This Amazfit STRATOS Review takes a look at the key aspects of probably the cheapest traithlon watch available today.
Amazfit STRATOS Review – This is a shortened version of a FULL review…enjoy. It’s still long 🙂
Take a look at the sections that most interest you.
This is a cut-down version of the full review here:
You get a watch and a bespoke charging cradle. Considering there IS onboard music it’s surprising that there are no headphones. The free partner app is simply called ‘Amazfit Watch’.
Your watch has standard, 22mm interchangeable bands and a built-in optical Heart Rate sensor…no need for an optional chest strap.
Headline Differences + Detailed Differences
The Amazfit is CHEAP for a triahtlon watch. That cheapness specifically does NOT COME AT THE EXPENSE of features. It has LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of smart features. “Lots”…got it?
If you are looking for a smaller format watch for your thin wrists then perhaps go for the Suunto Spartan TRAINER (tri-capability), the Garmin Forerunner 735XT (tri capability) or the Garmin Fenix 5S Plus.
I manually weighed the STRATOS as 60g which is light and its screen is pretty much the same size as the Garmin Forerunner 935.
Aesthetic Differences – Practical Differences
The Amazfit STRATOS review ed here has a unique look. If you buy a Garmin then, like me, it’s likely that all your mates will have one that’s either exactly the same, or very similar. The STRATOS makes you look like you are an individual.
The STRATOS has a super-nice carbon-fibreesque body. It has a beautiful glass touchscreen. The bezel and minute marks around the edge of the bezel look good. I even think the watch face I selected looks both unusual and good – it’s the same one on some of the official product photography from Amazfit. Perhaps the 3 buttons only very slightly let the looks of the whole physical package down a little. In defence of the buttons, they are properly functional and work (press) well.
The strap is not the most expensive I’ve seen but it’s quite good and interchangeable in any case. The supplied strap would be a ‘keeper’ for me. It’s perfectly fine.
I like the overall look.
It has a sporty look and yet, at the same time with a different watch face, it could just about meet my needs for a 247 worksuit-and-sleep watch.
Then we come to the buttons. 3 of them and a touchscreen. Oh dear. To cut to the chase: a proper, practical sports watch needs 5 buttons. Not 1 and a touchscreen like the Vivoactive 3. Not 3 and a touchscreen; it seems that Amazfit sought to copy Suunto with the 3-button Spartan Sport. Herein lies the start of its downfall.
On the face of it the STRATOS has a relatively straightforward menu system. Nothing is nested away too deeply and hidden by a complex menu, like on a Garmin. However each time I touch one of the buttons it seems to do something entirely different to when I last used it. I was going to summarise here how they work…but I just can’t explain it. #UI #UX. Maybe this slide show will help.
Then we come to the touchscreen. I don’t like touchscreens unless they work perfectly. None of them work perfectly. The STRATOS has a touchscreen that sometimes doesn’t quite work. As touchscreens go, however, I’d say it was just about acceptable….at a push.
Music Differences for the Amazfit STRATOS Review
I’ve spent a lot of time recently looking for the best running watch with music. So I’ve looked at lots of different vendors’ compatibility with various streaming services and the geographical restrictions that might come with that. I’ve then seen how such services might have gaps in their libraries that then can’t easily be filled with that same track from your own collection. Ultimately most of the other ‘music solutions’ come down to a fancy way of copying your songs/playlists onto your watch from THEIR internet library.
The Amazfit STRATOS does NONE OF THAT. You manually copy tracks from YOUR personal music library into the cunningly named folder on the watch entitled MUSIC. Hint: It really is that easy.
Payment System Difference
It uses Alipay.
Alipay is bigger than Paypal but has only recently started to make inroads in North America and recently into parts of Europe.
I havent used this functionality.
Operating System Differences
I’m talking here about the operating system on the watch itself and the apps they support.
Apple have WatchOS 4, Fitbit have FitOS 2.x and Google has WearOS 2.x. Polar and Suunto (SPARTAN) have proprietary and closed OS platforms of their own. Garmin have a proprietary OS too but part of that is able to run CIQ (ConnectIQ) apps.
