Late last year, Amazfit announced their Stratos multisport watch to the surprise of many. Numerous features, including music and Firstbeat physiological measurements, along with the provision of a triathlon workout mode given the low price point got the company the attention it wanted. The Amazfit Stratos (RRP $229.99) was to be the David of wearables. Only in this case, David seemed as capable as Goliath, at least on paper.
After weeks of continuous usage in sunny Singapore here’s what I have to say about the Amazfit Stratos. As with Amazfit’s other products, the company usually releases the international version (English) a few months after the Chinese version goes to retail.
This user review was done on an iOS platform. Readers should take note that the workings of the Amazfit Stratos differs slightly when used on an Android platform.
AMAZFIT STRATOS LOOK AND FEEL
A ceramic bezel adorns the watch face while the side of the Amazfit Stratos features a sleek carbon fiber pattern punctuated by 3 stainless steel buttons. That curves to the back of the watch where the optical heart rate (OHRs) sensors are housed.
I found it impressive that such a morsel of OHR on the Stratos is capable of crunching Firstbeat’s physiological measurements – I’m comparing versus OHRs of other companies such as Polar, Garmin, and Suunto which have larger and brighter OHRs.
In terms of appearance, the Amazfit Stratos is a quantum leap over the Pace; a handsome package nicely put together. I do see myself wearing the Stratos on a daily basis by swapping out the watch straps.
The watch has an unbelievably reflective scratch-resistant display which is touch enabled. I only noticed this because I had to take pictures and could never find a good angle to snap a shot. Scrolling can be executed with physical buttons or touch display.
I take issues with touch displays on sports watches because navigation with sweaty or wet fingers is akin to threading needles while wearing oven mitts. As is the case with the Amazfit Stratos. The on-board processor seemed laboured as there was prominent lag whenever I try to access certain features.
There are limited changeable watch faces but where the user may upload their own pictures to be used as a watch face; something Garmin did with Face it app a while back.
Amazfit Stratos views fine under bright sunlight. Under low light conditions, a back light illuminates the display where you can choose between brightness levels of 1-5 depending on the situation. As for me, I’m perpetually on 5.
Watch battery supposedly lasts up to 5 days depending on usage and that’s about right. In GPS mode, on watch battery indicator shows upwards of 30 hours of use after a full charge. In my experience, a 30 minutes run took out 6% of juice so I’d take that estimation with a pinch of salt.
FUNCTIONS AND FEATURES
There’s on board Bluetooth capabilities so you can connect accessories such as earphones or chest strap heart rate monitors.
Here’s when the confusion with user interface controls begin for the Amazfit Stratos.
There’s a Bluetooth connection tab that is accessible from the main menu which only serves to connect Bluetooth devices – which does not include chest strap HR monitors.
You’ll have to access the activity profile (such as running) and then access “settings” before pairing your chest strap HR monitors. The pairing is straightforward but the steps to pairing different devices is unnecessarily segmented.
And that’s about all the Bluetooth accessories you can connect to the Stratos.
Say you wish to add a cadence sensor along with the size of your wheels for a more accurate ride while you indoor cycle, you’ll find that that’s not possible because that avenue simply doesn’t exist.
By default, you can only track your work out duration, heart rate and calories burned while indoor cycling. That’s a big hurdle to overcome if Amazfit is looking to reach out to triathletes if the single compatible Bluetooth training accessory with the Stratos is a chest strap HR monitor.
As for Bluetooth headphones, the user can readily access the pairing menu from the main display and it is straightforward.
Before you commence with your workouts, it is necessary to do some planning. By default, the watch sets the number of display stats to 6 which can make viewing hell. This can be improved by reducing displayable stats to 4. Even then, the digits appear too tiny for viewing; the reduction in number of viewable stats does not bring about an increase in font size.
The display format is also fixed and you can’t decide how the stats should be displayed though you can determine where each stat should be. I found that changing the background colour to white improved the viewing comfort levels by a huge margin.
