- Premium, Titanium design
- Simple to use
- Health features & basic activity tracking works well
- GPS is accurate
- Decent battery life
- Heart rate monitor issues during exercise
- Limited smartwatch features
Zepp is not a new name in the wearables space. It has its origins in Silicon Valley in the now distant 2010.
However it is only since its takeover by Huami that the company has started churning out smartwatches. Zepp E was the first effort. Launched around four months ago, this is a fashionista fitness watch. It comes in a choice between two distinct designs. One is an Applesque squarish look, the other a circular version. Both feature an AMOLED display and the usual Huami fitness and health smarts.
The company has upped its game for the sequel. Unlike its predecessor, Zepp Z has only a square iteration. But it comes with a more premium Titanium body, plus there’s built-in GPS.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
I’ve been walking, exercising and sleeping with a Zepp Z strapped to my wrist for the past couple of weeks. Read on for my review.
Zepp Z is a looker. It is probably one of the most attractive timepieces I have had the privilege of testing out over the years. The fine detail craftsmanship and quality of build is what will make you want it.
At first glance the watch comes across like a high-quality traditional timepiece. It also reminds a bit of the Garmin range – but with a more premium build. You don’t get many parts that are plastic or aluminium with Zepp Z.
You could say the watch manages to look sporty and elegant at the same time. Something you would be equally proud to wear in the gym, on the golf course, in the office or for a night out.
The watch is made of a single piece of brushed and polished Titanium alloy. This makes Zepp Z incredibly lightweight (40 grams) and exceptionally strong. There is special NTC nanotech coating on top of the Curved Watch Glass which makes it resistant to scratches. The back is made of Ceramic and the button and crown are both Titanium.
All of this is attached to a genuine leather strap which feels and looks quality made. Having said that, I did find the band to be a bit on the rigid side. It wasn’t helped by the fact that the perfect size for me fell right between two holes in the strap – so I had to switch between the looser setting when not exercising and tighter one when doing a run.
Around the sides is a classic crown design with engraved outer bezel ticks and numbers etched in the metal. The thing simply oozes class.
The actual dimensions of the watch come in at 45.9×45.9×10.75 millimeters. Although this might seem as fairly large, it does not come across as chunky. Plus the Titanium build means you’ll hardly feel you’re wearing it. Nevertheless, the watch is more of a masculine than a unisex device.
Water-proofing is excellent. The 5 ATM rating means it is good down to depths of 50 metres. Just make sure to remove the leather band before jumping into the pool. Leather and water don’t mix well! A fluoroelastomer strap or a silicone one are better for that sort of thing.
Zepp Z has an AMOLED display. You wouldn’t expect anything less from such a premium looking thing. It measures 1.39 inches and has a resolution of 454×454 pixels, 326 ppi. The peak brightness comes in at 550 nits. This makes the screen bright and crisp – you can easily read it in all conditions.
The settings will allow you to enable the always-on display option. As Zepp puts it, this will “severely” eat into the battery life. Once enabled the watch will alternate between the full display, and time-only when you’re not actively interacting with the device. Or you could opt to keep the display off by default, or enable the always-on setting during a specific time period every day. These are the more battery friendly choices.
Other customization options include watch-faces. There are five in total that are saved on the device itself. However, some 50 others can be found in the smartphone app. They offer a nice mix between digital and analog design choices. Huami says you can even customise the display with your own photo although I didn’t try this.
Swiping left and right on the home screen will take you through the individual cards. Swipe down on each one for more info. There’s a card for heart rate, PAI, activity, heart rate, weather, music and smart assistants. This is all very smooth and works well. The operating system is the same Huami uses for its Amazfit line. Both Zepp and Amazfit watches run identical software and use the Zepp smartphone app.
Swiping up from the home page takes you through to the settings, down takes you to notifications. The other mode of navigation is performed via the physical buttons on the right. At first glance you’ll think there are three of them. However, that’s not the case.
The top button is not really a button. It is just there to make the thing look more attractive. It doesn’t feel clickable so I can’t imagine a future software update will make it do something.