Amazfit have their own, seemingly proprietary, operating system. It looks like it is running on top of Android (on the watch).
Various screens and bits of functionality run as onboard apps and widgets. The system menu shows only 3 watch apps: disconnect alert; standup alert; and daily overview. However on the SMARTPHONE app, see image to the right, the following are referred to as widgets/apps on the watch; weather, hr, music, alarm, compass, stopwatch, sleep, training, timer – each can be disabled if desired.
Whatever it is that resides on the STRATOS seems to tick all tick all the boxes of functionality that need ticking for a sub £200 device. There is some REALLY cool stuff onboard the STRATOS. We’ll look at some of those details later in this Amazfit STRATOS review.
Detailed, Techy Differences
This section is not intended as a replacement to a manual (although I couldn’t find one).
Sports Profiles & Usage
Whilst the number and type of sports profiles are fixed as far as the athlete is concerned, Amazfit do add new ones from time to time.
There IS a TRIATHLON profile and you cannot create a custom profile.
Edit: there is now a customisable 3-sport multisport profile eg which allows duathlon
On the whole, changing to a new sports profile will simply enable/disable the use of a sensor type eg swimming will not look for either an altimeter reading or a bluetooth chest strap or headphones. Also different data fields will be put on the screen for each sport eg cycling might show speed rather than pace. Different sports profiles might further apply different algorithms to OHR, accelerometers and GPS. Certainly a different algorithm is enabled when you choose pool swimming to detect your stroke rate and there are additional options on some profiles, like swimming, where you can choose a custom pool length..
Sports Profile Details – Some details in this Amazfit STRATOS Review
There is no ability to change the order of your sports profiles or to create favourites. With the exception of the ‘triathlon profile’ you can change the appearance within the sports profile and the way the sports profile works.
Swiping up from the start screen of each sports profile allows you to change some of the many sports-specific options that are relevent to that sport. There are a nice number of configuration options.
Sports Profile Functioning includes: Autolap; 3d data; Background screen colour (black or white); Alerts – hr level, pace, lap;Course import; Pair accessory; and Training target: distance, time , calorie
Sports Profile Appearance includes:Data field order (via app); Primary screen’s data fields – 4 or 6; Realtime stats – here you can choose one of; pace, heart rate, stroke rate. pace level, altitude, speed and this goes on a dedicated page
It’s best to start to configure each sport from the app. Taking a lead from WAHOO, the Amazfit STRATOS let’s you order the data fields by priority by dragging their position or enabling/disabling them entirely from the sports profile. Some data fields cannot be disabled.
Each profile comes with a dynamic number of screens which change mostly based on the number of data fields you have just enabled, so usually there are 3 to 5 screens.
I mention the triathlon profile separately as it works differently to the other sports profiles and it is a true multisport profile that takes you from SWIM to BIKE to RUN with transitions.It seems to use the current settings that you have for the separate sports.
An adequate number of common data fields are pre-installed on the device.
If sensor support is added in the future for new sensor types then the number of data fields available to display should also increase.
Sports Usage – Plans & Structured Workouts
A further piece of evidence to look for, when contemplating how serious or not a device is, is the support for complex and customised structured workouts – or lack of such support. Personally I use structured workouts less these days but support for them remains important regardless of what I do.
The STRATOS does make a reasonable attempt at supporting complex, structured workouts. Amazfit’s offering is more limited than Garmin’s but some other, more expensive, competing products have no support for this at all.
It is possible to have repeates of (4minutes + 1minute). That kind of functionality – shown in the image to the right. It is also possible to set alerts and also to end an interval by pressing the lap key – although pressing the lap key to end an interval ONLY works when the workout is pre-defiend to do that.
The vibrate alert at the end of an interval is customisable but even at the highest level is still relatively weak – but OK for me. At the end of the interval there is no sound played back through headphones although the sound does cut out at that point. Intentional??
Even better than this, the STRATOS comes with some pre-canned training programs for set race distances such as Half Marathon and 5k. I didn’t go into these or follow these in detail but from a quick look and having one running in the background for a couple of weeks, they look potentially very useful. Again, you don’t get this sort of thing in that many other competing products and, for the target market, it’s a REALLY GREAT thing to include. Nice job.
