Review: Bigger, brighter Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic impresses while playing it safe

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic reviewed by Finn Hogan for Newshub.
Photo credit: Newshub.

The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic is an impressive combination of design, power and performance. While not a huge leap forward from its predecessors, it provides an impressively complete package.

With a 43mm and 47mm variant on offer, I spent two weeks with the larger version and came away impressed, but not immediately eager to switch from my current Galaxy Watch Pro 5. 

Here are my thoughts.

The good

The form factor of the Watch 6 Classic is its most immediately striking feature. Weighing in at just under 60g for the 47mm, it has a solid heft reinforced by a stainless steel frame. 

The 6 Classic sports a 1.5 inch Super AMOLED panel protected by scratch resistant Sapphire Crystal glass. Its thinner bezels at the screen edge combine with a larger frame to deliver a 30 percent upgrade in screen size compared to the Watch 4 series. 

All of this is lit on a display maxing out at 2000 nits, making use in direct sunlight a much easier prospect than older models - even the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro. 

Overall, despite its relatively chunky design, the 6 Classic is exceptionally comfortable to wear all day, including during exercise and while sleeping. This is crucial if you are to take advantage of everything it has to offer. 

On the style front, the standard synthetic strap of earlier generations has been swapped to a hybrid leather with a classic hook clasp, instead of magnetic. 

The Galaxy Watch series has always done an excellent job balancing smartwatch function with fashion and the more analog-style watch strap adds to the feeling that this is a watch you can wear both on a night out or when hitting the gym.

However, the absolute highlight for me when comparing the 6 Classic to the 5 series is the return of the physical rotating bezel to navigate the user interface. It operates with a tactile and satisfying click to switch between apps and notifications, which solves one of my most persistent irks with its predecessor.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic is out in New Zealand now.
Photo credit: Newshub.

Using the digital bezel at the edge of the Galaxy's 5 series to swipe between apps - particularly while running or even walking outdoors in bright light - is a particular nightmare. 

Nightmare no longer! The physical bezel is back and hopefully here to stay.  

Meanwhile, internally, the Watch 6 Classic 47mm comes along with 2GB of RAM and 16GB internal storage, a larger 425mAh battery and a new Exynos W930 chip. Overall, I didn't notice a large bump in software performance overall but also had no complaints, with the watch whipping through navigation snappily and never stuttering even with heavy use. 

Of course the brunt of modern smartwatch functionality is found in the suite of fitness options and on that front the 6 Classic is robust. Featuring 90 different workout tracking modes and a comprehensive postworkout analysis for each, with even more detailed analysis available in the Samsung Health app on your phone. 

I particularly appreciate how seamless starting a workout is. I simply select my desired activity, then a three second countdown immediately kicks in without fussing through any options, and onboard GPS automatically records the route if it's outdoors.

The automatic workout detection is also excellent, kicking in after 10 minutes of brisk strolling or any other activity and is sensitive enough to pause whenever you take a break, even just to cross a street. 

I found it surprisingly useful to have the watch keep track of all the activity which I don't normally factor as exercise. It was a pleasant reminder for anyone who feels they have no time to work out how easy it is to slot at least some physical activity into your regular day. 

To keep track of it all, the Watch 6 Classic sports a BioActive sensor which will be familiar to users of the Watch 5 Pro. This features an optical heart rate sensor, an infrared temperature sensor and the ability to measure body composition. 

Of course the rabbit hole of health metrics is deep: blood pressure, ECG and stress measurements all also available, depending on how deeply you'd like to interrogate your current health. These all of course come with the warning that any measurements should be indicative only and not used in substitute of actual medical advice. 

The bad

I have very few complaints with the 6 Classic but the biggest is around its battery life. Despite boasting 40 hours off a single charge using a 425mAh cell - provided that the always-on display is inactive - I found it consistently came short of that even after relatively moderate use.  

After taking an hour run, listening to podcasts throughout and using the Classic 6 for standard daily tasks, I regularly managed about 20 hours of charge, maximum. Sure, I had not turned off the always-on display or limited my apps, but it was still a little disappointing. 

A Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic being worn in Auckland.
Photo credit: Newshub.

Another issue that cropped up repeatedly was with sleep tracking. My reports were very hit and miss when it came to reflecting my actual sleep experience.

For example, after sleeping only four hours and spending much of my evening tossing and turning, the watch congratulated me on a solid eight hours and gave me an exceptional sleep score in the morning. It did feel a little like salt in the wound following a restless evening.

Granted, I was only on a review period and it could have settled with longer use, but the sleep tracker consistently struggled to accurately track my sleep cycles when compared to my Galaxy Pro 5. 

The verdict

Overall, the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic is an impressive package with only a few minor let-downs on battery life and sleep tracking.  

Retailing between $699 and $750 for the 47mm version, it comes in cheaper than some other smartwatches on the market while offering competitive performance and utility. 

The return of the analog bezel alone may tempt people still on the Galaxy Watch 5 series, while anyone new to smart watches will find an excellent balance of form, fashion and function. 

Newshub was supplied a Galaxy Watch 6 Classic for this review.