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Galaxy Watch 6 Classic review: Samsung’s best smartwach yet


A person wearing the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic

MSRP $400.00

“The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic has superb styling, all-day comfort, comprehensive health tracking, and more. It’s the smartwatch to buy for your Android phone.”

Pros

  • Rotating bezel
  • A choice of case size
  • Supreme 24/7 comfort
  • High quality materials
  • Comprehensive health and fitness tracking

Cons

  • Spotty notification reliability
  • Performance doesn’t always impress

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic is the smartwatch we all hoped would be released, as it brings back the rotating bezel that has defined Samsung’s top smartwatches up until last year when it made the brave decision not to make a watch that used it at all. Now that it’s here, does the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic live up to our high expectations?

Well, I haven’t wanted to take it off, which should tell you the direction my review is going to go in.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic: design and comfort

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic on a person's wrist.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I know very quickly if a smartwatch is designed well. If I’m still putting the smartwatch I’m reviewing on after a week and not hankering to get back to wearing my Tudor Black Bay or a G-Shock Frogman, then it’s a good one. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic is one of those smartwatches.

I’ve been wearing the biggest 47mm version, and apart from a few issues getting it comfortable under some sleeves, it has not caused any bother at all. It weighs 85 grams in total, making it 20 grams heavier than the Google Pixel Watch, but I haven’t had any problem wearing it overnight to track my sleep. This is important, as sleep tracking is one of the biggest upgrades Samsung has made to the platform.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic on a person's wrist.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I wear a lot of watches, smart and otherwise, but very few are well designed enough that I can wear them 24/7 without them getting annoying — or where I just want to take it off to give my wrist a break. I put the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic on when I received it and haven’t really taken it off since, and when I have done, it’s certainly not because it became bothersome or irritating. The importance of this can’t be overstated —  if you don’t want to wear a watch, there’s not much point in having it.

A lot of the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic’s wearability comes from the excellent strap. It’s a hybrid, meaning it has rubber next to your skin and leather over the top, so it resists sweat, will be durable over time, and looks great too. Samsung’s decision to integrate the strap into the lugs — just as it has done on other recent Galaxy Watch models — gives coherence to the overall design, and there are plenty of holes for adjustment, plus two keepers to ensure it’s all neat and secure.

A person wearing the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

It’s easily one of the best standard straps I’ve worn on a smartwatch, and the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic is one of the best-looking smartwatches I’ve worn for a while too. When I first used the smartwatch, I fell for the version with the silver case and white strap. It’s classy, modern, and very watch-like. The black version I’ve been wearing for the review is understated and a bit boring in comparison, but the details that make the watch such a beauty remain — the polished and matte finish case, the coin-edge bezel, the tachymeter reading, the subtle button guard separating the side controls, and the attractive sheen from the sapphire crystal.

Samsung has nailed the “real” watch look with the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic, and I want to show it off. The silver and white version does more effectively, as from a distance, the black version can look like just another smartwatch. But this can work in its favor, too, as some will prefer the watch to be less noticeable. This choice works so well with the decision to offer two different case sizes — 43mm and 47mm — as there’s likely a Galaxy Watch 6 Classic that suits both your taste and your wrist size. It’s something the Google Pixel Watch and the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 5 — the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic’s main rivals — don’t do, and it’s a serious oversight on their part.

A person wearing the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic looks superb, the stainless steel case and sapphire crystal give it class and durability, the strap is supremely comfortable, it can be worn 24/7 without a problem, and there is a choice of sizes and styles. There are even two new watch faces (Perpetual and Stretched Time) I like, which is a big step forward over previous Samsung models. The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic is Samsung at its very best, and it’s the Android smartwatch to beat when it comes to design, comfort, and wearability.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic: controls and navigation

A person wearing the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

If the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic’s design is a winner, the return of the rotating bezel is the icing on the already delectable cake. After abandoning the rotating bezel for the Galaxy Watch 5 series, it’s fantastic to see this iconic Samsung feature back for the Watch 6 Classic. It’s shockingly simple — you use your index finger to twist the bezel around and navigate through the menu — yet wonderfully intuitive, and it makes using the smartwatch easier and more fun.

