Amazfit Stratos full review
Amazfit, a Xiaomi ecosystem brand, has recently made inroads in the UK. The Stratos (also known as the Pace 2) is not a brand-new smartwatch, having launched in 2018, but it is the most recent Amazfit device that is officially available here.
Truth be told, smartwatch tech does not hurtle forward at the same pace as other consumer tech, so it all still feels pretty new. The more recent Amazfit GTR does benefit from significantly longer battery life, a slimmer design, a larger, higher-resolution AMOLED display (with no black bar at the bottom) and Bluetooth 5.0, but this Stratos one-ups it with additional tracking modes and training features and, of course, easier availability - and that last point may be key.
The Amazfit Stratos is available to buy direct through Amazon, with free next-day delivery for Prime customers. It costs £139, which is admittedly a little higher than the knock-down GearBest pricing of £123.75 for the GTR, but delivery is faster and there will be none of the headaches associated with paying import duty when shipping from China.
Though it's a case of one size fits all (or possibly not, since this 47mm smartwatch can be rather bulky on thinner wrists), there are two purchasing options for the Stratos. The Stratos+ (aka Pace 2S) is identical in every way except it switches out the Gorilla Glass for tougher Sapphire Glass, and comes with a leather strap in addition to the silicone example used here. Stratos+ is also available from Amazon, with a £20 premium at £159.99.
Let's forget for a moment that there are newer (no-one mention the Stratos 3) or more superior models in the range than this year-old smartwatch. In terms of what you get in today's market in return for your £139, the Amazfit Stratos is a fine budget wearable, with a pleasant - even premium - design and features that are going to particularly appeal to sports enthusiasts.
Amazfit Stratos: What it is, what it does
This is a smartwatch, in that it tells the time, delivers notifications, tells you the weather forecast and has additional activity-tracking functionality beyond counting your steps and offering a timer and stopwatch, but the Stratos is not quite what we might consider a full smartwatch. You cannot access apps on this watch, which would be possible were it running an Apple or Google operating system, and neither can you answer calls or reply to messages.
No-one really wants to tap out text messages on a tiny screen, and everyone who uses their smartwatch as a phone looks a little odd. So we're not heartbroken to find this functionality missing, even if we acknowledge that on very rare occasions it can come in handy - especially when you want to leave your phone at home and go for a run.
However, you can get full, readable notifications from any app installed on your phone, and provided you're connected to Wi-Fi your phone doesn't have to be in range (there is no cellular option). We'd advise considering very carefully which notifications you allow, since the constant vibration on your wrist when multiple colleagues are engaging in a Slack conversation can be a little disconcerting and doesn't have a favourable effect on battery life.
This haptic feedback is the Stratos' only method of alerting you, since there is no speaker (or mic). So while it also has its own Alarm function, which works independently of any alarms you may have configured on your phone, it is a silent (vibration-only) alarm. Fortunately the haptic engine is strong enough that you're unlikely to miss these alerts, though we would like the ability to customise vibration patterns beyond the Weak, Medium and Strong settings for different notifications to prevent us always having to glance at the watch to see what's new.
The lack of audio doesn't rule out the Stratos from being a useful device for listening to music during your workout. There is 4GB of internal storage on this device, 2GB of which is free for you to store music, and you can then use the Bluetooth functionality to stream it direct from your watch to your wireless buds. Though you won't get the same on-demand listening experience that you would were you able to access Google Music, Apple Music or Spotify, we doubt your workout will last longer than the number of tracks 2GB of space allows for.
Sport- and activity tracking
The activity- and health-tracking features are a standout for Stratos. An array of sensors includes an optical heart-rate sensor, which can be activated on-demand or used intermittently to help the device monitor your light- and deep sleeping patterns and heart-rate during activity.
When used on-demand you get the opportunity to analyse the reading, with Amazfit attempting to give the number some meaning. The Stratos asks you whether you are resting or have been working out, how you feel and what is your mood, on the premise that moderate exercise, a healthy lifestyle and a good state of mind facilitate a normal heart rate.
There are also 16 activity tracking modes - more than on other Amazfit watches - including pool- and open-water swimming thanks to 5ATM waterproofing (up to 50m). Additional options include Running, Trail run, Triathlon, Walking, Outdoor cycling, Indoor cycling, Elliptical, Treadmill, Climbing, Skiing, Tennis, Soccer, Multisport and Jump rope.
During any of these activities the Amazfit is able to report on your cardiorespiratory fitness level by providing VO2max scores. In essence this is a measurement of the maximum volume of oxygen the body can consume in one minute, which is important for both your health and sports performance, and is automatically calculated by comparing your heart-rate and speed to a reference group of the same age and gender.
The watch can provide advice on the aerobic effect of your training, advise on downtime, and track all activity and its physiological impact over the past week.
If running is your thing there is some guided training, which is aimed at your performance level whether you are a beginner or planning to run a marathon. Interestingly I chose Beginner and it told me I should take a break today, with my next workout beginning in two days. Suits me.
Seriously, though, the watch would then coach me through a workout plan over the next 56 days (or eight weeks), at the end of which it would have me jogging 5km three days per week.
With GPS and GLONASS built-in you'll also find a Compass and the ability to track your location during a run.
