When someone is comitted to a brand, whether it’s fashion or, in this case, tech, all the signs are there. They don’t need to shout it from the rooftops – you’ll see that commitment in all the brand products they surround themselves with. And when they skip one, you can’t help but ask why? To our surprise, the answer to that question turned out to be the Amazfit T-Rex smartwatch.
To give you a bit of context: as long as I’ve known Dan, one of my teammates, he has always been upgrading to the latest iPhone and AirPods as soon as they came out but when he got to the Apple Watch… something held him back. He didn’t even realize it until he got his hands on a review unit of the Amazfit T-Rex.
It was the shape. Apple Watch didn’t have that outdoorsy, rugged feel that his wristwatch had and that he unknowingly preferred. But the Amazfit T-Rex did. Would that be enough to switch him to the smartwatch side? Hard to say, without testing it further.
So we took it for a spin.
Design: Body & display
Rugged and dainty don’t go well together, so of course Amazfit T-Rex has a bold, functional design, with a crown coming at 47mm. We did notice that, for its size, it is surprisingly light (about 58 grams). The 22mm silicon strap is very flexible and comfortable and comes in five colors.
Also the frame isn’t flush with the 1.3-inch AMOLED display but that’s not a bad thing since together with the Gorilla Glass 3, it’s meant to protect it from falls. Meanwhile, the anti-fingerprint coating will save you some screen wipes.
Although it has a polymer body, reinforced by an alloy, the manufacturer says you can wear the Amazfit T-Rex up to 240 hours in high humidity and 96 hours in acid, salt, or alkali environments. It should also work fine in 70 degrees Celsius and at – 40 degrees Celsius and of course, you can go underwater with it, up to 50 meters.
In a world of touchscreens and haptic buttons, featuring at least one physical knob is a relief! We appreciated how comfortable the four buttons were to press, although it we would have liked to feel more of a click when pressing them.
The 360×360 AMOLED display looked pretty bright even during the day, with vibrant colors. The always-on mode was a great addition and would have loved to keep it as main watch face.
Speaking of watch faces, those weren’t easy to install – at all. You have to wait more than a minute for a face to be installed, a bit too long if you ask us. Once we did that, we noticed T-Rex stored just three watch faces: one currently enabled, with two alternatives. When you install a fourth, you’re basically resigning yourself to lose one of the already installed ones.
Notifications, apps and UX
In the time he tested it, Dan noticed the GPS signal seemed to work perfectly fine in parks but not so much on the street, where the skyscrapers and close-knit buildings threw it off. Would the same thing happen if he chose cycling mode while driving? Not really – the routes were shown accurately, although the real time speed updates had a bit of lag.
T-Rex vibrates to alert of incoming notifications and each vibration is customizable, too. That means you can be less dependent on your phone… which is amazing when you don’t have the phone nearby to begin with. That said, you can’t reply to them from the watch.
Getting dedicated notifications from a service or app – like weather – can be done from the upper right button, the only mappable one from the four.
As long as we’re talking about apps, you should know that T-Rex has its own operating system, so no Wear OS to speak of. That’s not a deal-breaker necessarily; you’ll still be able to pair it with apps like Strava and we haven’t experienced bugs and crashes as it usually happens with sketcky OS.
The mobile app is pretty intuitive; we’d love to see a dark mode for it, especially since the activity summary is already on the dark side.
Music, heart monitoring & sleep tracking, battery
There’s no music storage to speak of, but you’ll see a minimalist music player on the watch thanks to Bluetooth pairing with your phone. From there, you can change the song and volume on the phone or another connected Bluetooth speaker.
There is, however, heart rate monitoring – an almost must for fitness and outdoor smartwatches nowadays. During an activity, heart rate monitoring is done continuously. The rest of the time, you’ll get an update about once a minute, but you can select the updating frequency from the app, along with other tracking modes. A bit of warning: the automatic heart rate detection and sleep assistant will deplete the battery fast.
If you go for the automatic heart rate detection mode, you’ll be a bit disappointed. In Dan’s case, the watch didn’t detect when he left the bed and, then, the room. It also didn’t differentiate between lying in bed awake and sleeping.
You won’t be cranky though, when it comes to the battery. In fact, with all notifications enabled, alarm on, a few activities tracked a day and watch face changes, it still lasted about five-six days. Not bad at all!
To get 100% battery again, you need to charge it for an hour. We can’t say that’s a super fast charge, but pretty decent all in all.
Amazfit T-Rex checks A LOT of boxes for just $139, a third of the price of an Apple Watch 5! You don’t just get smart functions and a pretty display, but a long lasting battery and resistance in pretty much every type of environment you can think of. There is room for improvement of course, but if you’re looking for a rugged smartwatch right here, right now, this is a pretty good bet.