There are 14 sports profiles loaded unto the watch and none can be removed, neither can the user create new sports profiles.
I also found it strange seeing there isn’t a general mode for cardio, strength training. Would’ve been useful for those core workouts and gym sessions. These are the 14 sports profiles.
- Run Indoor
- Trail Run
- Indoor Cycling
- Elliptical Trainer
- Pool Swim
- Open Water swimming
I didn’t manage to test all the modes and can only speak from the few sports profiles such as running/walking/indoor cycling/elliptical and pool swim.
This might be of interest to some. The tennis workout mode tracks the number of strokes and provides a summary of the number of forehand, backhand and serves during a session. Users can further download the Zepp mobile app, which powers the tennis metrics in Amazfit Stratos, and check out the stats there as well.
As to what use that might be I have no idea; I would like to think the quality of strokes matter more than the number of strokes.
Pool swim provides a SWOLF score along with stroke identification, total distance, the number of strokes and even pace. It’s pretty impressive.
The triathlon workout function works exactly like how most tri-watches will work. A long press initiates the transition and a short press starts the next phase.
You’d be happy to know this economically priced watch also packs Firstbeat physiological measurements; something you normally see in high end wearables from the likes of Garmin, Suunto or Samsung. The Stratos can estimate your VO2 max, list the training effect of your workouts, provide a recovery time, and inform you of your training load.
GPS and GLONASS
I’m impressed with the GPS tracking of the Amazfit Stratos given that the watch only records in smart mode and not every second. The recorded distance is always a hair away from the actual distance; as verified by Google Maps or a standard running track. My tests, predominantly in Singapore and Tokyo, are almost always done in an urban setting so I can’t speak for trail running.
By default, I’m assuming both GPS and GLONASS are active when the occasion calls for since there are no options to turn GLONASS off. Neither are there options to tweak recording intervals such as 1sec or 30 secs.
GPS signal acquisition isn’t lighting fast but it’s not snail-crawling as well.
There’s a 3D mode under “settings” that will allow the watch to supposedly calculate distance more accurately. The intention sounds similar to Garmin’s 3D distance and Suunto’s Fusedalti but I’m unsure about the inner workings and the eventual results of the Stratos.
Unfortunately, I do not have the immense difference in altitude where I reside to test this our properly so I’ll leave it as that.
Optical Heart Rate sensors
I tested the performance of the optical HR sensors during outdoor hills run and compared the collected readings versus that of a Polar H10 chest strap HR monitor. Since the Amazfit Stratos only records in smart mode (1 sampling every 2-3 seconds) it was difficult to overlay both HR graphs. As such I’ve taken the liberty to place them alongside each other for comparison.
I found the performance of the optical HR sensors acceptable given I’m aware of the tradeoff for using wrist-based HR readings versus chest strap HR monitors. Then again, I seem to be a good candidate for OHR wrist devices and rarely experience any major discrepancies with wearables thus far.
The good thing is, if you prefer more accuracy, you can always connect a Bluetooth chest strap HR monitor to supplement your workouts.
Music and songs storage
You won’t get playlists, compatible music platforms, album art and whatnot. You literally click, drag, drop your music files to the watch from your computer. Thereafter the music plays over connected Bluetooth audio devices when activated.
I know this might sound a dampener to some of you. But it is likely most of us are already on music streaming services such as Spotify or Apple Music on our mobile devices; we are unlikely to populate our wearables with the same quantity of music. The few songs we have on our wearables are workout songs we know we want to work out to. At least that’s how I like mine to be.
The Stratos has up to 4GB storage worth of space but you have to bear in mind that the OS has already taken up space.
Data review and presentation
The data summary available on the Stratos watch is immense. I wonder if it is excessive given the size of the display and that review on mobile devices post workout is simply more comfortable.
There’s also an Amazfit Watch mobile app that records all the tracked stats, including steps, sleep, and all day continuous heart rate readings.
