Ameya DalviJan 15, 2021 12:08:04 IST
Price: Rs 9,999
The sub-Rs 12,000 fitness watch category in India is getting more competitive by the quarter. First, it was Amazfit who redefined the category with their GTR model; which is still a force to reckon with. Then Huawei/Honor jumped in with their models, followed by Xiaomi and a few others. After testing the waters in the sub-5K category, Realme is now ready to play in a higher weight class with the Watch S Pro. It is their premium-most watch in their short journey in the category so far.
The Realme Watch S Pro is more of a fitness watch than a smartwatch, but you do get a handful of smart features thrown in. Instead of talking about each of its features, I thought I would rather tell you about those that I liked and some that I didn’t. So let’s see what’s good about it and what needs improvement, and also where it stands as compared to the competition.
What I liked about the Realme Watch S Pro:
Sturdy construction, no-nonsense design
While the design isn’t as striking as that of the Amazfit GTR, it does look cool in all-black with a round dial. It may probably look even better with the vegan leather straps once they are here. Absolutely no complaints about the construction though. The stainless steel body feels rock-solid and should be able to survive a few bumps. The default silicone strap feels very comfortable around the wrist. There was no skin irritation or itching, despite wearing it throughout the day. The strap has a standard 22mm width, meaning you can use any 22mm strap with this watch, and not necessarily just those sold by Realme.
Sharp and responsive display
The display is one of the best features of this watch. You get a vibrant, round 3.5 cm AMOLED touchscreen with a resolution of 454 x 454 pixels (326 ppi pixel density) and 450 nits brightness. It is protected against scratches by a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass, and also seems to have some kind of oleophobic coating. Though it isn’t completely smudge-free, I didn’t have to wipe it frequently. You get five levels of brightness to choose from, or just set it to auto mode. I used level 3 most of the time, and the screen is perfectly legible even under bright sunlight.
It supports the always-on feature and displays the time, but it’s best to turn it off and use the flick-wrist-to-wake screen option. You will end up saving a good amount of battery. Flick to wake has the right amount of sensitivity, and I rarely had to flick my wrist twice to get the desired result. You also get a toggle in the watch settings to switch off the feature, useful when going to sleep or in a dark environment like a theatre to avoid being disturbed.
The pulse oximeter is quite accurate
The Realme Watch S Pro includes a very useful feature for current times – an SpO2 sensor, or pulse oximeter. It measures the level of oxygen saturation in the blood. I compared the readings to a basic over-the-counter oximeter you get these days, and the readings were comparable. However, you need to keep your hand steady for about 20 to 30 seconds to get accurate readings. Mind you, this is meant to serve as a broad guideline and not replace clinical instruments.
Limited, but useful fitness modes and features
Unlike some watches that flaunt several dozen sports modes, the Watch S Pro has 15, of which a dozen are actually usable in the Indian context and cover most common fitness activities like walking, running, cycling, swimming and more. There’s a cricket mode too, which unfortunately I couldn’t try out since most of our players are either busy or injured. The watch is 5ATM water resistant and can be worn during a swim without worry. Some of the fitness modes have an indoor option too, and it is advisable to use that option when walking, running or cycling in an indoor setting, where the watch may not get a GPS lock. More on that a little later.
When outdoors, the results are fairly accurate with a 2 percent margin of error at most, which is perfectly acceptable in this segment. The PPG heart rate sensor does a good job, but the maximum frequency of tracking one can set is 5 minutes; I would have preferred to see a 1 minute option too. The watch also tracks your sleep patterns and gives you a detailed breakdown on the watch screen itself that includes the quantum of deep sleep, light sleep, REM and awake time. Sleep duration and awake time seem accurate; I cannot comment on the rest as I was asleep (obviously). The fitness data is neatly tabled in the companion Realme Link app.
In addition, you also get prompts to get up and move or drink water along with a meditation mode. Beyond fitness, the watch has a handful of useful features such as a compass, weather info, music playback options (though you cannot store music on the watch), the usual watch features, and can double-up as a camera shutter too. If enabled in the Realme Link app, you get notifications from the chosen apps on your phone along with call alerts. The messages are perfectly legible on the fairly large watch screen, however, you cannot reply to any of them. Similarly, you can silence an incoming call but cannot answer it. More fitness band than a smartwatch.