Amazfit Stratos: Design and Build
The Stratos is a good-looking smartwatch, and the winner of a couple of 2018 design awards including the prestigious reddot award. We love the carbon-fibre effect body, shiny ceramic bezel, and delicate minute markers. The Gorilla Glass surface is tough and completely clear of fingerprints, and the soft silicone strap comfy and easily adjustable. This 22mm band pops off easily, too, allowing you to quickly swap in a replacement strap.
A digital smartwatch, the Amazfit Stratos supports a range of both analogue and digital watch faces, and you can upload your own photo to use as the background, so you have full control not only over what information is shown on the watch screen, but also how it looks.
This is an always-on display, so although it fades a little darker in standby mode it is always visible. The feature is designed to aid battery life, without you having to wake the screen every time you want to check the time or for notifications, though with no way to disable it we weren't able to tell how much of an impact it has on battery life in itself.
On that note, Amazfit claims up to five days battery life from a single charge, but this is entirely dependent on your usage. As a particularly 'heavy' user, the Stratos won't last me more than two days. I've gone through 40% in the past 18 hours, though I'm likely using even more battery than usual fiddling with the smartwatch as I write this review.
When it comes to recharging the watch there's a proprietary USB charger that the Stratos clicks into. It's a rather snug fit, so you have to give it a bit of welly to snap it into place - don't be scared of breaking it (you won't).
An IPS panel, the colour LCD measures 1.34in on the diagonal and sports a 320x300 resolution. Text is crystal clear but some icons do appear a little fuzzy. We're more concerned with the screen brightness, however, which can seem a little dull, especially with auto-brightness turned on. It's nonetheless readable in adequate lighting, though we're not sure how well it would hold up under extreme sunlight.
The other problem with the auto-brightness is the need for an ambient light sensor, which is found at the bottom of the screen and necessitates the flat tyre effect - a black bar running across the bottom of the display at all times. Honestly, we'd rather do without the auto-brightness: the flat tyre makes this smartwatch look old, and as if someone made a mistake in its design.
Once you've noticed this black bar it's difficult to un-see it, which is a shame because the Stratos otherwise has a decent design. It's too big for our personal tastes, and with a 47mm diameter will rule out anyone with slim wrists, including most of the female population. It's also pretty chunky, with a 13.7mm width, which means it often catches on clothing. But as smartwatches go it's not actually comparatively huge, we'd just prefer a slightly smaller option.
Though the display is always on, it is not always active. Waking the screen can be achieved by pressing one of the three stainless steel buttons on the side or, provided you've set it up in advance, raising your wrist or double-tapping the screen.
They look good and add to the aesthetic appeal of the watch, but somewhat confusingly these buttons are not needed for anything other than turning on the smartwatch in the first place - all their functions can also be achieved using touch gestures, and some additionally within the companion mobile app. The middle button can also be configured to act as a shortcut to various features.
Amazfit Stratos: Software
The Stratos pairs with your phone through the Amazfit app, which is a free download for iOS and Android. Setup is simple: you sign into the app, click the + icon and choose Watch, then select the Stratos and scan the QR code that will appear on the watch face once you have turned it on and selected the language.
The app can store all the data or your sleep history, heart-rate measurements, weight (manually inputted) and any activity you have completed, but in terms of device-specific controls it's pretty light. Tap the Profile icon and choose Amazit Stratos under My devices to access options to change the watch face, select which apps can give notifications via the watch, re-order the Stratos' main menu and remove any items you're not using (since it is a little long-winded), and update the firmware. Everything else is achieved on the watch itself.
At first navigating the Stratos can feel rather complicated, but you quickly get used to it. Pulling down from the top of the screen lets you access the settings menu, adjust the brightness or switch on airplane mode or do not disturb. Swiping in from the left side of the screen brings up access to the 16 activity modes and a status screen that shows some basic stats such as how long you slept last night or how many steps you have walked.
Swiping in from the other side of the screen allows you to scroll through the main menu, from Activities to Weather, Heart rate to Music, Alarm to Compass, Stopwatch to Sleep,Training Modes to Timer and finally Location. We'd really advise disabling those you don't use in the app.
Amazfit Stratos: Conclusion
A nice-looking GPS watch, if a little large and bulky for our tastes, the budget Amazfit Stratos is a good waterproof sports- and activity tracker. It can additionally monitor your sleep and heart-rate, and serve up notifications much like a standard smartwatch.
We have some issues with the display brightness, and we'd prefer to see longer battery life, but you won't be disappointed with the value delivered by the Stratos.
Amazfit Stratos: Specs
- 1.34in (320x300) always-on transflective colour LCD touchscreen, Gorilla Glass
- ceramic bezel, stainless steel buttons, glass fiber reinforced polycarbonate casing
- 22mm width silicone strap
- 5ATM water resistance (50m)
- 1.2GHz dual-core processor
- 512MB RAM
- 4GB storage (2GB free)
- GPS, GLONASS
- 2.4GHz 802.11b/g Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 4.0
- optical heart-rate sensor
- tri-axis accelerometer
- geomagnetic sensor
- air pressure sensor
- ambient light sensor
- 290mAh lithium-polymer battery
- USB charging dock
- up to 5 days battery life (35 hours with continuous GPS and heart-rate monitoring)
- compatible with Android 4.4 or iOS 9 or later