Introduction

Smartwatches have been around for a long time now, ever so reluctantly trying to infuse the tech spirit into one of the oldest accessories in the history of the world - the time piece. But a wrist watch is meant for more than telling the time - it's also a fashion statement. And as cool as the square smartwatches may be, they can only get you so far. With that in mind, Android Wear has inspired the introduction of the first wave of round smartwatches - the Moto 360 and LG G Watch R.

LG G Watch R
LG G Watch R
LG G Watch R
LG G Watch R

LG G Watch R official photos

Unlike Motorola, LG has managed to make the display on its round smartwatch perfectly round, without the "flat tire" visual effect.

And even though there is no mechanism inside, just like a classic watch, what's on the inside matters. The G Watch R makes use of an interesting combination of parts. If they sound familiar to you, that's no coincidence. Check out what we mean below.

Key features

  • 1.3" Full Circle P-OLED display, 320 x 320 pixels, 348ppi, 33mm screen diameter
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 (MSM8226), quad-core 1.2GHz Cortex-A7 CPU, 512MB RAM, 4GB internal storage (3 GB user available)
  • 410mAh Li-Ion battery, rated at 2 days of usage
  • 46.4 x 53.6 x 9.7 mm, 62 grams, genuine leather strap, changeable
  • Stainless steel casing, IP-67 certified, water-resistant for 30 minutes up to depth of 1 meter
  • Android Wear with Google Now integration
  • Heart rate sensor, gyro, accelerometer, compass, barometer
  • Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • Vibration

Main disadvantages

  • Leather band is a bit on the cheap side
  • The screen is too easy to accidentally turn on
  • Android Wear needs more polish, and more functionality
  • No choice for casing colors

The LG G Watch R surely looks the part thanks to that stainless steel casing and the 1.3" circular P-OLED display. On top of that, the G Watch R is IP-67 certified and would laugh at the face of water and dust.

LG G Watch R
LG G Watch R
LG G Watch R

LG G Watch R in action

As you can see from the quick glimpse at the key features, the G Watch R has the innards of a mid-range smartphone. It doesn't have an earpiece though, like its main rival from the Samsung camp does, but it sports a microphone through which you ask Google Now for directions, music and whatever tickles your fancy.

Let's head over to the hardware overview of the smartwatch to inspect its prospects for becoming a timeless classic.

Unboxing

The LG G Watch R ships in a stylish box with magnetic closure and inside there's not much in terms of accessories. You'll find a USB cable with a power adapter as well as the proprietary charging dock with five pins.

LG G Watch R
LG G Watch R

Unboxing the LG G Watch R

The dock has a built-in a magnet inside and sort of guides the G Watch R in its charging seat. It's meant to intuitive and user-friendly. But in reality, it usually requires a bit of adjustment until you get the pins to connect. Additionally, the charging dock is not as stylish as the charging hub of the Moto 360. A good thing is that there's a rubber ring on the bottom to make it stick to the desk surface and be harder to move around.

LG G Watch R
LG G Watch R

The G Watch R charging dock

Hardware overview

Looking like a regular watch and not a nerdy gizmo is something smartwatch makers are trying to achieve. We think the G Watch R and Moto 360 are the prime examples of how this is done.

What makes the G Watch R really stand out from the crowd is its stainless steel casing. It looks rugged without coming off as military grade. Yet it will still look good on your wrist regardless how formal your outfit.

The G Watch R sports a very thick bezel engraved with minute marks. They're helpful when used with certain watchfaces that are numberless, but are subject to taste as some may find them unnecessary. The bezel also acts as a protector of the 1.3" P-OLED perfectly making it harder to scratch.

LG G Watch R
LG G Watch R
LG G Watch R

The G Watch R looks tough

The body of the smartwatch is made of stainless steel, which is powder coated in dark grey paint. It looks classy and durable, but LG doesn't offer any alternative colors.

LG has fitted the watch with a leather strap, which should feel nice to the touch as per the "genuine leather" moniker on its inside. Sadly, that's not the case as it's a bit too stiff and feels cheap, to be honest. It's a good thing then the wristband straps are changeable. You can choose any 22mm off-the-shelf strap of your liking even without the need to visit a watchmaker.

LG G Watch R
LG G Watch R
LG G Watch R

The strap is genuine leather, but feels somewhat rough

The bottom is where the heart rate sensor and pogo pins for charging are located. There are also two microphone cut holes - one at the bottom and one underneath. To further emphasize on the masculinity of the watch, LG has opted for a large crown. Pushing it brings you back to the watchface, while a longer push gets you to the settings menu.

