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Amazfit Stratos review: GPS sports watch rivals the majors for only $200


amazfit-stratos-1.jpg

Image: Huami

List all of the specifications of the Amazfit Stratos and you would think it would cost $400 to $500. At $200, you may just be willing to accept the bulk, put up with the user interface, and realize you may need to fall back to manual .GPX file uploads to view and archive your GPS data.

At $199.99, it’s easier to forgive some of the current flaws in this GPS sports watch. It has solid battery life and incorporates carbon fiber, ceramic, and plastic materials. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks running, sleeping, and walking with it and it is a fairly compelling product.

Specifications

  • Display: 1.34 inch (34mm) 320 x 320 pixels resolution color LCD touch screen made with 2.5D Gorilla Glass
  • Water resistance: 5 ATM
  • Storage: 4GB for data and music storage
  • Bands: Standard 22mm band with quick release pins
  • Connectivity and sensors: Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi, GPS, GLONASS, optical HR, barometer, compass, accelerometer
  • Battery: 290 mAh. Rated for 20 hours in GPS training mode, five days in regular smartwatch use, and 11 days with limited notifications and basic use
  • Dimensions: 47.5 mm diameter x 11.7 mm and 70 grams (2.5 ounces)

Hardware

The Amazfit Stratos looks great and is created with high end materials. It has 2.5D Gorilla Glass on the display, a ceramic bezel, stainless steel buttons, carbon fiber and plastic watch casing, and a silicone band. It looks great and feels well constructed.

The watch is big, even by my standards. It rivals my chunky Garmin Fenix 3 HR in size. It is much lighter than that Fenix 3 HR due to the use of carbon fiber instead of stainless steel. That said, it is not as large as many of the big watches I see on men today. This is clearly a watch for people with large wrists though so has a specific market.

The display is color, but it is not vibrant like we see on an Apple Watch or Gear S3 Frontier. It is a subtle color display, but more colorful than the Amazfit Bip. It is a touchscreen display so you swipe around to navigate. You also need to first press one of the buttons to activate the display for touchscreen usages.

There are three buttons on the left side and they serve many functions. The upper button has the following functions:

  • Short press: Switch widgets left and scroll up
  • Long press: Display quick setup interface and return to the previous interface
  • Press for 4 seconds: Power on the watch
  • Press for 6 seconds: Display restart and power off interface for the watch
  • Press for 10 seconds: Power off the watch

A short press of the middle button displays the workout list and a long press returns to the watch face. A short press of the lower button switches widgets right and scrolls down while a long press of this button takes you to the notifications list.

The heart rate monitor is centered on the back with four connection points for the charger above the heart rate sensor. The watch snaps securely into the dock that is then powered via USB-A.

A fairly standard 22mm silicone band is included with quick release pins. You have the option to purchase any number of 22mm bands from Amazon or other resellers in order to customize your experience.

Watch software

The watch is powered by a custom software package that has a watch face with widgets and apps that you scroll through and setup in the smartphone app. There are 14 watch faces to choose from, but you can also load your own image and create a custom watch face.

There are nine widgets and apps to choose from, including weather, heart rate, music, alarm, compass, stopwatch, sleep, training, and timer. By default, these are installed on the watch out of the box and accessed by swiping right or left through the available widgets. You can customize the order of these widgets/apps within the smartphone application.

Press the hardware button to enable the watch. You can swipe up to reveal notifications and left to right to clear a notification. Swipe down from the watch face to view connectivity, battery status, date, time, weather, silent toggle, airplane mode toggle, brightness toggle, and settings menu.

Settings on the watch include connection, time format, units, activate on raise, auto upload, and a ton more. You can control and setup just about everything on the watch itself, but you do need a smartphone connection and the app to make the watch fully functional and capable for use.

Smartphone software

The Amazfit Watch app is available on iOS and Android. Over the past two weeks I have used it with an iPhone X, Huawei P20 Pro, and Samsung Galaxy S9+.

