Galaxy Watch 5 Pro review: a heart-not-head buying decision

man wearing a galaxy watch 5 pro.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro

MSRP $449.00

“Buy the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro for its longer battery life and luxurious materials, not its niche GPS features. But remember the normal Galaxy Watch 5 is just as good and costs less.”

Pros

  • Luxury materials
  • Super sharp screen
  • 3-day battery life
  • Comprehensive health tracking
  • D Buckle strap is excellent

Cons

  • Niche additional features
  • Slightly slow performance after waking up
  • Notifications don’t always wake the screen

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is the biggest and most expensive Samsung smartwatch you can buy this year. It’s justified (by Samsung, at least) by its luxurious materials and overall toughness, along with a big battery and a seriously comprehensive sensor array to track your activity and health. The thing is, the non-Pro Galaxy Watch 5 does most of what the Pro version does, just for less money. Is it worth splashing out for it?

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro: design

If you believe what Samsung tells you, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is a smartwatch for outdoorsy people, made for those with rough-and-tumble lifestyles who are always bashing their wristwear against a rock. It’s certainly going to be hardwearing as it’s made from titanium, has thick sapphire crystal over the screen, 50 meters’ water resistance, a raised bezel to protect the sapphire and screen, and it comes with a thick rubber strap.

the galaxy watch 5 pro showing a colorful watch face.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

However, it’s not suitable for diving, the case buttons aren’t there to make navigation easier when wearing gloves, there’s no super extended battery mode for a long weekend in the wilderness, and — apart from one small feature — the activity tracking is exactly the same on the cheaper Galaxy Watch 5. It connects to Samsung Health, which is an adequate piece of fitness software, but it’s aimed squarely at regular people — not athletes, mountaineers, or adventurers. This isn’t a competitor to a Garmin, Polar, or Suunto sports smartwatch. It’s a posh version of the Galaxy Watch 5.

What makes it posh? It’s made from titanium, but unlike titanium on a luxury mechanical watch, it’s not especially recognizable as such, with a smooth, satin finish rather than a brushed or textured finish. The case back doesn’t seem to be made from titanium either, and it feels like plastic around the sensor array, meaning you don’t get the benefit of titanium’s skin-friendly properties. I’ve found the Watch 5 Pro gets quite sweaty on my wrist.

the galaxy watch 5 pro's profile on a wrist.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Does the 45mm case make it too big? It’s all relative, but I don’t think you should get worked up over the diameter. It’s near-as-makes-no-difference the same as the 44mm Galaxy Watch 5 for a start, and the small, integrated lugs minimize the impact of the large case. I think it looks normal on my 6.5-inch wrist. It’s obviously not a minimalist dress watch, but it’s no larger than a Casio G-Shock MTG-B2000 and isn’t that much different from my 43mm Tag Heuer Formula 1 either.

Instead, it’s the thickness and weight that’s more of an issue, as the slab-sided shape does nothing to hide the smartwatch’s 10.5mm tallness on your wrist. In total, the Watch 5 Pro weighs 75 grams, and I’ve always been aware of it on my wrist. The combination of its tall profile and relative heaviness means it has been really uncomfortable to wear at night, and I’ve given up each time I’ve tried to track my sleep. For some context, an Apple Watch Series 7 with a Braided Sport Loop strap is 50 grams and is perfectly comfortable overnight.

the back of the galaxy watch 5 pro on a mans wrist.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I’m wearing the Watch 5 Pro with Samsung’s new D-Buckle Sport Band, which is excellent. It can be adjusted for size without tools and is secured with a magnet. It’s comfortable, convenient, hasn’t come loose, and looks really great. However, the size of the magnetic clasp means it may get caught on things, another downside for the adventurous. If it’s not a good fit for you, there are ample options to choose from for other Galaxy Watch 5 watch bands.

The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is a bit of a design oddity. It’s clearly not really an adventure smartwatch, but it’s not especially luxurious either. It looks great when viewed face-on and the strap’s all-in-one design is a real winner, giving the watch a modern, cohesive, individual look. Viewed from the side, it looks a little awkward next to the curvier and stylish Galaxy Watch 5. And while it shares materials with a luxury smartwatch, it can’t compete with the wonderful Tag Heuer Connected Calibre E4 for looks and sheer enjoyment when wearing it.

Galaxy Watch 5 Pro: Route Workout and Track Back

There are two feature advantages to the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro over the Galaxy Watch 5: Route Workout and Track Back. Route Workout is a way to follow pre-determined routes when hiking or cycling, and requires you to import special .GPX files via your phone. Select the feature on the watch, import the GPX, and the watch will show the route. However, it’s a “fixed” view, so you have to be ready at the right spot to start your hike or cycle as you can’t scroll around the map to establish where you are, but I like the turn-by-turn navigation and simple vibration alerts to keep you on track.

It’s a really niche feature. If you’re part of a group where GPX files are regularly created and shared, the feature works very well and could be fun. But if you’re not, you will have to go looking for files online. Not only are GPX files not very common, but they require specialist software to create them in the first place. The Route Workout feature also only supports hiking and cycling. This also applies to the Track Back feature, which will automatically lead you back to your starting point.

