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Samsung's Galaxy Watch 3 first impressions: Samsung's newest smartwatch shows a lot of promise

Samsung announced several new devices at its Galaxy Unpacked event this week. From the new Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra smartphones and Tab S7 tablets to the Galaxy Buds Live and the Galaxy Watch 3.

So far, we’ve given our first impressions of all the new products except the Galaxy Z Fold 2, which won’t be made available to us for a few more weeks, and the Galaxy Watch 3, which we were finally able to set up just a few hours ago.

After using the Galaxy Watch 3 for some of the day, we can say it’s an impressive piece of tech, but we’re going to need more time with it before we can provide our final judgment.

In the meantime, here are some of our first impressions of the Galaxy Watch 3, which you can buy right now for $399 for the 41mm model or $429 for the 45mm model. You’ll need to add another $50 to either model if you want an LTE version.

PHOTO: Jason Cipriani/CNN

When we first saw photos of the Watch 3, it looked like it would be huge. But now that we have one of the 45mm versions on our wrist, it’s no bigger than, say, a Garmin Instinct Solar or an Apple Watch Series 5. Fans of the Galaxy Watch Active 2 will notice a boost in the size, though.

In fact, Samsung says it has reduced the size of Watch 3 compared to the original Watch, making it 14% thinner and 15% lighter for an overall size decrease of 8% while making the display bigger, going from 1.3 inches to 1.4 inches.

It’s comfortable on our wrist and doesn’t feel bulky or uncomfortable at all.

There are several watch faces built into the Galaxy Watch 3, and with all of them you can change and customize the colors and complications displayed on the screen. Complications are like widgets for your watch screen: pretty handy. We bounced around between a few faces but ultimately ended up using a digital face that has a total of five complications, each one with its own color scheme.

The top left is where our step count is, opposite of that is the Watch 3’s battery level, bottom left is unread messages and bottom right is our last recorded stress level. In the middle, just below the time, is the chance of rain over the next few hours.

A tap on any of the complications launches that respective app, giving you more information and insight.

PHOTO: Jason Cipriani/CNN

Seriously, this has to be one of the best features ever to exist on a smartwatch. Unlike the Galaxy Watch Active 2, which had a digital rotating bezel around the outside of the screen, the Watch 3 has a bezel that physically moves in either direction. This rotation is used to scroll through apps, navigate menus or read long messages directly on your wrist.

There’s just enough resistance in the bezel, with a clicking sound every so often. The audible sound and physical feeling brings an analog aspect to an otherwise all-digital experience as you scroll around the interface on the screen.

Seriously, more smartwatches need this feature instead of relying solely on taps and swipes across the screen.

PHOTO: Jason Cipriani/CNN

Samsung is throwing every health feature into the Watch 3, some of which you can use now, but the bigger-name features you’ll have to wait to use later.

Currently, the Watch 3 will monitor your stress levels (through a partnership with Calm) and get pretty detailed within the realm of sleep tracking. It’s quite different from Apple’s approach, and the result is a sleep score, breaking down the different stages (REM, light and deep) and offering insights on your rest.

There’s also a trip detection feature that can detect when you fall and then ask if you want your watch to send an alert to up to four of your contacts.

As for the features you’ll have to wait for, well, they’re big ones. Blood oxygen monitoring, SpO2 and VO2 Max, a fancy term used to show the measurement of how well your body uses oxygen during intense workouts, will be added to the Watch 3 in an update at some point in Q3.

Samsung is currently working with the FDA to get its blood pressure tool approved for use in the US, but there’s no ETA on when that will happen.

Samsung did just announce it has FDA approval to activate its ECG feature on the Watch 3 in the US, but its not active yet, and we don’t have a time estimate for when that will happen.

Getting FDA approval for ECG monitoring is a huge boost for the Watch 3, so hopefully a software update to enable it isn’t too far off.

There’s still a lot to learn and experience with the Watch 3; we’ve only had our review unit for a few hours now. Battery life, sleep tracking, automatic exercise tracking and the more advanced features coming in software updates all need to be thoroughly tested before we can get a better feel for the Galaxy Watch 3.

Leaving the health features out of the equation for a few minutes, and we have to say — even though we thoroughly liked the design and feel of the Watch Active 2, the Watch 3 looks and feels even better.

It’s surely going to give the Active 2 a challenge when it comes to the best smartwatch for Android.

You can buy the Galaxy Watch 3 right now in 41mm or 45mm, with prices starting at $399 or $429, respectively.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed prices at the time of publication.

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