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Want a smartwatch with longer battery life? Check out the Samsung Gear 2 Neo ($199, Amazon) – little brother of the Samsung Gear 2. It offers most of the features of the Gear 2, minus the camera and smartphone independent data capabilities. As opposed to the $199 Samsung Gear Live or LG G Watch (our review LG G Watch Review and Giveaway LG G Watch Review and Giveaway Does the LG G Watch suck or does it manage to justify its $229 price tag? Read More ) and the $250 Moto 360 (our review Motorola Moto 360 Android Wear Smartwatch Review and Giveaway Motorola Moto 360 Android Wear Smartwatch Review and Giveaway The $250 Motorola Moto 360 Android Wear smartwatch fuses beautiful and sleek design with functionality. Read More ), the $199 Samsung Gear 2 Neo runs the Tizen operating system, instead of Android Wear.

Tizen offers a number of advantages over Android Wear (read about the various smartwatch operating systems What Operating Systems Do Wearable Devices Run On? What Operating Systems Do Wearable Devices Run On? Wearable tech, in its many shapes and forms, changes human-machine interaction. Read More ), but does not employ any kind of touchless voice-activation. While some apps don’t use the touchless controls anyway, the majority of wearables consumers would find this omission a deal-breaker. That said, for those seeking to get started with a smartwatch, the Gear 2 Neo offers a potential alternative to the now dominant Android Wear.

samsung gear 2 neo face

Aesthetic Design

The external appearance of the Neo reflects the – now standard – Samsung design philosophy: The watchband comes in black plastic, textured with cross-hatching. The rectangular screen emanates a svelte design, sporting rubber, rounded edges. A gray, brushed bezel surrounds the AMOLED screen, accenting the black with a subtle metallic sheen. Don’t let appearances fool you – the Neo’s construction features very little metal.

samsung gear 2 neo metal sheen

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The watchband’s clasp sizes onto the wrist better than devices from either LG or Motorola. The Neo’s adjustable strap, once fitted, clips onto the arm without any additional adjustments. Unlike the Moto 360 or G Watch, the Neo takes less time to adjust, and the fit feels more snug and comfortable. Also, the plastic strap gives it far greater water resistance than the leather band, used in the 360.

The aesthetic design makes the Samsung Gear 2 Neo a near dead-ringer for the Samsung Gear 2. And it only differs from the Samsung Gear Live in its all-plastic construction.

Hardware

The Gear 2 Neo runs on much lower specced hardware than its Android Wear competitors. It lacks gesture-activated voice activation and all its software features require manual activation.

Samsung remains among the most vertically integrated of all modern corporations – almost every component of a Samsung smartwatch originates with Samsung. To my knowledge, no other electronics company can match this degree vertical integration. With its powerful hardware-design firepower, I’d expect the Neo to offer more polished features than it actually does:

Features and Specifications

  • IR Blaster
  • Pedometer
  • Sleep tracking
  • Accelerometer
  • 310 mAh Li-Ion battery
  • 1.63-inch AMOLED display
  • Exyno 3250, dual-core processor clocked at 1 GHz
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • IP67 dust and water resistance

Samsung leverages its AMOLED screen technology with its Cortex-M4 Exynos 3250 – the same chipset in the Samsung Gear 2. The term “chipset” or “system-on-a-chip” (SoC) refers to the merging of multiple processors (and other components) onto a single chip. SoCs often require less power than when the individual components existed separately on the same printed circuit board.

The Exynos 3250 possesses two dual-core CPUs – clocked at 1 GHz each. Cortex-M4 cores do not compare on a clock-per-clock basis to Cortex-A cores. Neither does the internal graphics processor. Even so, the 3250 runs Tizen in a fluid, seamless fashion. At no point will users complain about performance.

