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LG G Watch R Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Strong performance
  • Great screen
  • Versatile design

The Bad

  • Requires charging cradle
  • Expensive
  • No integrated GPS
4.5

When you’re part of a select group like the first wave of Android Wear devices, a standout member like the Moto 360 is a tough act to follow, but that’s exactly what the LG G Watch R aims to do.

Design: Digital-age tech in analogue clothing

Whilst CES gave us a few new round-faced wearables, the G Watch R endures as only one of two such Android Wear-based smartwatches. It’s notably more interesting than LG’s efforts at the start of the platform’s life, which served little more than to showcase the functionality of Google’s shiny new wearable OS.

G Watch R - design 1

The G Watch R is LG getting creative. Aside from a circular display, you’re given a plastic watch body that apes the far more familiar forms of traditional timepieces, rather than Moto’s minimalist metal effort; in essence this is the first smartwatch that looks like a conventional watch – a trait that will stand it in good stead for customers looking to sport unobtrusive tech.

Aside from a crown-style button on the right-hand side of the G Watch R’s body, which serves to wake and sleep the device as well as provide quick access to the Settings menu, the only other notable detail is the tachymeter-like scale around the watch bezel, which actually indicates the number of seconds. Sticking with the conventional watch theme, the G Watch R’s design also accommodates conventional 22mm watchstraps, featuring a comfortable leather number out the box – undoubtedly another big plus for tech-curious timepiece fanatics.

G Watch R - design 2 G Watch R - design 3

Things are a little less conventional on the back, where the G Watch R features a heart rate sensor and contacts that correspond to its magnetically designed charging cradle. It’s a design decision we’d rather avoid (requiring that you carry the cradle with you too should you wish to charge the G Watch R), but if it helps keep the body of the device as slim as it is, we’ll take the hit.

Screen: Plastic fantastic

Whilst LG’s smartphones pack some of the largest displays in the business (yet still qualifying as phones and not tablets), the G Watch R actually features one of the smaller displays amongst the current Android Wear crop.

G Watch R - screen

That said the 1.3-inch P-OLED (the world’s first device to use this plastic screen tech, apparently) panel proves to be a solid choice for its purpose. Maximum brightness can combat direct sunlight, viewing angles are strong without distortion and as it sports the same resolution as most of the other Android Wear offerings, it boasts the sharpest on-screen images and text of any of them.

OS: Watch you looking at?

Take a look at any of our Android Wear-based reviews and the user experience will nearly always read the same. Google’s done a good job laying the foundation of its wearable platform and the G Watch R does a good job of showing it off.

Naturally you receive notifications from your phone which, depending on the type of notification can be actioned in a number of ways. Add to that voice input, including searches activated by uttering the standard “OK Google” phrase and there’s a fair few things Android Wear can do for you. It still needs to evolve, but it’s a good start.

Unlike Sony’s SmartWatch 3 which features its own inbuilt GPS, the G Watch R relies on its connection to your phone in order to pull off navigation and some other advanced tasks, but routes can be requested on the fly and you can even specify method of transportation, which is a nice touch.

One area where the G Watch R excels is with its watch faces. If its physical resemblance to a conventional watch piques your interest, its assorted default watch faces should completely win you over. There are a wealth of analogue-inspired faces to choose from, which look great and boast variety as well as a number of attractive digital faces too (although let’s be honest, they’re more suitable for the square side of the Android Wear fence).

If you want to get creative, the latest update to the Android Wear app has made it even easier to find and download more abstract faces from Google Play with everything from designer names likes Porsche to Despicable Me and PacMan (we recommend UsTwo’s library of contemporary watch faces too).

Performance: There’s always room for improvement

With the exception of the Moto 360’s older TI OMAP brain, the same 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 chip, 512MB of RAM and 4GB internal storage arrangement power the rest of the Android Wear family.

Side by side you can see the benefits of Qualcomm’s silicon and LG was right to bestow the G Watch R with it. That said Android Wear still starts and stops from time to time. Swiping notifications around isn’t always buttery smooth, the stutters are infrequent, but you will spot them from time to time.

LG G Watch R - 3/4 view

The G Watch R also packs one of the larger batteries of the lineup. The 410mAh cell is small enough that it’ll fully charge in a short amount of time, but still doles out a respectable two to four days of use. Naturally these times are still relatively short, but for a first-generation device, it’s an impressive feat of engineering in our minds.

What we would have liked is an integrated microUSB port, rather than having to carry a dedicated charging cradle, but Sony seems to be the only company who’ve cracked that nut thus far.

Verdict: The perfect balance

LG did more than just change the shape of the screen on its second Android-based wearable and it shows. The design of the LG G Watch R will appeal to a far broader audience than potentially any other wearable out there right now. It’s a contemporary watch that conceals true smart functionality, not to mention it packs one of the nicest screens and slickest experiences around.

LG G Watch R verdict

For some the sticking point might come with its £215 price tag, but if you’re serious about watches, this is a comparable drop in the ocean to some chronographs that only go so far as telling the time. In the regard, the G Watch R boasts a lot more for a lot less.

Specification

TypeSmartwatch
Screen size1.3-inches
Screen resolution320x320
OSWorks with Android
Bonus featuresHeart rate sensor, 22mm watch strap support

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