Rugged watches are not for everyone. But they are very popular amongst the outdoorsy types. This includes those into hiking, skiing and other outdoor adventures. Such devices are typically bulky, they have good navigation systems, decent battery life and are built to survive most environments.
A number of brands such as Garmin, Suunto and Casio have multiple devices in this category. Even Apple is rumored to be working on a more durable version of its watch.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
Huami (or Zepp Health as it is now known) is also in this group. Its entry in the rugged smartwatch space is the Amazfit T-Rex Pro. Launched a couple of years ago the device offers a decent set of features at an attractive price.
Zepp Health has released a follow-up to T-Rex last month. The Pro version brings a number of useful upgrades such as better water-resistance and additional sensors.
I’ve been testing the T-Rex Pro for the past few weeks. Here’s my review.
Amazfit T-Rex Pro review: Design
- durable build
- weighs only 59 grams
- 15 military-grade certifications
- 18 day battery life
Identical in looks to the non-Pro version
Amazfit T-Rex Pro is identical in looks to the non-Pro version. The dimensions of both are 47.7 x 47.7 x 13.5 mm and they have the same ultra-rugged appearance. Looking at them you’d think they are the same device. It’s hard to tell them apart unless you know what to look for.
These are sports watches that are designed to take quite a beating. Their case is made of a high-strength polymer that protects against drops, shocks and weather elements. The benefit of that type of material rather than, for example, steel is that the device will not weigh down your wrist. With the 22mm strap, the watch weighs only 59 grams.
The way to tell the two generations apart is in the detail. The Pro variant benefits from a metallic painting effect on the bezel. Its two-tone silicone wristband is also a nice improvement over the previous plain one. Both of these help to make the watch slightly more premium looking.
Thanks to a little flex the band feels very soft and comfortable. It’s worth noting – there is no quick release mechanism so it’s not easy to change the strap around for another one. But the included band works well, it stays clean and dries quickly.
Amazfit T-Rex Pro
In essence, the design of T-Rex Pro is more practical than attractive. Probably not something you will be boasting about on a night out, but those after an adventurers watch will be after this type of form-factor.
The timepiece can be picked up in a few different color options. This include Meteorite Black, Desert Grey and Steel Blue. I have the first one on this list as can be seen from the images in this article.
Water-resistance is pinned at 10 ATM. In English this means you can dunk the thing down to depths of 100 meters. That should be more than enough for everyone apart from, maybe, those into deep sea diving. This is one of the improvements over the original which only has a 5 ATM water-resistance stamp.
In addition to the excellent water-resistance, the durability of the Pro version is illustrated in the number of US Military grade certifications it boasts. The total is 15, which is three more than the non-Pro version. I won’t list all of them in this article but take my word for it – the device is super-tough and will not break easily. That is the idea of this type of watch.
Display is excellent
The display is also something that is built to be practical. The 1.3 inch AMOLED packs 360 x 360 pixel resolution that is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3. This combination makes it easily visible in most conditions. The ambient light sensor ensures the brightness is adjusted automatically.
I would have preferred it if the bezel around the display was a bit smaller. But this probably helps keep the device shock and drop-proof.
There are various screen settings that you can tweak including brightness, wake-up time and similar. More usefully, you can also opt for an always-on option. This transitions from a fully functional watch face to one with just the time. I really liked this combination. The caveat is explaned by the message that will pop up saying – type of setting will “severely” affect battery life. And it does reduce it to only a few days.
The T-Rex Pro screen has an anti-fingerprint coating. This helps as you are meant to navigate the display via touch and the four physical buttons labeled Up, Down, Back, and Select. The last of these can be customized so that it performs the action you desire.
Those accustomed to typical Amazfit or Zepp watches might find the four button system a bit confusing. I certainly did. That’s because the other watches have only one or two physical buttons. This means that it will take some time to get used to the controls. I’ve tested quite a few Huami-made timepieces over the years so it was definitely a learning experience navigating the T-Rex Pro menus.
For example just figuring out how to end my run was frustrating. Something that was simple before suddenly became complicated. But even though it was annoying, I suppose it does make sense. If you are out in the snow or trecking on a mountain, navigating the menus via the touchscreen might be impossible. Especially if you are wearing gloves. In that sense it is better to use the physical buttons.
As far as watch faces, you get five pre-installed on the device. A long press on the display will reveal them and let you switch between them. Additional ones can be found in the smartphone app. There are also a ton that can be installed through third-party software. A whole community has grown around these watch faces.
Sensors and battery life
Under the hood there is plenty going on – this is one of the most specs-heavy watches manufactured by Huami. The full list of sensors includes the latest BioTracker 2 PPG biological tracking optical sensor, 3-axis acceleration sensor, 3-axis gyroscope, geomagnetic sensor, barometric altimeter and ambient light sensor. The additions over the predecessor are the ability of the Pro version to track blood oxygen and stress, along with the altimeter.
Another improvement can be found in satellite navigation. The combination of four global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo) will ensure you never get lost. Previously you had to rely on just the first two.
Battery life is another highlight. T-Rex Pro can keep going for 18 days between charges. That’s a couple of days less than the non-Pro version due to the boost in specs. However, battery life with satellite positioning switched on has been doubled to 40 hours.
I found during testing these stats are reflective of reality. You do need to tweak the settings though. The more functionality you switch on the bigger the toll on the battery. For example, you can define the frequency of heart rate monitoring, decide how detailed you want your sleep stats to be, toggle all day stress monitoring, etc.
But it’s rare that I needed to reach for the charger. The sizeable 390mAh LiPo battery can be refueled via the magnetic, 2pin pogo pin charger which snaps on to the pins on the back of the watch. The benefit of having such a large timepiece is that you can fit a big battery inside the thing.
