Zepp E Review: Style Over Substance


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The Zepp E is the first smartwatch from the company formerly known as Amazfit, which was well known for making a range of affordable smartwatches that offer a premium build and features, and it’s very much the same story with the Zepp E – although it’s not quite as budget-friendly as some of the company’s previous offerings. It seems part of the Zepp rebrand was to make a push into the mid-range smartwatch market, but it’s an area with fierce competition.

Can the Zepp E make a dent in the mid-range market like previous Zepp/Amazfit products have with the entry-level market? I’ve spent some time using the Zepp E, and here’s what I think.

Design and display

In a world full of cheap-looking wearables, Zepp has produced something all-round more stylish with the Zepp E. Sporting a lightweight, minimalist design, the smartwatch is one of few in the market to be available in two different shapes – square and circle – allowing you to opt for the shape you prefer. It’s something I’d love to see from other wearable manufacturers, especially as somebody that personally prefers the circular shape of an old-school wristwatch to the square design utilised by many high-end wearables.  

The circular model sports a 1.28in display with a 416 x 416 resolution while the square variant sports a slightly larger 1.65in display at 348 x 442. Regardless of the model you opt for, you’ll be getting access to AMOLED display tech that helps colours pop and keep blacks looking deep and dark. The inclusion of AMOLED tech isn’t as crucial as with a smartphone or TV, but it certainly makes the watch more eye-catching and vibrant.

That curved-edge display sits atop of a stainless steel body, rather than having physical bezels surrounding it, furthering the minimalist design. The body itself is simplistic, sporting only a single side-mounted button that doesn’t protrude too far from the body, and on the rear, you’ll find the heart rate monitor, SpO2 monitor and charging port.

The accompanying strap is replaceable, like many on the market, but some may be disappointed to learn that the sample I was sent comes with a single leather strap in the box. It’s not only less than ideal for exercise, but it may be a dealbreaker for those against using real leather in place of vegan leather. The strap feels thin and we have concerns about durability given the amount of creasing after only a month or so of use, although I must admit that it was pretty comfortable on the wrist and the grey colour complemented the rose gold body of my sample well.

The water-tight design of the watch means it offers 5ATM waterproofing, and there’s a dedicated swim tracking mode on offer, but you should avoid a leather strap at all costs if you’re looking to go for a dunk.

The good news is that you can grab a version of the Zepp E with a fluoroelastomer band from the Zepp website, with the breathable material being the better option for exercise. It’s just a little disappointing that Zepp didn’t include both types of strap in the box – there’s definitely a time and a place for each, and I don’t want to have to choose between one or the other. The saving grace is that they’re standard 20mm straps, so you can easily pick up a replacement online when you want to swap it out.  

The Zepp E is available in three base colours – Black, Silver or Rose Gold depending on the shape you go for – and there are plenty of strap colour combinations to choose from. It really is a good looking, stylish smartwatch that’ll compliment your look as well as track your key fitness metrics.

Features and fitness tracking

The Zepp E runs Zepp’s own wearable software, and while it is an undoubtedly slick and user-friendly interface, there are limitations to the OS.

First, let’s start with the positive: generally speaking, the Zepp E is a joy to use, with a modern interface and an intuitive swipe-based control system that gives you quick access to key features like fitness tracking and the current weather with a swipe, and a press of the side button brings up a list of all available apps. It’s here that you’ll find dedicated apps for weather, exercise tracking, stress tracking and more, although you can also double-click the side button for quick access to exercise tracking.

There are plenty of watchfaces available, most via the companion app for iOS and Android. As well as using the app to customise core settings and features of the smartwatch, you can use the app to browse and install a large collection of watchfaces. These aren’t quite as customisable as those found on the Apple Watch Series 6, but the sheer number of watchfaces means you’ll likely find one perfect for your needs. Once installed on your watch, it’s easy to switch between them – no smartphone needed.  

You’ve got other handy features like the ability to control music playback on a connected device and notification support too, but the latter is rather underwhelming in some regards.

While the watch will display either all or pre-selected notifications from your smartphone, there’s no way to interact with these notifications. With the Apple Watch, for example, you can reply to texts when viewing a message notification. There’s also a problem with notification grouping, with the watch letting you know that you’ve got several notifications from a particular app, but not let you look at the content of each notification.

But while it’s a great OS, it’s not ideal for everybody. That’s mainly due to the lack of third-party app support, meaning you won’t be able to access apps like Citymapper or Google Maps on your wrist on-the-move, making it more limited than some Wear OS-enabled alternatives. There are also random occurrences of Mandarin text in place of English, so a bit of polish would be greatly appreciated.

