LG G Watch R review

LG launched the LG G Watch as one of the first smartwatches with Android Wear but has introduced a new version, the G Watch R. It's called the R because it has a round screen making it a Moto 360 rival. Here's our LG G Watch R review. Read: The best smartwatches of 2016.

Also see: Best Black Friday Smartwatch Deals

LG G Watch R review: Price and competition

It's important to note that the G Watch R is not a replacement or new version of the G Watch. Instead, it's been launched as an alternative and as a rival to the hotly anticipated Motorola Moto 360. See also: Motorola Moto 360 hands-on review.

Strangely, LG never got round to announcing an official price for the G Watch R but the firm's website points towards Amazon which has the device priced at £225. Most other retailers match this including Clove which is where our review sample came from.

That price tag means it's the most expensive Android Wear smartwatch on the market, of which there are currently six to choose from. A key rival is the Motorola Moto 360 which also has a round screen but can be yours for a slightly more affordable £199.

If these are too expensive for your budget you'll have to opt for a cheaper model with a square screen such as the LG G Watch, Samsung Gear Live, Sony SmartWatch 3 or Asus ZenWatch.

LG G Watch R review

LG G Watch R review: Design and build

Since all the Android Wear smartwatches run the same software, design is an extremely important area when making a buying decision. The advantage of the G Watch R, if you can afford it, is that it's the most normal looking smartwatch around. Whether you personally like the look or not is a personal matter and a watch is a fashion item so this could immediately put you off buying it.

We like the look of the G Watch R and despite appearances, it's actually thinner than the Moto 360 at 11.4 mm compared to 11.9 mm. It doesn't sound like much but a fair bit of that measurement is simply the bezel around the edge which is pointy.

The watch is also pretty light at 61 g which is less that it looks and like rivals it is IP67 rated so is completely protected from dust and water resistant for up to 30 minutes at a maximum depth of one metre.

LG G Watch R review

Build quality is good with a stainless steel body – we can only find the black model although there was a silver one on show at IFA 2014 which is where we first saw the device. Included is a leather strap and you can switch it for any standard 22mm alternative if you want which is good. It's plain black and although LG had various on display in Berlin we can't find them for sale anywhere.

The main disadvantage to the design is that it's quite large, like others, meaning that females are likely to find it huge. LG only has one image of a woman wearing the G Watch R on its site and we know why. The firm along with others, are probably kicking themselves after Apple announced two different sizes of the Apple Watch.

LG G Watch hands-on review: Hardware and specs

We're seeing almost identical specs across all the Android Wear smartwatches with a few little differences here and there. The core hardware is a familiar Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 1.2 GHz processor, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. We've had no problems with performance on any Android Wear smartwatches.

A battery size of 410 mAh is pretty typical and there's the usual array of sensors including a gyro, compass, accelerometer. An additional feature which you don't always find is the heart rate monitor which sits on the back and a barometer for altitude. Unfortunately the heart rate monitor tends to take a good while to record a measurement and often fails.

See also: Samsung Gear S hands-on review.

LG G Watch R review

Unlike the Moto 360, it will only take a reading when you ask it to which helps with battery life. While the Motorola only lasted us a day, the LG has made its way through 3-4 days on average although this will drop to a couple if you have the screen set to always on and you use it a lot.

Matching the original G Watch, this smartwatch charges via a magnetic dock. It works fine but we'd rather have the wireless charging of the Moto 360 which also shows the time and progress while docked.

The 1.3in screen might sound small but looks great in circular form and easy to use with Android Wear. The display itself is P-OLED and has a resolution of 320 x 320. In regular watch mode, you'd be forgiven for thinking the moving hands were real.

Important in the fight with the Moto 360, the G Watch R doesn't have the bottom part of the screen cut off or the slightly annoying moiré effect around the edge since there's no bevelled edge to the glass. LG points out, and quite rightly so, that it's 'full circle'.

LG G Watch hands-on review: Software

If you've got this far in the review, you'll know that the G Watch R comes with Android Wear. You can use Google's wearable OS with any Android device running version 4.3 or later by connecting it over Bluetooth. You'll get essentially the same experience as other smartwatches with Android Wear – the main difference is the circular screen rather than square. See also: What is Google Android Wear?

LG G Watch R review

Watch our video: How to set up a Google Wear smartwatch to see how the companion app works.

We went in-depth on Android Wear in our LG G Watch review which was the first smartwatch running the system we got our hands on so head over there for much more detail. On the whole, it ties in with Google Now on your connected device and shows you cards of information. You can mute certain notifications if you don't want them on your wrist and control many things with voice such as send a text message, set a timer or conduct a Google search. Some require your connected device to have a data connection.

As we pointed out in our Moto 360 review, the OS works perfectly well on a round screen and in comparison in looks better on the G Watch R because a portion at the bottom isn't cut off. LG has pre-installed a range of stylish watchfaces to choose from (simply long press the screen) but you can download more if you want.

The hiking one even has compass and altitude dials and Google has said an update with custom watchfaces will arrive before the end of the year. It also said that tens of thousands of apps are now enhanced for Wear using things like voice controls and more are being added to Google Play every week. The best way to browse them at the moment is via the Android Wear app on your smartphone or tablet (which leads to the Play store).

A recent update to Android Wear includes support for built-in GPS (the Sony SmartWatch 3 has this feature) and offline music so you can listen with Bluetooth headphones without your smartphone.

OUR VERDICT

Quite rightly, LG has decided to launch a round screen version of its first Android Wear device in the form of the G Watch R. It adds much needed style and class to the smartwatch and has an excellent round screen which doesn't have a section missing. It's a shame that it's more expensive than the Moto 360 but if you're going to spend £200, £25 isn't much extra. As long as you like the design of it over the Moto 360 which is down to personal taste.