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Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs Active 2 (2021): Comparing Two of the Most Popular Android Smartwatches

On paper, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 have plenty of similarities across the board, but they’re clearly geared toward different users. Going by their design, the former is more of a well-rounded smartwatch, while the latter is more fitness focused.

But at their core, they deliver more or less the same solid user experience, from their smart features to their health and activity tracking capabilities. The question then is, is the Galaxy Watch 3 worth getting over the Galaxy Watch Active 2 despite its higher price tag? We compare the two wearables to help you figure it out.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs Active 2 Comparison Chart

ModelSamsung Galaxy Watch 3Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
 SAMSUNG Galaxy Watch 3 (45mm, GPS, Bluetooth) Smart Watch with Advanced Health Monitoring, Fitness...SAMSUNG Galaxy Watch Active 2 (44mm, GPS, Bluetooth) Smart Watch with Advanced Health Monitoring,...
PriceCheck PriceCheck Price
Display45mm: 1.4-inch Super AMOLED, 360 x 360, Corning Gorilla Glass DX
41mm: 1.2-inch Super AMOLED, 360 x 360, Corning Gorilla Glass DX
44mm: 1.4-inch Super AMOLED, 360 x 360, Corning Gorilla Glass DX+
40mm: 1.2-inch Super AMOLED, 360 x 360, Corning Gorilla Glass DX+
Material45mm: Stainless steel case with leather strap, titanium case with metal strap
41mm: Stainless steel case with leather strap
Stainless steel case with leather strap, aluminum case with silicone strap
Battery45mm: 340 mAh
41mm: 247 mAh
44mm: 340 mAh
40mm: 247 mAh
ControlsRotating bezel, 2 x buttonsTouch bezel, 2 x buttons
ChipsetExynos 9110Exynos 9110
Music StorageYesYes
Memory1 GB RAM, 8 GB storageBluetooth: 768 MB RAM, 4 GB storage
LTE: 1.5 GB RAM, 4 GB storage
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS (LTE variant available)Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS (LTE variant available)
Sleep TrackingYesYes
Stress TrackingYesYes
Continuous Heart Rate TrackingYesYes
Blood Pressure MonitorYes (availability may vary)Yes (availability may vary)
ECG SensorYes (availability may vary)Yes (availability may vary)
SpO2 SensorYesNo
Fall DetectionYesYes
Female Health TrackingYesYes
Water Resistance5 ATM, IP685 ATM, IP68
Colors45mm, stainless steel: Mystic Black, Mystic Silver
45mm, titanium: Mystic Black
41mm, stainless steel: Mystic Bronze, Mystic Silver
Stainless steel: Silver, Black, Gold
Aluminum: Cloud Silver, Aqua Black, Pink Gold

Design and Build

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 has a rotating bezel, while the Galaxy Watch Active 2 has a touch bezel.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs Active 2 Design and Build
The titanium Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (left) with a metal strap next to the aluminum Galaxy Watch Active 2 (right) with a silicone strap.

To start things off, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is available in 45mm and 41mm sizes, and the Galaxy Watch Active 2 in 44mm and 40mm. The bigger variants sport a 1.4-inch 360 x 360 Super AMOLED display, whereas the smaller models have the same resolution but in a tinier 1.2-inch screen. 

The Galaxy Watch 3 has a stainless steel case with a leather strap, but the 45mm version is also available with a titanium case and a metal strap. Meanwhile, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 can either have a stainless steel case and a leather strap or an aluminum case with a silicone strap. Durability-wise, these smartwatches have an IP68 and 5 ATM water resistance rating, which is perfect for swimming. They’re also MIL-STD-810G compliant, so they can survive their fair share of drops. 

Controls on them vary. The Galaxy Watch 3 has a rotating bezel as opposed to the Galaxy Watch Active 2’s touch bezel. The buttons on the former are also larger and more pronounced in comparison.

All in all, the 45mm Galaxy Watch 3 looks more rugged, and the 41mm variant screams elegant and clean. Additionally, their leather straps feel more premium than what the Galaxy Watch Active 2 ships with. In contrast, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 has a more minimalist and sleeker appearance. Combine that with silicone straps, and it’s arguably the better setup for working out.

Performance and Features

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 has more RAM and storage than the Galaxy Watch Active 2.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs Active 2 Performance and Features
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (left) and the Galaxy Watch Active 2 (right) are just as smart and as feature-packed as each other.