Package Includes

  • Samsung Gear 2 Neo
  • MicroUSB cable
  • Proprietary charging cradle
  • Instruction manual
  • Warranty manual

junk in a box gear 2 neo

Making Use of the Samsung Gear 2 Neo

The Gear 2 Neo doesn’t require much effort to set up or operate. I’ll try to cover some of its major features, including its battery life, performance and operation.

Operation

Simply swing your arm up to view the screen and the accelerometer inside the device lights the screen. Unlike Android Wear devices, you can’t issue voice-commands automatically. Once the gorgeous AMOLED screen lights up, you can then manually activate apps, turn on sensors and adjust settings. Some of the apps and settings include:

  • Sleep detection: This feature tracks how long the user slept and how long they remained motionless. It falls vastly short of the high-water mark left by the Basis B1 Health Tracker (our review of the Basis B1 Basis B1 Health Tracker Smartwatch (2014) Review and Giveaway Basis B1 Health Tracker Smartwatch (2014) Review and Giveaway Want to lose weight and think clearer? You might find help from the Basis B1 Health Tracker smartwatch. Read More ).
  • Pedometer: This feature is the only always-on sensor of the Gear 2 Neo. It’s extremely accurate (like all pedometers) and seems to drain very little.
  • Voice recognition: The Neo includes weak support — in the shape of the S-Voice app — for voice recognition. It offers few commands, relative to Google Now. Overall, it’s less impressive than the voice recognition support offered by competitors in accuracy and flexibility.
  • Locate my device: By activating this, your phone begins ringing. It’s useful and efficient.
  • Brightness control: The AMOLED screen – on the second setting – offers complete visibility in even bright light. It’s also even possible to switch on outdoor mode, which maxes out the AMOLED screen’s light emissions.
  • Infrared Remote: Users can control their televisions/set-top-boxes using the WatchON app. The app offers additional controls for SmartTVs by Samsung. For non-Samsung TVs/set-tops, users can only access basic functions.

The button button doubles as both a home-screen menu and as a power-on/off switch. Users just need to hold the button down to power-on or off the device. A single press returns the user to the home screen.

samsung gear 2 neo band and button

 

Battery Life

The Neo’s battery life trounces its competitors. Users can expect around three to four days of uptime with light use. To achieve this degree of battery life, however, Samsung streamlined the Gear 2 Neo’s design. Three key features enable the long battery life: a low-drain Cortex-M4 chipset; an AMOLED screen; and manual activation of its sensor suite. Together, these features make the 310 mAh battery last a very long time.

Heavy users – who constantly use high-drain features – will find themselves getting two days of battery life out of the device. The sleep feature alone drains 25 percent overnight. The other features seem to consume significantly less power.

gear 2 neo on charger

As a side-note, Samsung sacrificed graphics and automated exercise detection for better battery life. I expect wearable tech to provide both a seamless means of accessing the device’s internal features and killer battery life. Unfortunately, wearable tech at present only offers one or the other; the Samsung Gear 2 Neo being offering the latter.

A flick of the wrist should give users access to all of the smartwatch’s features. As it stands, the Gear 2 Neo requires an annoying amount of manual interaction. Users will find that the Neo complicates smartphone interaction, rather than simplifying it.

samsung gear 2 neo wrist menu options

Performance

The Neo runs fast and fluid. Swiping from menu to menu feels snappy and – despite its text interface – looks great on Samsung AMOLED screen. While Tizen doesn’t offer the visual splendor of Android Wear, its own distinct visual architecture achieves both beauty and minimalism – Google could learn a thing or two from Samsung.

