Michael Kors Access MKGO full review
The worlds of technology and fashion have been intertwined for some time, and nothing represents this truth more perfectly than the smartwatch.
The needle sways towards one end or the other depending on whose name is on the product and in this instance it is fashion giant Michael Kors who'll you'll find emblazoned across both the hardware and software that make up this timepiece.
The company has produced smartwatches (or rather the Fossil Group has manufactured licensed smartwatches for the brand) since 2016, with the latest trio of entries arriving just the other month.
The MKGO is arguably the brand's most sports-centric smartwatch to date, borrowing from the Fossil Sport with a selection of bright, bold colourways, like the Red-Tone model we've been testing.
Having spent a couple of weeks with the Michael Kors Access MKGO, here are our thoughts surrounding its design, build quality, performance, internals and more.
Price and availability
The MKGO is already on sale and can be purchased through the company's official website for £279. It's also available in black or white for the same price.
Design and build
Let's be clear - the punchy red of the MKGO will either delight or horrify you, there are no half measures here. It certainly caught our eyes when we took it out of the box for the first time, so bear in mind that this particular finish is anything but understated.
That said, after a few hours of wear, you'll likely grow to appreciate the pop of colour it can afford to your everyday dress, not to mention the clean lines at work grant it a chic feel.
For a watch that's big in character, it's impressively lightweight and unobtrusive, no doubt thanks to the blend of aluminium and nylon throughout the bodywork, as well as its colour-matched silicone strap.
The metalwork that forms part of the casing features a tasteful sandblasted finish with a diffused reflectivity that contrasts nicely against the silicon strap. As for the strap itself, it's lightly textured on the inside for both comfort and grip - making it ideal for working out.
Looking at the casing as a whole, the MKGO features a 43mm body with three physical controls on the right side that, if we're being honest, protrude more than we'd like.
The metal buckle echoes the finish of the watch's partially aluminium casing and as with all of the brand's smartwatches, features the full 'Michael Kors' logo, embossed against its outer edge.
The colour work continues from the face to the strap, to the buckle, with the only exceptions being the rear of the casing, a thin band along the edge of the casing - separating the metal and nylon elements - and the display itself (depending on the watch face you've opted for).
In general, we stuck with the original watch face, which had some sporty touches, like dedicated complications that grant it fitness tracker like-conveniences, as well as more conventional smartwatch talents.
If like us you've opted for the red MKGO, while you can swap the straps out, remember that they've got to compliment that vivid casing. Thankfully, it's easy to change the included bands out for any standard 20mm alternatives, thanks to some quick-release pins that allow for tool-free strap replacement.
It's also worth mentioning that the MKGO is water-resistant, with the ability to survive in up to 30 meters of freshwater without issue - ideal for swim-tracking and the like. The choice of silicone instead of leather is smart too, meaning the watch's band dries out faster, the materials won't as readily perish and its generally better suited to working out than many traditional timepieces.
Performance and battery
The 350mAh battery inside the MKGO could be better. Based on our time with the watch, it seldom lasted a day and when you add in workout tracking or navigation using the integrated GPS, that longevity decays concerningly quickly.
While we'll concede that our testing included active GPS, frequent notifications, high display brightness and more, we didn't test the MKGO any more rigorously than the other smartwatches that have run our reviews gauntlet.
Michael Kors could have also coded in more prevalent low battery warnings, as on more than one occasion we threw it on for the day, only to find that it would run dry well before the evening. What's more, we weren't always in a position to charge it back up then and there: quite disappointing.
As much as we're bashing the battery life of the MKGO, it has to be said that it does offer an improvement over its predecessors, most of which couldn't even come close to a full day's use under the same circumstances.
Moving away from battery life and onto performance, we run into the next snag with the MKGO. While the Wear OS-based user experience looks the part (more on that later) this wearable doesn't feel anywhere near as fast or as fluid as it should, fresh out the box.
We even ran into the odd lock-up, input lag or some other temporary maladies, especially when trying to update apps or soon after starting the watch up at the beginning of the day.
This lacklustre fluidity is likely as a result of the measly 512MB of RAM at play inside the MKGO. Other watches that have launched either side of this offering have possessed far more and the likes of the equally-new Fossil Gen 5, with its 1GB of RAM, highlights just how much of a difference a little extra memory can make.
As for the brains of the operating, the MKGO leverages Qualcomm's most up-to-date dedicated wearable processor, the Snapdragon Wear 3100. The chip was a long-overdue upgrade to the old Wear 2100, however, it didn't offer the performance leap that many had hoped for, which shows here, too.
On paper, this blend of the Snapdragon Wear chip and Wear OS should grant the MKGO up to 15 hours of use, with GPS and heart-rate tracking enabled; as we've already discussed though, that figure is simply unobtainable.
In our experience, we could get the watch to last the promised 15 hours, but only when using it solely to tell the time and check notifications.
More often than not, the MKGO delivered around 8.5 hours of use a day, with the battery hitting 55% by 3pm (bearing in mind we'd only strapped it on at 11am).
To fill the watch back up, there's no fast-charging to really speak of, with a full charge taking about an hour and 15 minutes. The silver lining here is that those who don't have high demands in mind will be able to get a decent amount of juice back into the battery after less than half that time.
For a fashion-first smartwatch, the MKGO is unquestionably styled for an active lifestyle; with little embellishment on the actual casing to speak of, not to mention its lightweight and water-resistant nature.
