Being a GPS watch geek, I was highly interested in checking out the new US release of the Huami GPS fitness watch called the Amazfit Stratos (Pace 2). I had seen the Pace 1 for sale in the stores, but its minimal design and single button layout was a turnoff. I never thought much more of the Huami GPS devices. I have always been a Garmin and Suunto fanatic and love their products. I have owned probably 15 different Garmin devices and a couple Suunto watches, specifically the Ambit3 Peak and Spartan Ultra.So when Huami released the Stratos GPS watch that had claims of incorporating most of the Garmin and Suunto capabilities for the price of 199 dollars, I was eager to test it out. I always love a good bargain!
The Amazit Stratos first started in China and there was no US version. It is made by the largest fitness manufacturer in the world, Huami Inc.If you bought one you needed to learn Chinese fast, because all the menus were in Chinese! Amazfit released the International version in April of this year, so I ordered one promptly. It shipped within 3 days from the Bay Area, and with the GETFIT discount code used on their website, it knocked the price down to 179.99 dollars. My plan was to buy one, try out its features, then return it with the 30 day satisfaction guarantee window, for I was certain for 180 bucks it would be marginal at best. But boy was I wrong!
Listed below is the feature set of the Stratos:
- 35 hour GPS battery run time with GLONASS and Optical Heart Rate
- All day 24/7 Heart Rate tracking and heart rate analyzer
- VO2 Max and Training load computations (from Firstbeat Analytics used by Garmin)
- Gorilla Glass non-smudge 300×320 touchscreen display
- Multiple sport modes including trail run, cycling, triathlon, pool swimming, open-water swim, tennis, soccer, walking, climbing, etc.
- Vibration alerts, daily alarm, countdown timer,
- Sleep tracking and step counting
- Barometric Altimeter, Compass, Lat/Long readout with Baro pressure/Altitude
- Quick change 22mm watch straps
- 2gb of onboard music storage to stream via bluetooth
- Bluetooth link to iphone and Android for phone alerts, data upload, etc
- Wifi for data upload and watch updates
- Training advisor and interval capabilities
- Route following capabilities by dropping a .gpx file into its GPX folder
- Direct link to upload to Strava via its App (example of Strava upload from a run in Kazakhstan)
- Waterproof to 5 ATM or 164 feet
- 72 gram weight
As you can see, the list of abilities of the Stratos strongly mimic the Garmin Fenix 5 and Garmin Forerunner 935 watches and less than half the price. I currently had the Garmin Fenix 5X and loved the watch, but with the Stratos toting most of the same specs, I was willing to switch.
Unboxing the watch I was very impressed with the packaging. It seemed on par with the Apple Watch or any other expensive fitness device. The watch pairs with the Amazfit App found free on the iTunes app store or Google Play. Initial setup was quite easy. Your phone scans the watch’s bar code displayed and that was it. I found the watch extremely comfortable and very high quality. The ceramic bezel is very classy looking and the carbon fiber type watch body really looks good. The band is soft and comfortable to wear even when snug. But my main question was, could it perform as good as it looked? I was pretty shocked by the answer.
My first test with the watch was my basic 1.47 mile dog walk I have done hundreds of times with all of my watches. I can usually tell if a GPS watch will be good at tracking right away by how it does on my dog walk. When I got home I uploaded the walk and noticed extreme precision. I would actually say probably about as good I had ever seen. It recorded exactly 1.47 miles as well. Barometric altitude graph looked exact too. The Optical Heart Rate tracking was all over the place, but I have never had an optical heart rate watch do well while walking anyway. After a 32 min walk, the GPS had burned about 2% so that was impressive as well. But could it perform while running?
I took the watch for a run and noticed the distance was matching up with my normal gps checkpoints. Heart rate looked good too. I tried doing farlek but the watch was unable to track the heart rate and read very low, around 120bpm. Not good. However, the watch does connect to any bluetooth heart rate strap so that is a huge plus. I usually don’t mind a watch being off on explosive heart rate activities anyway. After several more runs I found wearing the watch a bit higher on the wrist and snug brings about much better results. It seems to work well for me for steady state runs and tracks very close to a chest worn strap. As soon as you power up a hill or ramp up the pace, the heart rate either drops very low or does not follow very quickly. Thus, I wear my bluetooth HR strap for intervals with the Stratos. The watch DOES currently have a bug that only allows about 5 hours of use while using an external strap, but I believe the next firmware upgrade with fix that.
