- Great looking watch
- Inexpensive considering its features
- Long battery life
- Built-in music storage
- No native app - only syncs with Strava
- Tracks only a few activities
- Physical button is tiny
- Can't go swimming with it
- Heart rate struggles with high intensity workouts
The device actually looks a lot, in fact exactly, like Huami’s Amazfit smartwatch released in early 2016 for the Chinese speaking region. When you understand that the company is owned by Huami, you realize that PACE is the same version of the watch, tweaked to suit an English speaking user-base.
The line between fitness trackers and smartwatches is blurring. PACE is one of the new crop of wearables that aims to serve as both. On paper, the relatively inexpensive device offers features only fully fledged fitness devices offer such as GPS, continuous heart rate tracking, on board storage for music and great battery life. But does the watch really tick all the boxes?
Features and software
The PACE is a great looking sports watch. It really is. The timepiece has an elegant traditional look and doesn’t feel overly chunky when worn.
I would be equally comfortable wearing it for an early morning jog or a formal evening out. Although it is unisex, I suspect the sporty circular design would be more appealing to men. Weighing only 54 grams, the watch feels incredibly light with its ceramic scratch resistant top and bottom plastic portion.
In terms of actual specs, PACE does not come across as too big with its 1.34 inch screen and a decent, 320 x 200 resolution display. Where it differs from some of the competition, is its always on transflective colour LCD touchscreen display. It seems, this combination of specs does not drain the battery too much.
The ambient light sensor ensures the screen is legible even in bright sunshine, although you may want to tweak the settings and opt for the always-on backlight option. The font on the watch face is fairly large, which is especially handy for quickly glancing on your stats during runs.
Although the watch’s display is always on, it isn’t always active. You need to wake it up by pressing the small physical button located on the top right side. Alternatively, tapping on the screen will also bring it to life.
In terms of performance, there are some pretty good specs under the hood. The watch runs on a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor with half a gig of RAM and 4 gigabytes of onboard media storage for phone-free running. Sensors inside include an accelerometer and PPG heart rate, along with a gyroscope, geomagnetic sensor, light sensor, GPS and GLONASS. Flip the watch over and you’ll see the heart rate sensor in the back, right next to the charging pins.
The battery life, though, is where Amazfit’s running watch really shines. Especially when you take into consideration its specs. The built-in 280mAh Lithium ion battery keeps going for 36 hours with all functionality including real-time GPS tracking enabled. If you use it normally, running half an hour every day and with notifications active, it can reach an impressive 5 days. This goes up to 11 days if you use it just as a pedometer.
It takes about two hours to recharge the battery which is not too bad. Snap the watch into the cradle that comes with it, and connect it to a power source via the micro USB cable.
Unfortunately, PACE is not waterproof. The IP67 certification makes it only resistant to dust and the occasional splash, so don’t plan on going swimming with it. It would be pointless anyway, as the watch does not track swimming.
The rubber straps that come with PACE look high quality and feel extremely comfortable. You will find two colours to choose from. If you’re after a more formal look it is best to opt for the black band. Alternatively the bright red option might be more appealing. If you are not happy with either, the watch offers a quick release fitting pin and can accommodate a 3rd party watch bands.
All things considered, I was very impressed with the design of the fitness watch. It felt comfortable when worn day in, day out, which is important as its meant to be worn 24/7.
PACE tracks pretty much everything you would expect from a fully fledged fitness tracker. It will automatically keep tabs on your daily steps, distance, calories and sleep. For running, the tracker captures all the essential metrics including: distance, time, pace, heart rate, calories, speed, cadence, maximum/average moving pace, maximum/average moving speed, maximum/average cadence, altitude, elevation gain, elevation loss and minimum/maximum altitude.
In terms of sports tracked, at the moment the watch can only track runs, walks, indoor runs and trail runs. Amazfit says it is working on expanding this list, but as of right now, these four are all you get. So you will need to wait a bit longer for profiles for cycling, gym and so on.
To test out the watch I strapped it on for a couple of runs, along with a Garmin Vivoactive HR. The two dished out fairly similar stats.
For example, one of the runs I did yielded: 1.03 mile distance; 10’00” average pace; 113 calories; 8’18” best pace; 6.0mph average moving speed; 7.2mph max speed; 174 spm average cadence; 181 spm max cadence; average heart rate 141 bpm with a high of 170 bpm.