Simple UI and stutter-free performance
The watch UI is fairly simple. Swipe down for notifications, up for the app library, right for access to quick settings and left to see certain predetermined options like basic fitness data, weather, heart rate, sleep info and music playback. All you need to do is tap on a particular option to select it and the top physical button on the watch to go back a step; it also doubles up as a screen on/off switch. The bottom button can be a tad confusing, as it does different things in different menus. That button also serves as a shortcut to fitness modes from the homescreen. In other scenarios, you can simply leave it untouched.
The UI and animations are snappy and mostly lag-free. Since this watch doesn’t run a smart OS like Wear OS, you do not get to install any additional apps, which is the case with most watches in this price range. I would have preferred a few more customisation options though, especially what I would like to see when I swipe from right to left.
A wide variety of watch-faces with quite a few available on the watch itself
The company offers you over 100 watch-faces for the Watch S Pro through the app, and more are expected in the future. You can also create one of your own by using one of your photos in the background. You get a good mix of analogue and digital options ranging from classy to funky. The best part being you get access to nine faces on the watch itself, without the need to go to the app. That’s quite generous given that most competitors give you 4 on an average.
Good battery life
Realme claims a battery life of 14 days on this watch, and it delivers on that promise with minimal sacrifice. I actually managed to get exactly two weeks out of it with the ambient display off, flick-wrist-to-wake-screen enabled, screen brightness set to 3, a few notifications enabled, one hour of fitness activity daily, heart rate monitoring set to 5 minutes, 3 to 4 oximeter readings in a day and 3 nights of sleep tracking during the period. That’s good battery life, though not necessarily the highest in the segment.
What I did not like about the Realme Watch S Pro:
May seem large and heavy for some
The watch looks good around the wrist as long as your wrist isn’t too slim. In certain cases, it does look quite large, so factor that before you buy it. Also, despite the watch weighing under 65 grams with the strap, it feels heavy, especially if you compare it to the similar-sized Amazfit GTR. It isn’t heavy enough to induce fatigue in the arm, but not the most comfortable option to wear to bed.
Step counter is erratic without a GPS link
This, for me, is the biggest issue in the Realme Watch S Pro. When outdoors, with the GPS locked in, the step count is 98 percent accurate, which is great. But the moment you step indoors and lose the GPS signal, the watch almost stops counting steps altogether. The watch does have an indoor walk option under workouts which -- when enabled -- counts the steps normally. But without that turned on, it goes on without registering a single step for hours, even when active. On one hand it under-reports the steps and on the other, it can register false steps if you stay stationary and throw your hands around. Something for the company to look at closely and fix in the next update.
Always-on display is a battery hog
While the watch does support an always-on display, it drains the battery significantly if activated. The battery life drops by almost 40 percent when that feature is turned on. Best to leave it off and use the flick-wrist-to-wake-screen option. It is responsive and you do not lose out on anything important.
Most watch-faces are cosmetic rather than informative
While the watch has over a hundred watch faces to choose from, most of them are cosmetic in nature. There are very few that display ample fitness data. For instance, I was looking at options with an analogue watch-face that displayed heart rate and step count, and I only came across a couple. Most of the options that display that fitness data are digital and too funky for my taste. Also, while the watch does store nine watch faces, you only get one slot to choose your own. I hope that changes in the near future. I wouldn’t mind a couple of options that let one choose the information that one wants to see (from a bunch of parameters), as in case of some Amazfit watches.
Price and verdict:
The Realme Watch S Pro sells for Rs 9,999 with a one year warranty. For that price, it offers a good design, rugged build, excellent display, nice bunch of features, good battery life and acceptable performance when outdoors. Indoor tracking needs improvement, along with a few other minor issues, but it might be a matter of one firmware update. It is not a bad buy at all, but the competition is quite stiff in this segment. The Amazfit GTR now sells between Rs 7,999 to Rs 8,999, which is a great alternative with better looks, performance and battery life, sans the SpO2 sensor.
The new GTR 2 that sells for a couple of thousands higher than this Realme watch has an oximeter, along with a few extra tricks (we will review it shortly), and the same goes for the GTS 2 that offers a rectangular design. It is always great to have options in this price bracket, so that you can choose one depending on your needs and the design that catches your fancy. It’s a watch, after all.
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