By | December 3, 2023
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Pixel Watch 2 solves several of its predecessor’s biggest shortcomings. It has more health sensors, a faster new processor and slightly longer battery life, making it feel like a more rounded watch than Google’s first attempt.

But is the Pixel Watch 2 worth the $350 upgrade from the original Pixel Watch? Having tested both, I can say that the Pixel Watch 2’s changes are appreciated. But I wouldn’t recommend upgrading just yet. Some Pixel Watch 2 features, like automatic exercise detection and the new heart rate and pace training tools, will arrive on the older watch in an update. The original Pixel Watch also started receiving a software update to Wear OS 4 in October, showing that the first Pixel Watch is still getting new features. Unless you’re particularly interested in the Pixel Watch 2’s passive stress monitoring, which is the most important health metric it offers compared to the first, you’ll be fine waiting for the Pixel Watch 3.

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Check this out: Google Pixel Watch 2 review: step in the right direction

Google is also still selling the first Pixel Watch for $280 (£279, AU$549), which is about $70 cheaper than the Pixel Watch 2. That makes the first Pixel Watch seem enticing, although I’d suggest buying the new one if you have place in your budget. The new processor and larger battery will help you get more life out of the second model compared to the first if you’re choosing between the two.

Pixel Watch 2 vs. Pixel Watch: Design

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The Pixel Watch 2 is made of aluminum.

James Martin/CNET

The Pixel Watch 2 and the original Pixel Watch look almost identical, and that’s a good thing. Both watches are available in a size of 41 millimeters in polished silver, matte black and champagne gold. Like the first Pixel Watch, the new version has a curved glass screen that gives it a sleek look compared to most smartwatches. The same watch bands are compatible with both Pixel Watch models.

The only major aesthetic difference is the Pixel Watch 2’s aluminum casing, which replaces the original’s stainless steel construction. Although stainless steel looks more premium, the aluminum design makes the Pixel Watch 2 lighter than the first model at 31 grams versus 36 grams. Although you can feel the difference, the first Pixel Watch never felt particularly heavy to me.

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The original Pixel Watch is stainless steel.

James Martin/CNET

The underside of the watch also looks slightly different now that Google added more health sensors and a new charging mechanism, which you can read more about below.

My only complaint about the Pixel Watch’s design is that the black bezels that frame the screen are still visible when using colorful watch faces and apps. There is also no larger option for people who prefer a larger screen.

Pixel Watch 2 vs. Pixel Watch: Fitness and Health Tracking

Google Pixel Watch 2 and Google Pixel 8 with the Fitbit app Google Pixel Watch 2 and Google Pixel 8 with the Fitbit app

James Martin/CNET

One of my criticisms of the first Pixel Watch was that it lacked some of the health sensors found on Fitbit’s Sense 2 (Fitbit is also owned by Google), such as a skin temperature reader and a sensor to measure continuous electrodermal activity, or EDA, which is used for to detect potential signs of stress. While these omissions weren’t deal-breakers, it felt like an odd choice given the Pixel Watch’s higher price and otherwise Fitbit-centric experience.

That’s no longer the case with the Pixel Watch 2. Google’s new smartwatch gets both a skin temperature sensor and that EDA sensor, bringing it up to date with Fitbit’s offerings. That means you’ll get notifications throughout the day when the Pixel Watch 2 detects possible signs of stress or tension, making the second model a better choice than the first Pixel Watch for those looking to keep track of their stress levels.

The Pixel Watch 2’s other key health feature, and the more important one, is irregular heart rhythm detection. While the first Pixel Watch can take an EKG and alert you if your heart rate is too high or low, it can’t notify you if it detects an irregular heartbeat. That could be crucial for those interested in a smartwatch primarily for heart health, although it’s important to remember that smartwatches aren’t meant to replace medical devices.

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The Pixel Watch (pictured) and Pixel Watch 2 are both heavily influenced by Fitbit.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

When it comes to fitness tracking, the Pixel Watch 2 and the original Pixel Watch have a lot in common. The big difference is that the Pixel Watch 2 has a couple of new training tools that help you run at a certain pace and stay in specific heart rate zones during a run. These modes really motivated me to pick up the pace during a run, although proper running watches will have more robust tools. But Google’s website indicates that these features will arrive on the first Pixel Watch in the future as well.

The case is the same with automatic exercise detection. Unlike the first Pixel Watch, the Pixel Watch 2 can automatically start and stop certain exercises, such as running, walking, rowing and spinning, after you’ve exercised for a certain amount of time. This is a standard feature on most smartwatches and fitness trackers, but it’s one area where the original Pixel Watch was lacking compared to its competitors. But Google’s website also says that automatic exercise mode will come to the original Pixel Watch.

Compared to last year’s model, the Pixel Watch 2 also has a new multi-point heart rate sensor, which I found to be impressively accurate compared to a chest belt heart rate monitor. Otherwise, both watches offer many of the same health, fitness, and wellness tracking features, such as sleep monitoring, high and low heart rate alerts, overnight blood oxygen levels, and a built-in GPS for tracking outdoor workouts.

Pixel Watch 2 vs. Pixel Watch: Performance and battery

Google Pixel Watch 2 with the charger connected Google Pixel Watch 2 with the charger connected

The Pixel Watch 2 has a new charger and a slightly larger battery.

