Smartwatches aren't really a new thing. Sony and Samsung have been making them for a few years. But Android Wear is fairly new. With Google spearheading smartwatches and wearables in general now, we're starting to see more and more OEMs and other manufacturers bringing out their own smartwatch. And LG is the first one to bring out their second Android Wear-powered smartwatch. I was actually a long time LG G Watch user, basically from the time it came out. I did use, and review the Moto 360 as well. Which was an amazing smartwatch, I absolutely loved the round display. The LG G Watch R has just about everything I want in a smartwatch – not looking at who made it – except for the GPS. It'd be really nice to have GPS in this smartwatch. So far Sony is the only one that has GPS in their Android Wear Smartwatch.
The LG G Watch R features a 1.3-inch P-OLED 320×320 resolution display. That gives you a 348 ppi. It's also powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor which is quad-core and clocked at 1.2GHz. This is the same processor that runs every other Android Wear smartwatch, except for the Moto 360. There's also 4GB of storage inside and 512MB of RAM. All this is powered by a 410mAh battery, the same size as the LG G Watch. LG has also thrown in an accelerometer, digital compass, gyroscope, heart rate sensor, IP67 Dust and Water resistance. So the LG G Watch R is definitely a power house, well when compared to other smartwatches. But does it live up to the hype and the $299 price tag? Let's find out.
One of our issues with the Moto 360 – at least at launch – was the lag that the smartwatch had. Partially due to the TI OMAP processor inside, although we have heard that it's gotten better with recent software updates. The lag or stuttering on the Moto 360 is not an issue here with the LG G Watch R. It is running a Snapdragon 400, so the performance is identical to the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live. Which I've had no issues, performance-wise, with the LG G Watch in the few months I've used it. Everything is pretty smooth. Although I will say that the American Airlines app has a bit of a lag to it. But that lag was also present on the Moto 360 and LG G Watch. So I think that's the apps' issue and not the watch.
What about the display? Well the display is a P-OLED display. That's a Plastic OLED, similar to the LG G Flex's display. As far as visibility goes, you can definitely see it well outdoors. I have it up to about 3 usually, and it can go up to 6. However, I do wish it had auto-brightness. Because indoors, I'll have it darker then outdoors. And with the Moto 360, it had auto-brightness, which made that easier. Ambient display also works quite well. It actually outshines the Moto 360 here. With the Moto 360 in Ambient Mode, it only stays on a bit longer than normal then goes off. With the LG G Watch R, it stays on all the time. But not just that, it also is brighter in ambient mode. Of course, that depends on the brightness setting you're using.
When I first started using smartwatches earlier this year, I didn't think an "always-on" mode was really needed. But once you start using it you get used to it. And with the round smartwatches, there are nicer watch faces out there, and you're going to want to show those off. Which is what Ambient mode does quite well on the LG G Watch R.
When you look at the LG G Watch and the LG G Watch R side by side, there's a huge difference in the design. Not just the shape, but the way they look and feel as well. The LG G Watch is basically a black square with a rubber band. It doesn't look completely cheap, but not that premium either. The LG G Watch R is round, but also looks a bit more like those Casio sports watches that we used to wear back in the day. It's also a bit thicker than the LG G Watch. Additionally, it comes with a leather band. The leather band isn't as high end as the Motorola band that's on the Moto 360, but it's definitely a welcome change from the rubber band that the LG G Watch has.
You can still change out the band on the LG G Watch R, and unlike the Moto 360, it doesn't go inside the watch. Which makes it easier to change out bands if you decide you don't want to use a certain one anymore. On the back we have those pogo pins again – I was really hoping for Qi charging. There's also a heart rate sensor, which appears to be better than the Samsung Gear Live's heart rate sensor was. The bezel here is bevelled a bit. So that if you drop your watch, the glass won't actually hit the ground. Which is a good thing. Although I'd still like to see sapphire glass on these smartwatches. I know the Apple Watch has it, if it ever releases.
Charging the LG G Watch R is quite simple, you just use the cradle that comes with it. It looks identical to the LG G Watch's cradle, except it's round. It does use a microUSB charger to charge, so that's simple.
So how does it look when worn? I'd say it looks nice. I've worn the LG G Watch, Moto 360 and LG G Watch R in public and through airports while traveling and such. And I've never gotten a question about the LG G Watch. But I have about the Moto 360 and the LG G Watch R. Most people really like these round smartwatches. And I must say, I can't blame them.
This part of the review won't be long. The software on the LG G Watch R hasn't changed much at all. It's still running Android 4.4W.2, which is the latest version of Wear. Everything works the same as it does on the LG G Watch and other watches, but it's on a round display. One thing I have noticed though, is it's a little bit harder to swipe away notifications on the LG G Watch R, and I think that's due to the raised bezel here on this watch. Otherwise there's not much difference here.
The biggest issue with the LGG Watch R's main competitor, is the battery life. It just wasn't all that great on the Moto 360. Even though that has changed. The LG G Watch R is much better than the Moto 360 is. I can typically get through a full day (9am to 11pm) and still have around 45-50% left on the LG G Watch R. Which is actually pretty good. I'd usually be around 30% or lower on the original LG G Watch, so color me impressed.
The LG G Watch R hits all the right notes here. Better battery life, faster and more snappy UI, and everything in between. But at $299, the Moto 360 comes in a bit cheaper at $250, and the LG G Watch is $229. It's a bit steep for a smartwatch, but you have to remember that you won't be replacing this smartwatch every year, or even every two years. You'll be using this one for a few years. So it's not bad at all. If you are trying to decide between the Moto 360 and the LG G Watch R, and you like the design of both, I'd recommend the LG G Watch R. Mostly for the battery life, but also for having a more updated processor. The Moto 360 uses the same TI OMAP processor that the Galaxy Nexus used in 2011.
In the world of sport watches, the LG G Watch R is the first, and right now the best. It beats every other Android Wear smartwatch in every category, hands down.