Everyone has been saying the same – the Galaxy Watch 5 is practically identical to the Galaxy Watch 4 in almost EVERY. SINGLE. WAY. But let’s go beyond the surface and test the Watch 5’s heart rate sensor, step counter, blood oxygen saturation, battery, microphone and much more!
We have the 40mm version of both here. Just a quick recap on everything that’s exactly the same.
The chipset, CPU and GPU are all the same. Unfortunately it is still running the Exynos W920 instead of the newer Snapdragon W5 chip. Both come with 16GB of storage and 1.5GB of RAM. Both sport a Super AMOLED display with 330 pixels per inch. And both have the same IP rating at IP68 with 50m water resistance. The strap sizes and fittings are identical and the case of the watch is almost the same; the Watch 5 is slightly thicker due to the improved sensor and bigger battery. More on that later.
Are there no differences? Of course there are. And here they are.
- The older Watch 4 had gorilla glass on the front and the newer Watch 5 has Sapphire glass. Is it better? Sapphire is tougher to scratch but can shatter easier relative to gorilla glass. In our opinion that is better because the chance of us dropping the watch or smashing it against something is far less than getting it scratched up. And no, we’re not going to drop it. Unless maybe you fund us by supporting the channel – links in the description.
- Speaking of ruggedness, the Watch 5 has got an incremental upgrade to MIL-STD-810H compared to the 810G. But like we said for most people not much will change as they will be looking at the IP rating. Not sure about you but I don’t think of military standard specifications for my smartwatch. Back in my day we had gshocks for that kind of thing.
- There’s a new sensor on the Watch 5 for measuring skin temperature. But the kicker is it doesn’t do anything yet. Looks like it could be used to more accurately detect and determine sleep stages. But primarily they’ve left it up to developers to tinker with it and do the work for Samsung instead. In all honesty, we do wonder if anything useful and accurate can come out of this.
- After unboxing and doing all the necessary updates. The Watch 5 comes with One UI 4.5 running on WearOS 3.5, while the Watch 4 is still on One UI 4.0 running on WearOS 3.2. One UI is the skin Samsung puts over Google WearOS. Again some minor improvements like swiping on the Samsung keyboard. Which I think most of us were doing by installing Google’s gboard on it instead. And you see a few UI tweaks and configuration options.
- Sleep tracking on the Watch 5 can detect and record snoring straight from the watch. No need to have your phone next to you and charging.
- The price. Of course. At launch there’s around $140 difference in price.
- And finally, and let’s be honest, the biggest change we were all hoping for, the battery! Well yes, the battery capacity in both Watch 5 variants did increase. So on the 40mm it went from 247 to 284 mAh and the charging puck went from a USB-A to USB-C and has fast charging at 10W as opposed to the 5W on the Watch 4. Did all of that translate to anything?
Before we answer that. Our conclusion is simple. Don’t buy the Galaxy Watch 5. Samsung and Montblanc are the only two brands at the moment that have the latest WearOS operating system. And Montblanc costs 4 times that of the Watch 5. So who can blame Samsung for resting on their laurels? Save your money, buy some patience. Wait for the Pixel watch and Fossil and Ticwatch etc. to come out with their takes on WearOS 3. Heck, we’d even go as far as saying wait for the next smartwatch with the Snapdragon W5 chip – that’s really going to make a difference! But if you can’t wait, the Galaxy Watch 4 is an excellent product. Buy that, and if you still have around $100 burning a hole in your pocket, go get yourself some wireless noise cancelling earbuds like the Galaxy Buds Pro! Our reviews of both of those products are linked down below.
A day in the life…
So, you’re still here? Wow, ok – let’s get into the tests and see what kind of improvements Samsung has made under the hood. Did the battery life improve? Yes it did. In terms of charging speeds there’s a significant improvement. In 30 mins the Watch 5 charged to nearly two-thirds of the battery whereas the Watch 4 was around the one-third mark. After 45 mins it got to 85% versus 53%. To get to full battery the Watch 5 took 1h 10 mins and the Watch 4 1h 40 mins. A whole 30 mins difference.
And that 15% increased battery capacity? Nope, sorry. It’s not what we’ve all been hoping for. The Watch 5 is still a one day watch. It managed to squeeze out around 3-5 hours more compared to the Watch 4 we have. Do remember that the Watch 4 we have is a year old and has had many more charge cycles already. But again, those few hours, on a day to day basis don’t make a difference. You’ll still be throwing it on to the charger every day. The place it might make a difference is if you’re out and about using the GPS and fitness tracking features intensively and just hope to get through the day then, yes. A little extra battery could come in handy. We’ve made a video on a bunch of battery savings tips for the Watch 4 and they apply to the Watch 5 too. Check that out over here!
One step at a time
We went out with each watch on each wrist and a good ole hand clicker to manually count our steps and compare them to the watches. And you know what? Both of them counted almost identically and reasonably close to what the clicker counted. So great step counting on both watches. No change there.