Also included is an adaptive plan from Firstbeat (for running). Each day you run to the RECOMMENDED TARGET and Firstbeat+STRATOS adjust your plan for the future according to what you achieve.
ALSO included from Firstbeat are guided workouts. You choose the kind of target TRAINING EFFECT (TE) you want to achieve and the STRATOS tells you what to do as the workout progresses. This could be termed as ‘real-time coaching’ – however I didn’t seem to get any feedback from the watch whilst doing this either from alerts on the watch or through earbuds. I DID get feedback when the TE goal was achieved.
But what you also get is a rather wonderful post-exercise workout summary PACKED FULL of insight and some quite beautiful screens. Here are just some of the screens you might see:
Activity & Sleep Usage
The STRATOS delivers LOTS of data and analyses for your activity and sleep usage. Steps, distance, calories, floors, heart rate and sleep are all covered. And some are covered to quite some depth in places. In general it’s pretty amazing how much is packed into the watch. The Amazfit app is averagely light on content but the stuff on the watch is possibly more comprehensive than any non-Garmin watch I’ve seen at any price point.
There are daily and weekly summaries, trends and many aspects that I’ve not even touched on anywhere in this review. The STRATOS is impressive in its ambition and scope.
Following A Course
Apps are currently being written to automate this.
- Copy a GPX file into the ‘gpxdata’ folder on the watch.
- Open your sports profile and choose to load a course
- After you press ‘GO’ the last of the available screens will show the breadcrumb route-following functionality
Sensors – Connectivity
You can pair a heart rate monitor that supports Bluetooth SMART (BLE). And you can also pair Bluetooth headphones for music playback and other audio feedback. If you want some more details on this then here is a more detailed and separate post for you:
I had no problems pairing with any of my Jabra headphones. These are all top-notch (aka expensive) headphones with the exception of the Sennheiser. If you get any one of these from Amazon and you have pairing issues or dropout issues…send them back within a month. Sorted. The Sennheiser is probably an appropriate price bracket for the STRATOS and the NuForce BE Free5 are geat sub $/£/Eu100 earbuds.
- Jabra Elite Active 65t $170/£150
- Jabra Elite Sport £125/£110
- Bose SoundSport FREE $199/£160
- Jaybird X3 Wireless $120/£100
- Jaybird Run $159/£140
- Bose SoundSport Wireless $199/£180
- Sennheiser PMX 686G Sports $35/£30
- Aftershokz Trekz Air $180/£160
- JBL Under Armour Sport $120/£100
- LifeBEAM Vi $250/£210
Try these cheap ones:
Amazfit Smartphone App, Watch FAces & Connectivity
Amazfit’s companion app for the STRATOS DOES THE BASICS WELL.
You can get many more watch faces than the standard ones at sites like AmazfitWatchFaces.com
It really is as simple as copying tracks to the MUSIC folder on the watch, pair headphones & play the music.
There are a few music options, basically volume, loop/shuffle nad skip to next or previous track.
It’s shame that the album art that I definitely copied doesn’t show up on the screen during playback
It has basic music support. But it works. And it’s straightforward to use.
I wrote a specific post about the GPS performance of the Amazfit STRATOS & Garmin Forerunner 645 which is linked to immediately below. Interestingly both received the same score. A score that I would say is not quite good enough and a score which was effectively repeated in a re-test.
I have now completed quite a few runs where I have specifically looked at the ‘instant’ pace of the STRATOS compared to a STRYD reading on another watch. It looks like the ‘instant’ pace from STRATOS is a 30-second smoothed average (or similar); consequently STRATOS generally looks quite good but is not responsive. HOWEVER when under trees or near buildings for anything but a few seconds the readings goes significantly awry by, in some cases, over 30 secs/km (45secs/mi). So: the instant pace appears good in the open…but that probably masks reality.
Let’s see how the GPS performance translates to SPEED accuracy on the bike. As you can see immediately below, deriving SPEED when cycling is MUCH easier and looks accurate.
