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Samsung Gear S3 Frontier review: A better all-rounder

Intro

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Smartwatches don’t do enough for me. They’ve always been this thing that costs as much as a smartphone but can’t do as much as a smartphone. I guess the benefit is that it lives on your wrist which makes it really portable, but is that enough to justify dropping thousands on one of these things? No, not to me at least.

But, I understand that there’s a demand for a smartwatch. Partly because it can come in handy, but mostly because people think it’s really cool. Well, if you cool is what you’re after and you don’t want to break your bank, Samsung’s new Gear S3 is definitely a device you should consider.

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Why? Well, first off, it looks gorgeous. It looks like something really expensive which I think is a far fetch from some of the more comically designed smartwatches in the market right now. The model I have here is called the Frontier edition and it sports a more rugged look than its counterpart, the Classic.

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For that ruggedness, you get a slightly chunkier bezel and flat textured buttons that are easy to press and have a great feel to them. Even the straps seem incredibly robust and well-built and I’m willing to bet that they’ll last longer than those on the Moto 360 Sport which started to peel after about two weeks of use.

I also like that Samsung has decided to include standard 22mm bands for this watch so you can simply swap them out when they start showing signs of wear. Build quality is really top notch, but then again that’s kind of expected especially after we’ve seen what they can do with their flagship smartphones.

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The second awesome thing you’d probably notice about this watch is the crisp 1.3-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 360×360 pixels. It’s also got a full colour Always On Display (AOD) which is an upgrade over the Gear S2’s monochrome AOD.

Despite that, its battery life is also marginally better. I got about one and a three quarter days on a single charge of its 380 mAh battery with the AOD left on. With it off, the battery life gets a small boost to about a little more than two days. Still, that’s far from Samsung’s quoted 3-4 day battery life. Keep in mind that the Gear S3’s built-in GPS was off the entire time and the screen was at about 50% brightness with “Auto Low Brightness” left on.

With the built-in GPS, though, the Gear S3 becomes much more competent fitness tracker. It’s got auto workout detection too — a feature I loved on my Fitbits because I tend to forget to start a workout. That said, this feels a little less accurate than my Fitbit Blaze at knowing when I’ve started a workout and when I’ve ended one, which is probably because it doesn’t check my heart rate as often when left on auto.

Something else that’s new is the watch’s speaker which was something only found on the 3G version of the Gear S2. With this, you can make calls with the built-in microphone, listen to music and the S Voice assistant.

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Call quality was also surprisingly good on both ends with respectable volume and noise cancellation from the Gear S3. Though, because of the tiny speaker I wouldn’t advise usage in noisy areas. Besides, using your speakerphone in public is just rude.

Another piece of good news is that the Gear S3 comes equipped with IP68 water resistance so it’ll theoretically survive for up to 30 minutes submerged in 1.5 metres of water. This Frontier edition I have with me also comes with a MIL-STD-810G temperature, dust and shock resistance. That’s military grade, by the way, so it can probably take a hit…though I wouldn’t recommend testing this theory out.

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