Yesterday, at its second Unpacked event of the year, Samsung revealed two new smartwatches – the Watch 6 and Watch 6 Classic. Of course, other new devices were announced, but we’re mainly concerned with the company’s new watches here. Specifically, where the Watch 6 Classic slots into Samsung’s lineup and how it compares to last year’s flagship.
Should you cough up more dough or stick with the Pro?
Lord of the Watch: Return of the Bezel
The first thing anyone familiar with Samsung’s smartwatches will notice is the return of the physical bezel. For people not familiar with Samsung’s smartwatches, it’s a little turny thing around the edge of the watch that offers a slightly different way to navigate.
This feature has been present on almost all of Samsung’s flagship smartwatches since the Galaxy Watch Active 2 launched in 2019. That is, until last year when it ditched the physical rotating bezel for a raised lip and ‘digital’ bezel on the Watch 5 Pro. You had to run your finger along the groove, hoping it would take you where you wanted to go. A digital version was never going to be as accurate or feel as responsive as the tactile alternative.
The reason for the lack of turny bezel on the Watch 5 Pro is in its name. Samsung aimed that one squarely at the outdoorsy adventurous type that goes on long hikes or clambers over rocks for fun.
If your smartwatch is likely to hit rocks or be doused with mud, a thin piece of metal and the four tiny balls underneath probably won’t last very long. The frame of the 5 Pro is also made of titanium which is stronger than the stainless steel found in the Watch 4 and 6 Classic.
If a physical bezel is the only thing you care about in your smartwatch and you’re currently sitting with a Watch 5 Pro, you don’t really have a choice but to upgrade. Samsung will even shave a bit off the R9,000 starting price of the Watch 6 Classic if you trade in your old watch. But if you need more from your wristable than just the turny bit, there are other things to consider.
Longest lasting wins
Samsung’s watches don’t have the strongest track record when it comes to battery life. It was one of the most complained-about features when the Watch 4 Classic came out. That device had a 361mAh battery and typically lasts around 30 hours if you’re taking things easy, less if you’re being active.
The Watch 5 Pro did its best to improve here with its 590mAh battery and support for faster charging. The battery is a good deal larger than the 4 Classic’s but didn’t last the 80 hours Samsung rated it for. We only saw around 60 to 65 hours between charges during our review.
The Watch 6 Classic, and its 425mAh battery in the 47mm model, takes a large step back. Samsung says it’ll only last 40 hours, which is a real shame. But who knows, maybe it was being conservative. Still, if battery life is your main concern, you’re better off sticking with the Watch 5 Pro.
Tallying up the features
As we mentioned, Samsung is making a clear distinction between the adventurous 5 Pro and the sophisticated 6 Classic. Both devices offer the standard range of health, sleep, and workout tracking from Samsung’s BioActive sensor.
But the 5 Pro edges out the 6 Classic with additional outdoor features like support for GPS exchange format (GPX) files for walking, running, hiking, and biking, and the route track-back feature so you don’t get lost.
Other than that, both devices share durability specs like 5ATM and IP68 ratings and both use sapphire crystal to protect the displays.
Elsewhere, the two watches do differ but in ways most folks aren’t likely to notice or care about. At 47mm the 6 Classic is Samsung’s largest wearable to date. It comes with a larger, brighter, crisper 1.5in 480 x 480 display. A whole 0.1in larger than the 5 Pro.
The Exynos W930 chipset driving the Watch 6 Classic is an upgrade over the Exynos W920 in the Watch 5 Pro. Samsung says it’s 18% faster, which is cool, we guess. There’s also an additional 500MB of RAM, for whatever that’s worth.
Finally, the 6 Classic will ship with Samsung’s One UI Watch 5 skin on top of Google’s Wear OS 4. These are the latest versions of either software and will likely be supported for slightly longer than older versions. That said, Samsung is still selling the Watch 5 Pro and could update it in line with the 6 Classic… so maybe not.
Return to Classic, or stay Pro?
Samsung has done a pretty good job with the launch of the Watch 6 Classic. It has positioned the device as the company’s best smartwatch for most people without making adventure seekers feel like they’re missing out.
So, should you buy the Watch 6 Classic? Yes. But only if you really want a physical bezel, a bigger, brighter, crisper display, and you’re the type that has to have ‘the new thing’ whenever it shows up.
Do you regularly go on hikes through a forest or long cycles? Do you use GPX files or even know what they are? Do you value battery life over everything else? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those then you’re better off sticking with the Watch 5 Pro. At least for now, anyway.