The LG G Watch R, despite its overly complicated name, meets all my aesthetic expectations. I got mine on a Friday after ordering it on Thursday (very impressive shipping, google play), and have been able to play around it all weekend before writing this mini-review.
Before we get started, I must let you know that I'm a big wearables advocate; I've owned both versions of the Pebble (and love it), and have been able to play with the original LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live for extended periods of time. I have not been able to spend much time with the Moto 360, other than constantly asking friends about their experiences. And of course I haven't played around with the Apple Watch. =)
First and foremost, the LG G Watch R is IMHO a gorgeous watch. It falls right into the camp of big, bulky and tough, and it's just big enough to look appropriate on MY wrist. The general "wristprint" is actually larger than the Moto 360 because of the protruding sections above and below the circle, but the watch face itself is smaller than the 360's. That being said, the LG G Watch R's watchface is more than adequate on your wrist. It's very legible, and at no point have I had any sort of difficulty reading text or telling time. I would dare say it's the perfect size. The bezel that surrounds the watch face actually works in its favor to give more of that pleasing "tough" look.
From a pure hardware perspective, though, I'll be the first to say that the Moto 360 still looks slightly better. The LG Watch R is a close second, followed by a big gap and then the current crop of square watches.
As opposed to the first gen LG G Watch, this version actually has an easy-to-press hardware button on its right side. Why is this relevant? It's useful to access if you want to power down your watch quickly, access settings like airplane mode, or turn the watch on. With the first-gen LG G Watch, the button was on its back and required a paper clip to access. All of the other watches I've seen have a hardware button available, though, so this is only meaningful in the LG world.
Under the hood
An improvement over the first crop of watches is how responsive the watch is - but it's not an incredibly noticeable improvement. There's a small number of complex android wear apps out there, and the one I used for my time test is called "Wild Wild Gun" - which is pretty fun. On the Samsung Gear Live, the app loaded up in about 10 seconds; on the LG G Watch R, it loads up in about 5. This is not a scientific test by far, but this watch just seems faster than the first gen crop.
Like the Moto 360 and most of the other Android Wear watches, this watch comes with 4GB storage, which turns out is helpful for syncing things like music directly on the watch. Thanks to a recent update to Android Wear, you can even pair a set of bluetooth headphones directly to the watch and, for example, go running without your phone.
The first way this watch really outshines the competition is the full 360 display; it just really works well for the deep dark OCD part of me. The round watch faces really complement the overall aesthetics, and it's just a very pleasing experience.
Keep in mind that almost every Moto 360 owner that I've talked to doesn't mind the "flat tire" at the bottom; despite the fact that, to me, it jumps out every time I see the watch, most users simply stated that they've gotten used to it; some just mention that they use a dark watch face in order for it to not be noticeable. If Motorola eliminates the flat tire in their next inevitable version of the Moto 360, then I'd point to that and say "perfect." For now, the truly circular display knocks my LG G Watch R experience up a few notches.
The display resolution for the LG G Watch R is actually the same as the Moto 360's; but because of the 360's flat tire the LG G Watch R technically has a higher vertical rez. Since the watch face is smaller, though, that means the LG G Watch R has more pixel density than the 360, which makes things look slightly more crisp. This is also not significantly noticeable, however, but like accretion disks around rotating black holes, it's technically correct.
Every Android Wear watch suffers from display issues when viewed in bright sunlight, but the LG G Watch R's P-OLED seems to give it a slight edge against some of the other models. I spent a lot of time outside this weekend and never really struggled to read the time on a fully active, high brightness watch face. Of course, my other watch is a Pebble, and OLED will never match the contrast ratio of e-ink, but the LG G Watch R isn't rendered unusable when outside and that's a good thing.
And here's the second thing which makes this watch outshine the competition - awesome battery life. Battery life is really good on the watch, with an estimated 34 hours on lowest brightness. Why estimated? Over the weekend I actually ran the watch at its HIGHEST brightness setting and got about 22 hours of battery life on it.; I only turned the brightness down during Big Hero 6, because incoming notifications would really brighten up the theater and I didn't want to put it in "mute" mode.
Also, because of its awesome battery life, you can finally have a circular watch in ambient mode all day. This means the display is "always on", and telling the time does not require a constant movement of the wrist. Now, the only time I'm moving my wrist is when I want the full active screen on.
Yes, this is still a watch that you'll want to recharge every night - just like you do your phone - and for those that like to sleep with their watches on (you know who you are) this is still not a viable solution. But for those of us that take our watches off and put it by our nightstand, it's a very durable, daily solution.
The charging cradle is small and very portable - like most of the other options, it's a small plastic cradle that plugs into micro-usb and locks into the back of the watch with custom charging pins. It's not as cool as the Moto 360 charger, but it's way more portable. Waiting until Google Play has the cradles available to order so I can keep one in my travel bag.
The powerhouse of battery life is still the Pebble; but it's a significantly different approach that feels like it has already hit its ceiling. With Android Wear, it feels like we're at ground level and we can just go up.
Better battery life changes the watch experience enough that it makes the LG G Watch R a clear winner for me. It obviates the need for a light sensor, therefore giving you a full 360 display; it allows you to be in "ambient mode" all day; and it allows you to have a full brightness screen and still get a day's worth of power. Despite the fact that I still think the Moto 360 is prettier, its shortcomings (for now) make me lean towards the LG G Watch R. It's a really solid Android Wear watch and worth the wait.
(Photo Credits: )
- Head of Enterprise Sales Engineeering, Google Apps, 2007 - present
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