So you’re looking for a GPS tracking watch that can play music and has a built in compass, altimeter, and an optical heart rate monitor all enclosed in a rugged waterproof, stylish enclosure? That sounds like it might cost a fortune! You’re not wrong. Usually it does!
That is until the Amazfit Stratos hit the US Market. The Amazfit Stratos made its debut originally in China last year. It was branded by parent company Xiaomi. Recently the company has launched the device here in the US and it has become a compelling option for the fitness crowd for a number of reasons! But mainly the feature set and the Price tag. The Amazfit Stratos rings up at a shocking $199 on Amazon. While this isn’t a cheap wearable, this price is rather impressive and justified given the extensive list of fitness functions usually found in much more expensive watches! I’ll be basing my opinion from the perspective of a road and trail runner and comparing it to other devices in this category. So… is it worth the cash? Let’s take a closer look.
- GPS and Glonass Antenna
- FirstBeat Metrics
- Altimeter, Compass, and Barometer Sensors
- Always-on Transflective Touch Enabled Display
- Mobile App Integration
- Activity Tracking
- Bluetooth and Wifi
- On-board Music Storage
- Smartwatch Functionality
- Semi-Customizable Interface
When I first opened the Amazfit Stratos box I was actually surprised with how nice this watch looked. The watch is a burly 47mm diameter. This isn’t quite as large as say… the Garmin Fenix 5x. But it is still a rather large watch. If you don’t like large wearables this may be a big turn off for you. However, despite its larger size it is quite an attractive piece of hardware. The shiny metal ring around the display was much darker than pictures led me to believe which was a welcome surprise. The back and body of the watch is made of a durable feeling plastic with a carbon fiber-esque finish printed into it. The ring around the display appears to be real metal with a clear finish. The display itself is made up of Corning Gorilla glass for added durability. The included silicone watch band feels quite premium and soft. It also has a “quick release” clasp system that allows you to swap it out relatively quickly. This is functional, but not quite as elegant as Garmin’s “quick fit” bands.
Along the right side of the watch you’ll find three metal buttons. Around the back of the watch is a slight bump in the enclosure that houses the optical wrist heart rate sensor. This sensor illuminates with a green light during use. Next to this heart rate sensor is the charging contacts. The entire watch is sealed to be water proof to 50 meters so it should be fine to swim with and shower with regularly without any worry.
The 1.3″ display of the Amazfit Stratos is transflective. This is great for use in bright sunny conditions. When things get dark there is a backlight that automatically turns on when you flip your wrist around. This type of display is inherently pretty dully and dim, but its great for battery life and functionality in sporting. This is not a bright vibrant display like that found in an Apple or Samsung watch. The Amazfit Stratos has a rather high resolution of 320×300 pixels. This is actually higher than most of the competition! Resulting in crisp, easy to read text.
Amazfit Stratos General User Interface
The user interface of the Amazfit Stratos takes a little getting used to. The combination of touch-screen and buttons can be confusing. The buttons can be “long pressed” or “short pressed” to do different things and the screen can be locked to prevent accidental gestures. The Watch Face can be customized within the watch itself or via your mobile phone using the Amazfit Watch app. There are a handful of built in watch faces that are actually quite practical and stylish! I was very impressed with the choice of watch faces and actually preferred the look of some over my Garmin Fenix 5. The main screens of the Amazfit Stratos work in a horizontal scrolling design. As you swipe left or right you switch between the different widgets of the device. By default, the included widgets are the following:
- Step Count and Activity
- Past Activity Summary
- Heart Rate
The transitions and gestures of the watch all work very smoothly. Pages don’t “load” and there’s very little waiting. Overall the interface is very snappy and responsive. Despite being a little complicated and confusing at times. Remembering that “long pressing” the top button is to “go back” is a hard habit to remember. I’m sure with continued use it will become second nature though. Swiping down from above the screen brings up the device settings panel. Swiping up from the bottom brings up the notifications panel.
