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Samsung Gear 2 Neo: Give me everything, hold the camera (hands-on)

The Gear 2 Neo looks to be a less-fancy version of the Samsung Gear 2. Read our hands-on impressions.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Luke Westaway Senior editor
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
Scott Stein
Luke Westaway
4 min read

Samsung has tripled down on its Gear smartwatches, using Mobile World Congress as an excuse to reveal three new models -- the Samsung Gear 2, the Samsung Gear 2 Neo, and the Samsung Gear Fit.

The Gear Fit is a design that stands on its own, but the Gear 2 Neo and the Gear 2 are really variations on a single theme. They're both evolutions of the original Gear, but the Neo is the slightly pared-down model: it's lighter, and it's missing the Gear's unique camera. Do you care about a camera on your smartwatch? Do you like the idea of a lighter watch? Do you mind a more plastic feel? Well, then, the Gear 2 Neo may be for you. And even though pricing hasn't been announced, it'll inevitably be less expensive. How much remains to be seen.

Samsung Gear 2 Neo watch: Look ma, no camera (pictures)

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No camera, but everything else
To re-emphasize: other than the camera and the lighter-weight design, the Gear 2 Neo is the same watch as the Gear 2. It has the same processor, screen, 4GB of onboard storage, and general health functions. Whereas the Gear 2 offers a 2-megapixel snapper, the Gear 2 Neo leaves you without any means of capturing stills. Taking photos using the current Galaxy Gear isn't exactly the most graceful affair, so this might not be such a terrible omission.

Despite not having a camera, the Gear 2 Neo has all the other key features of the Gear 2. There's a beautifully vivid 1.63-inch 320x320-pixel Super AMOLED display, and a 1GHz dual-core processor. A little home button takes you out of any app with a quick press. Meanwhile, on the top, a little IRLED sensor connects via a WatchOn app to your television to turn the Gear 2 into a TV remote. Plus, it shares the Gear 2's new features, like an offline music player, and health-tracking apps that tap into the Gear 2 Neo's pedometer and heart rate monitor.

Health: A step forward
The heart rate monitor, which is new to all of Samsung's newly announced products -- the Galaxy S5, the Gear 2, the Gear 2 Neo, and the Gear Fit -- works via an optical sensor on the back of the watch. It responded quickly and gave a readout within seconds when I tested it on my wrist with a press of a button.

That's not my wrist, or my heart rate. CNET

Newer health apps promise to guide and collect fitness data more proactively than the pretty bare-bones way the original Gear did, and the Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo will track sleep and stress levels, too. Third-party apps so far include ones from Under Armour, Garmin, and Runtastic.

Samsung Gear 2 Neo
The Samsung Gear 2 Neo.

Design: Bright and plastic
To distinguish it from the Gear 2, the Gear 2 Neo comes with a choice of alternatively colored straps. The Gear has a brown option, while the Gear 2 Neo comes in gray. Both models are also available in black and orange.

I tried the Gear 2 Neo on, and its polycarbonate wristband lends it a lighter, more plastic feel than last year's Gear or even the Gear 2. That's not a bad thing necessarily: in fact, in some ways, it feels almost like Samsung's bleeding-edge take on the original Pebble. The wrist-feel and less-bulky design are definitely improved. For spec nerds, it's 37.9mm x 58.8mm x 10.0mm and weighs 55g, versus the Gear 2's 36.9mm x 58.4mm x 10.0mm and 68g. But, it's still a large watch: next to a Pebble Steel, the Gear 2 Neo feels loud and big. If you want a more discreet smartwatch design, the Samsung Gear Fit might be the right choice.

The Gear 2 next to the Gear 2 Neo: note the difference around the bezel. CNET

Tizen: Goodbye, Android
The Gear 2 Neo runs Samsung's Tizen operating system just like the Gear 2, a move away from Android that could be a smart move for Samsung. But it doesn't change the essential feel and UI of the Gear from the original version I tried last year: in fact, most everyday users wouldn't notice the difference. The impact could come in terms of the types of apps it runs, but an SDK is being made available for app developers to explore the Gear universe.

The Samsung Gear 2 Neo costs $199 with US carrier AT&T, but buying it with the Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone gets you a $50 discount on the bundle. Expect similar pricing from other outlets as well.

Are you tempted by either of Samsung's new watches? Let me know in the comments below, and check out our feature on how Samsung built the first Galaxy Gear.

Updated March 20 at 10:22am PT with pricing information.