About two years ago, I reviewed the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro and found the sleek-looking smartwatch, which uses Google's Wear OS, to be great value for money.
The refreshed version - the TicWatch Pro 2020 - is now here and it comes with 1GB system memory, twice that of its predecessor. In other words, apps should run smoother and more responsively.
The new model should also be more durable. It has the same IP68 rating as its predecessor (water resistant to a depth of 1.5m for up to 30 minutes) but has also attained the United States military standard MIL-STD-810G for ruggedness.
This means it can withstand huge temperature fluctuations and is resistant to sand, shock and up to 95 per cent humidity. It is operational from minus 20 deg C to 55 deg C.
Apart from these upgrades, the new model looks exactly like its predecessor. Still available in black and silver (version tested), it looks like a classic timepiece with its round watch face, big bezel and aggressive lugs. The silver bezel has markers in five-second intervals, giving it a sporty look.
There are two silver buttons on the watch's right side at the two o'clock and four o'clock positions. The top button is the home button, which lets you access apps and also works as the return button. The bottom button is a shortcut to tracking workouts such as running and walking.
While it might be disappointing to see the lack of design changes, there is no reason to fix something that is not broken. Apple has not really changed the design of its Apple Watch for nearly half a decade and it is still selling like hotcakes.
Furthermore, the watch feels premium, with its bezel and rear cover made of stainless steel. The watch case is made of hard nylon reinforced with glass fibre. Perhaps the only criticism is the large 45mm watch case, which might not suit those with slimmer wrists.
The watch also retains its predecessor's unique hybrid strap, which has silicone on the inside surface and leather on the outside. The black leather exterior gives it a formal look, while the silicone repels perspiration and prevents discolouration of the leather. I like that one watch strap works for all occasions and that users need not swop straps between work and workouts.
Like its predecessor, this model features a dual-layer display, with a transparent LCD display on top of a round 1.39-inch (400 x 400 pixels) Oled screen.
The LCD display shows the essentials - time, date, steps taken and battery life - when the watch is idle. When you raise your wrist, the Oled screen is activated, enabling access to the Wear OS watch functions.
I find the operation to be much smoother and faster than that of the previous model. But the LCD display still has no backlight, making it hard to read in both dim lighting and bright sunlight.
• Sleek-looking smartwatch
• Smoother performance and more rugged than the original
• Great value for money
• Same design as the original
• Uses an older chip
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth 5.0, Near Field Communication, Wi-Fi
WATER RESISTANCE: IP68
WEIGHT: 77g (with hybrid strap)
BATTERY LIFE: 4/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
Still, the automatic screen activation is helpful when you are carrying objects such as heavy groceries, as you can read the time without raising your wrist.
The new TicWatch Pro makes a good fitness watch with its built-in GPS, heart-rate monitor, accelerometer and gyroscope. In terms of step tracking, its readings differed from those of my calibrated Apple Watch Series 4 by only 5 per cent.
Taking it for a run over my regular 5km route, I found its distance tracking reading to be over by 100m. But its heart-rate readings were close to what I was getting from the Apple Watch.
The downside is that the 2020 model uses the older Qualcomm Snapdragon 2100 chip, even though the new Snapdragon 3100 is supposed to provide better battery life.
But the battery life remains on a par with that of its predecessor. Even when constantly connected to an Android smartphone, it lasted four days with a 5km run logged.
If you already have the TicWatch Pro, you do not really need to upgrade. But if you are looking for a Wear OS smartwatch, this is worth considering.