Daily Fitness Tracking
The Amazfit Stratos, like a lot of other GPS watches also doubles as an activity tracker. Along with that there’s a widget to summarize how your day stacks up against other days. If you wear your Amazfit Stratos every day it will detect the following metrics:
- Calories Burned
Overall I think these metrics work well. However, I did find that the “steps” were a bit higher than my other devices. At the end of a 10,000 step day my Garmin Fenix would read 10,000 while the Amazfit Stratos would show closer to 11,000. This is while wearing the watch on the same arm through the entire day. I didn’t get a chance to test the sleep metrics as I find it difficult to sleep with a watch this large on my wrist!
Sport and Activity Tracking
The Amazfit Stratos comes pre-loaded with several sports out of the box. including running, treadmill, walking, cycling, swimming, elliptical machine, mountaineering, trail running, triathlon, tennis, soccer and skiing. As you can see this watch is capable of tracking a variety of sports! However, unlike competitors you’re not able to customize these activities or add your own. For instance, there’s no “kayaking” app like on the Garmin devices. Not a big deal, just something to be aware of. This could also be addressed in future firmware updates. Each activity can be configured individually to show a different set of data screens. The screens are able to be customized to some extent by changing whats displayed, and the background color (white or black). I consider this watch to be mainly targeted at runners in general. It’s size, and features really lend themselves to runners but I could see it being used in other capacities. What is interesting is while you choose your activity, the Amazfit Stratos will actually tell you how much time you’ll have with the battery life remaining. Pretty cool!
GPS Tracking a Run
To enter a run you simply short press the larger middle button to bring up the “activity selection” screen, and then select “Run”. A prompt will appear that will show your current heart rate, and the status of the GPS antenna whether or not it has an accurate location lock. Once the “START” button illuminates green it means you’re ready to go. This process can take anywhere from 5 to 30 seconds depending on tree cover, weather, and where you’re located. Once you’re in a run activity the screen changes over to a series of data fields. Things like Total Distance, Time, Pace, Cadence, Calories, Elevation Gained, etc… can all be seen within these panels. Swiping right will bring you to your heart rate analysis page. This is handy for “Zone Training” if you’re into that sort of thing. Swiping right again will bring up a map of your current run. This is a super basic breadcrumb trail of your run with no roads, or trail maps involved. However, this type of breadcrumb trail can be handy if you’re trying to find your way back to your car after a long trail run!
So how was the running experience with the Amazfit Stratos? Lets talk about the GOOD parts first. The GPS tracking appears to be quite accurate in my testing even in heavily wooded trail conditions. The Amazfit Stratos almost exactly matched the distance recorded by my Garmin Fenix 5x! The Elevation recorded was also very accurate coming within feet of my Garmin device. The default datafields on the watch were quite handy during my runs. The Amazfit Stratos has a higher resolution screen and manages to cram a lot more information on a single page than its competitors. I could glance down and see my pace, distance, and elapsed time and time of day. I highly suggest changing the background color of the data screens to WHITE this makes the text much easier to read while you’re hammering down a trail. For me, coming from a large Garmin Fenix 5x the smaller size and lighter weight was welcome during runs. I barely noticed I had the watch on. Overall the experience of running with the Amazfit Stratos was surprisingly good.
So what wasn’t so good? Well first off the “auto-locking” screen is kind of confusing. To unlock the screen you need to press the start/stop button. But I found myself accidentally pressing it twice which caused the watch to pause or stop my run. Also, switching between the data screens can become a little glitchy when trying to use the touch screen while running. It’s not so easy to smoothly swipe the screen when you’re bombing down a hill trying to focus on your footwork. I mainly tried to use the buttons instead. Another annoyance was the mapping screen. If you’re trying to use the “map” breadcrumb trail to navigate with, once the device locks the map is no longer visible and becomes a simple distance measurement. I’m assuming the device does this to conserve battery life as rendering the map is probably pretty CPU intensive. But it was a little frustrating in practice when I was trying to navigate back to the trailhead. One feature that I wish the Amazfit Stratos had was “Resume Later” for when you want to pause a run for an extended period of time. Instead the watch tends to time out and save your run thereby breaking the distance between multiple activities. I found that some of the data field text was a little on the smaller side which made it hard to read. One other annoyance is that once you enter an activity you no longer have access to the “home screen” watch face, and widgets unless you stop/save and exit your activity and return to the watch face. This is kind of frustrating when you’re using the watch to play music as it makes the “music player” widget inaccessible!
