The Amazfit Pace is high-end on specs, but pleasingly not so on price. It packs GPS with run tracking, a heart-rate monitor, music controls and more – so does the cheaper price mean it cuts some corners? The answer is yes, but not in the worst ways possible.
The Pace might not be to everyone’s tastes design-wise, but if you’re into your reds and blacks, then you’ll be fine. AFC Bournemouth fans will be laughing. Past that, the watch has a surprisingly decent look and feel for its price point. Leaving cost aside, we used the black with red colour option and liked the circular metallic rim around the face, giving it a near premium feel.
The rear casing that sits next to the wrist is comfortable to wear (Amazfit says it is ceramic), and has four flat connectors for the proprietary charging dock. These sit above the heart-rate sensor, while the standard 22mm strap connectors hold a rubberised band that’s fine for work and for excessive sweat when exercising.
The screen and body aren’t tiny, but it never felt like it dwarfed this writer’s relatively small wrists. The screen also has a flat tyre effect that is annoying on smartwatches. But because the entire screen has a thin black rim between it and the metallic rim, you don’t really notice it. Then again, it’s a shame that the screen doesn’t reach fully to the edges of its own casing.
The ceramic, metal and rubber combination is a winner for the Pace. As long as you like the colour options, this is an attractive watch with a decent, reassuring weigh to it.
The circular display is 1.34in across with a 320x300 resolution. A neat trick is its always-on transflective colour LCD. Watches rarely do always-on exactly right, and it’s the same here. Think of it like a screensaver, where power consumption is reduced by dumb projection. The Pace will still tell you the time and all your stats on the watch face in always-on mode, which turns on after a period of inactivity. The only way to come out of the mode is to press the only physical button on the watch, which is on the right at two o’clock. It’s a small niggle, but not being able to tap the screen or turn a bezel to wake is a tad less convenient and intuitive.
The screen also has trouble with autobrightness. This is on by default and you can’t override to select a preferred constant brightness level. Therefore in bright sunlight, the screen is very hard to read. The always-on display is also darker, so you may think at first, like we did, that there is a fault.
The 1.2GHz core processor and 512MB RAM keep things ticking over nicely, and there is rarely significant delay when browsing menus, selecting functions or using GPS tracking. The vibration motor is noticeable, but not the strongest we’ve ever experienced on a watch.
The Pace has Bluetooth 4.0, essential to connect to your iPhone running iOS 9 and later or Android phone running 4.4 and later. There’s also the option to connect to a Wi-Fi network, which you can use to wander out of Bluetooth range in your house or at work and still stay connected to your phone. You need Wi-Fi to update the software.
It is rated IP67, the same as gadgets such as the iPhone 7, which means its resistant to water and dust, just don’t take it swimming or in the shower for too long.
The on-board battery is 280mAh and is pretty good at keeping the Pace powered. No one uses a smartwatch with all the functions turned off, but we comfortably got three days out of it, even with constant Bluetooth on connected to an iPhone and intermittent GPS use to track runs.
Maddeningly, you can’t view GPS data anywhere but on the watch face – you can’t even look at it in the iOS or Android Amazfit app that you sync the watch with. This means GPS records are only on the 4GB hard drive of the watch and meant that we never bothered fiddling about looking at them.
Other running watch set-ups let you take a deeper look at stats on your workouts, whether that’s on your phone or computer. Here, the cool little map of where you ran is just a squiggle on a watch screen, with no map behind it. It’s frustrating and means you will never really be able to see if you’ve improved by looking at the raw data.
This is a real shame because the Pace excels at GPS data collection when out running or on a workout. You can record run, walk, indoor run, bike, indoor bike and trail run. It’s fairly easy to pause and record workouts once you’ve got used to the touch only inputs of the screen, waking it first with the button. Swipe right to go back on menus and you’re sorted.
Also included when swiping left on the home screen is activity progress. Heart-rate graphs, weather, music, alarms, compass, stopwatch and sleep tracking. This is a healthy number of functions for, sorry to say it again, the price. There’s a lot here, but it doesn’t work on apps; you can’t close stuff to make it run faster. Either way, overall, the interface is well designed but slow and has one too many bugs. A recent software update has improved things slightly, though.
The Amazfit Pace is a solid entry point for those curious enough to want to record their exercise without spending a month’s rent to do so. Henry Burrell