Example of its tight GPS
I wore the watch 24/7 for a week testing its sleep tracking and all-day heart rate tracking. I was impressed. The watch was as good as my 700 dollar Fenix 5X. But WAY more comfortable, and lighter. I started liking the watch so much my Garmin began collecting dust in my drawer. Poor garmin :(
Examples of how you can follow a gps track, and post run graphs of HR and vert gain
Listed below and some of my favorite features of the Stratos:
- Its sleep tracking and all day heart rate tracking are fabulous.
- It looks amazing, and you can swap watch straps out easily to dress it up. It uses a 22mm quick change band, and there are many options on Amazon.
- There are hundreds of free watch faces you can download off the internet and the 300×320 display is beautiful in direct light. Blows away any Garmin display I have seen.
- The GPS tracking is top notch. I am a crazy stickler about a watch tracking where you have been, and this one is the best I think I have ever used or tested.
- Its very light on the wrist and the battery is incredible. The watch is about the size of a Garmin 230, in my opinion, the perfect size and 46mm.
- The vibration only alerts are great, and texts and phone alerts are displayed very nicely.
- The Amazfit app is simple to navigate and easy to use, plus it syncs direct to Strava after you upload via bluetooth to your phone.
- Wifi connection works great. You can upload a long run very quickly and update the watch as well.
- Did I mention it’s a beautiful watch! LOL.
- The barometric altimeter does a great job, but you need to give it about 30 secs after the GPS says GO starting a run. This gives the watch time to calibrate the altimeter to GPS altitude, otherwise you will have haywire altimeter results.
- MUSIC!!! You can drag and drop your .mp3 files from your computer directly to the watch’s MUSIC folder and stream tunes while running. Awesome! Paired nicely to my Bose and Apple Airpods.
After a couple hundred miles now on the Amazfit Stratos, I will say it’s a winner, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a great looking watch with extremely tight GPS tracking.I have used it in heavy tree cover, around tall buildings, and in canyons, and the GPS tracks nicely in all conditions. I would say on par with the best GPS tracker out there, the Polar V800. I do believe the battery life can go over 30 hours, but I think you would need to turn off the bluetooth and optical heart rate tracking to get there. This is done through the watch’s Trail Run settings and deselecting PPG (heart rate tracker). Also putting it into AIRPLANE MODE to turn off bluetooth. Otherwise with everything turned on you probably would see closer to 20 hours. The nice thing about the watch is you can charge it while underway, and the charger fits nicely on your wrist so no worries on a race going 100 miles or farther.
I can honestly the Amazfit Stratos has blown me away with its feature set and GPS tracking. So much that I sold my Fenix 5x and wear the Stratos 24/7 now. At the price point of 199$ there is nothing on the planet that can compete with the Stratos for a sports watch, but it does have some flaws that need to be addressed. Unfortunately I have never had a GPS watch that was perfect.
Bugs and Complaints (for 199$ its hard to complain right now though):
- The watch still has its optical HR on while using an external bluetooth strap. This leads to excessive battery drain, leaving the watch with about a 5 hour battery life.
- The optical heart rate tracker is hit or miss while running. Most of the time it tracks well, but occasionally it reads way off the mark, almost always when ramping up your effort level running intervals or going uphill hard.
- The watch needs to add more data fields for extra customization. For instance there is no LAP SPEED/PACE, LAP TIME, LAP DISTANCE just yet.
- Route Navigation simply shows a line for you to follow. It would be nice if it could display estimated finish time and distance left to go for your route.
- Add auto-pause to the watch so you don’t have to start and stop it all the time, especially for cycling.
- The Stratos only talks to bluetooth HR straps, so It would be nice to have it talk to a foot pod for treadmill runs and speed/cadence sensors for biking.
- The treadmill tracking mode is miserable. It thinks you are running at 10 min pace on the treadmill no matter how fast your are running!
There are plenty of Youtube reviews on the Stratos as well, so I would highly recommend you watch some to really get a feel of the watch’s menu structure and ease of use. I really love mine!
You can purchase a Stratos direct from their website: https://us.amazfit.com/
I forgot to add that currently watch does not let you set custom HR zones. It uses 220-Age for you max HR. I told watch app I was 32 years old for it to configure a 188 max heart rate! Now zones, recovery time, VO2 are accurate.