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Samsung Galaxy Watch Ultra hands-on review: The Apple Watch Ultra killer?

Samsung has revealed a whopping seven new AI-enabled Galaxy products, with the Galaxy Watch Ultra leading the charge on the wearable front

Samsung and Apple are two of the biggest names in tech and go head-to-head across countless categories. You can add premium smartwatches for hardcore fitness fanatics to that list of battlegrounds following the announcement of the Samsung Galaxy Watch Ultra.

While Samsung has been making smartwatches for over a decade, the closest it’s come to a watch capable of handling extreme environmental conditions is the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, the more rugged sibling of the Galaxy Watch 5 in 2022.

A rough-and-ready option was notably absent in its 2023 Galaxy Watch 6 lineup and the Galaxy Watch Ultra is clearly the reason why. Its 47mm body has all the credentials to withstand anything you throw at it, coupled with the comprehensive data tracking we’ve come to expect from the manufacturer’s wearables.

Samsung showcased the Galaxy Watch Ultra alongside the Galaxy Watch 7, two new foldable smartphones – the Galaxy Z Flip 6 and Z Fold 6 – the Galaxy Buds3 and Buds3 Pro wireless earbuds and a new type of smart wearable, the Galaxy Ring, at a behind-closed-doors event in London last week ahead of the official launch. I was there to check out the new range and have detailed everything you need to know about Samsung’s answer to the Apple Watch Ultra below.

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Samsung Galaxy Watch Ultra: Specifications, UK price and release date

  • Size: 47mm (47.4 x 47.4 x 12.1mm)
  • Weight: 60.5g
  • Colours: Titanium Silver, Titanium Grey, Titanium White
  • Display: 1.5in 480 x 480 Super AMOLED sapphire crystal
  • Processor: Five-core Exynos W1000
  • Battery: 590mAh (supports wireless charging)
  • Connectivity: LTE
  • Dust and waterproof rating: IP68
  • Water depth rating: 10ATM (100m)
  • Temperature range: -20oC and up to 55oC
  • Memory and storage: 2GB RAM and 32GB storage
  • Operating system: Wear OS 5
  • Price: £599
  • Available to preorder from 10 July, on sale 24 July
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Samsung Galaxy Watch Ultra hands-on review: Key features

Smartwatches like this are all about durability and protection against the elements and the Galaxy Watch Ultra is built to last. It’s made from grade 4 titanium and comes in three colours: silver, grey and white. The sapphire crystal display, which Samsung says can hit peak brightness of 3,000 nits, is inset into a squared-off body to help protect it from bumps and knocks and possesses an IP68 rating, certifying it dustproof and waterproof.

It’s been tested to military standards – MIL-STD-810H to be precise – and can withstand temperatures as low as -20oC and up to 55oC. Deep-diving watch wearers will be pleased to note that it’s certified down to 10ATM (100m).

In terms of sensors, the Watch Ultra has everything adventurous types could want or need. Samsung’s BioActive Sensor combines three sensors in one (optical bio-signal sensor, electrical heart signal and bioelectrical impedance analysis) to provide information about your heart rate, blood oxygen level, body composition and more, while there’s also a temperature sensor, accelerometer, barometer, gyro sensor, geomagnetic sensor and light sensor.

A new processor powers the watch; the five-core Exynos W1000, the first chip of its kind built on a 3nm process and one Samsung says is three times faster than that found in the Galaxy Watch 6. It also features the latest iteration of Samsung’s operating system for wearables, Wear OS 5. This provides easy access to the data the watch collects along with a whole host of useful tracking tools.

A new “multi-sports tile” enables you to track workouts across different disciplines, such as triathlons, while cyclists can calculate their functional threshold power index when the watch is connected to a power meter and compatible smartphone. There’s also a “Race” mode that enables you to compare current and past performance to see whether you’re on target to smash your personal best.

In an attempt to match the stamina of its wearer, the Galaxy Watch Ultra gets a hefty 590mAH battery. That’s larger than the 564mAh cell found in the Apple Watch Ultra 2 but how that extra capacity translates to real-world battery life remains to be seen. Fast charging and wireless charging are both supported for when the Watch Ultra needs a top-up.

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Samsung Galaxy Watch Ultra hands-on review: Initial impressions

Given the nature of my hands-on time with the Galaxy Watch Ultra, I didn’t get an opportunity to put its numerous data tracking options and AI-enhanced modes through their paces. As such, it’s too early to make any judgements on performance and accuracy.

I did like the look of it, though. To my eyes, it has a more classic watch-like appearance than Apple’s premium option, while remaining extremely durable. It wasn’t especially easy to get onto my wrist the first couple of times I tried doing so but once on, it certainly looked the part. It’s quite heavy and bulky, which may put off those with slender wrists, but that’s the trade-off you have to make with something this rugged.

Navigating the watch’s UI proved very simple using both the touchscreen display and the three physical buttons located on the right-hand side of the timepiece. I was impressed with the brightness and clarity of the display; 3,000 nits matches the brightness of the Apple Watch Ultra 2, so Samsung is on par with its rival here.

The South Korean manufacturer does have the edge when it comes to pricing, however. At £599, the Galaxy Watch Ultra is significantly cheaper than the Apple Watch Ultra 2, which will set you back £799. That price difference is unlikely to convince those already invested in the iOS ecosystem to make the switch but Galaxy fans will be pleased to see that the most rugged wearable Samsung has made to date isn’t pushing four figures.

We’ll have a full review of the Samsung Galaxy Watch Ultra on the site soon, so be sure to check back for our final verdict. We’ll also be reviewing the Galaxy Watch 7 along with the Galaxy Z Flip 6 and Galaxy Z Fold 6 and are hoping to receive review samples of the Galaxy Ring, Galaxy Buds3 and Buds3 Pro, too. In the meantime, you can read about the smartwatches, smartphones and wireless earbuds we recommend on our respective best roundups.

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