The motion is perfectly dampened and absolutely precise, allowing you to move swiftly through the software without any of the fiddling involved with using a rotating crown. It’s an ergonomic triumph, and once you’ve used it, you’ll not want to go back to a smartwatch without it. It’s joined by a pair of buttons on the case, a Home button at the top, and a Back button below, and each is configurable to a certain extent.

A person rotating the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic's bezel.
Galaxy Watch 6 Classic Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

For example, the Back button can either go back to the previous screen or show recent apps, while a long press of the Home button shows Bixby, Google Assistant, or the power off menu. Bixby is the default assistant, but it’s easy to swap to Google Assistant if you prefer, and voice recognition on the Watch 6 Classic is excellent whether you’re talking to an assistant or are searching for apps in the Google Play Store.

A long press of the bottom button activates Samsung Pay, which requires the installation of the Samsung Wallet app on your phone. While you can install and use Google Wallet on the smartwatch, you can’t configure the lower button to open it, but you can make it the action for a double press of the Home button. In addition to all this, you can also use the touchscreen to interact with the watch.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic: software and performance

The app menu on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Google’s Wear OS 4.0 is installed on the Galaxy Watch 6 series smartwatches, with Samsung’s own One UI Watch 5.0 interface. There are only a few alterations between Wear OS 3.5 and Wear OS 4, and I can’t spot any major design changes between the Galaxy Watch 5 and Galaxy Watch 6’s operating systems. You view the software on a 1.5-inch, 480 x 480-pixel resolution Super AMOLED screen, which is always bright enough to be seen.

Samsung’s smartwatch interface is excellent. It’s bright, colorful, and all the fonts and buttons are sensibly sized. A twist of the bezel shows different informative Tiles, and you can change the order and add or subtract them to customize the look to your requirements. I like the way it’s always really obvious what each one does and where to tap to do more. Swipe up on the screen to see your apps, down to see the quick settings, and right to access your notifications. It’s all very logical and doesn’t stray from the established way of using a Wear OS smartwatch.

Quick Settings on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

However, while Wear OS is much simpler and better designed than ever before, some of its age-old problems remain. Notifications are still unreliable, and it’s hit-or-miss if the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic will show them all. WhatsApp (even with the dedicated app installed), Instagram, Line, and Gmail have been the worst offenders, but Messages, Outlook, and Samsung’s own apps were all fine. I’ve worn the smartwatch alongside an Apple Watch Series 8, which always shows notifications regardless of the app.

Notifications are announced with a strong vibration on your wrist, but they don’t always show up automatically when you raise your wrist, forcing you to swipe the screen or twist the bezel to see them. When you do, the software can get confused and cause a further delay. It’s annoying and makes the watch less convenient to use. Notifications and responsiveness have been Wear OS problems for years, and it’s baffling how they still haven’t been perfected.

Performance from the new Exynos W930 processor isn’t always as snappy as I expected either, despite the increase to 2GB of RAM. It’s most noticeable when the smartwatch wakes itself up, when apps and swipes take a beat too long to get going, meaning the slight ponderousness is likely down to power management. I’ve also had some unreliability issues, such as the watch refusing to leave sleep mode in the morning.

The unreliability and sometimes frustrating slowness don’t spoil the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic, but they do make it appear less polished. The issues are also not unique to Samsung’s smartwatch and are more to do with Wear OS itself, so don’t expect a faultless experience even if you choose a different Android smartwatch. However, while Wear OS’s foibles and the Exynos W930’s performance are the least impressive aspects of the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic, the rest is so superb they are easier to forgive.