The crown in the middle is a shortcut to the full menu. It essentially acts as a push button to take you to the main menu. Then rotate the crown to scroll through the menu. The bottom button is a shortcut to starting exercises.
Health and fitness sensors
Under the hood there’s the usual Amazfit tech. The full list of sensors includes an accelerometer, Huami’s BioTrackerTM 2.0 PPG bio-tracking optical sensor, gyroscope sensor, geomagnetic sensor, capacitive sensor, air pressure sensor and ambient light sensor.
Unlike the first generation, Zepp Z also comes with built-in GPS + GLONASS. This is an important detail. The lack of built-in GPS was our main gripes when we reviewed Zepp E. A watch that wants to be taken as a serious sports tracker in 2021 needs to have built-in GPS.
Advertised battery life is 15 days on a single 2.5 hour charge thanks to a sizeable 340 mAh battery. However, you’ll struggle to reach this figure. Particularly if you switch-on the always on display, enable the advanced health tracking and use GPS from time to time. I did most of these things (apart from the always-on display) and needed to reach for the charger perhaps once a week for a quick one hour top-up. Ten days is reasonable to expect for the average user.
There’s also an option that will keep it going for a full month. But this is in the “long battery-life mode” which keeps most of the advanced functionality switched off. You could revert to it, though, if you find yourself running short on juice and your charger is nowhere to be found.
Fitness and health tracking
Review a few Amazfit and Zepp watches and you’ll notice how similar they all are in terms of features. As mentioned, this is because they run on the same proprietary operating system made by Huami.
I am a fan of it as it is simple, intuitive and lets you find things easily. You are not overloaded with stats, and the most important menu options are only a click or swipe away. The learning curve is not very steep when interacting with this watch.
As a general health and fitness device Zepp Z works well. The rather comprehensive set of features includes step tracking, distance, calories, stress, heart rate, sleep, SpO2 and more.
To benefit from the full range of health markers you’ll want to tweak the watch settings in the smartphone app. This will allow you to increase heart rate frequency detection to a maximum of 1 minute, enable automatic activity detection, heart rate alerts, all day stress monitoring and sleep breathing quality monitoring. Also make sure to update the watch firmware.
Basic info on many health and fitness metrics can be found on the watch itself. If you want to look beyond today’s data, head over to the Zepp smartphone app. Unlike the operating system of the watch, it will take some getting used to.
The app starts off with a home screen with your step count and highlighed daily health and fitness goodies. Tap on pretty much any metric for a more detailed view of activity. If you can’t find a stat you are looking for, simply tap the icon in the top right hand corner. This opens a menu with shortcuts to all data.
For example, choose the steps screen and you’ll be able to group data into day, week, month and yearly totals. Below this you will find some insights and health tips. These are sprinkled throughout the app but are not in your face so you can ignore them if you wish.
Step tracking is fairly decent. I compared it to a Garmin Forerunner on my other wrist and found the count to be slightly on the lower side. But nothing to be overly concerned about.
Huami actually wants you to pay more attention to PAI (Personal Activity Intelligence) rather then step count. It is a more realistic gauge of your activity as PAI rewards you when you push your heart to work harder. The aim is to keep the figure above 100.
Sleep tracking also works well. The watch will disect your kip time into Deep sleep, Light sleep, REM and Awake. You can also overlay your heart rate info on top of the sleep chart which is a nice touch.
For those in a hurry, the watch spits out a sleep score. This quantifies the quality of your overnight rest on a scale from 0 to 100. The watch will even pick up on that afternoon nap.
As far as insights, there a experimental sleep breathing quality score along with stats that I often chose to ignore simply because there are so many of them. But for those that like to gain a deep insight into their sleep habits there’s plenty to sink your teeth into.
The heart rate info when not exercising is also of decent quality. I found the resting heart rate in the morning mostly jived with the figures on my Garmin watch. The PPG sensor measures heart rates at an accuracy of 93.27% according to research conducted by the Cardiovascular Department of Peking University First Hospital.
