Reviews

Google Pixel 2 Review: 3 months later

Did Google do enough?

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The Pixel 2 is all about refinement, refinement, refinement.

Having used the original Pixel on and off for a year, transitioning to the Pixel 2 felt seamless. It’s practically the same phone with — you know it — much-needed improvements.

You could read my review of the first Pixel, see what my complaints were, and realize that the successor nearly remedied them all: The bezels are put to better use with front-facing stereo speakers, waterproofing is rightfully in place, and the price isn’t as tough to swallow this time (despite being exactly the same as last year’s — blame the competition).

In addition, the already-fantastic camera was made even better without the need for an additional lens, and Google Assistant integration has been made more accessible thanks to Active Edge, which is the same squeezing gesture found on the HTC U11.

That pretty much summarizes the essence of the Pixel 2. It still embodies Google’s software-over-hardware mantra, which explains why the audio port was excluded in favor of internal optimization and greater AI integration.

But is the Pixel 2 simply version 1.5, or does it deserve to be a successor to the original? There are multiple ways to answer that.

Disclaimer: I won’t be touching the Pixel 2 XL and its myriad of issues. All focus will be on my pure experience with the bezel-loving (and much tinier) Pixel 2.

Let’s talk about that… design

I made the original Pixel my daily driver before beginning this review, just to remind myself how plain it is compared to recently released premium handsets. I must say, migrating to the Pixel 2 didn’t feel like much of an upgrade.

In fact, the edgier design isn’t nearly as easy to hold as the Pixel’s. Google made the correct decision this time to roughen up the metal back and surround the fingerprint with this material. The reduced glass area is still a smudge magnet, but it’s now part of a signature look, and signal strength does seem stronger on this handset than on other phones.

Our initial hands-on video covered the basics, from the 5-inch 1080p display to the three color options: Just Black, Clearly White, and Kinda Blue.

Even with the inclusion of front-firing dual speakers, it’s easy to fault the Pixel 2 for having such thick bezels. But after using some of the most border-free devices in the market, going back to this old-school design feels refreshing; no longer do I have to stretch to reach the top or bottom of the display, and the stereo speakers are the loudest I’ve ever experienced on a phone in recent memory.

Being an AMOLED panel, the screen’s colors are rich and nicely saturated, but not as overbearing as those found on Samsung’s phones. If you’re underwhelmed by the overall tone, you may choose between “boosted” and “saturated” for stronger colors, although I personally left it on normal to get a better feel for my photos.

As long as you don’t mind an aesthetic from yesteryear, there’s nothing wrong with the basic design of the Pixel 2 — except for the loss of the audio port, of course. Google bundles a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box, but this is something you’d have to take with you wherever you go for wired connections. I can’t count how many times I’ve accidentally left this at home and ended up using the loudspeakers instead.

Performance as pure as the interface

This being a Google phone from start to finish, it has the purest and latest version of Android, which is currently 8.1 Oreo. That’s great for several reasons: There’s no absurd interface or features to get in the way of your usage, software updates come quicker than on other phones, and the latest security patches ensure you won’t be as easily affected by newly discovered vulnerabilities and hacks.

On top of that, we have the typical hardware you’d find on a flagship smartphone launched in 2017: a high-end Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of memory, at least 64GB of storage, and IP67-rated water and dust resistance. The only weak spot is the rather small 2700mAh battery, but that’s something Google managed to work around.

To my surprise, the battery life has been quite excellent in the weeks I’ve been using this handset. Even with the ambient display feature turned on — which lights up only the needed pixels when a notification comes in — I could easily get over five hours of screen-on time over the course of a day. Phones with larger batteries (albeit with larger screens, as well) perform just as well, if not slightly worse. We can credit this to Google optimizing the software for the given chipset.

As for day-to-day performance, it has been a mixed bag. When my Pixel 2 is feeling good, I can only think of a few Android phones that can keep up — the world-beating OnePlus 5T and Xiaomi Mi Mix 2, off the top of my head. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced numerous app crashes, hang-ups, and unresponsiveness after updating to Android 8.1 Oreo. It’s natural to have incompatibilities and bugs on new software, but it’s more difficult to accept when the operating system’s owner and phone’s designer are one and the same.