One final thing to know: the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 and Galaxy Watch 6 Classic only work with Android phones and do not connect to an iPhone. If you own an iPhone and want a smartwatch, the best choice is the Apple Watch Series 8 or the Apple Watch Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic: health and fitness tracking

Workout modes on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

There are more than 90 different workout tracking modes and the option to create your own custom workout plan, which is helpful for weight and circuit training if you have a personalized setlist already. During an activity, the watch shows information including time elapsed, heart rate, calorie burn, and heart rate zones. You can select a desired heart rate zone to hit, and the watch will alert you when it’s reached.

Starting a workout is done by navigating to the Workout Tile and tapping your required activity. I love that this is all it takes; there’s no need to agree to this option or confirm anything — it just gets on with it. Like the Apple Watch, it acquires the GPS signal in the background, and I’ve been impressed with how fast it grabs the signal when the surroundings are clear.

Daily activity on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The auto workout detection is excellent. It has repeatedly recognized when I’m out walking and activates the workout mode after 10 minutes. It then auto pauses when you stop, restarts, and ends the workout when it notices you’ve stopped for a longer period of time. It’s really helpful and makes reaching your daily goals easier too.

The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic isn’t intrusive and doesn’t constantly push you to do more. During the day, you’ll get a few reminders to move and updates on how close you are to meeting your goals, but that’s about all.  This suits me personally, but if you want a more motivational smartwatch, the Garmin Epix (Gen 2) or the Forerunner 265 will suit you better. Heart rate, calorie burn, and pacing data have been similar to the Apple Watch Series 8 and the Ultrahuman Air smart ring, and while none are medical devices, it suggests the sensors return broadly accurate results.

I find the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic’s health and fitness tracking to be ideal for me as someone who exercises casually, and appreciate there’s enough additional depth for those who run, cycle, or work out more seriously. It fits in with my lifestyle better than a Garmin smartwatch, but if you are conscious about improving your fitness or are training for specific sports or events, you may find the more in-depth platform and tracking on a Garmin smartwatch suits you better.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic: sleep tracking

Tracking sleep on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The most significant update to the Watch 6’s health tracking system is in the sleep tracking, and I’ve found it to be one of the best around. Wear the watch overnight, and you’ll get an overall Sleep Score, along with data on the time you spent sleeping and the individual stages, your blood oxygen levels, skin temperature, and snoring. Oddly, it does not include separate heart rate data, and there’s no heart rate variability (HRV) reading either.

All the data collected is shown on a Tile on the watch and in the Samsung Health app. Wear the smartwatch for more than seven days, and it will assign you a “sleep animal,” which corresponds with your sleep habits. From here, you can start a sleep coaching program. This lasts for three weeks and targets the areas where you need improvement. I was assigned a lion as my sleep animal, as I have a healthy sleeping pattern, and coaching was recommended to help maintain this. Samsung has added a special watch face for sleep coaching to help you commit to it.

Sleep tracking on the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic is more comprehensive than the Apple Watch but not as in-depth as the Oura Ring, which provides a greater level of detail. The Samsung Health app is informative and logically laid out, with a decent level of information provided about what your nightly results mean. The coaching program may lead to you improving your sleep too, a feature lacking from simple sleep tracking devices.

One frustrating thing about sleep tracking is how the Galaxy Watch doesn’t automatically switch to sleep mode without you setting it up first, even if you have a nighttime Do Not Disturb schedule active on your phone. You can set it manually on the watch, but need to dig through menus and even apps on your phone so it’ll do it automatically. This is very annoying the first time you go to bed wearing the watch, and unless you know to set it up beforehand, the watch does not prompt you to do.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic: body composition, skin temperature, ECG, and blood pressure

Taking an ECG on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

On the back of the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic is the same BioActive Sensor found on the regular Galaxy Watch 6, which includes an optical heart rate sensor, an electrical heart signal sensor, an infrared temperature sensor, and the ability to perform a bioelectrical impedance analysis to assess body composition. This is the same functionality as found on the Galaxy Watch 5 and Galaxy Watch 5 Pro.