LG G Watch R

The heart rate monitor and charging pins are on the bottom

Finally, the LG G Watch R vibrates when there's a new notification or somebody calls you. It's quite convenient, as you're sure not to miss anything important. You can mute notifications all together, too.

Build quality

At just 62 grams, the LG G Watch R is quite light, but not as much as the Moto 360, which weighs 49 grams. Still, it will require some getting used to from users who are accustomed to wearing solid, heavy watches and like to feel the timepiece on their wrist at all times.

But don't mistake the G Watch R for a toy, a notion you might get with the original Pebble. The hardware of the G Watch R is very well crafted and it fits together perfectly.

The IP-67 certification is another indication that the G Watch R is built to last. It's not afraid of splashes or dust and you can go for a walk in the rain or wash your hands without having to take special care of the watch.

The display is great

The G Watch R features a 1.3" P-OLED display with 320x320 pixel resolution. With a pixel density of 348ppi, it's the sharpest of the Android Wear watches on the market right now.

It's not the largest display around with a diameter of 33mm, but combined with the casing, it comes at 46.4mm. Make sure to have this in mind when buying the watch as it may be too small or too big depending on your wrist size.

Anyway, the display of the G Watch R is really good. Being an OLED means the contrast is outstanding due to the black pixels not being lit and the colors are punchy. It's also bright, but the IPS panel of the Moto 360 trumps it with regards to maximum brightness.

LG G Watch R

The display of the watch is gorgeous

Viewing angles are fine, but we notice there's quite a bit of reflectivity. It's certainly not a deal breaker, but in broad sunlight it might be difficult to catch the time. Keep in mind, there's no Gorilla Glass protective layer on top, like the square G Watch.

Battery life

The display is the major culprit for the G Watch R's good battery life. Even with the always-on feature turned out, we are able to get two days out of it on a single charge. With heavy use, naturally, this trims down to one day, but that's perfectly fine for today's standards.

And even if you run out of juice from the 410mAh battery, it's charged back to full in only 30 minutes. The battery also happens to be one of the largest in the smartwatch market right now.

LG G Watch R
LG G Watch R

The G Watch R looks good in action

Overall, we are delighted with what LG has produced. The G Watch R is definitely the direction in which smartwatches should be going in terms of hardware and build quality. Out of the whole package, we would've liked the bezels to be a bit thinner and the display slightly larger.

Follow us onto the software part of the review to find out more about the brains of the G Watch R.

Android Wear is cool, but rough around the edges

The LG G Watch R runs Android Wear version 2.0 based on KitKat. Google is expected to update the OS with the latest Lollipop code in the coming weeks and months. For now though, every Android Wear smartwatch is running the same version, as Google is keeping things under tight control regarding custom manufacturer skins.

Because of this, the LG G Watch R UI is the same as the Moto 360 and the rest of Android Wear smartwatches when it comes to the user interface. Still, we've prepared a video of it in action to give you a taste of what it's like.

Announced at Google I/O this past summer, Android Wear is the company's take on how a smartwatch should behave. It has to be noted, that you need to pair it with an Android _phone_ to be fully functional, though. Phones using other OS's don't work.

The user interface of Android Wear is organized in different cards, much like Google Now. A swipe from the bottom brings up all the notification cards that are pending on your _phone_ and your Google Now activity. With the cards now active, a swipe to the left dismisses the current one and an opposite swipe shows contextual options for it.

The cards harnesses the full power of Google Now and can also offer you navigation, calendar and note reminders. Android Wear allows you to interact with them as well. The navigation card is one of the coolest as it gives you turn-by-turn directions on how to get to your destination.

If you don't feel like getting notifications for a certain time, you can mute them by a swipe from the top. This will also show you the battery status and the date.

A single tap on the watchface brings up the voice command interface of Google Now. This is also activated by saying "OK, Google" when the watch is active. We found out during our testing that you'll have to be quite loud for the mic to pick up your voice. Nevertheless, voice recognition is superb.

If you don't feel like talking, you can swipe up from the voice command screen and browse through the available options. Searching Google is just part of the story here, as you can directly manipulate the phone through the watch. You can take notes, set reminders, play music, open a stopwatch and measure your heart rate, just to name a few.

LG has preloaded a ton of watchfaces for you to choose from, ranging from classic to modern. There are also fitness and camping oriented ones for the more active folks. It's cool that each LG watchface has an active and inactive state. The latter shows up only when the watch isn't used and are minimal in design, taking advantage of the OLED display.

There's a small downside to this, as in the inactive mode the minute hand is not actively updated. When you wake up the watch back to active state (which happens even when you raise your hand to check the time), the hand updates and jumps over to the correct time, but not without you noticing it. That's a seriously annoying as anyone would expect their watch to show the correct time at any moment.

