Amazfit GTR 3 review: improvements across the board make this a great watch
Amazfit GTR 3
- Attractive, lightweight design
- Built-in GPS works well
- Lots of customisation options
- Excellent battery life
- Extensive health & fitness tracking
- No support for external heart rate strap
- Limited third party apps
- Can be tricky to update firmware
The Amazfit GTR line is popular for those after an all-purpose smartwatch. It is Zepp Health’s affordable answer to the likes of the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch. A timepiece that probably does not receive as much recognition as it deserves.
The third generation GTR 3 was announced in October along with a Pro model and the Amazfit GTS 3. The last on this list is a square variant that packs pretty much the same sensors as the GTR 3. The Pro iteration has a few extras such as built-in storage for music and a temperature sensor.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
We’ve been anxiously anticipating the next offering from Zepp Health. A few months ago the company announced that its upcoming watches will carry a revamped version of their RTOS (real-time operating system), along with new sensor technology. These are the first devices with these updates.
I’ve been testing the Amazfit GTR 3 over the past couple of weeks and found that it improves on the previous generation in a number of different ways. Read on for my detailed review, along with pros and cons of the watch and the app in day to day use.
Design & hardware
Amazfit GTR 3 review: Design & hardware – a slick looking watch
- Bright, colourful AMOLED touchscreen
- Rotating crown scrolls through menus
- New Biotracker 3.0 engine
- 21 day battery life in normal mode
Look & feel
We’ve not had very much from Zepp Health in terms of new hardware in 2021. The company is not really an exception as it has been a strange year. A combination of factors are to blame. These include the coronavirus pandemic which seems to have no end in sight, coupled with chip shortages and the energy crisis in key Asian economies.
But this in actuality represented a nice change in strategy from the previous years when we had lots of Zepp Health watches – some might even say too many! The company has used the time to put the finishing touches on its new operating system and introduce improvements to its sensor technology.
Amazfit GTR 3 updates last year’s device. I reviewed that one along with the first generation back in 2019 so was keen to check in on the progress. This is the third successive year we’ve had new generations of the watch. I really liked the first two offerings but found they suffered from some issues – for example the GPS could be temperamental at times and slow to connect. The heart rate readings were also not always consistent.
Looking at Amazfit GTR 3, it retains the main characteristics of its predecessor. A no-nonsense smartwatch that is pleasing to the eye.
There are some subtle differences worth mentioning. For example, the edges are more rounded this time around, for a really smooth design. Zepp Health has also reduced the size of the alluminium alloy body shaving some 0.6mm off the diameter. Thickness is more or less unchanged at 10.8mm, which is pretty impressive.
Another highlight of the watch is its weight. It only comes in at 32 grams (without the strap), so less than much of the competition. On the wrist the GTR 3 feels incredibly light and looks super-nice.
You’ll still find the two push button configuration, but the buttons are a bit more emphasised now. Both are programmable so you can customise their functions. By default, pressing the top button activates the full list of apps, while the bottom button opens the exercise display.
A nice improvement over the previous generation is to do with the top button. It now looks and functions like a classic navigation crown – or a scroll wheel to be exact. Taking a leaf out of Apple’s book, you can rotate the button and this will scroll through the menus. The functionality works very well and is a nice change over the previous generations.
Between the buttons is a tiny microphone – you will need this to interact with Alexa. But there is no speaker.
The 1.39 inch AMOLED display (454 x 454 pixels, 326 ppi) is something to be appreciated – its brightness, the vivid colours and touch sensitivity. This is actually one of the highlights of the watch. For those that want a screen that never goes dark – there is an always-on option. But switch this on and it will eat quite a bit into the battery life. I opted to keep it off.
As before you have a multitude of watch faces to choose from. Right now there are more than 100, of which some are animated. Not all of them are very inspirational but expect lots of third party watch faces to land as the Zepp OS allows anyone to create apps and watch faces. You can store 9 watch faces at the same time on the device itself – which is plenty. While I found the animated watch faces pretty to look at, in the end I opted for non-animated ones as they are less distracting.