The app does not sync with the Apple Health app but syncs with the Mi Fit app which in turn syncs with the Health app. I’ve had issues with the Amazfit watch app not syncing my all day activity records properly with the Mi Fit app and wondered why the company couldn’t just enable a direct link to Apple Health instead.
The Amazfit Watch app’s capability is limited and will likely frustrate proficient users. As with previous editions of Amazfit’s watches, the Stratos syncs nicely with Strava via the Amazfit Watch app.
AMAZFIT STRATOS EXTRAS
The Stratos serves up extras such as smart notifications, weather, stopwatch, timer, intervals maker, interval workout creator, and even a compass which might interest some users.
There’s a training center function which allows the user to select training programs for running. I tried the 5km run program and it provides day by day instruction on what to do for the day.
For example: Day 1 – Rest
Day 2 – Base Run 3.2km at conversational pace.
Day 3 – Fartlek
I also noticed swimming and cycling as part of the 5km training program since the entire 8 weeks training programme is visible; a pre-planned program that might benefit some of the people out there.
With the Stratos, every workout can be exported in GPX and saved on the watch like a USB drive. Simply plug the watch into your computer to access the files for upload to other platforms such as Strava.
The all day activity tracking aspect of the Amazfit Stratos covers the essentials. Step count, calories and sleep. There’s even a nice weekly summary you can access right on watch.
What I really didn’t appreciate was the lack of proper syncing between the Amazfit Watch app and the Mi Fit app.
AREAS OF CONCERN
The effectiveness of Amazfit Stratos’ buttons needs to be questioned. The issue arises when there isn’t officially a “back” button that works in all conditions, you have to resort to swiping, a lot, to move between screens with a less than responsive touch experience and what appears to be labored processing.
Also, it would have been good if the display during workout could be improved, allowing users the luxury of 2 or 3 stats instead of the fixed 4 or 6 with a significant corresponding increase in font size.
The lack of compatibility with Bluetooth training accessories, other than chest strap HR monitors, effectively neutered the Amazfit Stratos. What could have been great is now reduced to a GPS running watch that plays music. So, if you have your Stryd, cycling cadence sensors and so on, none of it will work with the Stratos.
AMAZFIT STRATOS IN A NUTSHELL
I can’t help but wonder if Amazfit started off with dreams of making a decently priced watch to rival that of their competitors’. And mid-way through the endeavor, they lost steam and wrapped it up with a less than impressive navigation (scrolling) interface, less than capable mobile app, subdued compatibility with 3rd party Bluetooth devices, and shipped it as that. It’s a pity. The Amazfit Stratos could’ve kicked ass.
If we compared the Amazfit Stratos with aged devices such as the Forerunner 230/235 specifically and even the Suunto Spartan Sports Wrist HR, the Stratos is no doubt value for money given the presence of music, Firstbeat physiological measurements, and running focused performance. And Amazfit can further improve the user experience of their Stratos wearable through software updates.
In fact, it is an outstanding watch if all you do is run outdoors, with music at times, and occasionally indoor cycle or pool swim. Along the way, you get 8 Firstbeat physiological measurements for less than half the price of the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music. I’ve regularly seen the Amazfit Stratos on sale for about $150 thereabouts.
When we consider the more recent devices on the market and the triathlon crowd’s needs, the Amazfit Stratos would seem like a budget option that is likely to give the user a less than desirable training experience.
After the Pace and now the Stratos, I’m looking forward to the next edition of Amazfit’s GPS multisport watches. If this company continues to offer value for money products and heavily improve their software, both mobile app and watch, to enhance user experience, great things will come.
You can purchase the Amazfit Stratos ($229.99) from Amazon where there’s usually a small discount, great return policy, and free delivery depending on where you reside. In return your purchase helps to offset the costs associated with the running of this site.
Would love to hear your views in the comments section and thanks for reading!
Amazfit Stratos full technical specs here.