Amazfit GTR is a smartwatch that doesn't look like a smartwatch (Jeff Li/IBTimes)
Being a watch enthusiast, I find myself struggling to appreciate smartwatches as timepieces.
They feel much more like extensions to my phone that straps to my wrist, and I think the main reason for that is not because they can't tell time as well as traditional watches. In fact smartwatches are connected to phones which gets it's time from an atomic clock through GPS, which means when in sync, its accuracy is unbeatable by any traditional watches.
The main mental block that prevents me of thinking of smartwatches as timepieces pertains mainly to its craftsmanship, its aesthetics, and the fact that they need to be charged too often when compared to traditional watches.
After using the Amazfit GTR for the last few weeks, I'd have to say that my mental block is crumbling down over time. This is a Smartwatch that has been beautifully crafted out of premium material, and balances its functionality with its aesthetics, plus having a large user base who are watch lovers and having the ability to be customized; it is a package that cannot be equaled by any other smartwatches on the market right now.
Polished Stainless Steel case with a Ceramic bezel: What else do you need? (Jeff Li/IBTimes)
There are not many smartwatches on the market that I would call premium build, and I certainly did not expect this from the GTR mainly due to its price point. However taking it out of the box, the first thing I noticed is that it handled exactly like a traditional watch. Its weight, cold and polished metal body and dimensions felt oddly familiar. At first touch, I immediately thought Huami has struck some kind of perfect balance in the build to make this Smartwatch not feel like a Smartwatch at all. I bet if someone gave me a blind test, I would not be able to pick it out by feel next to other traditional watches.
On closer inspection, the stainless steel case did not disappoint. Its curves and finish are precise and exudes strength and class. They did not skimp out on the two buttons either which are both clicky and felt as premium as the case.
Curiosity did strike me when it came to the bezel though, as it is a ring of matt finish with hourly markings but also has a polished chamfer. After inquiring the Huami team, they confirmed that the bezel is actually made of ceramic (Specifically microcrystalline zirconium ceramics according to the website, like the ceramic edition of the iWatch). This I thought was very promising, because the Gorilla glass surface recesses below the ceramic bezel and would be strong enough to be its protection from scratches.
Leather outer, rubber inner - my perfect combo (Jeff Li/IBTimes)
Going to the back of the watch, the back of both the watch and the leather strap is synthetic, which for me, I was completely ecstatic. One of the biggest challenges I face with watch wearing is sweat corrosion and unpleasant smells. Name a trick online, and I've tried it all on my leather straps, and nothing have worked. Not only is the leather strap of the GTR rubberized, it is also ribbed, allowing for extra air flow. In the weeks of testing this watch, I have not experienced any odor issues. I'm also a fan of the synthetic back of the watch for similar reasons. I have started to like synthetic backs since trying out the Suunto Traverse, and the back on the GTR is just as inert and sweat resistant - exactly how I like it.
Amazfit itself has plenty of good looking watch faces, but there's even more (Jeff Li/IBTimes)
Watch loving community generated watch faces
This is arguably the best thing about Amazfit watches, and the GTR in particular; the watch enthusiasts behind it. The Amazfit somehow got all the planets aligned, where it:
Because of not one, not two, but all three of these things combined, what you get is a Smartwatch that can load beautifully made watch faces made by watch lovers, of which a considerable library is already available.
When I realized this, I immediately found an app to customize the watch face and started trying out them out. I felt like a giddy teenager who just discovered Windows Vista sidebar and widgets for the first time! Compared with any other smartwatches that I know of, the Amazfit GTR has the most extensive and high quality custom watch faces that I have seen, thanks to the community of watch lovers behind it.
(Caution: Do use unofficial watch faces at your own risk. Like any computer device, uploading unregulated, user generated software always come with an unavoidable risk and may cause damage to your device if there are malwares. If you want to play safe, the Amazfit app itself has plenty of well-built watch faces to choose from)
You only need to see this once a month (Jeff Li/IBTimes)
24 Days Battery life
Not sure if this was a tongue in cheek statement, but instead of a 24 hour battery life - which is quite typical for smartwatches, the GTR has a 24 day battery life. When put into daily use, this makes a day and night difference. After its first full charge, enduring all my watch face uploading, synchronizing, and all the screen-on time for gawking at new watch faces - I haven't needed to charge the watch, not even once.
Magnetic 'puck' for charging (Jeff Li/IBTimes)
When you do need to charge it, the GTR charging system is easy enough that you might as well charge it every night. With a magnetic puck, it attaches itself (Like the good'o Magsafe chargers on the Macbooks) and the way it goes.
Who is the Amazfit GTR for?
What sets this smartwatch apart is not its software, and Huaimi knows it. They made a conscious decision to put a considerable effort into getting the hardware just right, and after using it for a few weeks, I'd say it paid off big time. From the premium build, to the long battery, to the possibilities of loading on sophisticated watch faces, the Amazfit GTR has become in my mind the first compelling Smartwatch that belong in my timepiece collection.
David is a tech enthusiast/writer who is often on the move and is on a mission to explore ways to make his overhaul flights more enjoyable. This is a contribution to an ongoing IBTimes review series on gadgets for Business Travellers.
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