realme Watch S in review: A lot of smartwatch for little money
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Case and connectivity
It wasn't until spring 2020 that realme presented its first smartwatch, which came in a squared shape. The test device is now a representative in the classic round form factor that realme enhances with an attractive aluminum case. With a diameter of 47 mm, the Watch S is in line with the large wristwatches, which also include the Mobvoi TicWatch C3 Pro GPS and the Huawei Watch GT 2 Pro, but at 30 g, it remains significantly lighter than the 42 and 52 g models, respectively.
From a subjective standpoint, the lightweight Watch S stood out in the test through its pleasant wear comfort, to which the soft wristband also contributed. The sporty, quick-release silicone strap has a standard width of 22 mm and can be adjusted to lengths between 164 and 208 mm. The case is certified in accordance with the IP68 standard, and two side buttons complement the touchscreen as control elements.
The 1.3-inch display that is curved at the sides is protected by realme with Gorilla Glass and features automatic brightness control. Unfortunately, realme uses a TFT display; this consumes more energy than OLEDs, which is why realme has abstained from including an always-on mode on the Watch S. In addition to the light sensor and the motion sensors, which are important for wearables, there's also a heart-rate monitor and a blood oxygen saturation sensor. GPS and NFC are not on board.
Setup and handling
To set up and synchronize the smartwatch you need the realme Link application. The app is currently only available for Android, and an iOS version is in the works. In the app, you can set reminders, determine the measurement interval and alarm limits for heart-rate monitoring, and set which notifications the smartphone delivers to the watch.
Swipe gestures open the notifications, a panel for quick settings, the activity monitor, the last sleep log, weather information, and a graph of the day's heart-rate progression. The widgets can't be customized, and the watch face can only be changed within the app and not through the watch itself. In addition to numerous watch-face designs, there's also the option to set a photo chosen by the user as the time's background.
The lower of the two buttons starts the training mode. The upper one functions as the back button and brings up the app overview. In addition to tools such as a timer and stopwatch, the app overview also contains, among other things, remote controls for the camera and for the music app that's currently active on the smartphone. Incoming emails or social media notifications can't be replied to, but an incoming phone call can be muted or rejected. Pictures and emojis aren't displayed.
Health and fitness
The health tracker monitors users' heart rate all day long and, if desired, it issues a warning if it permanently exceeds a preset value. In addition, the Watch S measures blood oxygen saturation at the touch of a button. If the saturation is below 90% in several measurements, the possible causes should be discussed with a doctor. We compared the values of the Watch S in a measurement series with those of a certified pulse oximeter. The smartwatch's results were on par in half of the measurements, while the remaining measurements were off by one to a maximum of two percentage points.
The app integrates the trends for heart rate and blood oxygen saturation values into the day view; it also displays the steps taken and the sleep phases of the previous night in a graphical way. The nightly heart-rate trends are also shown separately in the sleep log.
The training app features 15 workout modes: Walking, running and indoor or outdoor cycling, strength training, soccer, basketball, table tennis, badminton, elliptical trainer, rowing machine as well as spinning, yoga, and cricket. Swimming is not included: Realme had the Watch S certified according to the IP68 standard, but it strongly recommends not to wear it in water or in the shower. There's also a VO2max test that determines aerobic capacity during a 12-minute run.
The Watch S logged a fitness run twice during the test period, once with and once without the support of the smartphone's GPS (A-GPS). In the second case, wearables combine the sensor data with the body height data to calculate the distance and the minutes per kilometer (pace/speed). Here, the Watch S estimated 6 km instead of the actual 5.5 km, which made speed look a bit better.
The kilometers could only be read off the watch, which displays the workout again on demand after the end of the session. The training log in the app showed values in miles, although the metric system was selected in the settings; compared to providers like Mobvoi, Samsung or Honor and Huawei, realme's app is poor.
Battery life – Longer in the test than specified by the manufacturer
An always-on display and GPS, when enabled, are among the largest energy consumers in wearables. Both are missing in the Watch S. According to the manufacturer, the 390 mAh battery lasts about 15 days. This value results from a scenario that includes continuous heart-rate monitoring, 100 notifications, 80 display activations via lifting the arm, and a bit more on top.
The Watch S apparently needed to work less than that in our test, because the battery still had well over half of its full capacity after one week. It only dropped by 1% on a half-hour outdoor training session.
Inexpensive smartwatches are now available for less than 50 Euros (~$60). It seems, however, that the square design is cheaper to manufacture, because there are only a few round models in the lowest price segment.
As a result, the realme Watch S may not be one of the cheapest watches, but it presents value for money in the true sense of these words. Especially as a health tracker, the watch proved to be reliable in our test. A good impression is also made by the equally attractive and solid case, which realme claims to have subjected to an extensive stress test.
With the Watch S, realme provides a good health tracker with an attractive look in the lower price segment.
Sports enthusiasts, on the other hand, will probably be unhappy with the poor workout reports, especially when comparing them to a Honor Watch ES or a TicWatch Pro 3 GPS. Naturally, the latter is more expensive, but the manufacturer (Mobvoi) also offers more affordable watches.