Review | Google Pixel Watch review: elegant, petite, but its shape divides opinion and for sports users the software is fiddly
- After years of seeing Android partners launch smartwatches, Google finally has its own, and it looks more like a standard watch than most
- However, its round screen makes reading and typing text harder than it should be, the processor is not as good as the Apple Watch, and the software is fiddly
In September 2014, the first Apple Watch came onto the market and quickly went to the top of wearable device sales rankings, where it has remained until today.
It was also the year that Google presented the first version of an operating system for smartwatches, at that time still under the name Android Wear.
Smartwatch makers who have used the Google software include Asus, Fossil, HTC, Samsung and Huawei. But no one has come close to the level of the Apple Watch, not even the Swiss watch pioneer Tag Heuer, which tried its hand at an Android smartwatch in 2015.
Google has not built a single smartwatch in all these years, but at the beginning of October, the first Google Pixel Watch arrived, after years of anticipation.
Design and hardware
Opinion is divided on the appearance of Google’s first smartwatch. For some, the classic round shape of the Pixel Watch with its curved watch glass is reminiscent of the elegant Bauhaus wristwatch from 1961. Others say the Pixel Watch is boring, precisely because it looks so much like a conventional wristwatch.
If design is a factor for you, then don’t base your judgment on photos, because when you hold the Pixel Watch in your hand, you will notice that it feels far more elegant and high-quality than many other Android watches.
Compared to the Apple Watch or the Samsung Galaxy Watch, however, the Pixel Watch looks a little more petite. Google only offers a version with a diameter of 41mm, which may be too small for someone with a thicker wrist. And yet this light and unobtrusive design is also a rarity in a world of thick and chunky smartwatches.
The round screen has some disadvantages compared to the Apple Watch’s rectangular display. Longer messages are harder to read and the virtual keyboard has so little space on the round display that anyone with larger fingers will have trouble hitting the right letter with their finger.
This is also a challenge with the Pixel Watch because the round 1.6-inch display (with resolution of 384 by 384 pixels) has a comparatively thick black bezel, hidden by a largely black interface. Google’s solution is a voice control that works excellently.
In addition, the AMOLED display with 1,000 nits is so bright it’s easy to see what’s on your watch at any time of day, indoors or outdoors.
Software and features
Google is using a rather old chip from Samsung in the Pixel Watch – the Exynos 9110. This was introduced four years ago and was in the first generation of the Samsung Galaxy Watch in 2018.
It cannot compete with current system chips such as the Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1 from Qualcomm. However, Google has reached into its bag of tricks and added a coprocessor (Cortex M33) alongside the veteran chip.
The Pixel Watch incorporates a number of functions from the trackers and smartwatches of fitness specialist Fitbit, which was bought by Google last year.
With the Fitbit know-how, Google can support 40 types of training and sports right from the start. In a comparison test with a Fitbit smartwatch, however, the same training results were not displayed.
Sports like aerobics, crossfit or running have to be started manually for the tracking to be accurate. When jogging, however, the Pixel Watch and the FitBit Sense 2 agreed on the distance covered.
What’s annoying about Google’s watch is that fitness enthusiasts have to handle two accounts. You need a Google account to set up the watch. To be able to use the watch extensively for sports, a separate Fitbit account and the installation of another app are necessary.
Performance and battery life
Everything runs quickly and smoothly, nothing hangs or jitters. The 2GB of RAM probably also contributes to the good performance despite the weak main chip. The 32GB of mass storage for apps and data will also be enough for most.
As with the regular Apple Watch, the Google Pixel Watch’s battery lasts a solid day, and many users will end up charging it every night.
The display reacts quickly, and health data such as heart rate measurement are recorded precisely. Many sports are supported with the Fitbit functions and a precise sleep analysis is possible.
When it comes to design, things get subjective: if you are looking for a smartwatch that does not look like a smartwatch, the Pixel Watch is an elegant timepiece with a classic wristwatch look.
In Hong Kong the Google Pixel Watch costs HK$3,199 for the Wi-fi/Bluetooth edition and for the LTE edition HK$3,399.