Just because a watch bills itself as one suited to activity tracking though, doesn't necessarily mean it's actually any good at the relevant task in question. Thankfully, the MKGO can deliver on this front, with a suite of fitness and health features on hand.
You get an optical heart rate sensor, the aforementioned water resistance (making it great for repelling sweat as well), onboard GPS for phone-free route tracking when jogging or hiking, and what's more, using the data from such technologies allows the watch to then calculate important fitness data like 'calories burned'; although its consistency and accuracy in this regard isn't exactly top-tier.
Most of the fitness metrics you'll want to keep tabs on, like speed and workout length, all reside with the native Google Fit app that's found across every Wear OS smartwatch.
The data captured by the watch synchronises with your phone and is tied to a fitness profile that takes into account factors like your age and weight, giving you the option to set fitness goals that you can then track, too.
There's some level of workout automation on board, although it's best if you actually tell the watch which activity you're about to partake in to glean the most reliable results. Through Google Fit, the MKGO can track a myriad of exercises, including walking, aerobics, dancing, cycling, boxing and even flossing.
Display and audio
The MKGO is fronted by a 1.19in fully-circular AMOLED display with a resolution of 390x390, granting it a pixel density of 328ppi (pixels per inch).
If you're familiar with Michael Kors other smartwatches, this means it's the same-sized screen as the company's Access Runway but notably smaller than the displays used by last year's Bradshaw and Lexington watches (even though they also made use of lower resolutions).
The screen used here unquestionably wins the MKGO back a few points, with pleasingly vibrant colours, paired with good contrast and minimal distortion. Overall brightness is strong too and we had no issues checking the time whilst out in bright outdoor conditions either.
If you do want to customise the viewing experience at all, you can set the brightness to one of five fixed levels, or leave it to automatically adjust, based on surrounding ambient light.
As for watch faces, Michael Kors has included a rich selection of first-party options; some mimic the brand's analogue timepieces, others opt for more inventive designs that could only be achieved with the use of a virtual face.
The different faces can be selected from the watch directly or from the companion smartphone app. Nearly every face also offers some degree of further personalisation, from changing the colour of various elements, like the background or the watch hands.
An always-on display option is also present, making the time and other select pieces of information glanceable without having wake the watch up entirely every time. Depending on the watch face you've opted for, you can also see your heart rate, the weather and more.
Unlike some Wear OS watches, including previous Michael Kors offerings, the MKGO forgoes an integrated loudspeaker, meaning no audio-out for calls or spoken feedback from the integrated Google Assistant. The watch does feature a microphone, so you can respond to messages or interact with the Assistant without having to type and swipe on the display.
Software and features
The software experience on the watch is only half of the picture where Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) is concerned. There's also a companion iOS and Android app that adds extra functionality to the experience here.
On the watch itself, you can access various features by tapping, swiping or by using the available physical controls. A press of the crown and you'll open up the apps drawer, where you'll find pre-loaded applications including Maps, contacts, the stopwatch and more.
Swiping from the main watch face brings you to the Google Fit screen in one direction, letting you quickly jump into workout tracking, while the Google Assistant can be found by swiping to the right. Notifications are accessible by simply swiping up.
When connected to your phone, you can have it serve up remote media controls for music or video playback and handle answering and rejecting calls, for added convenience.
There are also some unique features, like the ability to automate watch face switching based on time of day, which will prove a useful feature for some.
The companion Wear OS app makes setting the MKGO up a doddle and once the two are connected, you can also it to change watch faces and customise interaction gestures, like tilt-to-wake; as well as some more advanced settings.
We'd suggest diving into the app to control which notifications from which apps are relayed to your phone. While you can leave everything set to 'on' there's a chance your wrist won't stop vibrating, not to mention that constant polling from phone to watch will only help accelerate how quickly the MKGO runs out of juice.
One feature we haven't yet mentioned that's also a big win for the watch is the inclusion of NFC, paired with support for Google Pay. Once set up, the ability to double-press one of the buttons on the side of the MKGO and jump straight to contactless payment mode is incredibly convenient - meaning you can buy a round at the bar, grab a few bits from the local supermarket or pay for your travel, all without needing to carry your purse or wallet with you.
The Michael Kors Access MKGO - to use its full name - is a decent enough smartwatch. If you're a fitness lover who's looking for something smart with a little more style, this is one watch well worth considering.
We're fans of the clean, lightweight design, the clear and easy-to-navigate user experience, Google Pay integration and its well-rounded fitness tracking experience.
On the flip side, the MKGO struggles from a performance standpoint, with a lacklustre amount of RAM that chokes what should be responsive and fluid software. The battery too, underperforms, namely down to the fact that it's so small - but being unable to comfortably make it through a full day's wear without struggling is a big issue.
If the name and the sporty design are enough to win you over (even in its bright red guise) and you're not expecting class-leading performance, the MKGO is the right watch for the job.
Otherwise, it might make more sense to consider whether you're after something that sways more towards an activity tracker, like the Fitbit Versa 2, or something capable of delivering a richer smartwatch experience, like the Apple Watch Series 5 or the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2.
Note: This story was originally published in Spanish on our sister site, PC World Spain.
Michael Kors Access MKGO: Specs
- Silicone, nylon and aluminum
- iOS and Android compatible
- Water resistance up to 30m
- Snapdragon Wear 3100
- 1.19in AMOLED screen
- QCC1110 co-processor
- Interchangeable strap
- Bluetooth 1.2
- 512MB RAM
- 43mm case
- Wear OS
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