Returning to running you can see that the speed/pace is not quite so consistent between devices (speed displays better than pace on this graph software). Generally ALL running devices find it hard to get the speed right for a variety of reasons. If anything, the green line of the STRATOS gives a more smoothed track.
Heart Rate Accuracy + Functions
Here are 90 minutes of steady-state running.The blue line is the chest strap and presumably correct.The 645 does well and even the STRATOS does alright despite two periods of notably low readings. I’d take that result from the much more expensive 645 and I would just about accept the performance of the STRATOS too.
Here we have another hour of steady state running but this time with some bursts of speed thrown in. At the start it’s likely that the chest strap is wrong (it’s my original HRM-TRI and on its 3rd battery). The STRATOS is just plain wrong. After the ‘chat’ period when I met someone at 20 minutes, the 645 struggles, regains confidence and then goes off on a tangent to some place more interesting than where I was running. The Polar OH1 wins here. The problem for YOU with this sort of run is that you would only have one device (the STRATOS) and you may well think it was right. The data does not appear to be wrong until you compare it to something else…you won’t have a comparator.
This is the final chart and this time it is from a bike ride. Hint: Don’t use the oHR from the STRATOS from a bike ride – it’s the additional vibrations and the constriction at the wrist that make cycling oHR performance even worse than for running.
HR Summary: If HR performance during a workout is important to you then you need to either buy a chest strap or optical arm band (OH1, TICKR FIT, Scosche RHYTHM+). If you continue to use the onboard HR then ALL OF THE FIRSTBEAT insights will likely be totally wrong. For resting/sleeping levels of optical HR usage then my feeling would be that this sensor is OK for that.
You get all of this clever stuff from Firstbeat thrown in. And it is clever. Be mindful that inaccurate optical HR from the wrist will cause issues with the data that Firstbeat has to deal with. This should be rectified by a chest strap and most newish chest straps should also produce HRV data that some of the Firstbeat algorithms might use. I would suggest for the STRATOS that you get the Polar H10, OH1 or H7. Alternatively consider a TICKR FIT, or Scosche Rhythm+ or Rhythm24. Cheap Bluetooth chest strap HRMs can also be perfectly fine.
Firstbeat’s calculation of calories can be shown in realtime as a data field during a workout. Various summaries and trends of calories expended are shown elsewhere on the watch, for example in the WEEKLY REPORT.
As far as I can see only active calories are reported ie those accumulated during your workout.
Here is a pretty picture of the compass, which also nicely appears when following a route or viewing a GPS track of where you have been. When running, the compass heading naturally moves around a lot but when stationary (eg for hiking) it looks like it would be much more useful.
Latitude, longtitude, altitude and pressure are also avaialble on a secondary screen to the compass.
Here is the weather from the weather app and there is even more weather detail following on from the one screen I show here.
A race predictor is included but this is not powered by Firstbeat’s algorithms.
Amazfit STRATOS Specifications
- Construction: Ceramic frame. Stainless steel finish. Gorilla Glass (Source: techradar)
- Size: 46mm diameter
- Band width: 22mm
- Display size: 1.34” / 320×300 px
- Type: Always-on transflective color LCD touch screen
- Weight: 2.5 oz / 70 g
- Processor: 1.2 GHz Dual Core, 512 MB of RAM (possibly Ingenic M200S)
- Storage: 4GB Total (2 GB is usable)
- Connection: Bluetooth 4.0 / BLE + WiFi
- Battery life: 5 days regular use / 11 days basic use. 290mAh
- Water resistance: 5 ATM certified, equivalent to about 80 PSI, 164 feet or 50 meters water depth.
- Sensors: Optical (PPG) HR sensor, acceleration sensor, gyroscope, geomagnetic sensor, light sensor, Triaxial Accelerometer, GPS, GLONASS, barometer (baro source: amazfitcentral.com)
Source: amazfit.com +others
Links & Bugs Unearthed In this Amazfit STRATOS Review
In this Amazfit STRATOS Review I do not systematically ‘test’ any device, despite using the word ‘test’ quite a lot. But I come across bugs and quirks from time-to-time.