Heart-rate Sensor

Like all Android Wear and Tizen heart sensors, the Neo requires manual activation. In this regard, it falls short of the automagic of the Basis B1 Health Tracker. As a health-tracking device, it’s practically useless. Users must turn the app on – which requires stumbling through a handful of menus and sub-menus. They also must remember to turn it off. And – worst of all – it doesn’t track heart-rate when active. Even the slightest amount of physical exertion gums up the heart-rate sensor.

gear 2 neo rear housing

Samsung hasn’t revealed what sensor it uses, although I have rarely heard of Samsung paying licensing patents for tech they already developed internally. The mobility restriction on heart-rate sensors seems to plague device on the market now. One of the best technologies for pulse-watching is the Mio sensor – Samsung could improve on its wearable tech immensely by licensing out Mio’s technology and using a fully-sealed wrist strap.samsung gear 2 neo heart rate sensor

Criticism

While there’s a lot of features Samsung absolutely nailed, the software experience leaves much to be desired. First of all, there’s a relatively narrow number of smartphones that work with the Gear 2 Neo. I actually purchased a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini — specifically because it should have worked with the Gear 2 Neo. In reality, only specific sub-models of S4 Mini will work with the Gear 2 Neo. I ended up having to borrow a phone to write this review.

Second, the menus and submenus are poorly structured and designed. It’s tiresome having to dig through multiple menus before finding the app or feature that you need.

Third, Samsung needs to allow all Android smartphones the ability to sync with its Tizen operating system. It also needs to let users install apps from a desktop directly onto a Tizen smartwatch. As mentioned earlier, users need a very specific model of Samsung smartphone before they can even use their smartwatch.

Fourth, modern smartwatches do three things extremely well — they act as excellent navigation devices, they offer notifications and they provide health metrics. The Neo does not offer navigation (none that Ic ould discern anyway), and it fares poorly at health metrics (except for pedometer, a fairly useless feature). It does offer solid notifications, but so does every 90% of smartwatches on today’s market. So out of three categories, the Neo scores a single point.

Last — and most important — the Samsung Gear 2 Neo’s great failure:  not having voice-detection begin immediately after activating the screen using its accelerometer. This would have eliminated the hassle experienced experienced digging through menus. Better implementation of voice recognition would have given it a leg up over Android Wear.

I’m not sure why Samsung missed this opportunity — likely because of our wretched patent system — but the combination of low-drain components, an IR blaster and an AMOLED screen seems commonsensical. With it, the Neo would have given the Tizen operating system its first design win. The omission of this single feature leaves the device looking anemic compared to any Android Wear device.

samsung gear 2 neo ir blaster

Conclusion

The Gear 2 Neo fails in a lot of areas. It doesn’t offer touchless voice-control; it forces users to install a small army of apps in order to access deeper health metrics; the Tizen app store is bare; the Neo requires manual activation for its sensor suite – there’s actually a lot more issues with Tizen, but that’s a separate discussion. However, the Gear 2 Neo doesn’t fail as bad as the Samsung Gear Fit Samsung Gear Fit Smartwatch Review and Giveaway Samsung Gear Fit Smartwatch Review and Giveaway Samsung’s Gear Fit enters a smartwatch arena with formidable competition. It provides a hybrid of notifications and exercise-oriented features, but is it worth $200? Find out, and enter to win! Read More (a fitness tracker that sucks at fitness metrics). The Neo offers a lot of solid, baked-in features, such as pedometer, notification system and display quality.

The battery life beats out comparable wearables; its hardware efficiency places it among the best of wearables; and it includes an IR blaster. Overall, it might meet your needs, if battery life, infrared capabilities and smartphone notifications fall among your primary needs. My impression so far of all wearables remains unchanged though – these are first generation devices and not worth your investment. Others might want a wearable just to see what all the fuss is about — in that case, you may want to try out the Samsung Gear 2 Neo.

box of sg2n

Don’t buy it. Smartwatches should simplify your life, not complicate it. While the Neo’s relative excellence in battery life eclipses its competitors, the additional up-time comes at the expense of everything else. The IR blaster stands out as a unique (among smartwatches) feature. But that alone doesn’t justify its price. A few other devices, such as the excellent LG G Pad 8.3 LG G Pad 8.3 Review and Giveaway LG G Pad 8.3 Review and Giveaway The LG G Pad 8.3 tablet includes great build quality, specs and software, rivaling some of the best tablets in the market. Read More , offer IR function at a similar price as the Neo, without requiring a Samsung smartphone or tablet.