It’s all about the cameras

Let’s be real: You buy a Pixel for its cameras. The Pixel 2 continues the series’ tradition of offering the highest-rated shooters of its generation. Again, there’s no need for an additional lens or special setup; single image sensors on both sides are more than enough to produce some of the best pictures we’ve ever seen out of a smartphone.

We already took the Pixel 2 around the world and pit it against three other flagship handsets, and there’s no doubt it excels in nearly every aspect, including portraits, selfies, low-light, and even videos. I personally can’t get enough of the overall image quality, and have made it my primary camera for travel and events.

The portraits below are all with Google’s Portrait mode turned on. This creates an artificial background to provide extra depth behind the subject, making the person stand out more. While I normally stay away from such modes, preferring my photos to look as natural as possible, I appreciated the feature through time and turned it on for every portrait.

As you can probably tell, the Pixel 2’s artificial intelligence has a difficult time figuring out where hair strands end. That doesn’t matter much for people with short hair, but anyone with longer, messy hair won’t get a clean cut from the background. Google claims that the AI gets smarter the more you use it, although I haven’t seen any difference since I began using the phone.

There’s also no way of adjusting the level of background blur, but the camera app saves two photos by default — one with Portrait mode on and the other without. While this consumes more space on your phone’s non-expandable storage, the unlimited cloud storage on Google Photos is never going to let you down and desert you.

Another Pixel specialty is low-light performance, no matter how tricky the lighting gets. This is something the original Pixel excelled at, too, with its use of HDR (high dynamic range) settings to improve contrast and bring out the best colors of any scene.

If you really must, you can double tap for a quick software-based zoon. Even though it isn’t lossless in quality like optical zoom, it’s quick and the photos are usable in case you really can’t move any closer to your subject, especially while shooting videos. Since everything happens within the app, the zooming transition is smooth and natural during recordings.

Finally, we have the front-facing camera. Google doesn’t promote their selfie shooters as much as OPPO or Vivo, but when you activate both Portrait mode and the face retouch feature, the Pixel 2 is surprisingly competitive. Again, the background blurring is hit or miss, so do some pixel peeping around the edges of your face and hair before choosing which shot to upload.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

For whatever new feature you get from the Pixel 2, you have to give up something in exchange. Want the stereo speakers and waterproofing? Lose the audio port and the idea of a borderless design. Want the best camera on any smartphone today? Expect some bugs and glitches along the way.

Our unit wasn’t spared of defects. While nowhere near as deal-breaking as the Pixel 2 XL’s issues, the unresponsive edges of the Pixel 2’s screen and beta-like inconsistencies of the interface left me wondering if I’m getting my money’s worth.

On the other hand, the Pixel 2 doesn’t cost that much for a flagship of today. At US$ 650, it’s at least US$ 200 cheaper than the majority of high-end handsets currently available; only the OnePlus 5T and Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 can be considered better deals for the feature set.

It’s funny how we thought US$ 650 was way too much for the Pixel of 2016. Back then, anything above US$ 600 felt like too much. Now, US$ 900 seems normal for a premium device, and the Pixel 2 is suddenly fairly priced.

Then again, this Pixel is in a peculiar position. The OnePlus 5T and Mi Mix 2 look a lot better without a doubt and cost less; the Mate 10 Pro, Galaxy Note 8, and iPhone X actually behave like top-shelf phones you’d show off to friends, if you can afford them.

Like its predecessor, the Pixel 2 is for Android purists who value camera quality and not much else. Call me old school, but I appreciate its simplicity after dealing with the hard-to-grip infinity displays and overly convoluted camera setups of every other 2017 flagship.

This is a throwback of a throwback, but don’t expect any nostalgia. The Pixel 2 is as basic as it gets at this level.

Reviews

OPPO Find X6 Pro Review: You’ll want this phone with 3 insane cameras

Great but there’s a catch

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OPPO Find X6 Pro

It’s here — the OPPO Find X6 Pro. We haven’t been this excited to do a video on a phone in a long time. This phone not only packs all the high end specs. It looks beautiful, charges insanely fast, and has the best camera on a smartphone today.

