The Samsung Gear Live sports a 1.2 GHz processor, 4 GB of internal storage, 512 MB of RAM, and connects to an Android smartphone via Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy. Read Brighthand‘s Android Wear review for an idea of what to expect from the Gear Live’s features, but in terms of performance, the processor does an admirable job of keeping things humming. Once again, I experienced minor bugs and hangups, which I attribute to the software.
The Bluetooth tether means users will have to keep their smartphones nearby to get full use out of the Gear Live. The range is impressive, and the Gear Live remained connected to my charging Samsung Galaxy S4 through walls and doors, sometimes up to several hundred feet away.
The Gear Live doesn’t store media, or at least Android Wear doesn’t allow for it out of the box, so the 4 GB is reserved for apps. It’s hard to say whether that amount of storage is sufficient, given the scant collection of Android Wear apps available at launch and the inability to check on open space. I did install each one of the few dozen apps available with no problem. Looking at the Google Play Store, most Android apps with Wear support range in size from 8 MB to 18 MB on the handset, which likely means they are smaller on the smartwatch. But even at 20 MB each, one could likely cram more than 100 apps and still have room for the operating system.
The Samsung Gear Live has a built-in compass, accelerometer, gyroscope, and heart-rate sensor. The compass provides an approximate bearing, but I wouldn’t rely on it to navigate a ship. The accelerometer also works well in a limited capacity. The display orientation can’t change, but the screen will wake up from a dimmed state after a brief second with an upward flick of the wrist. So really, users just have to turn their wrist and look at the Gear Live to wake it up.
For exercise buffs, the pedometer is acceptable, and Android Wear stores a week’s worth of step totals. Pair the Gear Live with an Android smartphone and one of the supported running apps, and you’ll have fitness gadget combination that rivals anything else on the market.
The heart sensor is the weakest feature because it’s finicky in detecting a heartbeat, and often inaccurate to boot. Testing it on multiple elliptical machines that have embedded heart-rate sensors, the Gear Live typically registered between 85 and 105 beats per minute during moderate to heavy physical activity, which any trainer will tell you is way too low for someone my age. The elliptical machines all registered between 110 and 125 beats per minute, which was more in line with a separate manual measurement and most exercise guidelines.
The Samsung Gear Live has a 300 mAh battery, which Google and Samsung claim is good for one full day of use between charges. In testing, that claim holds up even with the display “always on,” so long as the screen brightness is set to about 60% and users resist the urge to check it every few minutes. No doubt the OLED display tech is a huge help here, as power savings is one of its advantages.
With heavy use and the display set to max brightness, I managed to drain the battery in about six hours.