Amazfit GTS 2
- Attractive, very thin and light
- Excellent AMOLED display
- GPS works better than on predecessor
- Built-in storage for music for 300+ songs
- Can answer phone calls with watch speaker
- Patchy SpO2 readings
- Mediocre smartphone app
Huami has recently made available the Amazfit GTR 2 and GTS 2 in the US and Europe. The duo is an upgrade on the popular first generation devices. The main improvements come in the form of a more lightweight design, an SpO2 sensor and built-in storage for music.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
In my review of the original GTS I found that it delivers a lot for the price. If you’re after a nice looking fitness watch that doesn’t break the bank, it presents itself as a solid option.
Amazfit GTS 2 comes in a few different formats. This includes the GTS 2 Mini and GTS 2e. Some functionality is sacrificed with these other iterations, but they are cheaper.
I’ve been walking around with the GTS 2 strapped to my wrist for the past couple of weeks. Does it improve on its predecessor? Read on to find out.
In case you were wondering, the letters GT in the name stand for Grand Touring. In car speak this translates to a combination of luxury and performance. The S stands for square and the R in GTR for round. The two variants are practically the same, the difference is in design. With that out of the way, let’s proceed to the review.
The GTS 2 is an iterative upgrade over the original. Huami has shaved a few millimeters off the edges so it’s slightly more sleeker and lighter than before. Its exact dimensions come in at 42.8 x 35.6 x 9.7mm and weight at a mere 24.7 grams. You will hardly feel it on your wrist.
The excellent 1.65 inch AMOLED display is still there. The resolution is the same (348×442 pixels), but now the screen comes with 450 nits of brightness and a diamond coating to protect against scratches. This makes it a bit more robust and an upgrade over Gorilla Glass 3 protection of its predecessor.
Huami markets this as a bezel-less screen. That’s not exactly true as there are dark edges around the display. But they are tiny.
I must say I was very impressed with the visibility and vivid colors of the screen. The quality is right up there with the Apple Watch and other much more expensive devices. Indoors or out, everything is clearly legible. The settings allow for customisation of display brightness, but in the end I opted for the automatic mode. In very sunny conditions, I sometimes switched the brightness to max.
Having said that, at one point during the weeks of testing the screen did go slightly dark. Not sure if I was the cause as I had been rummaging through the various settings. I was puzzled how to fix this, but in the end a simple restart returned things to normal.
There’s also an optional always-on display option. It switches between showing the time when on stand-by mode and your full stats when the screen is illuminated. Just know that this will eat into the battery life.
Despite largely similar design specs, it is not too difficult to tell GTS 2 and its predecessor apart. Just look at the single physical button on the right. On the second generation, it is larger and integrates more neatly into the main body. The design of the watch is curved, with no sharp edges.
As far as build, once again we get an aluminium alloy and polymer material. This is paired with a silicone strap. Of course you get a few color options to choose from including midnight black, desert gold or urban grey aluminum alloy case. As you can see from the images I tested the midnight black option.
The watch can be paired with any number of Amazfit or third-party bands. The pin system makes detaching a strap from the timepiece a 3 second job.
You can further pretty up things with a selection of watch faces. A long-press on the screen takes you to a total of nine which can be found on the device itself. You can’t upload custom watch faces but the ones there can be swapped around for a multitude of others in the smartphone app.
As before, GTS 2 has a 5 ATM rating for water-resistance. This makes it well suited for swimming and other water and under-water adventures. Unlike a few years ago, excellent water-resistance has become the norm. We rarely even think about it.
Sensor-wise, you now get a blood oxygen monitoring along with sleep apnea monitoring thanks to an upgraded BioTracker PPG. These functions are missing from the original. The 6-axis accelerometer has also been swapped around for an 9-axis one.
Other improvements come in the form of built-in storage for music. GTR 2 has a massive 3GB for that purpose which is enough for anywhere between 300-600 songs. Music transfer is quite easily done through the smartphone app, but more about that later.
Amazfit GTS 2
The GPS/GLONASS is still there. Thankfully, it works better than on its predecessor. Obtaining a connection is quicker and the satellite signal accuracy has improved. Having said that, it can still be a bit patchy. Sometimes it works perfectly, at other times (for example in heavily built-up areas) it might be slightly off.
In terms of obtaining the signal, the first time I went out it I could not acquire it. But this is because I had not updated the GPS settings file. So make sure to update the GPS file on the watch as it will work much better.
This is done when you sync the watch with the smartphone app. Once the files were refreshed, it did not take long to acquire a satellite signal. Perhaps 10-15 seconds longer than the Garmin on my other wrist.
