Xiaomi Watch S1 Active Review: Bases Covered

Smartwatches have come a long way over the past decade.

We’re not talking about innovation here as the general form factor and functionality have remained the same across different brands and devices for a few years now, but now the technology powering these wearables have filtered down.

As such, you don’t have to turn to an Apple, Samsung, or Huawei for a great smartwatch experience.

Case in point the Xiaomi Watch S1 Active. It is for all intents and purposes the flagship smartwatch that the Chinese brand has available locally at the moment.

As we have already hinted at, the Watch S1 Active ticks all the boxes needed for a solid smartwatch, but is it special?

We spent the past two weeks reviewing the wearable to find out.

This is what we learned.

Tabula rasa

Starting as we always do with design, and the Watch S1 Active is as generic a smartwatch as you are likely to encounter. While some manufacturers opt for something sleek and svelte and others want to emulate a chronograph, the Watch S1 Active looks like the kind of device that anyone would come up with if you asked them to close their eyes and describe what a smartwatch is.

Please don’t misconstrue the above as us taking jabs at the design of this Xiaomi wearable, quite the opposite in fact.

When some brands try a bit too much in designing smartwatches, we’re quite fond of the paired back approach that Xiaomi has taken here. The all-black colourway (Space Black) of our review model is also rather stealthy.

Where some smartwatches are instantly recognisable, the Watch S1 Active warrants further enquiry, and on more than one occasion prompted probing questions as to what exactly was on our wrist over the past two weeks.

Zeroing in on a few more of the design elements, the bezel has a few jagged edges to it, denoting its ruggedness and the fact that it’s a sports smartwatch focused on fitness and the like. The AMOLED display is also rather large at 1.43″, which is something our pork sausage fingers often appreciate as we have more screen real estate with which to swipe, press, and navigate.

This may seem like a trivial element, but when Xiaomi has favoured a cluster approach for the app layout, akin to what Apple does on its Watch, real estate starts to matter.

The only real flourish on the device is a red accent on the Sport button. The function here is rather self explanatory, allowing wearers to quickly launch and access the different fitness modes, which are mainly used for tracking metrics while completing different types of workouts.

To that end, Xiaomi has catered for more than 14 on the Watch S1 Active, including the usual suspects like treadmill running, swimming, hiking, tennis, and yoga.

Near fortnight

We now switch to the performance, and here the Xiaomi Watch S1 Active starts to show what it’s really about.

One of the standout elements is the battery life. A 470mAh battery is present on this device, and Xiaomi has worked some magic in ensuring that it ekes out as much battery life as possible. The company lists the approximate battery life from a full charge at 12 days, which is in keeping with the experience we had.

This of course takes a slight hit depending on how much working out and tracking you’re doing with the watch, but even two-a-days will see you manage a solid week’s worth of use before a visit to a charging point is needed.

While Xiaomi has not quite been able to match Huawei on the battery life front, it certainly gets closer than any other manufacturer’s smartwatch we have reviewed to date, and that is indeed commendable.

As for the other notable performance feature, the Watch S1 Active boasts dual-band GPS for tracking. This is especially important in terms of accuracy for trial runners and cyclists, but even those who are not necessarily venturing too far outdoors will be safe in the knowledge that what is being tracked is correct.

The same goes for things like the pedometer. Too often while driving, while reviewing other smartwatches, they will record turning of the wheel, changing gears, and other motions as steps, but this is not the case here. It is once again a tick in the box for Xiaomi when it comes to accuracy.

If there is one aspect that we do need to fault the Watch S1 Active on, it’s the speed at which the real-time heart rate monitoring took to kick in. We had to exit and re-enter the application a couple of times on the watch in order to get it working.

It is not a deal breaker, but given how solid the Watch S1 Active has performed in other areas, the difference here stood out.

The last thing worth mentioning is the companion app and setup process. The former is relatively easy to download, with both an Android and iOS version available, but in terms of setup, you will need a Xiaomi account to get going.

We would have preferred to keep things more seamless with a Google, Apple, or Facebook account-related sign up process, but with any wearable there is some give and take. The experience here for example, is nowhere near as long as on a Fitbit device, for example.

Final verdict

At R3 399 (RRP) the Xiaomi Watch S1 Active does not come cheap.

Still, it is one of the more affordable options when compared to other popular smartwatch makers. Anything you may be losing in terms of brand visibility is quickly forgotten once you put this watch on, slipping even further into the ether when you experience the accuracy of its fitness tracking and great battery life.

While some people are looking for a bigger name when it comes to wearables, the Xiaomi Watch S1 Active ticks all the necessary boxes while being a little bit more affordable, making it a wise pick for any cost-savvy fitness enthusiasts out there.



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