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Samsung Gear 2 vs Gear 2 Neo comparison: why the best Samsung smartwatch is the cheapest

After launching its Galaxy Gear smartwatch last year, Samsung is back with two new smartwatches: the Gear 2 and the cheaper Samsung Gear 2 Neo. Here's our Gear 2 vs Gear 2 Neo comparison. (See also: best smartwatches of 2014.)

Gear 2 vs Gear 2 Neo comparison: where's the 'Galaxy'?

There's no 'Galaxy' in the names of these Samsung smartwatches, because they both run on Samsung's own Tizen operating system. However, you won't notice a huge difference in the user interface. Beyond being able to customise the look, navigation is simple and smooth. As you would expect from a smartwatch, you can get all your notifications sent from your smartphone. You can even have a phone call if you feel like it.

The move from Android to Tizen has cut down the amount of apps there are available, though, so there's not much choice here.

Samsung wants you to buy one of its smartphones as well as these watches, and as such the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo are compatible only with 17 Galaxy smartphones and tablets. If this makes you less inclined to buy the Gear 2 or Gear 2 Neo, well, join the club. See also: Samsung Gear Fit review: a skinny smartwatch designed to help you work out.

Gear 2 vs Gear 2 Neo comparison: UK price

If you do have the right device, then the Gear 2 is the top of range model and will set you back the best part of £300. That's considerably more expensive than most so another drawback. At £169, the Neo is almost half the price of the flagship Gear 2. So it's no surprise that things are a little cut down in comparison. The Sony SmartWatch 2 is still a bit cheaper but it is older.

Gear 2 vs Gear 2 Neo comparison: design and build

That hefty price tag of the Gear 2 does get you a stylish brushed metal design and plenty of features though. We love the way the Gear 2 looks without even a Samsung logo in sight, however, it's still on the bulky side of things and won't fit under some clothing.

The device is dust- and water resistant plus if you don't like the supplied strap you can switch it for your own.

A lone physical buttons sits below the gorgeous 1.63in display but you can also just tap or twist your wrist to get going.

The Gear 2 Neo doesn't have the same brushed metal finish body so doesn't feel as premium, but it still looks good without feeling plastiky and cheap.

There are other downgrades like no on-board camera but we're not bothered about this really. It still has the same gorgeous 1.63in screen, infrared transmitter and heart rate monitor. It's also dust- and waterproof like its bigger brother without the same bulkiness.

Controlling music playback is handy plus there's internal storage so you can go out without your smartphone and still listen to some tunes.

Gear 2 vs Gear 2 Neo comparison: battery life

Battery life will vary depending on your usage but we've found the Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo can last up to a week which is pretty good. Charging is done with a clip on module which keeps the watch from being even bigger but is easy to leave behind.

Gear 2 vs Gear 2 Neo comparison: features, navigation

Navigation on the Gear 2 is smooth and simple and as you would expect, you can get all your notifications sent from your smartphone to the Gear 2 and customise the look. However, this smartwatch can do a whole lot more than notifications.

You can have a phone call using the built-in microphone and speaker and there's also a camera so you can take videos and photos. There's even an infrared transmitter for taking control of devices like your TV.

These are all a bit fiddly though and fall into the novelty category.

Handier features, for sporty types anyway, are the built-in heart rate monitor and ability to play music from the Gear 2's internal storage via Bluetooth – meaning you can go for a run without need to carry a companion device.

In practice, some of the features of the Gear 2 Neo are a bit hit and miss – particularly the heart rate monitor – but they're there if you want them without the hefty price tag which puts us off the Gear 2.

Although we really like the Gear 2 Neo, it still has the same compatibility issue which is a thorn in its side. You'll need one of Samsung's selected smartphones or tablets to be able to use it properly so this removes a lot of its appeal.

Gear 2 vs Gear 2 Neo comparison: verdict

The Samsung Gear 2 is a stylish smartwatch but has limited appeal due to small list of compatible devices. It's still too bulky and although it's packed with features, they are awkward and generally unnecessary. Then there's the high price tag which means unless what the Gear 2 has to offer is genuinely what you want a smartwatch for, you'll be better off elsewhere.

We award three and a half stars.

At a more reasonable price tag than the flagship model, the Samsung Gear 2 Neo is decent smartwatch with plenty of features - we don't care about the lack of a camera. However, the need for a specific Samsung companion device and a limited amount of downloadable apps detract somewhat.

We award four stars.

Read more: The 23 best smartphones: The best phone you can buy in 2014.

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