Rounding off the specs overview is battery life. The 220 mAh of the original has been swapped around for a 246 mAh. However, the better specs mean that actual battery life has not changed. Huami advertises up 7 days of battery life in normal use mode and 20 days with basic usage. This falls to 25 hours with GPS switched on.
In practice I found that I needed to reach for the charger once every 4-5 days. But I was using the watch to the max, enabling all the battery-intensive options and doing a run with GPS switched on every couple of days. The good thing is it literally charges in a 30-60 minutes.
Nevertheless, I would have liked to see Huami extend battery life a bit more. 10 days would have made me much happier. I would have preferred this even if it meant adding bulk to the build of the device to allow for a larger battery. But a week is around average – you don’t get much more on a Fitbit, and Apple is nowhere near this number with its watch.
Fitness and health tracking
As far as fitness and health tracking ability, most of the recent crop of Amazfit watches come with similar functionality. This includes all the usuals such as steps, distance, calories and sleep, along with blood oxygen and stress tracking. Most of the stats can be viewed on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. The only thing that is missing is a floors climbed count.
As far as the quality of steps, distance, calorie tracking and sleep data, it’s difficult to compare the watch to other devices. Having said that, I did find the step count to consistently be on the low side. But each brand has its own algorithms and the stats will never match. In my mind, as long as you wear the same device every day you are comparing like with like. Just as long as the figures are broadly correct.
The watch uses Huami’s proprietary operating system which I am a fan of. Everything is clearly laid out, the menus are easy to navigate and the watch is very responsive to touch. There is practically no learning curve or need to read instructions. It’s all quite intuitive.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Zepp smartphone app. This is the software that you’ll need to install on your smartphone. It’s not bad – but it could be better as it takes a bit to figure out where everything is tucked away.
The dashboard provides many of the main stats, but not all. To access a list of everything that is available you’ll need to tap on the four-leaf clover in the top right-hand corner of the screen. This reveals a screen with “All data”. You can then choose what you are interested. All of this, I feel, could have been made simpler.
What I liked are the insights and explanations. These are typically below the data so are not in the way if you’re not interested in reading them.
The sleep stats are quite detailed. You get a breakdown between Deep, Light, REM sleep and awake time, along with an overall sleep score. There are some more “exotic” stats as well, such as sleep breathing quality. This puts you on a scale between zero and 100 and is marked as “Beta” (work in progress).
Unlike many watches, GTS 2 also recognises naps over 20 minutes. For someone like me this is important as I tend to supplement my short overnight sleep sessions with a long afternoon nap. It will even try and disect the nap into different sleep stages.
Other interesting stats include a stress score. That works quite well and can be made to function on demand or automatically during the day.
However I found the SpO2 measurements to be a bit patchy. Sometimes the sensor would work fine, at other times the readings would be clearly off (below 85%). Perhaps having the watch sit tighter against my skin would have solved that problem, but not sure that I have much trust in the SpO2 sensor.
You’ll also get a PAI score to make sure to keep your heart pumping regularly. For those not in the know, these types of measurements are gaining in popularity. Steps were all the rage a few years ago but they do not really represent an ideal way to monitor your activity. A simple example is riding a bike – a 1 hour cycle around the park will not rack up your step count!
Instead, PAI looks at how hard your heart is working and combines this with exercise time and other complex health information. You are meant to keep the PAI Index above 100. All this is backed by science, too. In fact it is validated by one of the largest health studies ever conducted in history.
There’s a plethora of sports modes and Huami has said it will keep adding new ones. GPS/GLONASS comes as part of some of these for phone free training. The auto-recognition mode recognizes outdoor running, treadmill, walking, outdoor cycling, pool swimming and elliptical.
As mentioned, I found GPS tracking to be better than on its predecessor. Once I’ve updated the GPS files on the watch, it was quick to obtain a signal. The end result is not quite on par with a high quality sports watch, but for the average person it will suffice.
I took GTS 2 on a couple of runs with a Garmin strapped to my other wrist. Here’s how they compared on my last 3K run.
As can be seen from the above, the distance over 3 kilometers was off by around 30 meters between the two. As far as heart rate, GTS 2 had me pinned at an average of 164bpm and a maximum value of 183bpm. The results on the Garmin Forerunner 935 (with a Polar OH1 heart rate chest strap) showed 159bpm and 173bpm respectively.
The run before that, was even better. The GPS figures matched perfectly, although once again my heart rate was higher on the GTS. An average of 158bpm and 170bpm for max, versus 155bpm and 165bpm on the Garmin.
