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Top 10 Best Smartwatches Buyers Guide: November 2014 Edition

November 13, 2014 - Written By Tom Dawson

 

With the Holiday season starting to kick off, it’s likely that you’re looking at a smartwatch as either a gift idea for someone you know or you’re just looking to take advantage of the great deals soon to be upon us. Either way, there’s more choice than ever before now, and more of them are becoming widely available. Our Top 10 list for November should prepare you for Black Friday and beyond.

10. Pebble

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The Pebble at Number 10?! I hear you all cry. Well, let’s just say this; design has a lot to do with a smartwatch and while the Pebble has far more color options than anyone else out there, the plasticky build and questionably large footprint can be offputting when there are watches like the Moto 360 and of course the Pebble Steel out there. Sure, the Pebble has a fantastic ecosystem of watch faces, apps and utilities available for it, including some excellent fitness tracking stuff thanks to Misfit, but having to push all those buttons is pretty inconvenient. Android Wear has a long way to go, but with a touchscreen and some pretty good voice control, anything running Android Wear is arguably more convenient than operating a Pebble.

09. Samsung Gear Live

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Samsung’s AMOLED display is more pleasant to the eye here as well and the price you pay for the Gear Live gets you a heart-rate monitor, a sleek modern look and fairly reasonable battery life last all day and night. It is a little on the bulky side, but it’s fairly classy and if you’re a Samsung fan in the first place, you’ll be right at home here. Sadly though, Samsung went with what has to be one of the most ridiculous charging adapters we’ve seen, but if you’re careful you shouldn’t come across and issues, and there are replacements available from the Play Store, too.

08. Sony SmartWatch 3

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I was a pretty happy Sony customer with the Sony SmartWatch 2 for months on end, until Android Wear hit. Mercifully, Sony has given in and adopted Android wear for the third SmartWatch of theirs. While Lifelog integration and a two-day battery life seem brilliant, it’s hard to recommend the SmartWatch 3 on price alone. It’s overly bulky and while those colorful watch straps look nice, it’d have been nice to have a standard watch fitting a la the SmartWatch 2. It’s also priced higher than other Android Wear watches and it doesn’t feature a heart-rate monitor so the sporty look appears to be a little misguided to us. Still, with GPS on its own, this guy can track runs and such with Lifelog when you’re away from your smartphone, which is a nice touch. It turns out an extra fifty dollars gets you more than you think, and not as much all at the same time. The SmartWatch 3 is also available from the Play Store now.

07. LG G Watch

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The G Watch is my current smartwatch (but perhaps for not much longer) and while I’m happy with it on the whole, it’s already starting to look like the test product it was declared to be. I’ve tied mine with a nice black and red leather strap and the G Watch is great for this sort of thing. It might be bland and minimal (which I liked) on the front, but the watch fittings are standard 22mm and where you’d expect them to be so you can easily change the overall style as and when you want to. It also comes in a fetching white gold color, too. As far as Android Wear watches goes, this has a 1.6-inch display like most (but it’s just 280 x 280, not the nicer, more common 320 x 320) and a Snapdragon 400 running the show. That’s about it, there’s no ambient light sensor, no heart-rate monitor or anything like that. Still, it’s been reliable over the last few months and the charging cradle just works with no fuss, which is a massive plus compared to others.

06. Samsung Gear S

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Ah yes, the Gear S. S for Standalone, as the Gear S is a souped-up version of the Gear 2 with its own cellular radio, this is one smartwatch can stand on its own two feet…if it had feet. Either way, this is great for those that want something not reliant on their smartphone, but it can get a little confusing. Never mind all that though, the Gear S is one chunky smartwatch, it’s more of a cuff than it is a timepiece, but it is loaded with technology and that curved AMOLED display is certainly going to be a talking point at the bar. It’s also quite expensive, so if you’re looking for a nice jumping on point then you might want to look elsewhere, sadly.

05. Samsung Gear 2

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Samsung’s Gear 2 was announced at the same event as the Galaxy S5 and while it’s a real pain that the device doesn’t work with anything other than a Samsung smartphone, it’s a decent offering nonetheless. With a camera, heart-rate monitor and some other interesting features, the Gear 2 is a great watch for die-hard Samsung fans. However, the ecosystem is a little all over the place and there isn’t as many apps as you’d be able to get on Android Wear or say a Pebble or Pebble Steel. A decent offering, the Gear 2 is great, but there’s a barrier for entry that we really wish didn’t exist.

04. Pebble Steel

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You wouldn’t really want to wear a G Watch or a Gear 2 with a suit, at least not without some modification. The Pebble Steel on the other hand, will fit right in. If you liked what the Pebble had to offer but really didn’t like the look of it (a common complaint) then the Pebble Steel is for you. The same three-button operation is here and while that is a little fiddly compared to touch and voice, these are great in sunlight and there’s a massive ecosystem out there to plug into. One of the classiest watches available, the Pebble Steel is one wo tlook for if you need to look the part during your 9-to-5, or you just want a good looking watch, rather than another gadget.

03. ASUS ZenWatch

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There’s nothing wrong with a square smartwatch, but the G Watch and Gear Lives aren’t exactly the best-looking devices available, are they? During IFA 2014 ASUS announced what has to be best-looking square smartwatch yet and it oozes class. The brushed aluminum frame is paired with a leather strap that come together to deliver a classy look that you could pair with a suit and tie or whatever you want. This, like the Moto 360 looks like a timepiece instead of a gadget and there’s some interesting features that ASUS have bundled in, too. Still, if square isn’t your thing then you’ll need to look elsewhere but ASUS have done a good job at creating a good-looking middleground.

02. LG G Watch R

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So, you want a circular display on your next smartwatch and you also want a watch that looks like well, a watch. While it’s still inching its way to market, the G Watch R could be what you’re looking for and it’s starting to become available. With a circular display that’s fully circular, a heart-rate monitor and the same simple-yet-reliable charging mechanism from the original G Watch, the R looks great. It’s the same device on the inside, but with these smartwatches the outside is arguably more important than the smartphones they depend upon. We recently reviewed the G Watch R and found it to be a pretty great device.

01. Moto 360

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Despite some worrying battery life reports that seem to have been fixed in its latest update, the Moto 360 is the Android Wear watch to sell smartwatches to everyone else. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s arguably the best smartwatch available today and it’s not just about it being round; it’s the whole package here that counts. The straps are made of high-quality leather, the charger doubles as a bedside clock with a dedicated watch face for said purpose and it looks stunning. While its internals are questionable, using a practically ancient TI OMAP CPU, the Moto 360 holds its own and this is one watch you won’t feel silly talking to in public. While the G Watch R is a close second to this, the Moto 360 is arguably the smartwatch that anyone would feel comfortable wearing on their wrist.