Of course, that's a minor nuisance, when compared to the quirks of the Android Wear user interface on a circular display. It's not too uncommon to see letters cut off towards the edges, making you unable to read parts of a message.

Pressing the crown awakens the watch and a long press gets you into the settings menu. There you can adjust brightness, see the connected Bluetooth devices, toggle airplane mode and get into the developer options.

You can also start Android Wear dedicated apps right on the smartwatch. Preloaded are Google Fit, Play Music and Google Keep. There are a bunch more you can install from the Play Store. For instance, you can have a go at a custom launcher or a custom watchface maker app like Facer.

The LG G Watch R is also controlled from the dedicated smartphone Android Wear app. It enables you to customize the apps opened upon the different voice actions. Changing the default music app from Play Music to an alternative is quite easy. The Android Wear app is mainly used to pair your smartphone with the watch and fine tune its settings.

But regardless of Android Wear's imperfections at this time, the LG G Watch R performs outstandingly well. The Snapdragon 400 chipset and the 512MB of RAM are keeping the UI snappy and smooth no matter what you're doing, though admittedly, you can't do that much on the watch itself.

Overall, Google has made a lightweight, practical Android-based UI, which is user-friendly and it's nice to look at. We just wish there were more things you could do on the watch without a paired smartphone. For instance, as soon as your phone is out of reach (or out of battery), your notes or appointments are no longer accessible on the watch, even though it could have synced them in the meantime.

Final words

The watch has evolved over hundreds of years. The electronics manufacturers only have few years of experience designing their smartwatches, so we bet that their smartwatch products will evolve quickly and will be getting better and better as time passes by.

The G Watch R is the first smartwatch to feature a completely rounded display. And it's a great looking one at that. The P-OLED panel produces nice colors, it has excellent blacks and it has good side viewing angles. A discerning eye would still see the individual pixels, especially around small text. So perhaps that's one area that could be improved.

On the inside, the LG G Watch R is more or less a smartphone sans the modem radio and a speaker. The Snapdragon 400 chipset with a quad-core CPU and 512MB of RAM power Android Wear adequately so the hardware is more than good enough.

We would have liked to see an even longer battery life out of a smartwatch and perhaps having a thicker battery would be a nice solution. Not the least, it would help add some heft to this otherwise super light wearable.

Key test findings:

  • The G Watch R is a bit larger than the Moto 360 due to its thick bezel
  • The leather wrist straps feel a bit on the cheap side
  • The 1.3" P-OLED display is sharp enough and has deep blacks
  • You can count on the watch to go through 2 days of moderate usage on a single charge
  • Android Wear still needs some polish and perhaps, even more functionality

As you can see, we can't find any real faults with the G Watch R hardware. It would have been nice if LG had different color options like Motorola, but for now, you can only change the wristband with any off-the-shelf 22mm one.

Psychology is also into play here. Remember, the G Watch is still a tech gadget and mentally, you're wired to protect it dearly. This means that while the smartwatch is IP67 rated, you wouldn't take a shower with it, nor would you be okay with exposing it to any water-related danger. But you shouldn't worry, the G Watch R is as good as most other waterproof wristwatches out there.

Once we got used to that mentality, the wristwatch became the utility tool it was meant to be by Google. Android Wear runs well and everything in its limited set of features worked great. Of course, having your smartphone connected to the smartwatch at all times is a must for enjoying the platform's capabilities. As things stand today, there is no iPhone or Windows phone support but we wouldn't be surprised to see that at some point further down the road.

In terms of competition, the Moto 360 is the only other circular wristwatch. It's marginally cheaper than the G Watch R, but features a less potent hardware, not as sharp display and it has a smaller battery. However, many swear by its looks and indeed, the almost bezel-less Moto 360 is one beautiful piece of tech (and smartwatchmaking).

The LG G Watch R is perhaps among the first smartwatches, which are worth their salt, but we're still not convinced about smartwatch functionality in general. It's as if smartwatches are not fulfilling a need, but trying to create one that didn't exist before. Don't get us wrong, that's perfectly alright by us. But right now, you should only consider getting an Android Wear smartwatch if you are the early-adopter kind of user. Android Wear still has a long way to come through until it starts offering a must-have experience and until it starts adding real value to smartphone users.

We're sure that whatever features they decide to add to it, they would become available to the LG G Watch R as well. So the future is bright and we simply can't wait for it to come.

