I received a £100 voucher thanks to my Xiaomi Mi 11 (review) purchase. A quick glance over UK Xiaomi Mi Store revealed that the most reasonable way to dispose of such a voucher would be a Xiaomi Mi Watch. Now that I have it in my hands I have to decide: Do I like it better than Amazfit GTR (review) I had been using up until now?
Xiaomi Mi Watch
Xiaomi Mi Watch isn’t a smartwatch in the WearOS or iWatch sense. It’s not a bad thing, but if you are getting it, expecting all smartwatch features, you are setting yourself up for a disappointment. I’d appreciate more transparency in marketing these wearables, as they have more in common with smart bands than smartwatches.
On the surface, Xiaomi Mi Watch is very similar to Amazfit GTR 47mm, with less rounded edges, and completely covered with a glass display. Two buttons present also feel identical to the Amazfit competitor. I picked the navy colour, but straps can be easily replaced thanks to the quick-release mechanism. Despite the size (47mm), the device is very light (32g) and I hardly feel it on my wrist. But if you think that’s too much, you could consider Xiaomi Mi Band 6, which just came out with a very similar set of features.
While personally, I’m used to Amazfit design, the flat surface of the Xiaomi Mi Watch had grown on me. With an elegant watch face, you could wear it with more formal attire.
The 1.39-inch, 454 x 454 resolution AMOLED touch screen display looks nice and vivid indoors but could use a little more brightness on a sunny day. To conserve the battery, workouts are recorded with a dark background making it hard to read at times in a direct sunlight.
For everyday situations the display is great and you won’t find yourself squinting the eyes to read the content. Automatic brightness adjustments can be overridden if you need that extra brightness boost to use it in the full sunshine.
Get all the vitals
Apart from heart rate sensor Mi Watch comes with an array of sensors to measure your vitals:
The latest trend is to include an Sp0₂ sensor that measures oxygenated blood. In reality, the sensor is under implemented. To get the percentage value, you have to find the menu, hold still for 20 seconds and you are probably going to find out that you are totally ok. Anyone suffering from breathing issues will know they are not ok, and as sensor data is for guidance only, the metric is just a PR gimmick.
Stress and Energy are fun to follow, and despite not having the ability to track naps, having one mid-day does restore your energy levels a little bit. I’m sure in time we will see an integration with a calorie-counting app.
Sleep seems on point with what I used to see on Amazfit GTR, the times I fall asleep and wake up are spot on. I don’t have any way of verifying REM patterns so I will hold off my judgement here. The sleep score seems to represent how I feel in the morning. The times I woke up at night is accurate, at least as much as I can remember.
Wrist-based sensors will have a hard time getting your vitals without your cooperation, apart from placing the watch in a correct position (about 2cm from your wrist bone) I strongly recommend shaving the hair of the forearm and don’t overtight the strap. I know that shaving the hair may seem unreasonable for some of you, but if you want reliable results from optical sensors, make sure nothing impedes the sensor. The last tip for accurate sensor readings during workouts is to avoid long sleeves.
Xiaomi Mi Watch has a series of life-improving fixes (over what Amazfit GTR offers), and while I’m a little bit sour over the lack of NFC and storage for music, the wearable brings features that I wish I had on my Amazfit GTR.
Now it’s possible to control the music playback from Mi Watch during exercise. Something that was not possible on single-threaded devices like Mi Band or Amazfit GTR. It’s a nice touch, but you still can’t start the music directly from the widget. You will need a workaround for that. I did one for Mi Band 4 and Amazfit GTR, so I might follow up with Mi Watch too.
All GPS of the word
I’m very impressed with how quickly Mi Watch gets a GPS fix. My previous devices would leave me hanging from time to time for 2-3 min before getting the fix, but Xiaomi’s wearable does it almost instantly. It supports most of the modern GPS systems (GPS / GLONASS / BDS / Galileo) and based on the accuracy of the workouts vs metering done with a verified device the results are spot on.
