core. Can’t think of a single core chip off the top of my head at the moment. Good article thanks.

  • Kavan Lyles

    Does the bezel come off?

  • firuz hatunoglu

    I found this watch band perfect for LG G watch R ,it gave a sportive look …