These are all relatively minor issues considering the cost of this device, but I thought I should make them known!
Navigating a Course
The Amazfit Stratos has the ability to import GPX files to use for navigation on a course. This is actually a surprise to me… usually this function doesn’t exist on devices in this price range. In order to use this function you need to pre-configure the GPX file by uploading it from the mobile app, or from a computer over a USB cable. Once it’s on the device it can be imported into your run. This function is VERY basic. This is not “Turn by Turn” directions. It’s simply a breadcrumb trail overlaid on the map page of the run application that allows you to follow a line.
The Amazfit Stratos features an internal accelerator which can detect distance during indoor running activities like treadmill running. This is a really handy feature for those of us who can’t be outside every day but still want to get heart rate metrics during their indoor runs! In practice I found that the Amazfit Stratos did an OK job at judging treadmill distance. After all, no wrist worn device is going to be perfectly accurate here. One IMPORTANT thing to note, the Amazfit Stratos allows you to calibrate your treadmill run after an activity is complete. This means the watch can more accurately learn your stride on the treadmill and become more accurate over time. This calibration feature is also found in my Garmin Fenix 5x and works quite well. You can’t expect this type of tracking to be PERFECT but its better than not tracking it at all.
First Beat Performance Metrics
This is kind of a big deal for fitness nerds! The Amazfit Stratos features First Beat performance metrics. This feature is found on VERY HIGH END devices by Garmin like the Fenix 5, 5x, and Forerunner 935. First Beat tracks advanced fitness metrics like V02 Max, and training load to give you a better understanding of how your training is paying off. In practice I found this to be quite easy to use on the Amazfit Stratos. Unfortunately, these metrics are only accurate if the device itself is getting an accurate heart rate measurement. That leads us to the next topic…
Heart Rate Accuracy
Ok so I’ll just say it. The Amazfit Stratos heart rate sensor is wildly inaccurate in my testing. I kind of know when my body is hitting its “Anaerobic Threshold” and when that was happening the Amazfit Stratos would tell me I was only at 140 beats per minute while my Garmin device showed 170. I also noticed that after a workout the heart rate graph didn’t fluctuate much despite my training runs being VERY hilly. Hilly runs usually show a pattern if heart rate rising and dropping due to the climbs and descents. Instead the Amazfit Stratos kind of showed a consistently jagged line. Perhaps I’m not wearing the watch tight enough or in the right area? I’ll continue to test and update this article with my findings.
In short, if you care about super accurate heart rate monitoring I would consider purchasing a separate bluetooth chest strap monitor that could pair to the watch.
Amazfit Watch – Companion Mobile App
Fitness trackers like the Amazfit Stratos are only as good as their companion software. The “Amazfit Watch” app is available on Android and IOS devices. This app is actually really nice! It has a plethora of functions including:
- Activity Tracking – Steps, Calories, and Heart Rate Trends
- Past Activity Details – A list of all past activities with extensive details.
- Fitness Summary – V02 Max and Training Load Trends
- Widget Settings – Turn widgets on/off and configure weather screen locations
- App Configuration – Choose which data fields and what priority they display in on the watch during your activities.
- File Manager – Upload GPX Files and Music from your phone.
- Strava Integration – Sync activities recorded to Strava automatically.
- Notification Configuration – Choose which apps can display notifications to your watch.