Where we did see a change was in the distance measured. The Watch 5 tended to measure a longer distance than the Watch 4. But both measured less than what Google Maps said.
How saturated is your blood oxygen?
The blood oxygen saturation, or SPO2, as it’s called for short measures how efficiently your blood is carrying oxygen throughout your body. The normal range is usually between 95 and 100%. The way we measured this was by using a medical grade finger pulse oximeter.
Here are the results of the blood oxygen saturation readings in a box plot. In case you forgot your statistics, here’s a short recap: the lines represent the minimum and maximum measurements. The box shows where 75% of the readings can be found. A rule of thumb: a smaller box and shorter lines are preferable.
You can clearly see that the finger pulse oximeter is reliable around the 99% SPO2. No surprise there. The Watch 4 has a very large range from a 86% reading to a 99% reading, whereas the Watch 5 has a smaller range. The spread of data is also less on the Watch 5 making it the better option overall. A smartwatch gives you a nice indication, but as you can see, nothing beats a little pulsoximeter.
Let’s squash those fitness goals!
Playing squash with each watch on either wrist and a Polar H10 chest strap on, we see the following results:
Now, the Polar H10 is a reliable tool to measure heart rate, so the black line is your reference. You can clearly see that the Watch 4, the blue line, shoots up several times way above the actual heart rate, whereas the Watch 5 remains closer to the Polar H10.
The Watch 5 beat the Watch 4 in accuracy for Max heart rate and Average heart rate as you can see here. The Watch 4 also overshot considerably in calories burnt.
|Max HR (bpm)
|Avg HR (bpm)
What does all of this mean? It means the Watch 5 has improved a great deal compared to the Watch 4 in its ability to measure your basic fitness metrics. It’s still not extremely accurate, but heaps better than it was before. Good job Samsung!
Feeling the pressure!
Blood pressure is another feature of both watches. Nothing new there. And just like before, it only works if you have a Samsung phone and an upper arm blood pressure monitor to calibrate it with.
Here are the average results comparing all three devices and doing multiple measurements on each. As you can see, both watches did a reasonable job. Not perfectly in sync with the medical grade blood pressure monitor but not crazy out of bounds either.
|Omron BP monitor
|Samsung Galaxy Watch 5
|Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
ECG, Sleep Tracking and Body Composition
Now we’ve got a couple of health features that you can use on the Galaxy Watches, but let’s be real. To be able to test whether they’re any good in terms of accuracy would mean a trip to the doctor or a serious investment in measuring apparatus. If you guys want us to do the latter – then a subscribe would definitely help! To a common Galaxy Watch owner they’re fun to use, but hard to verify. So we’ll show you how they at least compare side by side with the Watch 5 and Watch 4. And you can do with that information what you will.
So one of those features is one that’s exclusive to Samsung smartphone owners again, and that’s the ECG feature which is able to measure your heart’s rhythm and electrical activity and even be able to detect any heart irregularities. Although they don’t advertise it as being medical grade – you can create an ECG graph with an initial assessment of your heart rhythm and the ability to generate a shareable report.
Another feature is sleep tracking. You can see that total bedtime and sleep time vary by around 20 mins. The Watch 5 being the stricter one with less. We see rather big differences in the sleep stages and their durations too. The Watch 5 measured my blood oxygen being under 90% for around 15mins whereas the Watch 4 said never! So overall, very meh results. It’s a fun tool to give you a rough idea about your sleep as well as the option to turn on sleep coaching with some tips on improving sleep and checking in with you if it’s helping or not.
And finally there’s body composition which measures things like body fat and skeletal muscle. In the past, we’ve had problems getting this measurement to work. But for some reason that’s been fixed on both. Not to be biassed or anything, but personally I like the Watch 5. Everyone knows I got lower body fat and higher skeletal muscle. Muscles aside. Just like with sleep tracking we see some deviations between the two watches.
Popsicle, icicle, testing!
Yes you can take calls on the Galaxy Watch 4 and 5. But only if they’re cellular calls. Whatsapp doesn’t work. If you want to know how the microphone sounds, here’s a test. Have a listen and we’ll see you back here.
(Microphone samples can be found in the video)
Would you use them for calls? Did you notice any difference?
And there’s obviously also a speaker on the Watch and technically you could, not sure why you would, listen to music. In case you were wondering if there’s a difference, here are some audio samples:
(Sound samples can be found in the video)
Let’s pack up these Galaxy Watches!
Now there you have it. There were a few incremental improvements in measuring distance and accuracy of the blood oxygen saturation. But – if you’re really buying the Galaxy Watch 5 then you only should be doing that if you really really really need an improved heart rate monitor. Because, honestly, that’s the 1 reason why you should upgrade.
But at the end of all those tests, we still stand behind what we said. Take a rain check on the Galaxy Watch 5, if you can. Watch out for upcoming watches and watch the smartwatch market really unpack! More WearOS 3 watches with new Snapdragon chipsets with batteries that will last longer than a day. Fun times coming up!