Gear Review: LG Urbane Smartwatch

The LG Watch Urbane was widely considered a top-tier premium smartwatch during its heyday. So how does it fare in 2018? Read on to find out.

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive review of the watch, but rather an expressed opinion article towards the LG Watch Urbane in 2018.

Build and design

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Initially released at a $350 price point in 2015, the LG Urbane was among the first smartwatch to sport a circular design, which wasn’t as common back then as it is now. Having followed the footsteps of the 1st Moto 360, the LG Watch Urbane featured a stainless steel body, a gorilla glass display, and a plastic back panel, which features the heart monitor and the charging contact pins.

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However, unlike the 1st Moto 360, the Urbane had watch lugs, which allowed for easy swapping of 22mm watch bands. This design principle made the LG Urbane the first smartwatch to actually looked like a traditional watch. It also helps that the watch has a tactile button located at the 3 o’clock position which mimics a traditional watch winder. Pressing this button brings up the app drawer, acts as the back button or wakes up the smartwatch from sleep.

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The watch is made of stainless steel which has a glossy finish for the most part, except for the circular bezel around the display, which has a brushed metal finish. This might be contradicting finishes but actually compliments the watch’s premium look. Depending on the usage, the watch will acquire scratches over time.

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The watch is light and not as thick compared to other smartwatches back then. The Urbane wants you to think it’s a regular dress watch and it certainly looks the part.

Display

Unlike the competition, the LG Urbane features a 1.3-inch P-OLED display, which produces deep blacks and does not light up unused pixels. This helps the watch preserve battery and allow users to fully take advantage of the Always on Display feature.

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Packing a 245 ppi density with a 320 x 320 resolution, it was considered as having one of the best displays back then. Currently, I still find the display great and the color reproduction is close to accurate. It’s hard to find pixelations on the Urbane’s display compared to my Moto 360.  

Unlike the Moto 360, which had a “flat tire” look to accommodate an ambient sensor, LG’s priority was to keep the watch display a full circle. However, it came with a trade-off;  you have to manually adjust the brightness in the watch control panel. I found out that setting the display brightness to 1 can render the display unreadable under direct sunlight, so I chose to set it at brightness level 3.

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A friendly reminder, if you’re looking into buying a second hand Urbane, make sure to check for any blemishes on the display,  as P-OLED, AMOLED and other types of OLED displays are prone to suffer from image retention over time. 

This is a known problem amongst devices utilizing OLED display and its variants, most notably with Samsung and LG flagship smartphones. Image retention can be temporary, lasting a few hours, or in some instances, permanent. For most cases, it can be fixed by running an app that flashes multiple colors at a very fast phase, which shouldn’t be done by anyone suffering from epilepsy. More information on Image Retention here

Performance

The LG Urbane is powered by a Snapdragon 400 chipset which is still being used on some devices today. It also sports a 512MB RAM and a 4GB of onboard storage to boot. Initially, it shipped out with Android Wear version 1  but has since been upgraded Android Wear 2.

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Overall, I am quite happy with the performance of the Urbane, especially if you consider this device came out in 2015. Notifications are laid out nicely and you can connect it to the WiFi network, so you can still receive alerts even if the phone got disconnected from the watch. You can also execute voice commands using the watch as it features a dual microphone setup. The watch vibration isn’t as strong as what I would have preferred but it will suffice to get your attention. Usual features include a pedometer for tracking steps and a heart monitor.

It’s especially faster when using the default LG watch faces but that shouldn’t stop you from using third-party watch faces as well. The device is still very snappy and responsive to touch inputs. Here are my favorite third-party watch faces, Skymaster Pilot and Scuba, both from the same developer.

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Android wear as an OS doesn’t lack in app support, boasting thousands of apps in the Google Playstore. However, Android Wear has yet to be perfect, has its flaws and shortcomings, which we will discuss for another time. Having used multiple smartwatches based on different platforms,  if I “wear” to choose an ideal OS, on a condition of having the same third-party app development support, I’d probably choose Ticwatches’ TicWear by Mobvoi, which is actually based on Android, or even Tizen by Samsung for its smartwatch offerings.

Battery

The Urbane packs a 410mah battery which was considered big back then. To charge the device, you simply put it on the disk charger it came with. Magnets ensure the pins match perfectly and stay connected. It’s not as good compared to a wireless Qi charging, but its the next best thing.

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The battery life is very good on the Urbane. Even with the Always on Display feature activated, it can last me a day of usage, with little more juice to spare for that unplanned extended night out. To be honest, I haven’t tried using it with the AOD deactivated, because why should I? I want my watchface displayed all the time,  not just when in use.  I am used to charging my devices while sleeping anyway.

Conclusion

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In my honest opinion, the LG Urbane is still a viable smartwatch option in 2018. I love how I can take advantage of the Always on Display feature without having to worry if it can make it thru the day. It looks like a traditional watch and the overall design is ideal for dressy occasions. However, the watch can still be used for outdoor activities if you swapped the leather band with a rubber watch band.

The LG Watch Urbane has already been discontinued and you would be pressed to find any store selling these brand new. Ebay, Amazon or Facebook has tons of second hand Urbane for sale that you can check out.

 

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