Watch our Review.

Triple 50 cameras

Like its contemporaries (the Xiaomi 13 Pro and vivo X90 Pro), it sports a 1-inch Sony IMX989 sensor. It’s accompanied by a 65mm periscope lens and a 15mm ultrawide angle lens. All three have 50MP.

OPPO and Hasselblad continue their partnership on this flagship as the Find X6 Pro also has the Hasselblad Color Calibration.

For selfie enthusiasts, this one sports a 32MP f/2.4 front-facing camera.

Flagship through and through

Like most Android flagships, this one sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 with RAM that goes up to 16GB and UFS 4.0 storage that goes up to 512GB.

Supporting these major features is a 5,000mAh battery with support for 100W fast wired charging and 50W wireless charging. Yes, it’s OPPO’s SuperVOOC tech we’ve come to know and love.

Price and availability

As mentioned earlier, the OPPO Find X6 Pro is only available in China with no immediate plans of being available elsewhere.

It retails at CNY 5,999 for the 12/256GB variant, CNY 6,499 for the 16/256GB unit, and CNY 6,999 for the larger 16/512GB model.

Meanwhile, the OPPO Find X6 (12/256GB) retails for CNY 4,499.

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Accessories

Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 review: Return of the classic

For intermediates and experts

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Sony Walkman NW-ZX707

44 years ago, cars were still boxy, the Apple II was just two years into introducing personal computers inside homes, and the word ‘phone’ meant the landline phone inside your house. It was 1979, personal technology wasn’t a thing yet. Until Sony introduced the very first model of the Walkman, the TPS-L2.

More widely recognized in the mainstream now as “Star-Lord’s ancient iPod”, it revolutionized the music industry back then by putting a cassette player in everyone’s pocket, allowing anyone (well, anyone who had the equivalent of US$ 600 at the time) to listen to music anywhere, anytime they wanted.

Fast forward to 2023, we see Sony has updated the Walkman line to fit in with modern standards. The Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 no longer uses an analog Cassette. It’s now a high-fidelity digital music player.

Gone are its plastic and metal body held together by screws, it’s now a glass and metal sandwich like modern smartphones. It has physically changed to the point of being unrecognizable, but the important thing has stayed the same– It’s probably still the most fun music player you can get with your money.

It’s not a phone, it just looks like one

Sony Walkman NW-ZX707

Like its great granddaddy the Walkman TPS-L2, the Walkman NW-ZX707 is built to last. It continues the time-honored traditions of the Walkman line– namely its metal build, external music control buttons on one side, and the audio jack at the top.

But everything else about the build feels like a mix of old smartphone design cues, just updated to 2023. Upon first look, the NW-ZX707 looks like a weirdly small, thick, and heavy smartphone with sharp edges and two headphone jacks in an age where even midrange phones are ditching it.

It’s got a 5-inch 9:16 LCD display with huge bezels straight out of 2017. It’s even got a soft-touch vegan leather back that we haven’t seen in smartphones for years. With that said, ergonomic considerations kind of start and stop with the external music control buttons.

The overall design is boxy, the edges are sharp, the corners are angular, and the screen is flat as they come. Coming in at 157g, it lets you know that it’s in your pocket.

Could’ve used 5G?

In more ways than one, it only looks like a smartphone, but under its metal exterior, the differences are much more obvious. So while it is running near-stock Android 12, you can’t actually use it as a phone, because it doesn’t have a SIM tray (Which I find kind of weird? Like, I think that with high-fidelity music streaming apps available, that would work well with a 5G SIM for on-the-go hi-fi).

While it boasts some of the best audio chips available on any music player today, it doesn’t have a speaker. And while you can expand its 64GB storage with a microSD card, it’s almost exclusively for your music files, because the screen is too small for media viewing and too slow for even light gaming. And there are no cameras on the device.

But it sometimes tries to function like one

The software on the Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 is where things start to get dicey for me. While I appreciate that it’s built on top of Android 12, a very secure, stable, and customizable platform, I feel like Sony could’ve customized the software a bit more to streamline the experience.

Take for example the experience immediately after setup. Since the ZX707 is linked as an android device to your Gmail account, and there is no special designation in the Android system that it’s a dedicated music player, it’s inevitably going to receive email and other non-music related notifications.