Neither are features someone who sticks to established paths will ever use, and those who want to explore more but aren’t part of a group that already uses GPX files would be better to try an app like ViewRanger, MapMyWalk, or OS Maps. Samsung promotes the GPX Route Workout and Track Back as features that make the Watch 5 Pro pro, yet they’re more niche and restrictive than we’d expected.

Galaxy Watch 5 Pro: health and activity tracking

On the back of the smartwatch is the same 3-in-1 BioActive Sensor found on the Galaxy Watch 5, which measures heart rate and blood oxygen levels, takes an electrocardiogram, and will record body composition too. The Watch 5 Pro will also measure blood pressure, but to do that you need to live somewhere the feature is available (it’s not available in the U.S.), calibrate it with a cuff-based blood pressure monitor, and repeat that calibration every month. It’s not something for casual users and is likely best explored by those who have been recommended to monitor blood pressure. Skin temperature monitoring will be possible, but the feature is not available yet.

Recording body composition — muscle, fat mass, body fat, body water, BMR, and BMI — from your wrist is very cool, as before it was something more usually found on an upmarket set of smart scales, or complicated machinery in a doctor’s office. However, while you get the results and are shown if they’re good or bad, there’s nothing to explain how to change them. That’s acceptable for things like BMI as it’s a widely understood metric, but not so for body water or skeletal muscle.

Tracking a walk showed the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro accurately and quickly acquires a GPS signal and the map is clearly plotted afterward in the Samsung Health app. Heart rate and speed matched the data collected by the Apple Watch Series 7, but there was a slight discrepancy between total calories burned. There’s a lot of data to examine in the app, including VO2 Max, cadence, heart rate zones, elevation, and plenty more. While I’ve been using it to track casual exercise, there’s more than enough here for more committed sportspeople.

The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is a fantastic workout partner.

Auto-workouts, where the watch recognizes you’re out exercising is very accurate, as is the auto-pause feature. So accurate in fact, it pauses while you wait to cross a busy road and restarts once you’re halfway across. Under the Fitness tab in Samsung Health, you’ll find a mixture of subscription-based and free workout plans. They’re all broken down into sections (balance, weight loss, endurance, mindfulness, and so on) and are clearly marked for difficulty level. I tried a few out and while they’re a bit repetitive, they look great on the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s big screen, and the display shows heart rate and calorie burn data from your watch, which starts tracking the activity immediately without any prompting.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is suitable for sleep tracking. It’s just too heavy and bulky. The lighter Galaxy Watch 5 is better, and you can see how it performs in our review of that model. If I ever make it through an entire night without taking the Watch 5 Pro off because it’s annoying me, I’ll update here on its performance. If sleep tracking is really important to you, consider the Oura Ring instead.

The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is a fantastic workout partner. It’s accurate, easy to use, pulls in masses of data, and the multiple sensors help give you a comprehensive overview of your general health. Samsung Health is simple to navigate and use too. It’s highly recommended, but unless you already use .GPX files for hikes or cycling, it won’t provide any more functionality or insight than the regular Galaxy Watch 5.

Galaxy Watch 5 Pro: software and performance

The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has Google’s WearOS 3.5 with Samsung’s One UI Watch 4.5 software onboard, all powered by the Exynos W920 processor, 1.5GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage space. There’s no physical rotating bezel like the old Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, but you can run your finger around the outer edge of the screen to somewhat replicate the experience. Otherwise, you swipe and tap the screen to move through the menus and titles. Everything you see can be customized, including which Tiles are shown and in what order.

app screen on the galaxy watch 5 pro.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Bixby is the default voice assistant and the microphone picks up my voice without a problem, even outside with traffic noise around me. It can be switched to Google Assistant, but to do so requires installation of the Assistant app and jumping through some hoops in Settings. While you’re in the Google Play Store, there are various other apps available for the Watch 5 Pro including Spotify, Nike Run Club, Komoot, Hole19, MyFitnessPal, Outlook, Strava, and many more.

Samsung Pay is called up with a long press of the lower button on the case, and while Google Wallet can be installed, I can’t find a way to remap the same button to use it instead. You’re forced to add it to the top button, where a short press works as a back button, and a long press by default calls up Bixby. Special mention should go to the new keyboard that’s part of OneUI Watch 4.5, as even when I optimistically stab away at the small screen it gets what I’m trying to type.