Unboxing

The LG G Watch R ships in a stylish box with magnetic closure and inside there's not much in terms of accessories. You'll find a USB cable with a power adapter as well as the proprietary charging dock with five pins.

LG G Watch R
LG G Watch R

Unboxing the LG G Watch R

The dock has a built-in a magnet inside and sort of guides the G Watch R in its charging seat. It's meant to intuitive and user-friendly. But in reality, it usually requires a bit of adjustment until you get the pins to connect. Additionally, the charging dock is not as stylish as the charging hub of the Moto 360. A good thing is that there's a rubber ring on the bottom to make it stick to the desk surface and be harder to move around.

LG G Watch R
LG G Watch R

The G Watch R charging dock

Hardware overview

Looking like a regular watch and not a nerdy gizmo is something smartwatch makers are trying to achieve. We think the G Watch R and Moto 360 are the prime examples of how this is done.

What makes the G Watch R really stand out from the crowd is its stainless steel casing. It looks rugged without coming off as military grade. Yet it will still look good on your wrist regardless how formal your outfit.

The G Watch R sports a very thick bezel engraved with minute marks. They're helpful when used with certain watchfaces that are numberless, but are subject to taste as some may find them unnecessary. The bezel also acts as a protector of the 1.3" P-OLED perfectly making it harder to scratch.

LG G Watch R
LG G Watch R
LG G Watch R

The G Watch R looks tough

The body of the smartwatch is made of stainless steel, which is powder coated in dark grey paint. It looks classy and durable, but LG doesn't offer any alternative colors.

LG has fitted the watch with a leather strap, which should feel nice to the touch as per the "genuine leather" moniker on its inside. Sadly, that's not the case as it's a bit too stiff and feels cheap, to be honest. It's a good thing then the wristband straps are changeable. You can choose any 22mm off-the-shelf strap of your liking even without the need to visit a watchmaker.

LG G Watch R
LG G Watch R
LG G Watch R

The strap is genuine leather, but feels somewhat rough

The bottom is where the heart rate sensor and pogo pins for charging are located. There are also two microphone cut holes - one at the bottom and one underneath. To further emphasize on the masculinity of the watch, LG has opted for a large crown. Pushing it brings you back to the watchface, while a longer push gets you to the settings menu.

LG G Watch R

The heart rate monitor and charging pins are on the bottom

Finally, the LG G Watch R vibrates when there's a new notification or somebody calls you. It's quite convenient, as you're sure not to miss anything important. You can mute notifications all together, too.

Build quality

At just 62 grams, the LG G Watch R is quite light, but not as much as the Moto 360, which weighs 49 grams. Still, it will require some getting used to from users who are accustomed to wearing solid, heavy watches and like to feel the timepiece on their wrist at all times.

But don't mistake the G Watch R for a toy, a notion you might get with the original Pebble. The hardware of the G Watch R is very well crafted and it fits together perfectly.

The IP-67 certification is another indication that the G Watch R is built to last. It's not afraid of splashes or dust and you can go for a walk in the rain or wash your hands without having to take special care of the watch.

The display is great

The G Watch R features a 1.3" P-OLED display with 320x320 pixel resolution. With a pixel density of 348ppi, it's the sharpest of the Android Wear watches on the market right now.

It's not the largest display around with a diameter of 33mm, but combined with the casing, it comes at 46.4mm. Make sure to have this in mind when buying the watch as it may be too small or too big depending on your wrist size.

Anyway, the display of the G Watch R is really good. Being an OLED means the contrast is outstanding due to the black pixels not being lit and the colors are punchy. It's also bright, but the IPS panel of the Moto 360 trumps it with regards to maximum brightness.

LG G Watch R

The display of the watch is gorgeous

Viewing angles are fine, but we notice there's quite a bit of reflectivity. It's certainly not a deal breaker, but in broad sunlight it might be difficult to catch the time. Keep in mind, there's no Gorilla Glass protective layer on top, like the square G Watch.

Battery life

The display is the major culprit for the G Watch R's good battery life. Even with the always-on feature turned out, we are able to get two days out of it on a single charge. With heavy use, naturally, this trims down to one day, but that's perfectly fine for today's standards.

And even if you run out of juice from the 410mAh battery, it's charged back to full in only 30 minutes. The battery also happens to be one of the largest in the smartwatch market right now.

LG G Watch R
LG G Watch R

The G Watch R looks good in action

Overall, we are delighted with what LG has produced. The G Watch R is definitely the direction in which smartwatches should be going in terms of hardware and build quality. Out of the whole package, we would've liked the bezels to be a bit thinner and the display slightly larger.

Follow us onto the software part of the review to find out more about the brains of the G Watch R.

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