The same run dished out the following on the Vivoactive HR: 1.03 mile distance; 10:07 average pace; 125 calories; 8’20” best pace; 5.9mph average moving speed; 7.2mph max speed; 172 spm average cadence; 181 spm max cadence; average heart rate 144 bpm with a high of 161 bpm.
Not too shabby!
During my use of the Amazfit Pace, I found GPS acquisition speed to be roughly the same as the Vivoactive HR. Occasionally glancing at both watches during the run, I noticed that the heart rate readings were pretty much in sync. At most, there was a difference in 2-3 bpm. Amazfit does struggle a bit at very high intensity activity, particularly when it comes to peak heart rate numbers. To avoid some of these issues, it is best to tighten the watch belt when heading out for a run.
Essential reading: Top GPS watches for running and training
The watch screen makes it easy to view the information both during your runs and after. You navigate the screens by swiping up, left, right and down. Pressing the physical button on the side of the bezel will allow you to return to the watch face.
Each screen is essentially a different app, showing various information such as steps, heart rate, sleep, stopwatch and weather. Tap on any of these, and you will usually get additional information.
For example, if you scroll to the heart rate screen, you will see a chart of your heart rate readings for the day. Tapping on the display will take you through to another screen showing your average, resting, maximum and minimum beats per minute for today. Swipe up and it will take you through to heart rate zone information. Swipe up once again and you will see a chart of your past average heart rate.
By default, heart rate monitoring is not continuous throughout the day, but it is continuous when tracking workouts and runs. There is an option, however, to select 24/7 heart rate tracking. This will of course, reduce the battery life by a bit.
The PACE will also track your sleep every night, and you’ll be happy to know that it does this automatically. All you need to do is to remember to wear the watch. The information it provides is quite detailed. Its worth noting that sleep tracking is still not an exact science, so take all this with a grain of salt. What you get is the time when you fell asleep and woke up, total sleep time, time in Deep, Light sleep and awake time.
The software side of the watch itself is really great. Perhaps better than a lot of the competition. The watch runs on a customary platform which seems very well made. All your data is viewable, and navigation is very intuitive.
The software side of the smartphone app, however, is an entirely different story. And this is where it all starts to fall apart!
For some reason only known to Amazfit, they released a great sportswatch without an accompanying smartphone app. Well, you do get an app, but all it will allow you to do is change watch screens (there are 18 to choose from), and sync with Strava. You also get a menu that allows you to toggle and customise notifications, and tweak activity settings. Not much really.
Its then that you start to realise, for the most part the data can only be viewed on the watch itself. A bit baffling. Why release a great smartwatch without a proper native app? Amazfit says it is working on one, so lets hope they deliver sooner rather than later. They have done so for their other fitness trackers. Unfortunately we have no details as to when an activity tracking companion app will become available.
Workout stats can be synced and recorded to the Strava app, but this does not happen instantly which can be a bit annoying if you would like to review the details quickly after the workout. You can, of course, view completed workouts on the Pace watch itself.
Strava in itself doesn’t keep track of any of the other items so you will not be able to review your step count, sleep, etc. Although I haven’t experienced any issues, it is worth noting that some users have experienced difficulties syncing with Strava, with reported data-loss.
Finally, just like any self-respecting smartwatch, PACE will provide you with notifications for incoming calls, messages, emails and other apps. And lets not forget the 4gb space for on-board music storage. You can download music to the watch by using the included USB cable. This allows you to be truly phone-free and focus on the road ahead.
Overall, the relatively affordable Amazfit Pace is a decent sports watch that packs in a lot for the price. You get built-in GPS, heart rate monitor, on-board music storage and notifications from your smartphone. For the most part, most of the data gathered seems accurate.
The hardware is really nice looking as well. The round-faced, ceramic-bezeled fitness watch definitely has at some style to it. PACE is simple to use thanks to a fully touchscreen enabled navigation that relies on taps, swipes and the physical button.
The fact that the watch was released without a good native app is the only thing really holding it back. Apart from workouts which you can view on Strava, you are reliant on the watch itself to review much of the data.
If the lack of a dedicated companion app is not a problem for you, PACE is a very good option. But this will definitely turn some users away which is a real shame because the watch itself is quite good. Lets hope Amazfit delivers a decent native app soon as the watch has a lot of potential.
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