Does a wristwatch have to be round? What advantage does it actually bestow over a square or rectangle or any other shape? LG's G Watch R improves in that sense from the original G Watch with a rounded OLED face, but it makes a number of compromises to get there. Despite those compromises, it's still probably the most well-rounded Android Wear smartwatch of the current lot.
The G Watch R is LG's second Android Wear smartwatch, joining the original G Watch which I've been wearing almost daily for a couple of months. (I didn't bring it to IFA with me because I didn't want to bring the charger too, but more on that later.) It, like the Moto 360 announced quite some time before it at the debut of Android Wear, uses a round OLED display, with a quoted resolution of 320x320 pixels. I'm not entirely sure how you can quote that number as gospel, since on a round face there's only going to be a single horizontal and vertical line at which you get that full 320 pixels, but hey.
Wearing it for a few minutes at IFA 2014, my first thought with the G Watch R was how chunky it was. It's the Casio G-Shock of the Android Wear world, with a thick chamfered bezel and bold fonts and a milled, black-painted metal finish. It's also quite thick, very roughly the same dimensions as the large case MVMT watch I compared it to. It feels comfortable to wear, but I'm used to large watches in the first place, so more dainty hands might find it uncomfortable or unreasonably oversized.
LG specced out the G Watch R with an OLED display, and a non-standard one at that. The display is actually pretty good, and unlike the Moto 360's cut-off shape the G Watch R is properly circular. There is some aliasing on the edge of the display due to the relatively low resolution — zig-zagging around the outer line of the screen — but it's not a big deal and doesn't detract from the experience of actually using the smartwatch for every task it was made for.
At IFA, LG went to pains to show off the different watch strap options that the G Watch R's standard 22mm pin strap setup allows for. Tan leather goes well with the R's black case and default silvered-black chronograph watch face, although you will look like a diver or someone who races yachts for a living. The overall experience I had with the G Watch R's hardware was positive, and a lot of that comes down to the smartphone- or tablet-grade processor inside the smartwatch that is keeping everything running smoothly.
The G Watch R has a microUSB port on the side of its bundled magnetic conductive-pin charger, so while it may have a pitiful "all day" (all of one day, and that's if you're lucky) battery like every other smartwatch, you can charge it when you're sitting at your desk at work. It doesn't have the Moto 360's pretty chrome looks, but it also has an extra third of battery capacity more than the Moto 360 and uses a far, far newer and more energy efficient and more powerful internal processor.
And, of course, like every other Android Wear smartwatch, the G Watch R's software experience is unadulterated. That's both a good thing — the control interface and design and integrated features are consistent across every model out there, for one — and a bad thing. At the moment, Android Wear is definitely pretty, but it doesn't really do much. Voice control needs a fair bit of work, as well. If LG's G Watch R can evolve with what should hopefully be some pivotal and much-needed updates to the platform it's working with, then it could be a great novelty device.