Amazfit T-Rex Pro
Fitness and health tracking
- all the usual fitness and sleep stats
- blood oxygen on-demand
- stress around the clock
- detailed sleep stats
The Amazfit T-Rex represents a viable alternative for those that do not want to pay too much for another outdoorsy watch such as a Garmin Instinct or Fenix. Granted you will not get as much functionality, but you do get plenty.
The watch works through the same proprietary operating system that is installed on all Amazfit and Zepp timepieces. It is simple to use, very stable and smooth – no instability or software problems whatsoever. Those that are coming from WearOS will find it a refreshing experience.
As far as fitness and activity tracking, there is hardly any difference between this watch and other Amazfit and Zepp watches. You get the typical activity stats, blood oxygen measurements on demand and stress tracking around the clock. The daily stats can be seen on the watch itself, while more detail and longer term trends can be viewed in the Zepp smartphone app.
The one thing that is missing is a floor count. Which is strange considering the watch does have the barometric altimeter which is typically what is used to estimate this type of metric. I would have also wished for SpO2 monitoring to be automatic during the day, but it’s not.
PAI plays a central role on all Huami-made watches. I’ve become fans of the metric over the years. Instead of the usual step count as a gauge of daily activity, it tracks your heart. Whenever you are active your heart rate increases. The PAI metric captures this activity and provides you with a daily score.
The aim is to get to 100 and keep the value above that level. That has been proven by studies to add multiple healthy years to your life.
The smartphone app used to be a rather clunky affair but Huami has been putting in some good work in improving it.
The sleep stats, in particular, are detailed. In addition to capturing naps, different sleep stages and respiratory information, you’ll get a daily sleep score. Whats more, the app will also spit out insights on what you can do to improve your nightly rest.
- heart rate and GPS works well
- tracks 100+ sports, 8 with auto-recognition
- VO2Max, Training Load, Training Effect
The Pro version builds on the original with some new sports functionality. For starters, users can now track more than 100 sports. On the predecessor they only have 14.
Amongst the one hundred are a host of popular outdoor sports modes. Something called ExerSense is also new. It automatically detects and tracks eight types of workouts in case you forget to switch them on yourself. The auto-functionality never kicked in during the few weeks of my testing so I cannot confirm that it does work.
Interestingly, Firstbeat metrics make an appearance. These include VO2Max, Training Load and Training Effect. Hopefully we will see more of these on Amazfit watches.
I did a number of runs with the T-Rex Pro strapped on one wrist and a Garmin Forerunner 935 on the other. The Vo2Max that was estimated by the Amazfit was considerably below the Garmin value. However, I reserve judgement as it typically takes at least for a month for the value to be properly assessed. Both companies are using the same Firstbeat Metrics so presumably the algorithms are identical.
The big screen on T-Rex is conducive to reading stats while you are running. Unlike a Garmin, you can’t really tweak the fields so you get what the app is set to show. But you will be able to see all the basics such as distance, pace, heart rate and there is auto-pause.
The T-Rex Pro will probably fit the needs of most runners, although it doesn’t offer too much in terms of advanced performance metrics. The hard-core runners may want to look for a dedicated running watch, instead.
As far as GPS positioning, Huami has considerably improved this over the past year. Obtaining a signal is quick and the stats are on par with Garmin. Just make sure to update the A-GPS files occasionally. This is done automatically when you sync the watch to the Zepp smartphone app.
As mentioned above, for out of the way routes the satellite positioning should be even better as the watch also speaks to BeDou and Galileo satellites. The original is limited just to GPS and GLONASS.
Unlike some other devices in the Amazfit range, the heart rate monitor on T-Rex Pro works well during exercise. The bulk of the device probably makes it easier to capture a good signal from the wrist.
For example a recent 4K run yielded an average heart rate of 149 bpm and a max of 172 bpm on the Amazfit. The Polar OH1 put the values at 155 bpm and 173 bpm respectively. More importantly, there were no strange drops or peaks in the heart rate on the Amazfit during the run.
I did another 4K run a few days later and the Amazfit estimated my average heart rate at 158 bpm and max 175 bpm. The Polar pinned the values at 161 bpm and 172 bpm. So the discrepancies are to be expected, but on the T-Rex they are not huge.
The thing is, no wrist watch is going to spit out chest strap quality heart rate data. It would be much better if the Amazfit had the ability to connect to external chest straps. But it doesn’t. In my mind, Huami should put that towards the top of their priority list.
- basic music control
- SMS, call, app notifications
- no third party apps
The watch also provides SMS, call and app notifications. These are pretty basic so don’t expect an Apple Watch experience.
There is no speaker on-board or microphone, only vibration. Which means you can’t answer texts by speaking or answer calls from it. So you don’t get overwhelmed with interuptions, the smartphone app lets you define exactly what notifications to allow.
Other smart functionality includes things such as find your phone, flashlight and more. There is no built-in storage for music but you do get basic smartphone music control when paired to the phone.
The Amazfit T-Rex Pro is a lightweight and durable watch for the outdoorsy types. This iteration brings a number of useful improvements over the original. These combine to make the watch an even more solid option for those that do not want to pay an arm and a leg for an outdoorsy watch.
Basic activity, sleep and sports tracking works well, the operating system is simple, smooth and reliable, the display can easily be read . Plus you won’t be chaging it too often. There is clearly lots to like.
On the minus side, the T-Rex Pro doesn’t come with too much smart functionality. There’s no built-in music storage, speaker or microphone, no 3rd party app support and the notifications are basic.
Amazfit T-Rex Pro
Overall you don’t get as much functionality as the higher-end competition, but the T-Rex Pro retails for less than half their price. If you’re into rugged sports watches with decent health and activity tracking, it represents a very good deal.
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