Samsung Gear 2 Neo Smartwatch Giveaway

The winner will be selected at random and informed via email. View the list of winners here.

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact James Bruce for further details.

  1. Jonathan Shefftz
    March 11, 2015 at 11:59 am

    Many thanks for the informative review.
    Just two questions for you:
    "It offers most of the features of the Gear 2, minus the camera and smartphone independent data capabilities."
    - Regarding the latter, does this still mean that the Neo can run all of the same apps as the more expensive Gear 2?
    - Specifically, I want to be able to run this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D717cWcA96k

    "I actually purchased a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini — specifically because it should have worked with the Gear 2 Neo. In reality, only specific sub-models of S4 Mini will work with the Gear 2 Neo."
    - I also have an S4 Mini. How can I know whether my S4 Mini will work with the Neo?

    thanks,
    Jonathan

    • Kannon Y
      March 31, 2015 at 5:08 am

      I'm sorry for the delayed response. I'm not sure how to determine if the Gear 2 Neo will run all the same apps as the Gear 2. It should, because it has the system-on-a-chip as the Gear 2 Neo, minus some hardware.

      It won't be able to run camera apps or anything related to browsing.

      Provided your S4 Mini isn't a weird version, you shouldn't have any problems. I'm not sure exactly why I had problems, but it has to do with how international editions have differing internal components.

    • Jonathan Shefftz
      April 27, 2015 at 5:24 pm

      Thanks for the feedback.
      I ended up getting the regular Gear 2 since a refurbished model was so cheap on eBay.
      The irony is that I ended up having compatibility problems anyway -- well, not actual problems with the S4 Mini not being able to work with the Gear 2, but rather the app I wanted (Backcountry Navigator) wasn't officially approved for my combination of phone + watch. Previously, 130 combinations were approved for the app, but not S4 Mini + Gear 2. Once we (finally) determined the problem, the developer requested Samsung's approval for that along with some more (now up 140), and behold the app magically appeared for me (and works too!).

  2. Martha
    February 2, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    Great new technological item...added to the wishlist.

  3. Kim B.
    February 2, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    I'd love to have one.

  4. Sandra Hilke
    January 28, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    Das wäre Supi <3

  5. Kim
    January 28, 2015 at 1:42 am

    I would love to win this gift

  6. Anna Beth Cruz
    January 27, 2015 at 9:29 am

    hope to win i will give it to my son

  7. Anna Beth Cruz
    January 27, 2015 at 8:52 am

    hope to win

  8. Martin White
    January 26, 2015 at 11:37 pm

    These look great!

  9. Nory orito
    January 25, 2015 at 4:35 am

    I wish to have but im not so lucky to have a samsung watch

  10. Mrs Rachel Heap
    January 24, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    fab would love to win

  11. Michelle Henry
    January 23, 2015 at 6:12 am

    This would be a great gift for my son's birthday.

  12. shelley fulmizi
    January 18, 2015 at 5:38 am

    this would be so cool to win but I never win anything lol still it would be awesome to have.

  13. PAUL REGAL
    January 15, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    SMART......BOTTOM LINE IS GALAXY GEAR

  14. Brandon
    January 14, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    This would be Awesome

  15. Anonymous
    January 14, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    This would be Awesome

  16. mary janssen
    January 13, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Would love to have this.

  17. Gianluca Matsiras
    January 10, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    Hope to win good Luck!!!

  18. catherine
    January 9, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    wow techies

  19. Anastasia Tselempidou
    January 8, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Just Hopefully!!!!

  20. miali
    January 8, 2015 at 8:33 am

    I would make good use of this great prize, do not need the touchless controls. The Samsung Gear 2 Neo would be nice to have.