- The only significant bug that I found was that the optical sensor lights kept firing even when an external heart rate monitor was paired and in use.
- The word ‘mileage’ is used in several places where it should read ‘km’
- The most notable quirks would be the functions of the buttons and having bluetooth pairing options in 2 different places.
Price, Availability & Discounts
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The Amazfit STRATOS is globally available NOW
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In this Amazfit STRATOS Review we have found an intriguing device that is at the same time both flawed and fantastic.
The STRATOS is NOT an appropriate watch for a competitive athlete. But for a sporty person who also wants a super smart sports watch then this is a great device. If it’s your first tri watch or a running-with-music watch then it’s a nice choice.
The flaws in this product at this price point were both predictable and avoidable for both GPS and oHR. Garmin will not be quaking in their boots – although a modified and improved STRATOS 2 could decimate their sales of the 935 in a year or so.
The flaws of the product are in the accuracy of the sensors. HR and elevation are just not up to the job. GPS is ‘meh’ or ‘alright’ and on a par with many Garmin devices. The touchscreen has mass appeal but ‘proper’ athletes will want 5 buttons.
The problem for me, and people like me, is that we use sports watches as a tool and that tool NEEDS actionable data not pretty smush. Whilst a decent, external Bluetooth heart rate sensor CAN resolve the HR issue I have no way of seeing sufficiently accurate running pace or cycling power. I simply can’t use the device for a lot of the time as my main training device. But it’s fine as a device to support casual sports usage and all the smart feature are truly GREAT.
On the front of the retail box, in capital letters, it specifically says “AMAZFIT STRATOS: MULTISPORT GPS SMARTWATCH‘. Like some other companies the STRATOS is trying to pretend that it is a proper multisport watch when, really, it isn’t. Don’t get me wrong if you are participating in a triathlon for a bit of semi-serious fun then you will be perfectly fine with the STRATOS. But it’s triathlon functionality is restricted and if it had NOT made that claim, I probably wouldn’t even be saying this. But here goes..
Once STRATOS includes the following functionality then it will be a ‘proper’, ‘pro’ multisport watch:
- Ability to create custom, repeating multisport profiles (brick, Otillo, aquathlon, trail-based) edit: Duathlon is now possible
- Ability to support a bike power meter
- Ability to support a footpod or significantly improved GPS accuracy
- Ideally also running power support; ANT+ sensor support; FIT file support and 5 buttons. I’ve just described the Garmin Forerunner 935 or Fenix 5S Plus haven’t I? 😉
If it included all of those abilities for £200/$250 then it would sell 10s of thousands of units. As it is it will still sell many thousands. It’s good. With caveats. Nevertheless, that’s not too much that NEEDS to be improved. Sure it will need new hardware. But it’s tantalisingly close…
Let’s be more positive. It’s got: Geo-specific contactless payments; music; Firstbeat tools; beautiful hardware; a decent battery; structured workouts; a compass; route functionality and SO much more. AMAZFIT clearly focussed their development efforts on creating a more mass appeal sports watch and they’ve done a great job at that.
Being positive again. AMAZFIT have placed a stake in the ground. A large stake, with spikey bits on it, for all to see. They have delivered oodles of functionality on a pretty device. What have the, non-Garmin, competition been doing for the last few years? I had mostly assumed it must be really hard to deliver a new, functionally rich sports device. Clearly it can’t be that hard as AMAZFIT have done it. In some respects they have OVER-done it – there is so much functionality on the watch. Why are some of the market incumbants taking so long to come up with something similar to this or better than this?
The AMAZFIT STRATOS is an awesome device.
If you’ve read this review you will be aware of some of the pitfalls it has. If those pitfalls are of minimal concern to you then you will be super-happy with the STRATOS.
Me? I’m only ever going to use the Forerunner 935 for racing triathlons. But there is DEFINATELY a place for the STRATOS in my training and product-testing regime. I will quite happily use it with headphones for entertainment and with a bluetooth chest strap as a HR recording device. And I like the looks of it.
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