The app works well enough and is cloud based. So if you drop your phone off a building you’ll be able to recover your data from a new device. However, the app does miss a few things. First, I wish there was a way to manually add an activity. Sometimes I forget to record a run, or hike but I’d still like the mileage to be reflected in my totals for my training. Second, There is no way to EXPORT your data from the app. This is kind of a big deal for me. I’d like to be able to export my GPS data to Garmin Connect, Strava, or other third parties for analysis or map making. In order to get a GPX file from one of my activities I need to export it within the watch itself and transfer it over USB like a thumb-drive. It would be much easier to do this from the mobile app! Another minor annoyance is that on my android device I have a permanent notification reminding me that my Amazfit app is running… I hate when apps stay in my notification bar!
With that said, the mobile application is perfectly functional and actually quite polished. The sync operation between the watch the app, and Strava happened seamlessly and it was very easy to set up using a QR code that the watch displayed during setup.
The Amazfit Stratos has a basic level of smartwatch functionality. This isn’t quite as extensive as the Samsung Gear or Apple Watch but it will display incoming phone calls, text messages, and notifications from any app that you choose. It also allows you to control music that’s being played on your smartphone. These functions all work pretty well! To be fair, most wearables in this fitness category aren’t overly “smart” and are more geared towards the fitness crowd.
The Amazfit Stratos features 4 gigs of onboard music storage! This is a big deal! Most of the competition simply doesn’t do music storage. In fact, the Amazfit Stratos only competitor in this space is the Garmin 645 Music which costs more than double! Music can be added via USB cable or uploaded from the Amazfit Watch mobile app from your phone. Music stored on the device must be DRM Free which means there’s no ITunes, Google Music, or Spotify support. This is simply a basic MP3 player. In practice the music player worked really well. I enjoyed running around the neighborhood without having to lug my big Samsung Galaxy S9+ phone with me to listen to music. My cheap “ToaTronics” Bluetooth headphones paired with the Amazfit Stratos effortlessly and I was able to listen to my albums quickly.
Oddly, the music player is hidden during activities as I mentioned before so you’ll need to rely on the control of your bluetooth headphones to switch songs, Pause/play, and change the volume.
The Amazfit Stratos advertises 5 days regular use / 11 days basic use / and 35 hours in GPS tracking mode. The battery life of the Amazfit Stratos is strangely opposite of most other devices this category lasting much longer in GPS tracking mode than its competition but on the low side for “smart watch mode”. In real life with average use I got about 4 days out of “smart watch” mode. However, when you go into GPS run tracking mode the battery life is quite amazing! After an 8 hour run I was left with nearly 70% battery life remaining. In use I’d say the battery life of the Amazfit Stratos is around 25-30 hours in GPS tracking mode with continuous heart rate monitoring. This is really impressive and one of the most important features in my opinion! I could see myself wearing this device for an ultra marathon without worrying about the battery.
Amazfit Stratos Compared to Garmin Fenix 5x
This is probably an unfair comparison but I’m doing it anyways. The Amazfit Stratos Retails for $199 (Currently $169 on sale) where as the Fenix 5x retails for nearly $700 (Currently $550 on sale). Despite this huge price difference the two devices actually have a lot of features in common. Lets run through it.