It takes 30-seconds to take an electrocardiogram (ECG) and informs you if it detects signs of atrial fibrillation, then records the results in the Samsung Health app. Using the Body Composition feature takes about the same time, and it shows data on skeletal muscle, body fat, and body water, plus it works out your body mass index (BMI) and your Basel metabolic rate (BMR). Body composition will likely be more helpful to more people than the ECG feature, which is likely to only be recommended to people with certain medical conditions and after consulting a doctor. Samsung also uses the skin temperature sensor to enable more in-depth cycle tracking, and it informs the Natural Cycles app to provide a better understanding of your menstrual cycle and fertility.

By using a feature like Body Composition, you may learn something new about your body.

The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic can also take a blood pressure reading, provided the feature is active in your region, but it’s made very clear you shouldn’t use the data to take action or alter medication without speaking to a healthcare professional first. The feature also requires calibration using a blood pressure cuff before it works. I used a Withings BP Connect to calibrate the feature.

Unlike a blood pressure cuff, it doesn’t require you to sit in a certain position and only suggests sitting still and not talking. It takes less than 30 seconds to take a reading, and the ones I’ve taken are in-line with what I expect my blood pressure to be. It’s certainly more convenient than a cuff, but most people don’t need to check their blood pressure all that often, and those that do may prefer the accuracy and reliability of a cuff. How useful it is will depend on your own circumstances, but it appears to work well as a backup to a cuff should you want one.

Stress data on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

None of these features are reasons to buy the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic alone, but along with fall detection, plus an emergency call/message system with GPS in the event it registers one, and an elevated heart rate alert feature, Samsung is providing masses of value here. By using a feature like Body Composition, you may learn something new about your body and how to improve your general health, and while you may not need all, or even any, of the more specialized health features just now, you may do so in the future.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic: battery and charging

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic on charge.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Inside the 47mm Galaxy Watch 6 Classic is a 425mAh capacity cell, and Samsung expects 40 hours of use without the always-on screen and 30 hours with it on. I’ve used the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic with the always-on screen, plus the blood oxygen and heart rate monitor active, while connected to a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5.

It returns about a day and a half of use on a single charge, and that includes sleep monitoring and a single 30-minute workout without GPS tracking. Sleep tracking takes about 10% of the battery life on its own, and if you track longer workouts with GPS, the battery life will drop to a full day. In my tests so far, it hasn’t failed to last an entire day though.

It returns about a day-and-a-half of use on a single charge

The battery lasts longer than the Google Pixel Watch does on a single charge but less than the marathon performance from the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 5, which is to be expected as it lacks the energy-sipping second screen. A proprietary charging puck with a USB Type-C connector is included in the box, and it takes around 80 minutes to fully recharge. However, a quick 20-minute zap adds about 25%, which is helpful if you forget to charge it before going to bed.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic: is it going to be durable?

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic's strap and clasp.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic has a stainless steel case and a ceramic case back, with a sapphire crystal over the touchscreen. I’ve worn it continuously during my review period, including doing some manual work outside, cleaning different cars (so it spent some time getting wet and sudsy), exercising, and everything else you usually do in a day. Both the case and the strap still look new, and although the strap is soft and pliant, so has clearly adjusted to my wrist, it shows no crease marks at all.

Samsung has introduced a new strap removal system, where you push a big metal button on the underside of the strap to release standard quick-release pins that attach it to the lug. It’s neat and easy to use, and because it’s not technically a proprietary fitment, in theory, any 20mm strap should fit too. However, changing the strap has not crossed my mind, as the standard one is already fantastic. You can buy a new fabric strap which Samsung says is ideal for sleep tracking, but I haven’t felt the need to consider changing it.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic's case back and sensor array.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic has an IP68 water and dust resistance rating, plus it has been tested to 5ATM and meets the MIL-STD-810H military toughness standards. There’s nothing here that makes me concerned the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic won’t stand up to some rough treatment, and the choice of materials gives me confidence it’ll stay looking great too. The white strap may need a little more care, though. On the software side, Samsung promises four years of updates.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic: what about the smaller version, and the Galaxy Watch 6?