A nice addition is the inclusion of Alexa as your assistant. This can be done separately to your default phone’s assistant so you can have 2 assistant this way. Xiaomi Mi Watch comes with a microphone built-in and the information from Alexa is displayed on the watch as text. It’s nice to have quick replies without listening to a whole voice paragraph.
I really like the new notifications. These are available in the pull-down (Android style) drop-down menu, and don’t disappear on you. While you cannot action any of these, you can only dismiss and see the notification in full including properly formatted emojis.
Camera remote and other
For selfie lovers, there is a camera remote screen and buttons can be mapped with shortcuts. Long press on the MODE button brings up Alexa, short one gives you a quick access menu. While START button brings up your preferred exercise.
There are all the workouts you could think of. Unless you are into some bizarre sports, you will find workouts settings from running to pub darts and fishing! I’m way more conservative with the things I do to my body so for the purpose of this review I will focus on running and cycling.
I had to experiment a little bit with the watch optimal position as this was my first time with Mi Watch, but I got there in the end. Once in the correct position, Mi Watch was reporting pretty much the same vitals. There is an automatic workout detection, just in case you forget to record it which is something that got introduced with Xiaomi Mi Band 5 (review).
To test the Xiaomi Mi Watch, I took it for my usual cycling session. Just over 30km which is about an hour effort depending on how well into my exercise routine I am at the time. As I have my Sigma Sport ROX 10 attached to the bike and a chest strap monitoring my heart, I can reliably spot any significant differences in recorded metrics.
My 1st ride was a bit of a fail. The strap was done too tight and the long sleeve was constantly pushing it closer to the wrist bone than it should have been. On my second ride, I made adjustments and the vitals recorded with Xiaomi Mi Watch were mostly on point.
The overall distance travelled was off by 130 meters and the average heart rate lowered on the watch due to not enabling auto-pause of the workout. Each time I glanced over my cycling computer, the displayed vitals were within 2-3 beats of the cycling computer and the speed and distance very much on point.
Encouraged by the decent results from my cycling trips I decided to take it for a run as well. It was my first run this year, so don’t judge the screenshots too harshly. It was easier to keep the Xiaomi Mi Watch in position as the wearable hadn’t been trapped between the glove and my sleeve. It resulted in a more accurate reading of my vitals.
Despite part of my run is in a forest, the GPS fix was strong and the final track had enough points to accurately record the entire track. The difference between my watch and the Sigma Sport was about 30m over a distance of 2.50km. On both runs, the watch was returning exactly the same distance in the workout, so I will contribute the distance difference to me messing about with pictures and auto-pause on my other unit.
Xiaomi Wear Workouts
You can check the workouts on the Mi Watch or the associated app. Xiaomi Wear has a little bit more information about the session than the watch with some pretty in-depth analysis of your session, suggested improvement metrics and recovery time.
What is a serious omission is the ability to export the workouts. You can export a screenshot and a video overview of the route taken, but there are no options for popular services like Google Fit, Strava etc. You can’t even export GPX files. This really has to change.
edit (12/06//2021): Strava has been added to export options.
At full blast (everything to the max with exception of the always-on display) I was getting about 5 days of use on a single charge. With Amazfit GTR I got almost twice as much and about 25 days when I set policies to save up power here and there. It’s not a terrible battery life, but at this point, I’m spoiled by what my previous wearable could do.
I’m honestly split. The lack of NFC and storage for music are big misses in my opinion. With shorter battery life and limited watch faces *(that I like) Xiaomi Mi Watch doesn’t feel like an upgrade. On the other hand, it’s much cheaper than Amazfit GTR on launch and comes with nice improvements that I would feel lost without on another watch. If you can get it on sale – go for it, at full price, I think Xiaomi is asking for a little too much. Alternatively, you can try Mi Band 6 (review) instead and see how you like it. What do you think? Let me know in this Reddit thread.