Even though the display is of the same quality as before, there are some improvements. These come as a result of the more power-efficient operating system. Zepp Health says the visuals on GTR 3 are twice as smooth as before. There’s no way for me to measure whether this really is the case, but the transitions and screen effects really are very smooth.
For those that want a larger display there is the GTR 3 Pro model. Not that much different in case size, it manages to shrink the bezel allowing it to fit a 1.45 inch display into the body. That one also comes with a fancy leather strap.
I tested the Thunder Black version of GTR 3. There’s also a Moonlight Grey edition for those that are after something brighter. Adding to the smart look of the watch is the 22mm, quick-release fluoroelastomer strap. The band is ok, it feels fine. It has a discreet ridge pattern which makes it easy to clean and maintain. This also helps with sweating as it is more airy than a typical strap.
The final design improvement is to do with the vibration feedback. This is 60% stronger than before, plus you can customise the vibration as per your preference for different types of notifications.
Under the hood
Water-resistance at 5 ATM remains decent. It allows for worry free swimming or bathing.
Like some other companies, Zepp Health has improved the sensor technology so that its heart rate now works under water. This is part of the benefit of the latest generation PPG BioTracker 3.0 engine that is built into the watch. It also works faster and is more accurate than before. Other hardware includes an accelerometer, barometric altimeter, geomagnetic sensor and gyroscope.
So while the list of sensors is unchanged from GTR 2, those who purchase the new generation will get some health and fitness tracking benefits. A few of these are the result of the upgraded hardware, others stem from the new operating system. But more about that later.
Built-in satellite connectivity is still there. But while the previous generation only had GPS and GLONASS support, the latest generation adds GALILEO, Beidou and QZSS to this list. In practice I found that this really does make a practical difference. I have seen a notable improvement both in the speed of connection and accuracy of tracking.
Rounding this section of with battery life, and this continues to impress on Amazfit watches. Interestingly, the GTR 3 packs a 450 mAh battery which is 21 mAh less than before. But the more power-efficient internals and software extends battery life in normal mode by 7 days – for a total of three weeks between charges. Switch on some power saving options and this climbs to more than a month. With GPS continuously recording battery life totals an excellent 38 hours.
Zepp Health says that with heavy use the GTR 3 can run for about a week on a single charge. In practice I found that this jives with reality. I switched on all the fitness and health tracking bells and whistles (but not the always-on display), as I wanted the full experience. This includes things such as continuous SpO2, 1 minute auto heart rate monitor and detailed sleep tracking. This resulted in the watch losing about 15% battery juice per day – which equates to about a week between charges.
Amazfit GTR 3
I already mentioned a few differences between the Pro and non-Pro version of GTR 3. Another important one is the lack of built-in music storage on GTR 3. In this sense the watch is a downgrade on GTR 2 which has this functionality baked in. If you require it you will need to opt for the Pro model. As before music transfer is done with the smartphone app and WiFi connection on the watch. GTR 3 therefore only has Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity.
Amazfit GTR 3 review: Functionality – clear improvements over the previous generation
Fitness and health monitoring
- Covers all activity tracking essentials
- 24/7 automatic blood oxygen readings
- Watch shows daily stats, long term trends are in smartphone app
- Everything is highly customisable
The Amazfit range has pretty solid abilities when it comes to fitness tracking. There’s no point in delving too much into the essentials – as they are all there and work well.
Navigating through the menus on the GTR 3 is very simple. They run on the new and improved operating system which actually does not look all-too-different from the previous one.
Swiping from right to left takes you through the Quick Access Apps. Swipe down from the top to view the nine icons in the Control Centre. Swipe up from the bottom to view notifications. As with most other things on the watch, this can all be customised to your liking. There is actually an almost a bewildering number of customisation options.
The Quick Access Apps are a great way to get info quickly. I really liked that you could choose which ones to display. For example, not everyone would want to see their workout status displayed there. But someone that runs often would prefer that as it is an easy way to check their Training Load, Recovery Time and VO2Max. Other apps that you can add include Weather, PAI, Music, Alarm, Calendar, World Clock and much more.