I have noticed that in heavily built-up areas the differences in GPS readings are bigger. That is not really surprising as large buildings will interfere with the signal. But I feel Huami is doing well in improving the GPS accuracy on its devices. It’s not sports watch quality just yet, but it’s moving in the right direction.
The same can be said of the heart rate monitor. The company says the improved BioTracker PPG sensor allows for abnormal heart rate warnings. Even though I switched this option on, luckily I did not get any such alerts.
Moving on to smart functionality. Like most watches in the Amazfit range, GTS 2 has the ability to display SMS and app notifications, along with incoming email alerts.
As far as app alerts, this can be customized in the smartphone app. Each of the following can be switched on or off individually: Zepp, WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and Calendar.
The watch has a built-in speaker and microphone. This means that in addition to call notifications, you can accept calls on it. You will need to enable this functionality as it is off by default. The settings will walk you through a separate pairing process which needs to be done in order for this to work.
It involves making sure your phone is discoverable via Bluetooth, and linking up to its connection via the settings on the watch itself. You will need to confirm the pairing on both your phone and watch by typing in a code.
You can also perform voice operations on your watch without internet access through the offline voice control. This can be customized in the Zepp app settings page. I personally don’t have much use for that and see it more as a gimick, but it doesn’t hurt to have the option.
Other than that, there is the usual clock, alarm, stopwatch, weather and camera shutter function. The Chinese version of the watch has NFC for contactless payments but this was not ported over to the international version.
An important selling point of GTS 2 is the 3GB of on-board memory for storing your own music. That’s enough for more than 300 songs. You will need actual MP3 files from your collection.
However, it is a bit of a learning curve. The first time I attempted to upload a song it took me about half an hour to figure out how to do it. It would have been much easier if Huami provided clear-cut instructions. At one point I was ready to give up! Now I can do it in a breeze but that’s only because I went through the learning process.
This music uploading to your watch is done via the smartphone app. This is the easiest way to do it, although there are others.
Hopefully I’ll save you some times with this.
Go to the profile page in the smartphone app and select your watch. Click on the music icon. That will take you through to the page which simply says “Upload music”. Click on that and it will transition into your run-of-the-mill file browser. Now select the MP3 file that you want to upload. So far so good.
Where I was getting stuck is on what to do next! What needs to be done is the following.
Press the tab that says “Uploading” as shown in the screen shot above. You’ll get a screen explaining that you need to connect your smartphone to the GTS 2 hotspot that has just been created. Do this via the settings on your phone – this means disconnecting from your WiFi or cellular signal. Once you’ve done this the upload of the file(s) will start automatically.
For me, it took around 2-3 tries before the hotspot actually worked. But when it did the transfer was quite quick.
The music controls on the watch are done well. You can access playlists, individual songs, play, pause and skip. When exercising you are meant to connect to the watch with Bluetooth headphones.
I was very impressed with the watch speaker quality. At the highest volume setting you can listen quite nicely to the music without headphones. Probably not when running but you can while walking and definitely when indoors.
The other option is to use the watch to control music on your smartphone. This is functionality which can also be found on many other Amazfit watches.
Also worth a mention is Alexa control. This is an advertised function which has not yet made it to the watch. Huami says it will come via a OTA (over-the-air) upgrade. I have tested this functionality on the Amazfit Band 5 and found that it works well.
Accessing the service on Band 5 is done by swiping to the right from the home screen of the device. There’s you’ll see the message “I’m listening”. Then it’s a matter of asking questions. Huami has said earlier in the year the functionality is arriving in Q4 2020, so hopefully it will be soon.
Amazfit GTS 2 is a definite improvement over the original. It comes with all of its functionality, plus music storage, an SpO2 sensor, a more lightweight design and some other extras. Huami says Alexa functionality will come in the near future as a software update.
All in all, the GTS 2 offers a nice set of features for the price. The display is particularly impressive. It’s bright and clear and very responsive to touch.
I found the GPS and heart rate worked well for running. Having said that, I would characterize this as a fitness watch and not something I would recommend to serious runners. They would be better off with a fully fledged sports watch. For everyone else, the GTS 2 will suffice quite nicely.
Amazfit GTS 2
At $180 on Amazfit’s website, the watch retails for around $30 more than its predecessor. But Amazfit does offer quite hefty discounts from time to time. You can also check it out on Amazon and Argos.
If you prefer the circular design, GTR 2 comes with pretty much the same specs. Another option comes in the form of the GTS 2 Mini. It comes in a smaller body and lacks storage for music, but costs only around $99.
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