Amazfit Stratos Vs Garmin Fenix 5x – Connectivity
Both devices feature Wifi and Bluetooth. However, the Amazfit Stratos features Bluetooth 4.0 for streaming music while the Garmin Fenix 5x utilizes Bluetooth SMART to reduce battery consumption. Winner: Tie
Amazfit Stratos Vs Garmin Fenix 5x – Hardware
The hands down winner here is the Garmin Fenix 5x in my opinion. It’s made of super robust stainless steel and comes with a nearly un-scratchable sapphire crystal lens on its display. It’s rated for 10 meters of waterproofing and just feels more solidly built in the hand. However, the Fenix 5x is a HUGE watch and its little brother the Fenix 5 is still quite heavy. If you’re in the market for a slightly smaller and lighter fitness watch the Amazfit Stratos may be a good device to look into at a lower price point to boot. Winner: Fenix 5x
Amazfit Stratos Vs Garmin Fenix 5x – Sensors
Both devices feature Altimeter, Barometer, GPS, Glonass, Optical Heart Rate, and Accelerometers. However the Fenix 5 offers an on-board temperature sensor as well. This temperature sensor however, is very inaccurate when the watch is worn on the wrist and only useful if its dangling from your backpack. The optical HR of the Fenix 5x seems a lot more accurate, and the GPS lock happens MUCH quicker on the Garmin. Aside from that, they are pretty similar. Winner: Fenix 5x
Amazfit Stratos Vs Garmin Fenix 5x – Mobile App
The Amazfit Watch app is actually really good. However, Garmin has been doing this for a long time and the Garmin Connect app is VERY polished. On top of that, there’s added functionality like loading corses, importing workouts, exporting, a web-interface for Mac and PC, and the Connect IQ store that lets you customize and add widgets to your device. That said, the Amazfit Watch app is no slouch and will suit most people just fine. Both services allow you to sync with Strava. Winner: Garmin
Amazfit Stratos Vs Garmin Fenix 5x – GPS Accuracy
From my testing both devices seem to track equally as well. However, the Garmin device seems to acquire its initial lock much faster. Winner: Tie
Amazfit Stratos Vs Garmin Fenix 5x – Heart Rate Accuracy
Simply said… The Garmin Fenix 5’s “elevate” heart rate sensor is MUCH more accurate than the Amazfit Stratos. I had a hard time getting usable HR data from the Amazfit Stratos even while wearing the watch uncomfortably tight on my wrist. I hope this is addressed in future updates. Winner: Garmin Fenix 5x
Amazfit Stratos Vs Garmin Fenix 5x – Battery Life
In regular day-to-day use the Garmin Fenix 5x wins the Battery Life category. I can usually get a full week out of the Fenix 5 if I’m only using it as a smart watch. The Amazfit on the other hand needs to be charged every few days… which isn’t really a big deal unless you’re off the grid somewhere. Interestingly though, the playing field changes when recording a GPS activity. The Amazfit Stratos can record an impressive 30 hours of activity in GPS mode. The Garmin Fenix 5x tends to lose juice at around 17 or 18 hours in real life. Winner: Tie… Kinda?
Amazfit Stratos Vs Garmin Fenix 5x – User Interface
The user interface of the Amazfit Stratos is quite nice and smooth. However, I tend to prefer the extremely simple and easy to read menu’s of the Garmin device. Things are easier to navigate and I’m more confident using the simple up / down buttons on the Garmin than I am with the Amazfit Stratos. Fonts and buttons tend to be rather small on the Amazfit and the touch screen can be confusing when using it in conjunction with the buttons. This is a matter of opinion of course! Winner: Garmin Fenix 5x
Amazfit Stratos Vs Garmin Fenix 5x – Price!
Obviously the Amazfit Stratos wins this one coming in under $200! Winner: Amazfit Stratos
For around $200 the Amazfit Stratos is REALLY hard to beat. It has tons of functionality in a stylish, robust package. There are definitely some quirky behaviors about the device but they all seem to have work a around you I learn to live with. With GPS tracking battery life in the double digits, a waterproof housing, and First Beat advanced metrics I could see this watch being a cheaper alternative to the big brands flagship running watches (Ah-hem… Garmin Forerunner 935). And with the added convenience of on-board music playback you can go for a jog without having to find a pocket to put your phone in or an annoying velcro arm strap that keeps coming loose!
Who’s it for? I’d say if you’re not locked into an environment like Garmin Connect or Suunto Moves Count the Amazfit Stratos is a viable option even for the most serious of runners and athletes. However, since you can’t IMPORT content into Amazfit’s enviroment it would be a tough migration to existing Garmin and Suunto users. Garmin, Suunto and Polar should be scared! Go check this thing out or buy it from the links above!