Another novelty are Shortcut Cards. These display if you swipe from left to right on the home screen. In essence, this is a scrollable list of cards. A quick way to check through various information. Again – totally customisable.
The health and fitness data shown on the watch is predominantly for the past 24 hours. For longer term trends you will need to head over to the iOS or Android smartphone app. Recently the Zepp app had received a visual overhaul with data cards and a health page. Which makes it more user friendly.
For day to day use you don’t really need to reach for the smartphone app too often. Most stats can be found on the watch itself. I even noticed that info for stairs climbed can only be seen on the GTR 3. For some reason, Zepp Health has not added this to the smartphone app yet.
An improvement over the previous generation are automatic SpO2 measurements. Before you could only take these on-demand, which is of limited use. Now blood oxygen levels are monitored around the clock which is much better. You do need to enable the Auto Blood Oxygen Monitor for this to work, though. It can be done from the watch itself or the smartphone app.
The readings seem to be accurate. For me they mostly ranged between 95% and 100% with a few daily outliers. The chart in the app shows all the measurements so it is best to look at the daily value as it averages around 50-100 readings per day.
Sleep stats are also very detailed. The Somnus Care sleep engine on GTR3 is the same as the last generation. In addition to your overnight stats, it monitors daytime naps over 20 minutes in length and sleep breathing quality.
Something that is new on GTR 3 watches is one tap measurement. Thanks to the BioTracker 3.0 engine, in just 45 seconds the device can read your heart rate, SpO2, stress and breathing rate – all at the same time. This is for on-demand readings so I found limited use for it. My preference is for all of this to be tracked automatically.
Out of the box my GTR 3 was running a very old version of the firmware. Which made it rather challenging to update. The download would start and stop multiple times. In the end it took me a couple of days before successfully managing to update the firmware on the watch. But once that was done everything ran perfectly from that point on.
The fact that I had a very early version of the firmware gave me an insight into functionality that is not available yet – blood pressure measurements. Yes, I was actually able to use the watch to take blood pressure readings. These were only on-demand, so not automatic. And they did require an initial calibration with a blood pressure cuff.
But after I updated the firmware, the blood pressure functionality disappeared. Which is not surprising as Zepp Health is currently waiting for regulatory approval for its PumpBeats blood pressure engine. Once CE and FCC certification is secured the functionality will be switched on via a firmware update. But we are told obtaining regulatory approval is a very strict and complicated process so there are currently no clear plans as to when (or if) this might happen.
All things considered, I was pleased with the fitness and health tracking functionality of the GTR 3. Once the initial hiccup around the firmware update was out of the way, everything worked seamlessly and without a hitch. And I appreciated the fact that SpO2 is now automatic, around the clock.
- GPS fast to connect – accurate
- Heart rate tracking more or less on target
- Support for lots of sports modes
At its press conference in October, Zepp Health said it has improved the satellite positioning chip. The GTR 3 can connect to 5 satellite systems including GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou and QZSS. GTR 2 only communicates with the first two. So all this sounded promising.
My main gripe with the first and second generation was to do with the GPS chip. At times it refused to connect, and accuracy suffered in some conditions. Going into a run, I was never sure how it would perform. Well, I’m happy to report that these issues seem to have been resolved on GTR 3.
Not only was the GTR 3 slightly quicker to find a satellite connection than the Garmin Forerunner 935 on my other wrist, but it was also more accurate. Which is something I did not expect. This is all the more impressive considering I tested the watch in a highly built-up urban areas of Central London.
The heart rate monitor was fairly decent at tracking my runs but not as impressive as the satellite positioning. For example, on a recent 3K run it gave me an average heart rate of 147bpm and a maximum heart rate of 162bpm. The Polar OH1 around my upper arm gave me a 145bpm average and 155bpm max reading.
So certain discrepancies are still there but they are to be expected from a wrist-based heart rate monitor. Having said that – I do wish that Zepp Health adds the ability to connect to external heart rate monitors on GTR 4. In my mind, this is the main obstacle for the GTR to function as a fully fledged sports watch.
