(Pocket-lint) – The Xiaomi Mi Watch sees the tech giant make its smartwatches available on a wider scale, after launching the original Mi Watch in China back in 2019.
The new Mi Watch on review here sees Xiaomi shift its design approach and go big on sports and fitness features – without going big on the price.
It’s competitive against something like the Huawei Watch GT 2e or the Amazfit GTS 2e, so is the Xiaomi the best of the bunch?
Design & Display
- Measures: 45.9 x 53.35 x 11.8mm / Weighs: 32g
- 1.39-inch display, 454 x 454 resolution
- Size options: 45mm
- 5ATM Waterproofing
This Mi Watch is a round watch unlike the original and is one that’s built with exercise in mind. There’s a 45mm case that uses glass fibre-reinforced polyamide (plastic) partnered up with a removable TPU band that we’ve found comfortable to wear day and night. That case comes in black, blue and navy blue colour options, while the strap also available in three different colours.
You’re getting a watch that’s lightweight but, at 11.8mm, it’s not the slimmest you’ll find. While it lacks the kind of high-grade materials we are used to seeing on pricier smartwatches, it’s an attractive watch in a different way. We like the weight and feel of it and the matte navy blue version tested here has been nice to wear.
There are two physical buttons on the side of the watch, an optical sensor around the back, and a touchscreen display that’s front and centre. That’s a 1.39-inch AMOLED screen that can be set to always-on so you don’t miss a beat. Just be prepared to grab your charger earlier if you do put it to this mode.
It’s a high-quality AMOLED screen that’s bright, easy to view in most condition, and nice and responsive to swipes and taps. There is a black bezel that sits around it, but generally it’s hard to notice it – and that’s testament to Xiaomi for doing a good job of hiding it.
When it comes to dealing with water, Xiaomi has given the Mi Watch a 5ATM water resistant rating, making it safe to be submerged in water up to 50 metres. It passed our shower test no problems – but we’ll just have to wait until we are allowed in a swimming pool again to see if it cuts it there as well.
Bottom line: the Mi Watch has been a nice watch to live with during testing. Yes, it’s mostly plastic, but it doesn’t feel cheap and shows it’s possible to make an attractive, minimal watch without having to throw metal at it.
Software & Performance
- Works with Android and iOS
- No third-party app support
Xiaomi uses its own in-house operating system instead of using the skinned version of Google’s Wear OS it used on its first watch.
That’s joined by the Xiaomi Wear and Xiaomi Wear Lite companion phone apps where you’ll find all of your health and fitness data. It’s here you can also track workouts and adjust settings – such as notifications and incoming calls that filter through – and setup Amazon Alexa support.
It’s a pretty straightforward app to get around, but the most noticeable thing here is the lack of support to share data with other apps. It doesn’t work with Google Fit or Apple Health and high profile apps like Strava are not supported here either.
While it’s not Wear OS, there’s elements that have the feel of other smartwatches we’ve used. Those familiar gestures to reveal your stream of notifications or widgets showing off your data and to see the quick settings menu. Pressing-and-holding the top button launches Alexa in the way that you’d launch Google Assistant on a Wear watch. That bottom Sport button gets you into the workout mode in a speedier fashion too.
There’s an app screen that fills your screen with app icons, some of which are obvious to work out what feature lies behind, but others not so much. While Xiaomi doesn’t dish out details on the processing power here, swiping and tapping on screens is pretty slick and there’s been no performance issues to report in our testing.
There’s no groundbreaking software elements here from Xiaomi, though what is present works well enough – and makes it a pretty stress-free smartwatch to get on with.
Sports & Fitness Tracking
- GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BDS satellite support
- Built-in heart rate monitor
- Firstbeat training insights
- 24/7 fitness tracking
- Blood oxygen measurements
- Automatic exercise recognition
If you want a smartwatch that’s built to track your exercise or to double as a fitness tracker, then this is what the Mi Watch is built for.
On the sensor count, there’s an optical heart rate one to track BPM and enable SpO2 blood oxygen measurements. There’s an accelerometer and gyroscope sensor to track movement, alongside geomagnetic and air pressure sensors. There’s also built-in GPS and additional support for GLONASS, Galileo and BDS satellite systems for mapping activities outdoors.
As a fitness tracker, the Mi Watch will track step counts and distance covered and even buzz you with inactivity alerts when you’ve been sitting for too long. In our testing the Xiaomi was usually in the ballpark for similar stats captured on a Fitbit Sense smartwatch.
When it comes to sleep tracking, it’ll offer sleep stages including REM sleep time, along with assigning you a sleep score. Against the Fitbit Sense, it offered similar sleep duration times, with total sleep captured usually an hour off reality. Like activity tracking, there’s no insights or advice to improve sleep. So if you just care about the raw data, that’s what you’re getting here.
