Huami has recently made its Zepp E smartwatch official. A timepiece for the fashionistas, it comes in two distinct styles, a bezel-less design and a decent set of health and activity tracking sensors.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
The device is the first product of the collaboration between Zepp and Huami. To remind, the Chinese tech giant acquired the core assets of Zepp just over two years ago. This is Huami’s attempt to gain a better foothold in the US premium sports products market.
Zepp is a well known company. Based in California, it has churned out a slew of smart products in recent years for sports such as golf, tennis and soccer. Many of these are backed by professional athletes. One thing always missing from its lineup, though, was a smartwatch. This has all changed with the release of Zepp E.
I was keen to try it out. These are my impressions after a couple of weeks of use.
Huami has lots of experience in making smartwatches and it has obviously brought all this knowledge to designing Zepp E. The smartwatch is stunningly beautiful and features a pure black 3D curved glass with smooth contours around the sides.
There are two distinct iterations to choose from. One is square in shape and measures 43.3×35.7mm, the other is circular with a 42.2mm diameter. Both are very lightweight coming in at slightly over 30 grams.
The duo is pretty much identical in everything but shape. I have the circular edition.
The lightweight form-factor makes Zepp E a perfect unisex device. At least when it comes to looks. It doesn’t come across like a sports watch at all. Rather, it is designed for those that want something on their wrist they would be proud to wear for a night out or in an office setting.
Measuring just 9mm in thickness the timepiece is ultra-thin. I think this makes it more suited for those with smaller wrists and women. It would be nice if there was a slightly thicker version for those with bigger wrists. But this is an indicator on how far tech has come. A few years ago we had chunky, ugly devices on our wrists. Zepp E couldn’t be further from that.
The build is stainless steel with a choice of leather and fluoroelastomer bands. All of this is stamped with a 5 ATM water-resistance rating which makes the device good come rain or shine. I have the fluoroelastomer band which feels quite comfortable despite being slightly firmer than silicone which you often get with sports watches.
The band can be detached quite easily via the pin system which holds it it place. For the square edition you can swap between Polar Night Black, Moon Grey, Deep Sea Blue (all three leather), Metallic Black Special Edition, Onyx Black and Pebble Grey (the last two fluoroelastomer). For the circular iteration there are Polar Night Black and Moon Grey for leather, Champagne Gold Special Edition and Onyx Black and Ice Blue for fluoroelastomer.
The display on the version I was testing is a high resolution 1.28 inch AMOLED (416×416 pixel 326PPI). You can pretty this up with a nice choice of watch faces, some on the watch itself others which you can install via the smartphone app. A number of the faces even support customization. It is a joy trying out the different watch faces as the quality of the display makes some of them look really good.
The screen is off by default but a tap of the physical button on the right or raising your wrist will bring it to life. You do have an always-on option which transitions between a full watch face and one which just shows the time. Switch this on and you’ll get the message that it will severely affect battery life. Settings can also be tweaked on how long the main display stays on with the main watch face. This ranges from 5 to 30 seconds.
One could say the timepiece is a bezelless beauty. The display doesn’t quite go to the very edge, but it’s close. Apart from the thin, lightweight design I would definitely put the screen as the best feature of this watch.
The colors really stand out, everything is incredibly vibrant and easy to read both indoors and out. Plus the touch sensitivity is great which makes scrolling through the various displays very easy.
Considering how thin the device is, the company has managed to squeeze quite a bit under the hood. All the usual activity tracking sensors are there including a biological tracking optical sensor, accelerometer, and geomagnetic sensor.
The one obvious omission is built-in GPS. So while Zepp is a sports brand, the lack of this makes the device more of a fitness watch than a sports watch.
As far as battery life, Zepp E is good for about a week in normal mode thanks to its 188mAh battery. This is pretty decent considering the stunning AMOLED display. The battery can be charged from zero to full in about two hours.
There’s also a basic functionality option. In this mode the device can keep going for a full 15 days, but it will only record steps and sleep. With the always-on mode, the watch will struggle to run more than 2-3 days – which is still slightly more than you’d get on the Apple Watch.
In terms of general health and activity, there is lots to like. The sensors allow it to track all the usual metrics such as steps, activity, distance, sleep and more. It does all of this well.
Most of these stats can be viewed on Zepp E itself. Swiping left, right, up and down on the screen will take you through the different pages. Pressing the button will reveal a large menu in the form of list.