After setting up the connection and your watch, the first display you see when you launch the smartphone app is a dashboard showing the status page. This page shows your steps, sync status, heart rate, and sleep status.

Tapping on any of these areas will take you to that specific data set and provide much more data with access to day, week, and month history. For example, steps shows you the steps over the day, distance, calories burned, and then below that are activities such as light activity, fast walking, slow walking, running, etc.

The heart rate aspect of this watch seems very limited. When you go to the heart rate section you will see where you can initiate a heart rate reading manually and then have a single HR recorded. There is a continuous heart rate option, but that appears to only record heart rate during a workout. Thus, it does not appear that a true resting heart rate can be recorded on the Stratos and this is an important indicator for daily health.

The sleep module shows deep and light sleep, along with wake time. It also shows you when you fell asleep and what time you woke up. My testing reveals it is fairly accurate, but clearly not as advanced as what we now see with the new Fitbit devices.

Adjacent to the status tab is the sport tab that shows you the data that was recorded during your workouts. This functioned once for me, but every run after that first run never synced over to the smartwatch app. You can connect the Stratos in its cradle to your computer’s USB port and manually grab the GPX data (after you select to export it on the watch) from the storage on the watch. This should not be required, but was the only way I could get to that data. There is also an option to sync to Strava and again, this only worked for me the first time I recored a run.

The final tab to the right is the profile tab. Here is where you can see your VO2max and training load results, provided through a partnership with Firstbeat. I was very surprised to see this data provided on a value watch like this as the only other watch I have seen it on is the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music.

The My Watch section lets you enter specific settings for the sports you want to appear on the watch, the location for weather, and manage files in order to sync music or GPX files to your watch. A WiFi Direct connection is setup on the watch so that music transfer is fast. There are no music services supported on the Amazfit Stratos so you will need to own the music you want to listen to.

You also manage the apps and widgets loaded on the watch through the profile tab in the smartphone app. Updates are also managed here.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

Owned by Huami, and the exclusive provider of wearable technology for Xiaomi, Amazfit is one of the largest wearable device companies globally and recently filed for an IPO on the NYSE. After being impressed by the Amazfit Bip, I was excited to see what $200 could buy you with a GPS sports watch.

The list of specifications for the Amazfit Stratos is impressive and the amount of data it captures during a measured activity is beyond what we see with all but the highest end GPS-enabled devices. However, the connectivity to a smartwatch has proven inconsistent and buggy every single day. This includes a complete lack of syncing any runs after my first to a smartphone so that I had to connect to the watch manually through USB and collect the exported GPX file to upload the data to my preferred services.

The display looks great in direct sunlight, but I struggled to see it much of the time indoors when in auto mode. I pushed it up to the highest brightness level, but even then it was often hard to see in many lighting environments.

The Amazfit Stratos is a big watch, close in size to my large Fenix 3 HR, so make sure you understand the size before buying one.

The advertised five day standard watch battery life is accurate. While in GPS mode with music playing from the Stratos, I saw an average of about 15 percent battery consumption every 30 minutes of use so about two minutes of GPS tracking and music playback for each percent battery capacity. This works out to likely 6 to 7 hours of GPS and music playback.

Unlike some other GPS spors watches with music support, the Amazfit Stratos streamed music to all headset I tested when worn on either wrist flawlessly. I never experience any music skipping so the Stratos must have a fairly strong Bluetooth system installed.

The Stratos lacks support for a streaming music service, has no payment technology, provides very basic read only notifications, does not have integrated LTE, has no way to connect to other accessories (bike cadence or speed sensors, for example), does not have a community of users to challenge each other, and has no support for third party apps. It has GPS and supports many common activities. It captures a ton of data and sometimes syncs to Strava.

The Amazfit Stratos is an affordable GPS sports watch ($199.99 on Amazon), but it’s not for me as I experienced too many frustrations with syncing to a smartphone. I’ll be sticking with the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music for my GPS sports watch needs.



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