Hands on: LG G Watch R review

Update: We've now got the LG G Watch R in for review - stay tuned for our full star rating soon, and in the meantime, check out the updated findings below with all-new pictures to show this pretty decent timepiece off.

What actually should a smartwatch look like? That's the question LG's trying to answer with the G Watch R.

The presentation of the new round-faced Android Wear device was showing that a watch can be many things to many people - fitness tracker, fashion item, heirloom - but it still needs to look decent.

So just a few short months since the launch of the LG G Watch, the brand is back with the Watch R - and things are a lot more premium this time around.

LG G Watch R review

The round, 1.3-inch 320 x 320 face is set well into a strong-looking bezel, making the watch look far more like a standard timepiece than most of the Android Wear on the market.

It's going to be a real rival to the Moto 360, which is the only other round Android Wear device, but LG has taken things further by making the display completely rounded, without being slightly cut off at the bottom.

Key features

With the number of smartwatches about to explode in 2015, thanks partly to Apple joining the fray, LG's G Watch needed some nifty features to keep it relevant and alluring to the nascent Android Wear brigade.

The focus seems to be on the rugged crowd for this watch, with inbuilt faces for hiking and a barometer to let you know just how high you're getting - which makes it all the more sad that GPS isn't included, which LG maintains is for design and battery reasons.

Round face

The best thing about the LG G Watch R? It's got a truly round face that doesn't have the annoying cut out at the bottom that the Moto 360 does.

LG G watch R review

It's a really nice effect and is much better than the square interfaces found on the Samsung Gear Live and the original G Watch.

Given I found almost no issues with having the circular face when swiping through, I can't see why all brands don't do this, given the amount of people telling me 'Oh, I like that it's got a round screen. It looks like a real watch!'

Barometer

One of the best things about races in technology is the speed with which stuff gets added in. Barometers in smartphones are nothing new - for instance, the Nexus Galaxy had one in 2011 - but on the watch it will be able to tell you how high you're going.

Currently all this does is show your altitude in the 'Hiking' watchface, but as Apple's used the same technology to show how many flights of steps you've beaten, there's no reason the same can't be done here.

I'd love it if the watch could sense a drop in pressure and alert me that rain is on the way... but then again, it would be easier if the smartphone just sent me a notification I could see on my watch. That's probably bit more accurate.

Heart rate monitor

LG G Watch R review

Being healthy isn't always about being out and about - it's about getting that heart rate down when you're resting.

Except the only real way to do that is to get up, and go out and about... so that is what it's all about. Much like the Hokey Cokey.

Anyway, if you DO want to check your heart rate, then the G Watch R has that built in. It's not the most accurate, nor does it do the cool thing the Moto 360 does of checking it every so often to track your activity. I'm still waiting for this feature to be better used in Android Wear, but the novelty is there.

Design

There's no getting away from it: the G Watch R is the best-looking smartwatch created yet, namely because it actually mimics a standard diving-style watch.

LG G watch R
Who DOESN'T love this watch face? You're right. Nobody.

It even goes as far as having a numbered bezel and winding key on the side - however, these are largely for show as the bezel doesn't move and the winder is actually a power button.

On the plus side, LG has finally put a power key on a smartwatch. The fact you couldn't turn the G Watch back on once turned off (without the charger) beggared belief.

LG G watch R review

But the LG G Watch R is definitely a huge leap forward. It's a big device though, and will dwarf even the largest wrists. I don't subscribe to the theory that this 'isn't for girls', as a larger watch can be as much of a fashion statement for either gender, but if someone prefers sleek and slender devices then they probably won't enjoy the G Watch R.

LG G Watch R review

It's not cumbersome at all though and fits securely on the wrist. The first model will come with a calf leather strap in the box, and although this has a premium quality to it, it doesn't feel brilliant when you're trying to slip it on. Perhaps the leather just needs to wear in.

LG G watch R review

The better news is that, like so many smartwatches, you can switch it out for a standard strap with ease, so you can change the look of the watch easily.

LG has worked hard on bringing a number of faces to the G Watch R at launch, meaning you'll get a lot of choice from being able to track the lunar cycles to a hiking face that will tell you the altitude of wherever you are.

LG G watch R review

Again, it's clear here that LG is all about making the smartwatch look as much like a standard device as possible - and to its credit, its mostly managed it.

The screen hits a fairly bright 300 nits of brightness, and more importantly (thanks to the fact it's based on a plastic OLED) it only draws 10% of the full power when in standby mode.

LG G Watch R review

This lower power mode will be very much needed if you're to get the full two day battery life LG is promising on the new G Watch, as it's got a lot going on under the hood that needs juice.

It's a shame that the battery life isn't longer than two days, as I'm still looking for at least a week with these devices before I need to charge again, and you have to use a charging cradle again here. The reason is simple: adding in wireless charging or a microUSB slot would just take too much space, and the brand has been working hard to keep the new G Watch R as slim as possible.

It is a 410mAh option however, so that's at least a decent slug of power you can draw upon.

The interface hasn't overly changed since the introduction of Android Wear, and unlike Sony, there's not been a lot of customisation on offer beyond the standard faces.

That's not necessarily a bad thing though. While it's hard to really point to a really compelling reason to buy an Android Wear device, at least the things you can do are consistent and Google Now is increasing in power all the time.

LG G Watch R review
The charging pins and heart rate monitor

The round face is easy to tap and swipe through, something I was worried about, and the rounded display is really visible too. It will be interesting to see how other apps perform on it. However, it's not that much different to a square display, so will probably be fairly easy to code for.

The other big change for LG is the addition of a heart rate monitor, which will be really useful for running or training over hills. The watch is IP67 rated as well, meaning you can throw it in a river and then onto the sand and it will keep on ticking.

Well, it won't, as it has no moving parts inside, but you catch my drift.

I'm really excited to see what Android Wear offers to the fitness market, as it could be a really compelling option with the power of a smartphone and glut of apps to take advantage.

To that end, I was sad to note there was no GPS on board, but LG told me that this was down to a lack of support from Google, and the sheer point of making space and battery life for such a sensor.

LG G watch R review

There was almost an element of surprise that the question was asked, but given Sony added the same thing in, it was strange to see it omitted.

The LG G Watch also has the same specs you'd expect from such a watch: Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU, 4GB of onboard storage, 512MB RAM and Bluetooth 4.0 to allow everything to chat to one another with no problem.

Early verdict

While I realise that Android Wear still isn't ready for the mainstream (and so does LG), there's no doubt that if this watch was sitting under the Christmas tree I would be cock-a-hoop.

The design is great and really does scream 'premium' more than any other watch on the market (making it interesting to see what Apple does) and has a good looking display thanks to being truly round.

The size is still an issue, and the lower battery life is something I'd hoped would be a little better, but when you can glance at a wrist to see a text message on a device that looks like a proper watch I'm not overly bothered.

Sadly, the only price I have to work with at the moment is 'more expensive than the G Watch' but we won't have long to wait until you can buy one: the LG G Watch R release date has been set for October this year.