It can be fine for power users, but I don’t think receiving the same notifications as your phone in the middle of music listening is conducive to the hi-fi Walkman experience. Take it from me, spend that extra 15 minutes of deep-diving into your settings to either log out of your Gmail account or turn off notifications for any non-music-related apps and services.

The tide hasn’t come in yet

Speaking of apps and services, a big miss for the ZX707 here in the Philippines is the lack of support for hi-fi streaming apps like Tidal and Qobuz. They’re just straight-up not available in the country. So, if you’re planning on getting the new Walkman, your best bet in filling it up is either manually ripping your CDs or Purchasing hi-fi master tracks in either FLAC, PCM, or DSD.

The digital does its best to be analog

Pre-installed software is limited mostly to the Sony Walkman music player app and its customization software, which is generally fine since it leaves so much space for all your high-resolution music on the internal 64GB storage. And for the entirety of the Walkman NW-ZX707 experience, this is where you’re going to get the most value out.

The music player is pretty standard fare, save for the fact that it has support for extremely high-resolution audio formats like FLAC, PCM, and DSD– it even has a separate section dedicated to all your high-res files. There is no visualization option, but you do get a little Cassette animation when the device is idling– a nice touch. And if you’re looking to have better synergy between your Sony headphones / IEMs, there’s the Sony Headphones Connect app where you can choose your headphone model from a list, and the app will automatically change its sound signature via profiles to give you the best listening experience.

But in the great chance that you’re not using Sony headphones to plug into the ZX707, you’ve got a great range of sound customization via the Sound Adjustment app. And let me tell you, this customization app is the bee’s knees. It’s got properly staged equalizer settings, giving you control from sub-bass 31Hz frequencies, all the way up to cymbal-rattling 16KHz highs in 0.5db increments. It’s a great EQ fine-tuning utility, and super responsive.

Music streaming

There is also a whole slew of sound improvement utilities built-in with the sound adjustment app. There’s the DSEE Ultimate toggle– It’s a new feature from Sony that apparently increases the dynamic range of sub-hi-fi tracks like MP3 and CD formats using AI technology.

I found it somewhat effective, but not to the MP3 files on the device– it worked better when it was post-up-sampling non-hi-fi streaming apps like Youtube Music and Deezer.

There is also a DSD Remastering feature, which converts all PCM signals to DSD. In theory this should increase the signal resolution of sub-hi-fi recordings like MP3, low-quality FLAC rips, and of course, low-bitrate PCM files, but it should be of little value for audiophiles looking to load up the ZX707 with higher-quality 24-bit 117.6KHz PCM files. Do note that PCM and DSD are both quantized signals, so while they’re some of the most high-resolution signal formats a music player can put out, they are still (losslessly) compressed to some degree.

Sound emulation

Lastly, the ZX707 also features sound emulation/simulation features if you ever want to introduce some analog qualities to your hyper-clean modern digital recordings. There is a DC Phase Linearizer which somewhat emulates the natural warmth of an analog amplifier, and a vinyl processor, which simulates the sound signature of hearing your songs through a vinyl record player.

I feel that this is something you might want to turn on based on the kind of files that you’re listening to. There are certain genres that benefit greatly from the warmth and texture of Vinyl simulation like classic rock and electronica. Also, remember to turn this off if your music conversions are from Vinyl like my library. It doubles the Vinyl noise and kind of overdoes the warmth of the track.

Good thing that with all of these settings, there is a toggle for direct output so you can A-B your sound settings really fast anytime.

With a little help from my (Hi-Fi) friends

But enough about all of the intricacies that happen outside of the play button. I called the Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 earlier in this article “probably still the most fun music player you can get with your money.”, so that begs the question– how does it sound?

Well, let me get this out of the way for all you audiophiles first: it’s not a ‘flat’ music player. It’s not a reference device, nor does it advertise itself to be one. It’s high-resolution, sure– but it’s not neutral. And that, to me, just sounds like a good time on paper.