I also appreciated the Firstbeat-type performance metrics that can be found both on both the watch and the smartphone app. These consist of VO2 max, Recovery Time and Training Load. For each workout you also get the Aerobic and Anaerobic Training Effect, along with a plethora of other stats.
The GTR 3 is more a fitness watch than a sports watch, but it does have plenty to offer when it comes to exercise tracking. Especially now that satellite positioning works well.
The number of sports modes has been bumped up to 150+ (70 more than before). So something for everyone there. Eight of these are with auto-recognition. What’s interesting is that if you enable auto-recognition, for outdoor activities it will automatically switch on GPS tracking.
- New operating system is slick and fast
- Currently, only a few apps available to install
- Watch has microphone for Amazon Alexa support
This Amazfit GTR 3 review wouldn’t be complete without a look at smart features. As mentioned, the GTR 3 works on the next iteration of the Zepp operating system. It is one tenth the size of the old software.
The new operating system has been designed with 24/7 health tracking in mind. And this is what separates it from Wear OS and watchOS – which have a wider framework so are more resource intensive.
The new operating system contains something Zepp Health refers to as a Mini App Framework. Essentially these are specially designed lightweight apps that seamlessly run on the new platform. The beauty is that anyone with web design experience can design their own apps. The company has created an web based development kit based on java script that will allow you to do this.
Granted, there isn’t much you can download and install at the moment. That’s because the framework for third party developers is not fully operational yet.
But there are a number of native apps that you can install. This for example includes a mini app that reminds users to drink 1200 ml of water per day. Other apps made by Zepp Health include a calculator, reminders and tips when washing teeth and more. All of these can be installed and uninstalled – as per your preference. The ultimate goal is to create an ecosystem that numbers thousands of apps.
This is clearly an improvement. Will it be coming to GTR 2 and other Amazfit-branded watches? Hard to say as Zepp Health has not confirmed or denied the rumours that it will. Highly unlikely in my view.
The GTR 3 has a built in microphone to support basic voice commands as well as Amazon Alexa. There is no speaker so you can only receive responses in writing and images. Before first use you’ll need to connect your Alexa account via the Zepp smartphone app. This was no issue. Alexa on the watch does work well, but I found it is of limited use as the smartphone app needs to be open in order for it to function. Notification support on the GTR 3 is also quite limited.
Amazfit GTR 3 review: The verdict
Zepp Health has put together a solid offering for those after an activity tracking watch. There really is lots to like about GTR 3 and the improvements over the previous generation are clear.
All the health and fitness basics are there, including a floor count and around the clock SpO2 tracking. GPS is quicker to connect and more accurate than before, heart rate monitoring works well and there’s a nice selection of performance metrics on-board. The main ingredient that is missing for this to qualify as a fully fledged sports watch is support for external heart rate monitors.
Amazfit GTR 3
Zepp’s new operating system doesn’t look very different from the previous version, but it works well and is slick and clean. Combine this with beautiful hardware and the company is sitting on a winner.
Of course, the watch does not offer as many third party apps and it does not have the rich notification support of the Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch. But it comes with an affordable price-tag, long battery life – while providing all the fitness and health tracking essentials. The more I used Amazfit GTR 3 during the couple of weeks of testing, the more I liked it.
The caveat is that you do not get MP3 storage. In that sense, the direct successor to the GTR 2 is the GTR 3 Pro. And this makes perfect sense. Not everyone has use for built-in storage for music. The benefit of leaving this off the GTR 3 model is that it sells for $179 (check price on Amazon), so same as GTR 2. Those that do require the functionality will need to opt for the $229 Pro model (check price on Amazon). But for that, they also get other upgrades such as a temperature sensor, a larger 1.45 inch display and speaker to support smartphone calls.
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One thought on “Amazfit GTR 3 review: improvements across the board make this a great watch”
Thanks for the great review. I think this watch is a really great budget option. Just grabbed the gtr 3 for ~$135. Looking forward to it