The Amazfit STRATOS seemed to me to initially be a cheap and cheerful low-end watch that someone had photoshopped up very nicely. It looked like it might even be runnning Google’s WearOS.
Of course; that’s ALL totally wrong.
The STRATOS looks AWESOME when close up in real life. It has a carbon-fibre-esque shell and a beautifully smooth, large and round touchscreen display. The colours on it are AWESOME. Far, far better than anything Garmin, Polar or Suunto have ever produced to date. If you’ve played with a WearOS watch like the LG Watch or Mobvoi Ticwatch then it’s something akin to that level of quality display. The interchangeable strap is alright and, if not, HEY! it’s interchangeable.
The smartwatch side of it is super-clever. You can ‘find my phone’ and see the connected 7 day weather forecast. You want onboard music? You got it. You want a compass? You got it. You want a barometric altimeter? You go it. You want Garmin-levels of sportswatch feature-booty? You got it. Sleep tracker? Stopwatch? Alarm? Continuous HR? Lots of sports profiles? Steps? Inbuilt training programs? Watchfaces? Vibrations? Auto-uploads? Training targets? Custom pool sizes? You got it, you got it, you got it. What if that ALARM screen (or any of the others) annoy you? Don’t worry, you can turn them completely off and hide them
For about £150 or $200 you can buy one … if you know where to look. The English-language models ARE now available. Some people are buying the Chinese versions and ‘flashing’ the ROM…don’t do that.
It’s a 3-button touchscreen and that’s where the troubles start. I’ve been using it for about a week and the button-presses seem to change what they do each time I use it. I think it is the logic of the buttons/screen/UI but I’m STILL not entirely sure !! The touchscreen is alright when you mean to use it as a touchscreen but, hey, it’s a touchscreen. A touchscreen on a sports watch.
It’s time for that elusive first run.
You can pair up with your BLE headphones for onboard music and with a chest strap but that seems to be it as far as BLE sensors go. No footpods or cadence sensors or power meters though. That’s the first sign we are NOT targetting the Ironmen and serious triathlon Age Groupers.
You fire up your triathlon profile and it sometimes takes a little too long to lock onto a GPS fix but we’re talking about 2016 levels of wait not 2011 levels of wait. It supposedly has GLONASS. While you’re waiting you can configure some alerts or marvel at the 3D data settings. And then you notice it’s already picked up your heart rate from the onboard optical heart rate monitor and the readings look about right….super cool.That will do nicely, thank you very much Mr Amazfit (or Mrs…)
If you want to change around the data fields then you have to do that on the app. That’s OK and a little in the style of WAHOO with the ’tiles’. We like Wahoo. And now we like the STRATOS too 🙂
An on-screen countdown (sometimes) does its thing and you are off. I’m looking at one of 3 data screens for pool swimming, 6 metrics on the first screen. Yummy. It’s auto-locked the touchscreen for swimming…doh! Well that’s DOH to all the other vendors who have a touchscreen that don’t do that!! Nice move Amazfit. The buttons are a little bit ‘old school button’ and I don’t like them but they are a nice size, larger than normal and with a positive press and you get a positive vibrational feedback. So that’s pretty good to use, I suppose.
You do your funky sports stuff and save the results.
The post-workout summary screens are awesome in their pie-charty, graphical wonderfulness. There is some Firstbeat goodness thrown in for good measure. You can manually save a GPX file on the watch (strange choice of file format I know) or blast up your outdoor run or bike workouts to STRAVA via the AMAZFIT app.
Jumping back up to the app your VO2max and Training Load rear their beautiful heads. No doubt the results are as accurate as the optical heart rate readings you’ve just taken (ahem). There will be another post today about GPS accuracy on the STRATOS but as a hint on HR accuracy…BUY A HR STRAP.
The altimetry really is not great – I’ve seen other reports to the contrary. The optical HR can be alright and the GPS is just about acceptable. Now I’m grumpy again. 🙁
On the positive side the battery seems pretty decent. It does eat through the juice when the beautiful screen is on and especially when it is cranked up to 5/5. But all beautiful screens cranked up to 5/5 eat juice…it’s their thing. Maybe the STRATOS wont give you 30 -odd hours of GPS+sports usage BUT BUT BUT it certainly will NOT need charging every day. The point being: it has a sensible battery. You are NOT going to do a HIM or IM so don’t worry about the battery too much.
I’ll say that again. IT HAS A SENSIBLE BATTERY. FINALLY. JEEZ. HOW DIFFICULT IS THAT PEOPLE? THIS STARTUP (ish) has just done it.
Amazfit deliver loads of features in their first tri watch … Suunto just do it too please, you have the hardware to compete with Garmin…Amazfit do NOT!
But. I remind you of the price tag. IT’S CHEAP. I might even say that again in a minute in case you haven’t got the message.
The Amazfit STRATOS is never going to rank as the best running watch, or the best triathlon watch or even the best running watch with music. However if you change ‘best’ for ‘best value’ then it becomes a contender
So that’s a super-quick, semi-serious run through
The ambition of AMAZFIT with the STRATOS is fantastic. They have gone to a very deep swimming pool and jumped right in the deep end. Luckily they can just about swim. There’s work to do on this. But their front crawl is as good as mine (well… almost)
But they REALLY HAVE done a bit of research. They seem to have meshed many of the things that Suunto, Garmin and Google (WearOS) have tried to do with their interfaces and they seem to broadly know what they are doing. The 3-button touchscreen interface is a compromise and some of the onboard sensors might cause them AND YOU problems BUT people who are buying their first triathlon watch may well not care about all of that sensor accuracy stuff and, in any case, may not even realise. I can guarantee, if nothing else, they are going to have a rather EXCITING toy to play with.
I’m not sure if the STRATOS will ever support additional sensor types (power meter, footpod) or custom multi-sport profiles (brick, duathlon, otillo), or multiple sesors of the same type – so it will never be a pro tri watch; even with firmware upgrades.
I need to do a bit more detailed analysis on how the STRATOS works AND THAT WILL FOLLOW IN A REVIEW but it’s safe to say that the STRATOS is not going to threaten the high-end models of the triathlon world. Ever. However if I were Garmin and Wahoo and Polar and Suunto I might well be quite worried about what they come out with next. Or, indeed, I might even be worried about how a device like this can take away the sales at the lower end of the tri watch market from the Garmin Forerunner 735XT and Suunto Spartan Trainer.
Once again I remind you of the price tag. It’s cheap. It even seems to work…
The STRATOS could be an early incarnation of a Garmin…lots of features but some bugs and hardware issues too. But, hey, that didn’t seem to do Garmin any harm did it?
Would I buy one? 🙂 well I clearly did for this review (I really did, it’s not a PR freebie).
I’ll probably keep it to see how the watch develops but it’s not targetted at someone like me who at least tries to take triathlon seriously. WITH RESERVATIONS, it’s worth a punt if you are strapped for cash. You should be able to work through any sport-related feubles you find with the STRATOS and complete your workouts and races.