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Huami has recently announced a new iteration of its flagship sports watch. Called Amazfit Verge, it comes with the usual fitness tracking sensors, a heart rate monitor capable of identifying health issues, NFC support and built-in GPS.
The device is as less pricey version of the Amazfit Stratos – another GPS sports watch that, considering its specs and price, is giving the likes of Garmin and Polar something to think about. The most novel feature of Verge is its improved heart rate sensor. Apparently, the watch is able to keeps tabs on your ticker with an accuracy of 98% and 80% lower power consumption than its big brother.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
Launched in China a few months ago, Verge is now available for purchase internationally. I’ve been walking, sleeping and running with an early test model for the past month. Here are my impressions.
In looks, Verge is not all too dissimilar from Stratos. Targeted for the sporty types, it comes with a silicone strap, reinforced plastic casing and a bright red physical button on the right.
Having seen pictures of the watch earlier, I was expecting something with perhaps a plasticky feel. That’s not the case in reality, though. The material used is soft, feels comfortable and does not irritate the skin. Admittedly, the watch does feel less premium than Stratos. But while it may not attract the die hard fashionistas, Verge is perfectly fine to use whether you’re in the home, going for a jog, in the office or at a formal dinner function.
The latest watch in the Amazfit series is actually slightly smaller (diameter 43mm versus 46mm), slimmer (12.6mm versus 13.9mm) and quite a bit lighter (46 grams versus 70 grams) than Stratos, making it more suitable for both sexes. Its AMOLED screen is better, making it readable both indoors and out. Measuring 1.3 inches (360 x 360 pixel resolution) the display is protected against the elements with Gorilla Glass 3.
Under the hood there is quite a bit going on.
The list starts off with a 1.2 Gh dual-core processor designed to work with the proprietary operating system, 512 MB of RAM, 4 GB of internal storage that can be used for music, a mic and speaker for calls from your wrist. There’s a GPS and GLONASS module, WiFI and Bluetooth 4.0. In terms of sensors, you’ll find an accelerometer, heart rate sensor, gyroscope, geomagnetic sensor, ambient light sensor and atmospheric pressure sensor.
The Lithium Ion 390 mAh battery can keep everything ticking along for 5 days on a single charge which is impressive especially if you take specs into consideration. This is also long enough for you not to be thinking about charging all the time and compares well with the likes of Garmin and Polar.
I was easily able to achieve this with daily activity tracking and the occasional 5km run. Expect battery life to come right down to 20 hours in GPS training mode. If you’re running low, you can always opt to use the device with limited notifications and basic use. This will keep it going for up to 11 days.
As can be seen from the images, I tested out the Shadown Gray model but you can also pick up Verge in Twilight Blue and Moonlight White. All iterations come with 20mm and 22mm bands which are removable and custom designed for the watch.
This is primarily a timepiece for the active types so its no surprise there are a number of sports modes to choose from. This includes running (outdoors and indoors), trail running, walking, mountaineering, tennis, skiing, football, cycling (outdoors and indoors) and elliptical. Don’t look for swimming, though, it’s not there. Unlike Stratos (5 ATM), the whole thing is only IP68 certified for water-resistance, probably to allow for the mic and speaker.
After the initial setup procedure which requires you to scan the QR code from the watch face, install the latest firmware update and register your basic details, you are good to go.
You can expect to get all the usual fitness stats. One of Verge’s big selling points is that it comes with an improved heart rate sensor. Huami says, the watch is able to keeps tabs on your ticker with an accuracy of 98% and 80% lower power consumption than Stratos.
Just like the Apple Watch, this allows it to perform some nifty tricks such as identify cardiac arrhythmia and atrial fibrillation – a group of conditions in which the heartbeat is irregular, too fast, or too slow. The hope is such a feature will help inform people who are not aware they suffer from these conditions.
Having said this, at the moment there is no real way of knowing whether Verge really identifies any of these. It would be good if the app is upgraded to offer some kind of status report. It’s possible the watch does this in the background but I did not get any notifications. Then again I do not have cardiac arrhythmia or atrial fibrillation.
Its worth pointing out, the watch does not run on Wear OS. Instead it uses its own custom operating system which actually performs very well. This does mean, though, that you are limited as you will not be able to install third-party apps on your timepiece. It also means a built-in Xiao AI voice assistant. You do get 10 watch faces to choose from, and you can change this from the watch itself or through the accompanying smartphone app.
The display springs to life when you raise your wrist, tap firmly on the screen or press the single physical button on the right. Rather oddly, if you use one of the first two options you will still need to press the single physical button to be able to swipe around to apps. From then on pretty much all interaction is carried out through the touch screen.
