Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Series hands-on: The spinning bezel’s triumphant return

We check out Samsung's new Galaxy Watch 6 and Watch 6 Classic to see for ourselves whether the physical refinements make a big improvement. The Watch 6 Classic sees the return of the spinning bezel, but it's smaller and more elegant than before. Meanwhile, new features coming to the Galaxy Watch 6 series include support for more apps via Wear OS 4, more sleep tracking insights, as well as better integration with Samsung Wallet. The smartwatches will be available for sale on August 11th, but wait for our full review to see how they perform in the real world as well as against the competition.

Video Transcript

CHERLYNN LOW: Samsung is launching a slew of products at its Galaxy Unpacked event in Seoul today. And a couple of them are the new Galaxy watches. The Galaxy Watch 6 and the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic are among the most popular, if not around the most hotly anticipated Android smartwatches around. And I have some good news. That physical spinning bezel is back.

If you've been watching the Android smartwatch space closely, you'll know that the physical spinning bezel is a hallmark of the Galaxy Watch line. But it kind of went away last generation when Samsung replaced the spinning bezel with a touch-sensitive border instead. And people were like, is that the end of the bezel?

Good news for those of you who were missing it. It's back in the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic. That is one of the biggest changes to the series this year. But there are some physical refinements and software changes as well. I was able to briefly check out the Galaxy Watch 6 and Watch 6 Classic at a hands-on event here in New York. And they're nice.

I wasn't able to test a lot of the new features, for example, some irregular heart rate notifications as well as new heart rate zones for . Running but I am able to tell you that the physical changes are pretty noticeable. The Galaxy Watch 6 itself is a little bit slimmer than before. And I really noticed how clean everything looks now that the watch face or the case is actually sitting flush with the lugs around it. It just looks neater.

The screen itself is also slightly bigger, or at least the active screen space is 20% larger than the previous model, according to Samsung. On the Watch 6, the touch-sensitive bezel area is actually 30% smaller than before, whereas on the Watch 6 Classic, that physical spinning bezel is 15% smaller than the last version that had a mechanical spinning bezel. Even though it's a little bit smaller than before, the bezel on the Watch 6 Classic is still easy to use. Rotating it felt smooth. There was little ridges and notches there to indicate to you that you've moved a certain step. It's all very familiar to those people who have used it before.

Across the lineup, the watches are using AMOLED screens with 1.3-inch panels on the smaller models of either the Watch 6 or the Watch 6 Classic and 1.5 inches on the larger models. Something new that Samsung's introducing this year is what they're calling the one click band. This is basically a new mechanism for changing out your watch straps. So with a push of a catch on the back of the strap, you can actually retract the grooves that hold or connect the band to the lugs and then simply pull it out and change it in for something else. Samsung says this method will be backward compatible. So you can use the new straps with older versions of the Galaxy Watch as well.

I have to say, compared to the Pixel Watch mechanism of doing this, Samsung's method was a little bit simpler. All I had to do was push down on this very clearly demarcated spot and just lift the strap up, whereas with the Pixel you kind of have to have what they describe as a DSLR twist and click motion. Doesn't really make sense to me. Now, even though it's smaller too, the touch sensitive bezel area around the Watch Six, the regular model, was still fairly easy to use. It still managed to recognize my finger as I dragged it around the face. And so I'm surprised that slimming down that area still made it responsive.

Now, the Galaxy Watch 6 and the Watch 6 Classic will run Wear OS 4 when they launch. This, for anyone that's been a user of Samsung's Galaxy watches, will still feel familiar. Nothing's really changed since Tizen or Wear OS 3.5 after it. You'll still swipe sideways to see your different widgets and use the physical spinning bezel to whizz past them if that's your preferred method.

Like I said earlier, a lot of the software features that are new weren't something I was able to test at the hands on. For example, irregular heart rate will now trigger the Watch 6 series to prompt you to take an ECG when it detects you may have something like A-fib or something like that. I don't have an irregular heart rate. So it's not something I was able to test at the hands on. And it's not something that short term use will show either.

Another feature that's new that I wasn't able to test at our hands on was the new heart rate zones in running workouts. Coming to the Galaxy Watch is a feature that will allow you to run a calibration. And the system will detect what your specific heart rate zones are. You'll have to first do a 10 minute run for the system to calibrate your heart rate zone. So this isn't, again, something-- I was going to do at our hands on. I mean, I'm not going to be sweaty for this video. So sorry I didn't do that.

There's also improvements to sleep coaching and other workout coaching features that, again, I wasn't able to test. I wasn't sleeping or working out during this hands on. But when we do get in a review unit to sample, though, you can be sure we will test that out. In the meantime, I can say that there are new chipsets powering the Watch 6 series as well as a new fabric band that is supposed to be better for sports or activities like that because it's supposed to be moisture wicking.

There will be two models or two sizes per model available. The Watch 6 is available in 40 and 44 millimeter sizes, while the Watch 6 Classic comes in 43 and 47 millimeters. Those are pretty bulky. So if you have petite wrists like I do, then you might want to consider a smaller model. The smaller model of the Galaxy Watch 6 comes in graphite or gold, while the larger 44 millimeter version comes in graphite or silver.

The Watch 6 Classic, meanwhile, comes in a stainless steel case. And the 43 millimeter version or the 47 millimeter version both come in black or silver. The regular Watch 6 will start at $299. And the larger version of it starts at $329. The Watch 6 Classic will go for $100 more, starting at $399. You can preorder them today. And they will be available on August 11. But that's a generous window of time before you have to actually go and buy one if you really want to get one on launch day.

So before that, I'm pretty sure we'll have a review up. Make sure you come over to to read our detailed test results or impressions before you go and actually spend your money. For all of the reviews of smartwatches, tablets, smartphones, and more, make sure you subscribe to Engadget. And until next time, what's the time?