Xiaomi just released its S1 and S1 Active smartwatches. Retailing for $269 for the full S1 and $199 for the S1 Active, these watches offer fast performance, fitness tracking, and a great sense of style. Are they worth picking up over the competition? Find out in our review!
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The Xiaomi Watch S1 and S1 Active are easy to wrap your head around. The two watches have more in common than different. Each features the same bright 1.43-inch display, each has the same 46.5mm diameter, and each has the same set of features built in. The biggest difference between the two is their weight and appearance.
The S1 is the more refined watch, with a scratch-resistant sapphire glass face that covers its entire surface. It comes with both a leather strap and a fluororubber option in a matching color. The watch is available in silver or black (we were sent black) and has strap options in silver, black, blue, and brown. The frame is made of stainless steel for added durability and a more premium feel (the bottom is plastic, apart from the sensor array). The S1 Active has a raised rim around the face and the frame is plastic. Where the two buttons on the right are dials on the S1, the Active’s are styled after traditional digital watches and are normal buttons. It also only includes a fluororubber strap, though the standard sizing makes it easy to replace if you choose.
Though the actual display area of both watches is the same, the S1 feels particularly spacious. They use AMOLED screens, so the blacks on the S1 fade seamlessly into the outer, under-glass ring (where the hour ticks are placed), giving the impression of more space. Both screens look great, however, with 450 nits of peak brightness and vibrant colors.
The S1 also has the advantage of offering wireless charging. This also works with phones that support reverse wireless charging, so you can battery share if you run dry. The Active only supports charging through its included dock. Oddly, the dock on the S1 Active has a non-detachable cable while the pricier S1 does not.
Battery life on both devices is ridiculously good. With notifications enabled, I was able to average nine days. Nine days! This is incredible compared to Samsung, Apple, or my normal daily driver, the TicWatch Pro.
Navigating the watches is also very easy. There’s no crown, which is always a bit disappointing on Android smartwatches, but tapping and swiping is very responsive. Xiaomi is mum on the actual hardware driving the watch, but it’s obviously been optimized because it’s very efficient. The two buttons on the side open the app drawer or launch the exercise activity trackers but are sadly not programmable.
If you’re already using an Android smartwatch, you may be disappointed to hear that the S1s don’t support WearOS and do not have access to the Play Store. You can still receive notifications from your smartphone, which is nice, but you native app selection is limited. On the plus side, this is likely to be a core reason why performance is so good and Xiaomi provides more than 200+ free downloadable watch faces. There are some genuinely cool ones in there too, complete with animations.
The exercise trackers are hit or miss. It includes a suite of sensors to monitor heart rate, oxygen, ambient light, motion, and GPS, so all of the expected functionality is there. It gathers and tracks your health data and uses algorithms to estimate calories burnt and so on. You’re also able to monitor your sleep, which is a cool function.
The issue lies with how accurate it is — and that’s hard to say. The S1 intermittently recorded my heart rate as being lower than my TicWatch Pro (the Active was closer but not exact). Scrolling through some of the activity trackers, a handful seemed to be simplified to heart rate monitors, though exercise monitoring isn’t what I purchase a smartwatch for (personally). Much of this really only begins to matter a lot if you’re directly comparing it to another smartwatch or using that data for something where precise accuracy is important. For normal exercise, it gets the job done and provides adequate context for how thoroughly you’re working out.
Another thing that bothered us is that even though we tested the global version, there was no watch to change to imperial measurements. This is particularly niggling on watch faces that display the current temperature. The ability to change to Fahrenheit has been part of the software in prior Xiaomi watches, so hopefully this will be delivered in a software update.
All of the information the watch gathers can be reviewed on the device itself or through the Mi Fitness app. This is a free download and an important one. Inside, you’ll be able to change far more settings and dig further into your workout data than the small display on the watch can provide. It’s also quite polished and well-refined, which makes actually using it fast and easy.
Both the Xiaomi S1 and S1 Active are stylish, responsive watches. They do everything you would want them to do and look good doing it. The absence of WearOS may be a deal breaker for some, but if all you use your smartwatch for is notifications and exercise tracking, you likely won’t miss it at all. If you don’t mind the metric units (for now), these are a great option that don’t tie you into buying a particular brand of phone for full functionality.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.