The other option for viewing stats is to use the Zepp app. Once again, this is the same app that is used for Huami’s Amazfit lineup. It is interesting that the company has decided to rename the app to Zepp instead of Amazfit. A marketing decision most likely.
The app does the job although it does take a bit of experimenting to learn where everything is tucked away.
The sleep statistics, in particular, are very detailed and include info on light sleep, deep sleep, REM and awake time. Users also get a daily sleep and breathing quality score, and the device on their wrist will track naps during the day.
Zepp E also tracks blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) and stress level via heart rate variability (HRV). These same metrics can be found in the Amazfit Band 5 which I recently reviewed. The SpO2 is on-demand so doesn’t work automatically during the night.
You do get the choice between automatic and on-demand for stress. I opted for the option which takes these readings automatically in the background. It effects battery life but you get a nice chart on how your stress levels oscillated during the day.
I checked the stress and SpO2 readings against a number of other devices and they tally. Which makes me trust them. Sleep is good as well although you do get more discrepanceies as is the case with all watches. Steps and the rest are fine.
Worth mentioning is also the Personal Activity Intelligence (PAI) Index. Huami is using it extensivelly on all its devices and Zepp is no different. You are meant to keep this score above 100. Studies have shown that doing this on a consistent basic can reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases by up to a quarter. The smartphone app provides lots of reading on this in case you are interested in learning about the benefits of PAI in more detail.
Outside of activity and sleep tracking, the device also keeps tabs on 11 different sports. This includes outdoor running, walking, outdoor cycling, treadmill, indoor cycling, pool swimming, elliptical, climbing, trail running, skiing and free training. The metrics that you’ll get vary for each activity.
Unfortunately you do not get built-in GPS but you can tap into the satellite signal on your smartphone for more detailed tracking of outdoor activities. And this is the main sticking point of the device. It’s fine that it doesn’t have built-in GPS but considering the $250 selling price it should.
I tested the watch out against a Garmin Forerunner on my other wrist during a few runs. Prior to starting out you’ll need to make sure the Zepp is connected to your smartphone’s GPS signal by opening the Zepp app. It usually takes no more than a few seconds to secure the connection. After that you can tuck the phone away as everything else can be done from the watch.
A learning experince was trying to end the exercise. Typically you just press and hold the physical button. But doing this with Zepp E takes you back to the home screen. Instead, you’re meant to press the physical button once, swipe to the left and you’ll be shown the option to end the run.
The Connected GPS worked well and post-run you’ll get a nice little map both on the watch and in the Zepp smartphone app. The same cannot be said, though, for the heart rate monitor. Sometimes it functioned well, sometimes it didn’t.
I suspect the thin form-factor of the watch makes it difficult for the sensor to sit flush against the skin. This is something that is necessary for consistently precise readings. I don’t know if further experimentation would help me find the sweet spot in terms of positioning.
Having said that, anyone very serious about running should look to buy a sports watch anyway. Preferably one with built-in GPS. But Zepp E will suffice to most other people.
Rounding things off is the smart functionality. Zepp E comes with a bit of it sprinkled in.
Everything runs on Huami’s proprietary operating system, the same one that can be found on all Amazfit-branded watches. This is a closed system, so there’s no support for installing third-party apps.
You can view smartphone notifications but you can’t interact with them. App alerts come up as well although they are bunched together. There’s also a weather map which updates info when your smartphone is nearby, a compass, timer, alarms and other bits and pieces.
I tried out the music functionality. You can’t download any songs but you can control music that is already playing on your smartphone – it works fine. This also allows for pausing, skipping tracks and going back, and controlling the volume. You can’t choose albums, playlists or anything like that.
The first Zepp-branded watch from Huami is a solid offering. Its highlight is definitely the fashionable design and high-quality build – something you would not expect from a sports brand.
The minimalistic form factor makes the timepiece ideal for those with small wrists or women. The AMOLED display is very colorful and incredibly vibrant. It is definitely one of the best looking watches I have tested – a testament to how far tech has come in recent years.
As far as general health and activity, the watch functions well. The sleep tracking stats are detailed and there’s even blood oxygen and stress tracking. All of this is nicely presented on the watch and the app.
The lack of built-in GPS and patchy heart rate tracking during exercise makes this a fashionista fitness watch. If you are after a sports watch go for something with built-in GPS.
Zepp E sells for a bit more than other devices with similar functionality. The $250 premium price on Zepp’s website (check price on Amazon) is for the design. So if you’ve got cash to spare (or can pick it up on a discount), it makes a good purchase for those looking for a beautiful fitness watch.
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