As far back as the Gear S2, Samsung watches have had physical bezels. However the Active and Active 2 did not. Every single review up until that point would start off talking about the "satisfying click" of the rotating bezel so this was a surprise. Now with the Galaxy Watch 3, it's back and I wanted to talk about it.
When it comes to usability the physical bezel is better. There is no ambiguity about what to do or how to do it. With a touch bezel, there is less of a visible que where to put your finger meaning you'll find yourself swiping a second time when you don't get it quite right.
Tizen's UI also takes better advantage of the physical bezel. Texting without it, you have to swipe from the left to pick a mode. With it however all you need to do is rotate the bezel to go from text mode to emoji mode. You can wake your watch up with the bezel meaning if you want to get to a widget, you're just a click away even while the screen is off.
The physical bezel protects your screen. I've bumped and scraped my Gear S3 many times for over a year and have only managed to leave a scratch on the military grade steel. My Galaxy Watch Active 2 has a very strong screen but eventually I did manage to scratch it on a granite counter top. Scratches on the screen are way more distracting than they are on the bezel.
The physical bezel also makes your watch look more like a time piece.
The physical bezel however is big and bulky. My Active 2 is a very svelte device by comparison because it does not have a bezel. And eventually that physical bezel is going to break down a lot sooner than any part of the Active 2. My Gear S3's bezel for example would start ejecting black pieces of plastic and would slow down. And if I showered with certain types of body wash my Gear S3 would clog up. A couple of rotations would fix both of these issues but it does make you wonder how long the bezel will last.
All in all I still prefer the physical bezel. It's just so much more usable and I hope Samsung finds ways to slim it down giving us the best of both worlds.
Thanks for reading!