In my two weeks with the NW-ZX707 I was able to try it out with three of my most used audio gear:

  • For the budget on-the-go side, the KZ x CRN ZEX Pros
  • For hi-fi home listening, a modded pair of Beyerdynamic DT770 Pros
  • On the weird-but-fun side, the Sony MDR-XB700 Extra Bass.

And with that lineup, one might assume that the ZX707 would be picky with showing its audio brilliance– not really. It sounded great on everything.

KZ x CRN ZEX Pros

Sony Walkman NW-ZX707

Pairing the ZX707 with the somewhat-neutral KZ x CRN ZEX Pros brought out a good tandem. The ZX707’s sound signature at stock is somewhat warm with a moderate emphasis on midbass and lower mids. The ZEX Pros are somewhat known to have a fair bit of sibilance, but I’m glad to report that because of the Sony Walkman ZX707’s laid-back presentation, there wasn’t much harshness in the highs. Detail suffered a bit, especially on busier tracks, but that was more of the limitation of the ZEX Pro’s limited drivers than through any other factor. The stand-out track for this setup was Silversun Pickups’ “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)”.

Beyerdynamic DT770 Pros

Beyerdynamic DT770 Pros

The duo of the ZX707 and Beyerdynamic DT770 Pros was probably my most used setup during my review period. They just complement each other very nicely. And since I’ve modded the DT770 Pros to have a 4.4mm Balanced input, I was able to leverage the higher power output capabilities of the Walkman– I paid for the whole 250 Ohms, I’m going to use the whole 250 Ohms.

The DT770 Pros are known for their surgically neutral and flat response with a slight prominence in the low-bass. It’s that kind of sound signature that I found pairs the best with the ZX707, as it will ‘convert’ the headphones from ‘mixing ready’ to ‘party ready’. It’s like having a smoothening filter applied to all frequencies, but it doesn’t reduce any of the texture and detail. For that pairing, I turned on the DSEE, the DC Phase Linearizer, and the Vinyl Processor.

It was able to inject a lot of warmth and texture to my songs– coupled with the very forward vocal presentation of both the ZX707 and the DT770 Pros, vocal-centric music like ballads, soft rock, and even ‘00s rap sounded amazing. There are a few times when the bass would sometimes start getting bloated, but it wasn’t something a few adjustments to the EQ couldn’t handle. The stand-out track for this setup was Barenaked Ladies’ “New Disaster”.

Sony MDR-XB700 Extra Bass

Lastly, we’ve got the crazy pair of Sony MDR-XB700s. The midrange of Sony’s classic Extra Bass line, it’s a deceptive pair of headphones– regular music players can make it sound okay, but only the best music players and amplifiers that have exceptional bass and sub-bass processing can make it sound the way it should. And for the ZX707, it was no problem at all.

Having a big hump of sub-bass all the way up to midbass in the EQ was the only way I can listen to the XB700s. Even at almost maximum volume, there was almost no distortion and no significant dynamics compression. It just powers through the songs cleanly and never lets any of the frequencies stray too far from their comfortable thresholds.

Presentation is always smooth and warm, with a big emphasis on vocal presence, and highs are much more relaxed but with a lot of texture. The highs don’t go too far up so listeners of borderline-sibilant textured tracks might have to EQ their highs in, or you might want to look at other ways to improve the high-frequency response on the ZX707. The stand-out track for this setup was Dutch Uncles’ “Flexxin”.

Battery life

To round off my playback performance findings on the Sony Walkman NW-ZX707, it was able to sustain two (2) days of almost constant playback before needing a charge. I attribute this to fine volume and power control. The granularity in the volume adjustment is incredibly accurate and is always a requirement for any hi-fi music player.

Is the Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 your GadgetMatch?

There’s an air of being carefree with the ZX707– it knows it’s not a reference device, nor does it try to be. It plays on its strengths of being a solid, high-power, high-resolution music player that you can take anywhere and plug anything into, and it’ll just slowly fade into the background. Present enough that you’re going to enjoy your music, but never stepping in to interrupt you from dancing to ‘Come Get Your Love’ on a distant alien planet.

Coming in at around PhP 45,000 or US$ 600, the Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 not only invokes memories of the original but also the (frankly) prohibitive price as well. Let me make this clear– this is not an entry-level audiophile PMP, it’s somewhat reserved for intermediates and experts who can leverage its non-neutral presentation to improve their on-the-go listening setups.