Once the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is going the performance is speedy, but it takes a while to wake up. Swipe the screen to see Quick Settings or to access the app menu and it rarely recognizes the first input, and it takes several tries before it actually does anything. It’s frustrating and is possibly to do with power management. I also find it very annoying when a notification arrives and the watch vibrates, but the information doesn’t show on the screen when I raise my wrist. It happens probably three out of five times.

typing on the galaxy watch 5 pro.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The smartwatch is fast enough, but the software needs polishing and you’ll have to spend some time getting it to work the way you want. It’s definitely not as slick or effortlessly simple as WatchOS and the Apple Watch, and I haven’t really seen any performance upgrade over smartwatches with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 4100+ processor and WearOS 2, such as the Tag Heuer Connected Calibre E4. It will be very interesting to see how smartwatches with the new Qualcomm Snapdragon W5 Gen 1 chip perform alongside it, and how the Google Pixel Watch compares later this year.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro: screen and other features

The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro’s screen is the same size and resolution as the 44mm Galaxy Watch 5. It’s very sharp and text looks fantastic, plus the more colorful watch faces pop off the screen due to their high contrast, bright colors, and deep blacks. It’s also easy to view in sunlight, and the auto-brightness feature has proven very effective.

checking a notification on the galaxy watch 5 pro.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

There are two settings for haptics, light and strong. Light is pleasing and noticeable, while the strong setting really makes itself known on your wrist. Dig into the settings on the watch and Samsung has included a wealth of accessibility options covering hearing and visibility enhancements, plus granular control over the screen’s sensitivity and responsiveness.

The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has Bluetooth onboard ready to connect to wireless headphones, plus music can be transferred over from your phone through the Galaxy Wearable app and played directly if you don’t want to carry your phone on a run. It’s a fast transfer too, taking only a few seconds per track to sync. I used the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro with the Watch 5 Pro, and it didn’t require additional setup because it pulled the information directly from my phone, which really simplified the process. It uses Bluetooth to connect to your phone and the range is average, around the expected 10 meters but not more, and there’s a vibration alert if it suddenly disconnects. I haven’t had any problems with connectivity.

Finally, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro does not work with an iPhone, it requires an Android phone and the Galaxy Wearable and Samsung Health apps, plus if you’re using a non-Samsung phone, a special plugin too. It also seems the Route Back feature only works with a Samsung phone, as when connected to a OnePlus 10 Pro, GPX files wouldn’t transfer to it and only operated in Samsung Health itself. We are confirming this with Samsung.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro: battery life and charging

The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro’s battery life is its standout feature and sets it apart from not only the Galaxy Watch 5 but from most other Android smartwatches that don’t make use of special screen technology or extended battery modes to make it past a couple of days. It will last you three working days without a recharge, with a 30-minute activity tracked on each one, provided you don’t wear it overnight.

the galaxy watch 5 pro's case back.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

As already discussed, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is not the best smartwatch to track sleep due to its size and weight, and while that’s a pain, it does help battery life. Track one 30-minute activity with GPS and expect the battery to drop by only about 5%, which gives you a good idea of how much energy the Watch 5 Pro’s 590mAh cell stores. Samsung estimates 80 hours of battery use, but you won’t get close to that if, like me, you activate continuous heart rate and stress monitoring, and the always-on screen.

Three days of battery may not quite match smartwatches like the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra or the Casio G-Shock GSW-H1000, but it’s longer than the Galaxy Watch 5, other Wear OS 2 smartwatches, and the Apple Watch Series 7. Charging is more standard and it takes 20 minutes to get to about 40% from almost flat, reaches 65% after 40 minutes, and on to full in 90 minutes.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro: Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro costs $449 for the Wi-Fi version or $499 for the 4G LTE model or 429 British pounds for the Wi-Fi version in the U.K. and 469 pounds for the LTE model. It’s available now, and if you’re thinking about buying, do take a look at the trade-in discounts available as they can significantly reduce the initial cost. Spending more to get the 4G LTE model means you’ll be able to leave your phone at home more often and still get messages and calls, but it will cost extra on your monthly carrier bill.

Choosing the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is difficult

I am really enjoying the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro. It looks great, I appreciate the higher quality materials (although I don’t think they make it an adventure smartwatch), and the sensor array and associated health tracking features are excellent. I consider the Apple Watch Series 7 the best smartwatch you can buy, but the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro comes a very close second. It’s absolutely that good.

the galaxy watch 5 pro worn on a man's wrist.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

However, there isn’t a strong reason to buy it over the Galaxy Watch 5, which comes in two sizes, is arguably more stylish, has almost identical features, is better suited to sleep tracking, and costs less. The only slightly compelling reason to choose the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is its longer battery life, but we’re only talking a day or so extra, not something more meaningful like a week.

If you’re tempted due to the GPX file support and Track Back feature, just remember you may need a Samsung phone for it to work. If you are thinking about this, also take a look to see if a sports smartwatch like the Polar Pacer Pro or Garmin Forerunner 955 has more functionality that suits your lifestyle, especially if you run, hike or cycle long distances regularly.

All of this is why I see the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro as a luxury version of the Galaxy Watch 5. You won’t be gaining much by buying it in terms of features and functionality, and those with sensible heads will just buy the cheaper one and be very happy with it. However, the titanium case, thicker sapphire, and minimalist design will tempt those who want something just a bit more special, and I have no hesitation in recommending it — provided you understand the cheaper Galaxy Watch 5 is just as good, if not a bit more versatile. It’s a heart-not-a-head decision to choose the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro.

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