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The Google Pixel Watch is finally up for preorder — and we got to try it

Google’s Pixel Watch is one of the most anticipated gadgets of the year, to the point where even the non-techies in my life won’t stop asking me about it. It’s easy to see why — while iPhone and Galaxy phone owners have long enjoyed smartwatches made specifically for their devices, those on team Pixel have had to rely on hit-or-miss third party options.

The promise of a Pixel smartwatch built to work seamlessly with your Pixel phone — giving you access to your messages, notifications and fitness stats without you having to lift a finger — is an alluring one, and it’s finally becoming a reality. When you throw in the fact that the Pixel Watch is also effectively a full blown Fitbit fitness tracker, you have what could be one of the best smartwatches out there.

I had a chance to go hands-on with the Pixel Watch at Google’s Made by Google event in New York, and while it’s too early to tell if it’ll be worth the $349, it’s looking like Pixel fans will finally have a proper Apple Watch equivalent to call their own. Here’s everything you need to know.

Mike Andronico/CNN

The Google Pixel Watch is available for preorder now, and will start shipping next week. The watch starts at $349 for the base Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled model, while the LTE version — which can be used without a phone nearby — will run you $399. Preordering either model will get you 6 months of Fitbit Premium, as well as three months of YouTube Music Premium.

The watch comes in four variations: a Matte Black case with an Obsidian Active band, a Polished Silver case with a Charcoal Active band, a Polished Silver case with a Chalk Active band, and a Champagne Gold case with a Hazel Active band. Of course, you can buy a range of additional bands to customize your Pixel Watch’s look and fit, including a $49 Active Band and $59 Woven Band.

• Google Pixel Watch with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth ($349 at Best Buy)
• Google Pixel Watch with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and LTE ($399 at Best Buy)

Simple and sleek

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Mike Andronico/CNN

The Pixel Watch has a pretty no-frills design, and that’s not a bad thing. It feels like a hybrid of the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch, blending the sleek minimalism of the former and the big circular display of the latter. The watch’s 41mm display is satisfyingly big and colorful, and looked great with the range of traditional and artsy watch faces I tried out. As someone coming from an Apple Watch, it didn’t take me long to get used to navigating the Pixel Watch, whether I was swiping the screen or using the “haptic crown” (which is a lot like Apple’s Digital Crown) on the side of the device.

Weighing just 36 grams, Google’s watch felt comfortable to wear during my limited hands-on time. I found the rubbery Active Band to feel the best — I also tried out the Stretch, Fabric and Leather bands, which looked more attractive but were more coarse to the touch. Google also has metal bands coming in the Spring, so you’ll have no shortage of customizing the Watch to your liking. Google says you’ll be able to create “thousands” of different combinations between the physical watch bands and digital watch faces on offer, whether you want something that mimics a traditional watch or prefer to go loud and colorful.

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Mike Andronico/CNN

The Pixel Watch runs on Google’s Wear OS software, which is the same operating system that powers third-party watches like the Galaxy Watch 5 and Fossil Gen 6. That means you’ll enjoy easy pairing with your Pixel phone, quick access to Google features like Find My Device and Google Assistant, and access to plenty of third-party apps that include Spotify, Strava, MyFitnessPal and Calm.

In terms of battery life, Google says to expect 24 hours on a single charge, as well as the ability to get 50% worth of juice from a quick 30-minute charge.

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Mike Andronico/CNN

As nice as the Google Pixel Watch looks and feels, it’s real killer feature is its deep integration with Fitbit — something made possible by the fact that Google bought the fitness tracking company several years ago. While we’ll have to put the Pixel Watch’s fitness features to the test ourselves, the fact that it can function as a full-on Fitbit alone could make it one of the best Android smartwatches on the market.

Google’s watch features what the company calls “Fitbit’s most accurate heart tracking yet,” using a variety of sensors and machine learning tech to help you stay on top of your heart health. You’ll also be able to utilize Fitbit’s rich suite of sleep tracking capabilities, which include a daily Sleep Score, a full breakdown of your various sleep states and info on long term trends. That’s on top of 40 different workout modes and a Daily Readiness score, which helps you get a sense of how hard you should push yourself on a given day.

The Pixel Watch also integrates with Fitbit Premium, which adds more than 1000 workouts, 400-plus mindfulness session and a deeper look at overall health patterns. The watch includes 6 free months of the service — after that, you’ll have to pay either $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year.

We’ll have to see how the Pixel Watch’s fitness features hold up in real world use, but it’s worth noting that the Fitbit Inspire 2 has long been our best fitness tracker pick thanks to its range of useful workout and sleep tracking abilities. The promise of a more traditional and robust smartwatch that can also be a great fitness tracker certainly has us intrigued.

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Mike Andronico/CNN

If you’re a Pixel phone user or have been holding out for a smartwatch with truly great fitness features, the Google Pixel Watch is worth keeping on your radar. It’s one of the nicest-looking Android watches out there, and its seamless Pixel connectivity (it’ll work with other Android phones too) and robust Fitbit functionality could make it the ultimate smartwatch and fitness tracker all in one. We’ll be putting Google’s new watch through our full review treatment soon, so stay tuned for our final verdict.

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