James Martin/CNET

The Pixel Watch 2 has a few upgrades over the original that make it feel faster and last longer on a charge. There’s a quad-core processor inside the Pixel Watch 2 compared to the first Pixel Watch’s dual-core chip, for example. But more importantly, the Pixel Watch 2 has a new crown that’s easier to turn, making scrolling through menus and apps feel smoother than on the first Pixel Watch.

Google’s second watch also has a slightly larger battery, which means it can now last 24 hours with the always-on display enabled. The previous generation Pixel Watch can also last a day, according to Google, but without the always-on display. In my experience, the Pixel Watch 2 lasted more than 24 hours on a bright day without tracking outdoor workouts. But logging running and walking outdoors drained the battery much faster.

But it’s not just about the battery life; The Pixel Watch 2 can also top up the battery faster. In my tests, the Pixel Watch 2 went from flat to 97% in an hour, while the first Pixel Watch charged to 81% in the same time. However, it’s worth noting that they both charged to around 50% in 30 minutes.

The Pixel Watch 2 also uses a different charging mechanism that replaces the first-generation wireless charger. So if you upgrade, you won’t be able to reuse your old charger for the new watch.

Pixel Watch 2 vs. Pixel Watch: Software and Security

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The first Pixel Watch (pictured) will also get Google’s security check.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

The Pixel Watch 2 launches with Wear OS 4, the latest version of Google’s operating system for smartwatches. The update brings improved notifications, better text-to-speech support and the ability to more easily transfer your watch to a new phone. The original Pixel Watch started receiving this update in October.

Both Pixel watches have an app called Personal Safety that includes features like emergency SOS and fall detection. Safety Check, which lets you start a timer to check in with your designated emergency contact during certain situations, was previously only available on the Pixel Watch 2. But the update to Wear OS 4 brought it to the first-gen model as well.

Safety Signal is new and exclusive to the Pixel Watch 2. It allows you to use certain safety features like emergency sharing without a data plan on the LTE version of the Pixel Watch 2. However, you need to subscribe to Fitbit Premium.

Pixel Watch 2 vs. Pixel Watch: Final Thoughts

The Pixel Watch 2 is a welcome improvement over the original. Its stress-tracking sensors, longer battery life, faster charging and smoother performance provide a better all-round experience. But these are mostly routine upgrades that help address criticisms of the first watch rather than meaningfully pushing the smartwatch experience forward. With that in mind, original Pixel Watch owners shouldn’t feel compelled to upgrade, especially since last year’s watch will inherit some of the new model’s features through software updates.

Take a closer look at how the two watches stack up below.

Google Pixel Watch 2 vs. Pixel Watch

Pixel Watch 2 Pixel Watch
Form Round Round
Clock size 41 mm 41 mm
Materials, finishes Aluminum Stainless steel
Screen size, resolution 1.2 inch, 450 x 450 pixels (320 ppi) 1.2 inch, 450 x 450 pixels (320 ppi)
Measure 41mm x 12.3mm 41mm x 12.3mm
Weight 31g 36g
Colors Matte black, polished silver, champagne gold Matte black, polished silver, champagne gold
Always on Yes Yes
Interchangeable straps Yes Yes
GPS Yes Yes
Automatic exercise detection Yes No
Compass Yes Yes
Altimeter Yes Yes
Water resistance 5ATM, IP68 5ATM
Call Yes Yes
Microphone Yes Yes
Speaker Yes Yes
Voice assistant Yes (Google Assistant) Yes (Google Assistant)
Mobile payments Yes (Google Wallet) Yes (Google Wallet)
Sleep tracking Yes Yes
Heart health ECG, irregular heartbeat notifications, high and low heart rate alerts ECG, high and low heart rate alerts
Period tracking Yes Yes
Sensors SpO2, ECG, Accelerometer, Gyro, Ambient Light Sensor, Skin Temperature Sensor, Body Response Tracking Electrical Sensor, Barometer, Magnetometer SpO2, EKG, accelerometer, gyro, ambient light sensor, barometer, magnetometer
Emergency functions Security signal, security check, emergency sharing, case detection, medical information, emergency SOS, international emergency call Security check (coming later), emergency sharing, case detection, medical information, emergency SOS, international emergency call
Compatibility Android 9 and later Android 9 and later
software Wear OS 4 Wear OS 4 (later this year)
Processor Qualcomm SW5100 (quad core) Exynos 9110 SoC (dual core)
Connection possibilities Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi, NFC, 4G LTE option Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi, NFC, 4G LTE option
Memory and storage 2GB memory + 32GB storage 2GB memory + 32GB storage
Loading USB-C to magnetic pin charger USB-C to magnetic charger
Battery life 24 hours with always-on display 24 hours
Battery capacity 306mAh 294 mAh
US price $350 (Wi-Fi), $400 (Wi-Fi + LTE) $280 (Wi-Fi), $330 (WiFi + LTE)
UK price £349 (Wi-Fi), £400 (Wi-Fi + LTE) £279 (Wi-Fi), £329 (WiFi + LTE)
Australian price AU$549 (Wi-Fi), $649 (Wi-Fi + LTE) AU$449 (Wi-Fi), AU$549 (Wi-Fi + LTE)


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