Both smartwatches are powered by an Exynos 9110 processor and run on the company’s proprietary Tizen operating system. Under the hood, they have the same batteries too. The 45mm Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and 44mm Galaxy Watch Active 2 have 340 mAh, and their smaller variants have 247 mAh. As for how long they’ll last on a single charge, it really depends on usage, but they should be capable of at least two days. Also, they have Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi, and optional LTE.

The most noticeable difference here is the Galaxy Watch 3 packs 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage, which can be used for storing music. On the other hand, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 only has 768 MB of RAM and 4 GB of storage, but in its defense, its LTE model bumps up the RAM to 1.5 GB.

Last but not least, they’re as smart as expected. They have Samsung Pay support, weather, and notifications, and they’re capable of taking calls and replying to texts, as well as automatically notifying emergency contacts if they think the wearer fell down. For the record, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 received Galaxy Watch 3 functions like Smart Reply and Fall Detection via an update. In the virtual assistant scene, Bixby is also running the show.

In short, there isn’t really much of a difference here. The Galaxy Watch 3 may have slightly more RAM and twice the onboard storage for apps and songs, but they’re similar elsewhere.

Activity Tracking

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and Galaxy Watch Active 2 are the same in terms of activity tracking.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs Active 2 Health Tracking
A closer look at the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3’s (in photo) Running Analysis feature.

Both the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and Galaxy Watch Active 2 can count steps and track calories burned, the usual. They can also automatically track workouts, including running, walking, cycling, and swimming, to name a few. These wearables have integrated GPS as well, so they can record things like distance during a run outdoors even without a smartphone at hand.

As noted, Samsung rolled out Galaxy Watch 3 features to the Galaxy Watch Active 2. On the activity tracking front, they’re Running Analysis and VO2 Max readings. In other words, neither one stands out in this regard.

Health Tracking

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 does the Galaxy Watch Active 2 one better by including SpO2 tracking.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs Active 2 Health Tracking
A look at the sensors on the back of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (left) and Galaxy Watch Active 2 (right).

When it comes to keeping tabs on your health, both wearables are pretty much on par with each other. For starters, they have 24/7 heart rate tracking, women’s health tracking, and sleep tracking. There’s also stress tracking, and when your levels are high, they’ll even offer guided breathing sessions.

Moreover, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and Galaxy Watch Active 2 have blood pressure and electrocardiogram (ECG) monitoring as well. However, their availability varies by country, and at the time of writing, they haven’t been approved for use in the United States by the FDA yet.

One advantage the Galaxy Watch 3 has is it’s the only one of the two with SpO2 tracking. That may not be much of a deal breaker for those eyeing the Galaxy Watch Active 2, but it’s worth knowing about. After all, it’s an extra layer of insight into your health, if nothing else.

Click here to see how the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 compares to the Fitbit Versa 3.

Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 isn’t miles ahead of the Galaxy Watch Active 2, and deciding between them is essentially a matter of preference.

As mentioned earlier, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 received an update not too long ago, and it’s pretty big. In fact, it leveled the playing field with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 in a significant way by adding Smart Reply, Fall Detection, Running Analysis, and VO2 Max readings. Ever since the feature gap between them has been narrowed down, choosing isn’t as clear-cut anymore.

Basically, it boils down to whether the additional storage and RAM, rotating bezel (which is subjective), and SpO2 tracking really matter to you. If that’s the case, the Galaxy Watch 3 is the obvious pick. If not, then the Galaxy Watch Active 2 will suit you better. It has a lower price point, and it can do almost everything the newer model can do to boot.

FAQs

📌 What’s the difference between the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and Active 2?

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is bigger and has a rotating bezel, 8 GB of storage, 1 GB of RAM, and SpO2 tracking. In comparison, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 has a touch bezel, 4 GB of storage, 768 MB of RAM (though the LTE variant has 1.5 GB of RAM), and no SpO2 tracking.

📌 Is it worth upgrading to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3?

That depends on where you’re coming from. If you’re trading up from the original Samsung Galaxy Watch, then the Galaxy Watch 3 is worth getting, but only if features like SpO2 tracking and ECG are important to you.

📌 Does the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 have an SpO2 sensor?

Yes, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 has SpO2 tracking, but its availability varies by country and carrier.

📌 Which is better, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 or Active 2?

It depends on the user since the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 offer a similar experience. However, the former does have the advantage of having more RAM, bigger storage, a rotating bezel, and SpO2 tracking.

Last update on 2021-07-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Vincent Lanaria

Senior Editor, researcher and writer passionate about running, cooking, and how technology mixes with the two.