For sports tracking, you get a pick of 117 workout modes with automatic exercise recognition offered for indoor and outdoor jogging and power walking. In our time using the outdoor running and indoor rowing, cycling and freestyle modes, it’s largely a nice watch to work out with. GPS signal pick up was snappy when outside and offered strong accuracy for distance tracked and core metrics up against a Garmin running watch.
Xiaomi also follows Huawei in offering additional training insights powered by heartbeat analytics company Firstbeat, which is now owned by Garmin. This lets you see insights into the effect of your training, VO2 Max, and estimated recovery time from a tough session. Heart rate data is a huge factor to these features being useful and the randomly high spikes we experienced during exercise and unusually high resting heart rate puts a question mark over how useful these insights truly are.
It’s a similar story for Xiaomi’s energy level insights, which tells you how much energy you have to then better plan what you do in your day. It looks at heart rate variability, sleep and activity logged. Though if one of those isn’t hugely accurate, then it’s tough to trust it.
As far as health and wellness features are concerned, you’ve got stress monitoring, access to guided breathing exercises, and support for taking blood oxygen measurements. While the data by and large seemed reliable, it really needs to be better sewn into the overall experience to make them more useful day-to-day features.
- Over 100 watch faces
- View notifications
- Amazon Alexa
- Music controls
- Incoming call alerts
When it comes to using the Mi Watch as a smartwatch it’s not going to give you the full, rich experience that you’d find on an Apple Watch or a Samsung Galaxy Watch. Though that’s hardly surprising given the price.
The Mi Watch will dish out native and third-party app notifications from both Android and iOS devices, though you won’t be able to respond to them. They are at least well optimised to be shown off on that display. It’ll let you know when a call is coming through on your phone and silence it if you don’t want to reach into your pocket to deal with it.
There’s the ability to control music playing on your phone, which works well, plus a healthy collection of watch faces to pick from. There’s a dedicated store inside of the Xiaomi companion phone app, and while faces don’t sync instantly, there’s a nice array here that do look great on that AMOLED display.
One surprising feature you will find here is Amazon Alexa integration, giving you access to the smart assistant from your wrist. We’ve seen it appear on Fitbit’s smartwatches and on Amazfit watches and it’s been nicely worked into the experience.
With the Mi Watch, there’s a microphone but no speaker, so you can launch Alexa from holding down the top button on the watch or going into the settings menu to look for the Alexa icon. Then you can ask it all manner of questions that you would do with another Alexa-packing device. Unlike Fitbit, it doesn’t offer Mi Watch-specific commands, but where it can offer assistance it does it in a responsive and useful way.
So while you won’t find apps, payments, a music player or richer messaging and notification features, the Mi Watch performs competently as a smartwatch.
- Up to 16 days in typical use
- Up to 22 days in long battery mode
- 50 hours of GPS battery life
The Mi Watch is a smartwatch that promises it can last for weeks as opposed to days. There’s a 420mAh battery that is designed to deliver up to 16 days in typical use, 22 days in a long battery mode, and offers 50 hours of GPS battery life. There’s no sort of power saving features here. So once you get to those lower levels, it’s time to start thinking about charging.
Those typical use and long battery mode numbers are based on the use of features like heart rate monitoring, workout tracking, the number of notifications you receive and taking it to bed to monitor sleep.
In reality, if you’re using continuous heart rate monitoring, sleep monitoring and regularly tracking workouts and enabling the always-on display more then you’ll fall short of that promise of weeks away from the charger. We’d say based on our experience that 7 days is a good level of battery time you can expect from the Mi Watch.
There isn’t a worrying daily drop-off that’ll make you think it’ll go for a couple of days and using GPS doesn’t horribly dent battery life either if you’re hoping to spend a lot of time outdoors tracking.
When it is time to charge, there’s a pretty standard-looking proprietary charger that magnetically clips onto the back of the watch and it will charge from 0-100 per cent in just over a couple of hours.
The Xiaomi Mi Watch is a solid smartwatch overall that, although not perfect, does have a lot about it that’s really likeable. It’s got a nice look, a great display, and its software is easy to get to grips with.
It’s clearly more aspiring sportswatch than smartwatch – and as a result the features are heavily weighted towards the former. Those features are reliable on the whole, though some might be let down by the heart rate performance, which does underpin some of the interesting training insights on offer. But what the Mi Watch can offer as a smartwatch it does well and you really have to keep in mind the price before being too harsh on what it can’t do.
It’s been a wait to get our hands on the Xiaomi Mi Watch and it looks like we have another affordable smartwatch to add to a growing collection where price is not the only attractive feature.
Amazfit GTS 2e
Zepp Health’s similarly priced smartwatch offers a lot of the same features wrapped up in a less sporty look that some might find more appealing to wear.
Huawei Watch GT 2e
Huawei’s sporty smartwatch offers more guidance and plans for helping you stay fit, plus a battery life that’s capable of living up to its two week promise.
Writing by Michael Sawh. Editing by Mike Lowe.