Other health functionality includes the SpO2 sensor. This works on-demand so there’s no option to enable it to automatically take readings. You’ll need to make sure you are sitting still and not moving your arm from the horizontal position when taking a measurement. I often found it would take me 2-3 tries before a successful reading.
You should be able to trust the results. Huami has tested the accuracy of the SpO2 in the lab. The result shows an average deviation of only 1.67% against the measurement results provided by a medical SpO2 tester.
Unlike SpO2, stress tracking has both a manual and automatic mode. I opted for the latter with full realisation that it will shorten the battery life a bit.
Zepp Z aims to be a more serious sports tracker than its predecessor. There is built-in GPS + GLONASS that can be utilized for a number of activities, as well as 12 built-in sports modes and 90 in total that can be activated.
As an avid runner I was keen to test out the watch. Just make sure to update the GPS software before use. The smartphone app will automatically do this for you.
I found that Zepp Z connected to the satellite signal very quickly on a consistent basis, and the GPS stats were perfectly fine. Pretty much on-par with Garmin’s. Some discrepancies can occur in out-of-the way wooded areas and heavily built-up city streets, but that’s to be expected.
While I was impressed with the quality of GPS, the same cannot be said of heart rate tracking. When it works, it works well. However on one or two occasions the results during exercise would be way off. Which made those stats rather useless.
Having looked through other reviews, I found they are divided between those who have found heart rate tracking to be perfectly fine during exercise, and those that had issues.
I suspect this is more to do with the leather band rather than anything else. Because it is rigid, it is difficult to secure the watch tightly against your wrist.
For better results, I suggest swapping the leather band for a silicone one when doing runs. Detaching the strap is easily done within the space of a few seconds. You probably don’t want to get your nice leather band sweaty anyway!
As far as stats, you get the usual gamut. This includes average and max heart rate, cadence, stride, steps, pace, calories burned, best pace and more. There are also a few charts which show some of these in more detail.
Rounding of this review is a brief look at smart features. There is no NFC, built-in storage for music or anything fancy but you do get the basics.
These include the standard notifications and reminders for incoming calls, app alerts, idle alerts, incoming SMS, emails and goal notifications, along with weather info. All of these can be individually customized in the smartphone app.
For instance, incoming emails will show the sender and subject line. This is made better thanks to the large crisp AMOLED display. It makes reading text and interacting with the watch a breeze. But you can’t reply to notifications or anything like that.
For call alerts the watch will vibrate during incoming calls and optionally show the phone number or name of the person contacting you. There’s also an option to set a delay. For example, you can choose to enable a call alert anywhere between 3 to 30 seconds after the first ring.
Finally, you can also use voice controls to interact with Zepp Z thanks to a built-in microphone. It gives you hands-free control over the timepiece for tasks such as music control, opening apps, starting workouts, opening alarms and much more. The smartphone app has a section which provides a nice overview of all the commands you can speak.
You also get Amazon Alexa integration. However, at the time of this review this was not enabled yet. When it’s live you’ll be able to access the feature via a long press on the crown. Huami says Alexa integration will come soon via a software update.
Zepp Z packs a nice set of features in a very premium design. You will proudly wear it as the timepiece simply oozes class.
In terms of basic health and activity tracking the watch does not disappoint. You get the usual stats along with detailed sleep info, SpO2 and stress tracking. All of this connects to the Zepp app where you can look at your long-term trends and get insights.
As far as sports tracking, unlike its predecessor Zepp Z packs built-in GPS/GLONASS. This also works very well.
I did have issues on occasions when tracking running heart rate. I suspect these could be resolved by opting for a silicone band instead of the leather one during exercise. But the Zepp range needs some more improvements in order to become a fully fledged sports watch replacement.
The watch is rather pricey due to the premium Titanium build. In that sense, it caters to a particular part of the market. Users after a timepiece with beautiful craftsmanship, quality of build, great battery life and a solid set of health and fitness features.
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