The Pixel Watch is one of the best-looking smartwatches we’ve ever strapped to our wrists. From the classically inspired round face to the curved, light-catching edges, it resembles the ideal pebble for skimming across a lake. With its rotating digital crown and straps that smoothly curve to meet the case, the Pixel Watch also looks a fair bit like an Apple Watch, only one that’s been meticulously reshaped from a utilitarian rectangle into a more nature-appeasing circle.
That means it naturally looks more sophisticated than the rival watch – more like an accessory that could show up on a night out without drawing too much attention to itself. A range of optional bands, including sporty woven textile and fancier leather straps with metal lugs, helps to inject a bit more personality and elevate the watch beyond a simple fitness gadget. Right now, you’re limited to Google’s official straps, which are on the spenny side, but third-party options are expected soon.
Google has gone with a single size of watch at launch. At 41mm the Pixel Watch is perfect for petite wrists and takes up less space than the 45mm Samsung Galaxy watch 5 pro (£429, Amazon.co.uk) or the giant Apple Watch ultra (£849, Amazon.co.uk), but it’s still unmistakeably a piece of wearable tech. The back of the device is slightly more dome-shaped than the front, to accommodate the various sensors and gubbins, but when worn on the wrist, the Pixel Watch looks flat and neat.
Health and fitness tracking
The size and shape of the watch also means it’s more comfortable to wear overnight, if you’re into monitoring the quality of your snoozing. At its core, the Pixel Watch is a Fitbit in disguise. The entire health offering – from heart-rate monitoring and step counting to sleep tracking and workouts – is all handled by the Fitbit app, the class-leading fitness wearable company Google acquired in 2019.
That means Google’s late-arriving wearable can go toe-to-toe with the well-developed health and fitness offerings of Apple, Huawei and Samsung watches. Each Pixel Watch comes with six months of Fitbit Premium included, meaning you get features such as second-by-second heart-rate data, automatic workout tracking, guided excercise routines, sleep scores, EKG readings and personalised health insights. You also keep your existing Fitbit data, if you’ve got it.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy watch 5 review
One especially clever fitness feature is Fitbit’s “daily readiness” score, which uses health sensor data, recent activities, heart-rate variability and sleep quality to advise you on whether or not you should work out that day. It’s refreshing to see a fitness app consider active recovery just as much of a meaningful goal as hitting new personal bests.
The Pixel Watch has built-in GPS tracking and music playback, so you can leave your phone behind when going for a run and still enjoy some tunes and get useful data about the length and pace of your workout. In our tests, running without a phone drained a big chunk of the watch’s battery life, so if you really want to leave your phone at home on a regular basis, you’ll have to deal with more-frequent charging.
Google rates the Pixel Watch as having a 24-hour battery life and, unlike so many wearables we’ve tested, the smartwatch comfortably manages to last at least as long as advertised between charges.
That’s not a huge battery – we found it lasted about half as long as the Samsung Galaxy watch 5 (£269, Amazon.co.uk) – but it’s more than enough to enable you to wear the Pixel Watch day and night, with a fast-charging break before bed and another top-up in the morning. That’s including a 30-minute tracked run each day, while tethered to our phone’s GPS connection.
There are some battery-draining features turned off by default, such as the always-on display, which shows a simple watch face when the watch isn’t in use. Things such as using the LTE version of the Pixel Watch to make calls or playing music on the watch rather than on your phone will add extra demand on the battery, but overall we found the Pixel Watch had slightly more than enough battery to make it through our daily schedule.
The round 1.2in OLED display is remarkably bright at default settings and, unlike some other watches we’ve tested, the adaptive brightness feature is able to smoothly transition from dark to light environments.
There’s a thick, doughnut-style bezel running around the edge of the display, but the Wear OS interface is good at disguising this. The interface uses a minimal aesthetic with simple shapes on a black background, meaning you really have to look closely at the watchface to see where the screen ends and the edge begins.
Wear OS 3
Of course, as well as bringing Fitbit-quality health tracking to a smartwatch, this is also a Google-designed wearable built around the Pixel ecosystem of devices. That means seamless connectivity and setup with the latest Pixel phones, plus complete compatibility with Samsung and other Android phones.
That also means effortless integration with Google Wallet for contactless payments, Google Maps for navigation, your email and calendar apps for notifications and alerts, and the Google Assistant for answering questions, sending messages and controlling smart home devices. Tapping out messages with a fingertip is about as fiddly on this tiny screen as you’d expect, but voice recognition is surprisingly accurate and reliable enough to dictate messages using just your voice.
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