The 43mm Samsung Galaxy Watch Classic in black.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic 43mm Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I’ve been wearing the 47mm Galaxy Watch 6 Classic, but it also comes in a 43mm case size, and there are a few specification differences between them. While the diameter is smaller, the thickness is the same at 10.9mm, but the weight of the case falls by seven grams.

The smaller case size means a smaller 1.3-inch Super AMOLED screen with a 432 x 432-pixel resolution, although the pixel density should be about the same, so there shouldn’t be any change in clarity or crispness. The battery capacity drops to 300mAh, but Samsung doesn’t expect the use time to be any different due to it running a smaller display.

Someone wearing the silver Samsung Galaxy Watch 6.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Samsung’s other smartwatch released for 2023 is the Galaxy Watch 6, which has a very similar design to the Galaxy Watch 5. It has an aluminum case, sapphire crystal over the screen, and comes with a rubber Sport Band. There are two case sizes, 44mm and 40mm, but the screens are the same as the Watch 6 Classic, as are the processor, battery, software, sensor array, and connectivity.

Making a decision between them will probably come down to price and whether you prefer the sportiness of the Galaxy Watch 6’s design or the rotating bezel and watch-like look of the Watch 6 Classic. Otherwise, functionally they are all basically the same, regardless of the model and size you choose. For a closer look at how the two models compare, see our Galaxy Watch 6 vs. Galaxy Watch 6 Classic guide.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic: price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic with the Galaxy Z Fold 5.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic costs $400 for the 43mm version and $430 for the 47mm version — or $450 for the 43mm LTE model and $480 for the 47mm LTE model. It comes in either black or silver finishes. In the U.K., the 43mm model costs 369 British pounds or 429 pounds for the LTE model, or 399 pounds for the 47mm version, with the LTE model costing 459 pounds.

For comparison, the Google Pixel Watch is $349 (or $399 with LTE), and the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 5 is $350 but does not have an LTE option. While there are other smartwatches available, few have the latest version of Wear OS installed and an up-to-date processor inside, making these three models the best available.

The TicWatch Pro 5’s long battery life makes it very tempting, and I like the design too, but it only comes in one size and can’t rival the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic’s rotating bezel or its comprehensive health and fitness tracking. The Pixel Watch is less reliable, the battery doesn’t last as long, and it also only comes in one size. Plus, it uses Fitbit for fitness tracking, which — although it does have an extensive feature list and reliable data — a subscription is required to unlock all the features, including in-depth sleep tracking.

Perhaps the hardest decision to make will be whether to buy the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic or to save quite a bit of money and just buy the very similar Galaxy Watch 6. The design is different, there’s no rotating bezel, and it comes in different colors, but the features and technology are almost identical, and the price starts at just $300. It’s really the most tempting alternative to the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic: verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic showing a red watch face.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Yes, you should buy the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic, and you should probably choose it over the other major Wear OS smartwatches that have come out recently too. It’s really well designed and made, so it always feels and looks good on your wrist, and because the health and general functionality is so comprehensive, it’ll do almost everything you could want from a wearable. Plus, the rotating bezel makes using the software easy and fun, and that’s all before you consider the durability and decent battery life.

Yes, you should buy the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic.

It’s Wear OS that lets the side down with its spotty notification reliability, and I’m not convinced the Exynos W930 processor is much of a step up in performance from the Exynos W920 in the Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro either. The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic isn’t perfect, but it’s far less compromised than its rivals and absolutely crushes them when it comes to ergonomics through its incredible comfort, stylish watch-like design, and choice of case size.

If you ask me what smartwatch to buy and you own an iPhone, then I’ll always say an Apple Watch. This year, if you ask me what smartwatch to buy and you own an Android phone, I’m going to say a Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic.

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