  21. antonella disanto
    January 7, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    excellent description
    I'm unlikely to win but I groped the same
    thank you

  22. Suzzy
    January 4, 2015 at 12:46 am

    I love technology. I've been wanting one of these for a while now. I hope I win. Thank you!

  23. Pat
    January 3, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    I would use this every day ;-)

  24. Doug Dieckmann
    January 2, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    For the few applications that this device and it's ilk have, I cannot see shelling out that kind of money.

  25. jimmy s.
    January 2, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Hope to win and good luck ^_^

  26. Alfred Chan
    January 2, 2015 at 4:41 am

    Good luck to me for the brand new year!! Thanks :)

  27. Ioannis A
    January 1, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    I'm not sure if I agree with the negative review.

    Sure, Tizen is not quite there yet but it still has a lot of value. First of all, it is almost wholly open source. The same cannot be said for Android. It's also developed in a truly open manner. This is a virtue of it being based on the Enlightenment Foundation Libraries and surrounding utilities. In fact, most of its programmers are from there. Tizen just uses custom widgets -- that's all. But if you were wondering why, well, Enlightenment (E for short) is the reason for its universally excellent battery life.

    Secondly, we need to break from the iOS-Android hegemony, which are harmful to developers and users alike. It does its best to lock people in to Google services or similar (Dropbox in my phone's case!), and that's frankly harmful to consumers. We need an alternative, and Tizen is a very worthy one. I think it has more of a future than Firefox OS, which seems to aim too low; by trying to dominate feature phone, it is doomed to be ugly and lack advanced apps. Tizen has no such issues -- and it has a lot of money to boot.

    Full disclosure: a good friend of mine works at Samsung's open source office in Staines, on the EFL and Enlightenment window manager.

    • Kannon Y
      January 1, 2015 at 9:24 pm

      Thanks for the comment!

      You're completely right that Tizen OS is on the right track (I was under the impression it was entirely open-source, but must be wrong on that point) by allowing Cortex M series processors. I'm sure there are power-management features implemented at the OS level that squeeze better battery life out of the 300 mAh battery, but the decision to go with Cortex M is what really got me interested in Tizen. It stands a chance against Android, but Samsung's strategy suffers from some serious problems. They are looking Tizen as a value-added peripheral to Samsung smartphones, rather than as a direct competitor to Android Wear. There's no getting around it, it is a competitor and Samsung hasn't even tried to leverage its inherent advantages over Android. The target audience of Tizen should be those who are dissatisfied with the awful battery life of the Android Wear platform. But are those who want battery life OK with getting locked into Samsung's smartphone stable? Probably not, because the battery life crowd tend to not be early adopters, since they value reliability over the newness of the technology.

      I know that Android supposedly supports MIPS, Cortex M, etc.. but Google's obsession with graphically beautiful and animated GUIs kind of limits the OS to more power hungry chipsets with high resolution displays -- both of these utterly trash battery life.

      Like I wrote, if Tizen had allowed microphone access direct from the wrist after using the accelerometers to switch the screen on, Tizen would have been competitive with the Android OS. As it stands, users have to manually open up S-Voice and its recognition rate isn't that great. And the list of available commands are scant.

      I think the next step for Tizen is for Samsung to begin introducing lower drain displays, like Mirasol, LiquidVista, monochromatic LCD, and nanowire batteries, etc... and go for the weeks or months of battery life.

  28. whowantsit
    December 31, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    Aesthetic Design must be synonymous with klunky.

    • Doc
      January 1, 2015 at 12:24 am

      No, "Aesthetic Design" means they did the best they could with components that aren't quite small enough yet to be considered "svelte."

  29. Keith
    December 31, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Have had the First Gear since it came out. Get a lot of comment from people on it. Just wish they'd add MX player to the apps.

  30. JustReboot
    December 31, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Interesting review- sad, because I thought this had potential. I'd still like one for free :) I think most of the issues will be ironed out w/software down the road. I'd also like to see this watch compared to the Asus.

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