Why you can trust ZDNET
:ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.Our process
'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?
ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.
When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.
ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.
I have had the Google Pixel Watch 2 mounted on my wrist for a week now, and it's been quite a delight to test.
For one, the new wearable joins the Google Pixel 8 lineup with improved sensors and a slew of Fitbit-integrated features, making it secretly the best watch available for both Fitbit and Google Pixel fans.
It also incorporates advanced safety features that make it even better than the latest Apple Watch when it comes to keeping yourself and your loved ones safe and secure. I go over all the best new features and more in this full review.
320 ppi AMOLED touchscreen
100% recycled aluminum
802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS/GLONASS/Galileo/BeiDou, LTE (optional)
Improved heart rate sensors -- Google primarily focused on discussing the improved sensors, further Fitbit development, and longer battery life of the Pixel Watch 2. My testing so far confirmed that the improved heart rate accuracy and battery life in typical daily usage are, in fact, better than the original Pixel Watch.
For example, in order to check the accuracy of the new multi-path heart rate sensor, I exercised with a Coros Heart Rate Monitor on my upper arm and an Apple Watch Ultra 2 on my other wrist. The results showed the Pixel Watch 2 had nearly the exact same heart rate track with an average difference of 0.10 bpm, which was great to see.
GPS tracking gets a bump too -- The GPS tracking of the Watch 2 looked closer to the actual track I took than my trustee Coros Apex 2 Pro, too, even when I spent half of my run on roads surrounded by tall trees. Compared to past Fitbit devices with integrated GPS receivers, the Pixel Watch 2 did very well, and I look forward to more testing against other GPS sports watches.
With accurate heart rate and GPS tracking, along with very basic pace and heart rate alerts, the Pixel Watch 2 is a solid sports watch for people who want a simple design and interface. However, you should know that there are no customization options for data fields during various exercises, no customizable workout plans that could use the alerts to help you complete intervals, and very little information beyond the pace, distance, and heart rate for your workouts. Basically, don't buy the Pixel Watch 2 expecting it to replace your Garmin, Coros, or Polar GPS sports watch.
Improved Fitbit integration -- Fitbit development includes improved stress tracking thanks in part to the cEDA measurements, stress management score, and skin temperature sensor. We also now have pace and heart rate zone alerts that can be set prior to the start of your exercise.
Another part of the stress management aspect is logging your mood and completing mindfulness sessions. I appreciate this focus on mental health as it helps me take a break during the day and evaluate my physical and emotional state. Slowing down and reflecting is always important to do.
New safety features -- One of the best functions of the Pixel Watch 2 that even beats out the Apple Watch is the focus on safety. The Apple Watch can appear in your Find My application, and you can share your location with family and friends, but that's a passive setting that requires people to physically check the app to find you.
With the Google Pixel Watch 2's Safety Check feature, you can set a check-in timer whenever you're moving from point A to B and want your emergency contacts to be notified if anything goes wrong. For example, you can set up an alert for a planned half-hour run, and if you don't confirm your arrival at home after that period of time, your selected contacts will be notified.
The Pixel Watch 2 also supports immediate emergency alerts/SOS and fall detection alerts, similar to the latest Apple Watches, which I fortunately haven't been in the position to test yet.
As an added incentive to purchase an LTE Pixel Watch 2 and the Fitbit Premium subscription, LTE watch users who do not have a cellular line enabled with their mobile carrier will still be able to enjoy the safety features of the Pixel Watch 2. This LTE connection is only valid for emergency sharing, fall detection, and safety check functions, but may also be the only reason that some people sign up for the additional watch service with their carrier, so it's a great move by Google.
WearOS 4.0 software -- The latest Android watch software is also present on the Pixel Watch 2, with Google Assistant, Gmail, Calendar, Wallet, Maps, Home, Photos, YouTube Music Premium (one month free included), and all of the third-party apps supported. Fitbit enhances the experience by providing Daily Readiness Score, Active Zone Minutes, ECG, Stress monitoring, Sleep Score, and Fitbit Premium (six months free included).
One software change that I'm particularly happy about is the ability to receive screen captures via notifications when my security camera detects movement. This was previously only available on my Apple Watch, so I'm glad the Pixel Watch 2 has caught up in functionality.
Pixel Watch 2 vs. Pixel Watch
If you set the Pixel Watch 2 next to the Pixel Watch, you likely won't be able to tell the difference. But when you pick them up, then the slightly heavier stainless steel body of the original Pixel Watch will be the main giveaway. Both have that lovely smooth-domed Corning Gorilla Glass top and a rotating crown, which I love.
The Pixel Watch 2 also features the aforementioned multi-path heart rate sensor which, along with Google AI, will provide the basis for the most advanced heart rate tracking available in a device with Fitbit support. Reliable heart rate tracking is essential for accurate health and wellness tracking, so a focus on this function was much needed.
The new sensors are especially important because while the curved form factor makes the watch feel smooth on the wrist, it can also make heart rate tracking difficult as there's less contact with the skin. Adding more sensors solves this issue.
The Pixel Watch 2 is constructed of 100% recycled aluminum while the original Pixel Watch was constructed of stainless steel, making the newer model five grams lighter. My real concern with the design choices lies with the custom 3D Corning Gorilla Glass 5, which didn't do the most effective job of protecting the curved glass from bumps and scratches last year.
The key internal improvements are the slightly larger battery, the improved newer Qualcomm processor, the electrodermal activity sensor, and the skin temperature sensor. Given that the Pixel Watch 2 is priced the same as the original Pixel Watch even with continued rising consumer prices, if you do not own a Pixel Watch, then picking up the Pixel Watch 2 is the more reasonable choice.
ZDNET's buying advice
Google's Pixel Watch 2 offers a nice upgrade over its predecessor and improves in key areas that every user can take advantage of. There were hopes of a larger watch size this time around, especially for those with larger wrists or those seeking more screen real estate to interact with apps, but Google's continued focus on sleep and stress tracking means having a lighter, smaller watch makes more sense.
If you are a Fitbit fan and are looking for the latest and greatest Fitbit in a watch form factor, then the Google Pixel Watch 2 is the wearable for you. Fitbit is deeply integrated into the Pixel Watch 2, and the results from my testing show that it may also be the most accurate Fitbit-powered wearable ever when it comes to heart rate and GPS tracking.
The improved safety features deserve a shout-out, too, with the Safety Check integration being the most reliable feature I have seen on any wearable today.
The Pixel Watch 2 has been mounted on my right wrist 24/7 since I picked up the review unit a week ago. Since then, I've made and received phone calls, listened to Spotify music, triaged my Gmail, viewed my Google calendar, and had navigations appear on the watch. The only exception has been the short periods of time when I charged the watch. I tried to time the charging periods when I was taking a shower, sitting at my desk in a meeting for an hour, and other moments of inactivity.
I've also been using the Pixel Watch 2 to track every night of my sleep since traveling back from the Made by Google event, with sleep scores ranging from 81 to 92. It has also tracked my Hydrow rowing sessions, family walks, and occasional jogs.