Can the new Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro really rival Garmin for off-road adventures?

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro
(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung has just unveiled two new smartwatches, including one that it claims is the ultimate outdoor fitness tool – but how does the new Galaxy Watch Pro really compare to the big names in GPS watches like Garmin, Polar, and Coros?

Last week, Samsung's executive vice president TaeJong Jay Yang said that the company had built a watch for people with a "passion for the great outdoors", and now we've had our first look at exactly what it has to offer. 

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is definitely competing for space on the same wrists as Garmin, and it's always great to have more choice.

When it comes to navigation, the new Galaxy Watch is looking pretty good. You can import routes in GPX format to follow on screen, meaning you can transfer your favorite courses from services like Komoot, and there's a trackback feature to help you find your way back to the start. You can receive turn-by-turn navigation with directions provided on screen, or via spoken commands (something even the best GPS watches don't offer).

The watch uses Google Wear OS, so it's almost certainly using Google Maps for wayfinding. Samsung might not have Garmin's heritage in GPS tech, and it doesn't have the same database of tracked workouts to draw on, but that's a very solid foundation to build on.

Battery for the long run

The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro's 1.36in screen uses AMOLED tech, meaning it's bright, crisp, and clear, which is important for mapping. This is the same screen technology used by the Garmin Epix (Gen 2) and Venu series. The rest of Garmin's sports watches use memory-in-pixel, which is less vivid and depends on a backlight for visibility in tricky lighting conditions, but uses much less power.

The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has a substantially larger battery than the standard Watch 5, and Samsung claims that the premium watch has a maximum battery life of around 80 hours. That pales compared to the typical Garmin device. Most Garmin watches can run for at least two weeks in smartwatch mode, while devices in the Instinct and Enduro series can last far longer (particularly with solar charging).

Navigation on Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro

Mapping and navigation on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro looks quite respectable (Image credit: Samsung)

However, it might be fairer to compare the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro with the Apple Watch here, because this is a true smartwatch running a mainstream third-party operating system. Although it has respectable fitness chops, this is a watch for more than just health and fitness. With Google Wear OS installed, it'll play nicely with all the usual Google apps including Gmail, Google Pay, and Google Assistant, to name just a few. You'll also have access to a much wider array of apps than you'll find in Garmin Connect IQ (Garmin's app store).

In that context, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro's battery life is actually very reasonable. The Apple Watch 7 needs charging every day, even in pretty light use, so Samsung's new timepiece is much more practical if you're venturing off-grid for a couple of days.

What you're not getting here is the full array of extensive health and recovery metrics you'd get from one of the best Garmin watches. Sure, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro can track sleep, but it won't use that data to provide the same fine-grained fitness data as Garmin.

Halfway house

Overall, we'd say the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro seems to hit a nice sweet spot between a sports watch and a smartwatch, giving you the best of both. It's even available in both Bluetooth-only and LTE versions, so if you don't mind paying a little extra, you can transfer data, download apps, and sync maps without a connection to your phone.

The Watch 5 Pro costs $449.99 / £429 for the Bluetooth version, and $499 / £479 for the LTE model. That's around the same as the Garmin Forerunner 955 (which doesn't have an LTE edition yet, but may eventually)

This could be a sign of things to come. This fall, Apple CEO Tim Cook is expected to reveal his company's take on the rugged smartwatch. Rumors about the Apple Watch Pro are rife, with the latest hints from Bloomberg tech correspondent Mark Gurman suggesting that the new device will feature a noticeably chunkier case than the standard watch, likely to due to a heftier battery, and a tougher chassis to protect the components.

We look forward to seeing what Cook is sporting on his wrist when Apple's fall event rolls around. We've nothing at all against a chunky watch if it means we can keep tracking hikes and multi-day events without reaching for that charger.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.