But as far as audiophile PMPs go, this is certainly one of the most fun ones I’ve tried so far. Check your gear first– it synergizes well with forward-sounding headphones/earphones with great highs presentation. If you’ve got one, I suggest going for the ZX707. If not, you might have to look somewhere else for your on-the-go hi-fi fix.

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Reviews

Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro: One week with a ‘classic’

Daily, Smart Casual, and Sports

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Watch S1 Pro

Xiaomi followed up its Watch S1 series from 2022, not with an S2 series, but with the Watch S1 Pro. On paper, the Watch S1 Pro looks like Xiaomi took the best of both the S1 and the S1 active and melded it into a package that’s fit for all types of occasions. 

In case you missed it, we did an Unboxing and First Impressions of the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro. But to summarize quickly… 

You get the watch itself. 

Watch S1 Pro
The wireless charging dock.


And some documentation (user manual and warranty). 


The variant we got is the Black Stainless Steel with the Black Fluororubber strap made for workouts. 

Watch S1 Pro
There are some new key information we asked Xiaomi between the unboxing and this review: 

As you know, the watch is also available in a silver stainless steel case with brown leather strap. If you want that strap, you can purchase it separately.

But you have an even wider range of choices as the straps of the S1 and S1 Active will also work with the S1 Pro. 

If that’s still not enough, any 22mm strap size will work with the watch S1 Pro. So, you’re free to style it however you see fit. 

It has a 1.47” display which is larger than the 1.43” on the other S1 series watches. 

Watch S1 Pro

It also prominently features a crown for easier navigation. 


That’s it. So, what’s it like using the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro for a week? Let’s talk about it in the different scenarios that Xiaomi imagines you’ll use it for. 

Daily

Watch S1 Pro

While working on this review, I’ve had to think about what it meant for me to own a smartwatch.

Due to the nature of my work, I’ve had the privilege of using a handful of them for a few weeks to a month. Over the last two years, I’ve mainly used one which also has a “pro” label on it. 

To me, it’s now become a necessity. I get a ton of notifications daily. Work emails and messages dominate my day. Seeing the notifications come in through the watch helps me mentally prepare for the next task as I work on finishing the one that’s currently on my plate. 

It helps that the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro also displays exactly which app the notification came from. I’ve used some smartwatches in the past that could not make this distinction. Instead, they only show a brief part of the message with a default message icon. Glancing quickly when notifications come in helps me organize my thoughts better, and knowing which app the notification came from also helps me plan my next move better. 

The UI’s design

Watch S1 Pro

The app selection interface looks a lot like the Apple Watch. The difference being the general look and feel of the app’s themselves. I’m lukewarm on how they look. They’re not bad, but something about them feels a little off to me. 

When you swipe left or right from the watch face, you can see the widgets available. There’s one for health monitoring, one for fitness, and another for Alexa. You can arrange them however you like. I personally put fitness as the first swipe from the left and the health monitoring as the first swipe from the right.

Watch S1 Pro
Here’s another area where I thought the widgets just didn’t look quite right. While all the elements fit inside the circular display, something tells me this layout fits a more rectangular shape better. Yes, the exact shape of the Apple Watch. Not a deal breaker, but it’s worth pointing out.

Xiaomi uses their own MIUI Watch OS so I asked Xiaomi if there will be an update to apply themes to change this. Unfortunately, there isn’t. Again, this isn’t objectively bad, I just personally wish there was a way to customize it. 

Smart Casual

Watch S1 Pro

When the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro was launched in Barcelona, Spain during MWC 2023. We had a chance to sit down with TJ Walton who takes the lead in talking up Xiaomi’s accessories and overall ecosystem. Referencing the silver stainless steel case with brown leather strap, he was asked if there was a conscious effort to make the watch look more luxurious. To which, he answered affirmatively. 

While you can certainly say that for the silver case, leather strap variant, the black case, fluororubber one, in my opinion, does have its “luxury limits.” You wouldn’t wear this as is with formal attire. Thankfully, it does work in more smart casual or business casual fits. 