Swiping down provides you with weather info, night mode toggle, system settings, volume control, airplane mode and similar items. Swiping up shows you notifications. Flicking the screen left and right takes you through activity stats. This is all shown in quite a bit of detail, reducing the need to refer to the smartphone app. The multiple colors make the beautiful AMOLED display really come to life.
During the day, the watch keeps tabs on steps, distance, calories, workout sessions, floors and heart rate. At night it will break your sleep session into light sleep, deep sleep and awake time. You’ll also get your resting heart rate in the morning.
While everything worked flawlessly, once in a while I did find that Verge would not connect to the app and sync. Rebooting the device resolved the problem each time. Hopefully, this is something that will be ironed out via a forthcoming firmware update.
The app’s default screen is an overview of the day’s activity. Tapping on pretty much any metric will take you through to a more detailed overview, but without cluttering you with statistics. Other screens group your data by day, week and month.
Along the bottom are tabs that allow you to cycle between activity stats, sports and profile. Depending on which of these you choose, you can view your daily summary, delve deep into your workout session stats, customize watch faces and play with other settings.
While not hugely impressive the software does the job in providing you with all the info, even if it is slightly on the basic side. There is also an option to sync to Strava option which works well.
Throughout my testing, I wore the Garmin Forerunner 935 on my left wrist, and the Amazfit watch on my right. Apart from sleep data and floors climbed most of the stats were pretty much in sync. In terms of resting heart rate, Verge had me consistently about 3-4 beats above the Forerunner.
The built-in GPS sensor works well. Acquiring the satellite signal is quick and easy and the distance calculation between the Garmin and Amazfit watch was only a few meters apart per kilometer. The fact that you have both built-in GPS and offline storage for music means Verge allows for true phone free running.
This is how Verge heart rate data from my most recent 5K run compared to the Garmin Forerunner 935/Polar H10 chest strap combination.
- Verge: distance 5km, calories 315 (kcal), average pace 5’35”, best pace 4’44”, average speed 10.75, best speed 12.63, average heart rate 156 (bpm), maximum heart rate 170 (bpm), average cadence 189 (steps/min), maximum cadence 204 (steps/min), average stride 91 (cm)
- Garmin Forerunner 935/Polar H10: distance 5km, calories 381 (kcal), average pace 5’34”, best pace 4’49”, average speed 10.8, best speed 12.5, average heart rate 153 (bpm), maximum heart rate 169 (bpm), average cadence 189 (steps/min), maximum cadence 198 (steps/min), average stride 95 (cm).
As you can see, the data was not fully in sync but it was pretty close.
The app provides a great job in charting most off these and you will enjoy sifting through everything after your run. The watch will allow you to export your data, too.
You don’t get detailed performance metrics from Firstbeat as you do on the Stratos, but there is more than enough to sink your teeth into. Best of all, all this can be viewed on the watch display along with a GPS map of your run, so no need to refer to the app.
On to the non-fitness functions.
As you would expect this includes notifications for calls, messages, calendar alerts, emails and other apps. You’ll get direct access to live weather forecasts, stop watch functionality, compass, alarms and find my phone.
Thanks to its built-in microphone and speaker, Verge offers the ability to carry on phone calls via your wrist. This only works when paired to an Android smartphone, though. There’s also NFC support for contactless payments.
To listen to music stored locally on the watch you can use the built in speaker. I was hugely surprised and impressed with the quality and volume of sound. The other option is to use a set of wireless bluetooth headphones, which is what you’ll need to do if you’re running.
Music transfer is done by plugging the charger into your computer and nesting the watch in its cradle. With the right software (for the Mac, the Android File Transfer program), the watch will appear as a drive on your computer. Then simply drag MP3 files into the music folder on the watch.
Verge looked and performed better than I expected. The watch has many of the same features as Amazfit Stratos, but there are a few important differences to be aware of.
What works in its favor is that it’s smaller so more suitable for both sexes, cheaper, it has a better screen, it has a heart rate monitor capable of identifying health issues, and it has the ability to take phone calls via your wrist thanks to the built-in mic and speaker. But it does’t feel as elegant, it doesn’t have an always-on screen, there is no support for swimming or as many performance stats.
In testing I found Verge’s GPS and heart rate sensors worked well, even if the accompanying smartphone app leaves a bit to be desired. The device is also perfectly functional as an everyday watch.
While there are a lot of sports watches, one usually has to pay upwards of $250 for one with GPS and offline music support. Verge is a solid option for those looking for all this and more in a more affordable package.
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