Watch S1 Pro

It also helps that, as mentioned earlier, you can purchase separate straps to fit the occasion better. I already looked up 22mm watch straps on popular shopping platforms and you should have a field day from the selection. Everything from stainless steel, to leather straps are available for purchase.

While you can get away with the black fluororubber strap in most scenarios, you should do yourself a favor and buy an alternative strap or two so you can mix things up and accessorize appropriately. 

Sports 

Watch S1 Pro

I have said this a few times already in previous smartwatch reviews, but in case this is your first time reading mine, I hate workouts. Or at least the idea of working out. I’m just lazy like that. I do like walking and playing basketball.

I always just walk whenever I can. Especially when I’m traveling, there’s nothing like soaking in a place better than taking the time to stroll down its streets. The Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro’s step counter works just about as well as any step counter. There will be variance with other smartwatches which is natural, but it is fairly accurate. So, if you’re targeting a certain number of steps, you can rest easy knowing you walked enough to reach your goals. 

Watch S1 Pro

Speaking of goals, that’s what I love about the workouts available on the Watch S1 Pro. With it, you can select whether you want to track the duration or by calories burned. The smartwatch I’ve been sporting simply tracks both at the same time but without the granular control of targeting each one.

This is especially helpful for someone like myself whose “workouts” are limited to solo basketball drills and occasional pick-up games with neighbors. I’m currently trying to lose the massive weight I gained during the pandemic, and I’m doing so by watching my daily calorie intake. If I can track my hoop sessions based on calories burned, it’s easier for me to maintain a calorie deficit in tandem with my current meal plan. 

Watch S1 Pro

 

It also helps that the watch, overall, isn’t too bulky and doesn’t feel heavy on the wrist at all. It’s a stark contrast to what I currently use. Granted it’s one that’s close to being three years old.

100+ workouts

As advertised, there are 100 types of workouts that the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro can track. Personally, I feel like this can be intimidating to a lot of people as it creates this idea that you need to try all of them to maximize the smartwatch. This isn’t true at all.

Just pick the workouts that work for you, the ones that you’re happy to do and can incorporate to your lifestyle. If you can do that, you’re already making the best of the smartwatch’s fitness features. 

Battery life and other things of note 

Xiaomi advertises up to 14-days of battery life in standard mode. If I extrapolate the results from my one-week use, you could see yourself charging the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro every 4-5 days with moderate to heavy workout usage. 

Under very bright sunlight, it can be challenging to see the watch face. But that’s a really isolated case. Most of the time, you won’t have trouble seeing the watch face right away. 

As of writing, I thought the available watch faces are pretty limited. There’s also no option to add a custom image (at least now when you use it with an iPhone). I couldn’t try it with the Xiaomi 13 Pro, which has an instant pairing mode that’s convenient, because it’s currently with another team member for a camera shootout. Xiaomi said more watch faces should come soon. 

Xiaomi Pay isn’t available in the Philippines. It’s currently available in WEU, CEE & Nordic, and Russia. Availability in more regions and countries are in the pipeline. However, Xiaomi says this is dependent mainly on the business development of the issuer VISA and Mastercard’s plan. Contactless payment has gained more traction (yes, I see the irony in those words) of late and I wish the support for the feature expands soonest.

Is the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro your GadgetMatch?

Watch S1 Pro

The Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro has all the bells and whistles of a 2023 smartwatch. You have the usual health monitoring features (heart rate, sleep, blood oxygen, etc), as well as tracking for a huge number of activities.

And while the watch faces are limited at this point, the available ones offer enough versatility that you can switch it up depending on the occasion like you can with the straps.

The UI, I personally think, can be better, but it is objectively good. The battery life is also decent. It’s a happy middle ground between the charge-daily Apple Watch and the long-lasting offerings of Huawei. 

Against its contemporaries, the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro is most appealing for its price (PhP 16,999/ EUR 299). You get pro features you expect from a smartwatch, as well as the versatility of matching it with your style. It also helps that it works with both Android and iOS. 

If you’re looking to take your personal health and fitness monitoring to a “pro” level, the Xiaomi Watch S1 Pro likely offers the best overall value right now.

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