Like most smartwatches, the Zepp E offers both general fitness tracking during waking hours and sleep tracking during the night. Displayed in the form of circles you close throughout the day and accessible with a single swipe of the display, the watch tracks general movement, standing hours and exercise minutes. It’ll also use this data to generate a PAI score. It’s not explained at all on the watch and there’s very little about the intricacies of PAI tracking on the app, but the PAI Health website explains it pretty well.

You’ll find not only a built-in heart rate monitor but an SpO2 monitor to track your blood oxygen levels throughout the day. The sensors are fairly commonplace on smartwatches in 2020, but nonetheless, it’s great to see them included in the Zepp E.

Like the fitness tracking, sleep tracking is fairly standard, offering the ability to track duration alongside heart rate, sleep stage and other basic data, but unlike some alternatives, the advice you get is fairly boilerplate. Advice like “go to sleep at 10pm” is fairly generic stuff that may or may not work depending on your sleeping pattern and schedule, and there’s no way to adjust that on the watch or app. The tracked metrics are more detailed than what you’ll get from the Apple Watch Series 6, but it’s not quite up to what companies like Fitbit offer.

Beyond standard fitness tracking, you’ve got dedicated fitness tracking modes for 11 types of exercise. These range from the standard, like outdoor runs and bike rides, to more niche exercises like skiing, and for anything not listed, you’ve got the Free Training option. That’s not quite up to the standard of the Huawei Watch Fit with support for a whopping 90+ exercises, but it’ll certainly be enough for the everyday user wanting to track a jog or a bike ride.

Depending on the exercise you’re undertaking, the watch will display handy metrics including time, pace, calories burnt, average heart rate alongside exercise-specific measurements like cadence and stride when running. There’s nothing ground-breaking here, and if you’re coming from a dedicated running watch you’ll likely be missing out on some advanced metrics, but if you’re coming from a basic smartwatch it’ll be a nice upgrade.

There is one key limiting factor though: the lack of built-in GPS. That means you’ll need to take your smartphone out with you to get the most accurate distance readings, utilising only built-in sensors to calculate distance, stride and other metrics when not connected, usually with slightly less accurate results. That is a surprise considering the price of the watch when rivals like the Huawei Watch Fit offer built-in GPS at a cheaper price and may be a dealbreaker for the more fitness-orientated.  

Though you’ll get a summary of your exercise displayed directly on the watch upon completion, it’s via the companion app for iOS and Android that you’ll be able to sink your teeth into the data. There you’ll have access to graphs that allow you to compare performance across your exercise, a heatmap showing your exercise route (if connected to GPS) and other metrics to help you track your progress.

Battery life

The good news is that the battery life is pretty decent, even if it doesn’t quite reach Zepp’s claim of 7 days. In my experience with the Zepp E, it’ll comfortably last around five days with average use and the occasional exercise tracked – much longer than other stylish high-end smartwatches like the Apple Watch Series 6 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 considering it’s taking measurements constantly.

There is a catch though; to get the five-day battery life from the Zepp E, you’ll have to disable the always-on display. It is tempting to leave it on constantly because it’s nice to be able to glance at the time without having to do a dramatic wrist movement to wake the display, but capping out at three days, it might not be worth the compromise for some. Besides, as mentioned earlier, the wrist detection on the Zepp E is on point.

Regardless of how you use the watch, three-, four- or five days is still much longer than most high-end competitors, so even without the seven-day claim, the Zepp E offers great battery life. If you need even more power from a single charge, you’ve got the option of enabling a battery saving mode that essentially turns it into a standard wristwatch capable of displaying the time but not much else. I’m not sure how helpful that’ll be in real-world use, but hey, it’s there if you need it.

When it does need a top-up, magnets in the watch and charging port allow it to snap into place on the back of the watch. It’ll charge from 0-100% in around 90 minutes, which isn’t a bad trade-off considering the multi-day battery life on offer. There’s a nice charging animation too, allowing you to see how much charge has been regained at a glance.

Pricing and availability

You can buy the Zepp E for £209/$249.99 in the UK and US respectively. It’s certainly not the cheapest smartwatch on the market, but it’s notably cheaper than the likes of the Apple Watch Series 6 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 while sporting a high-end, stylish design. The good news is that Zepp won’t charge you more depending on the shape or strap material you go for – it’s one flat price, and that’s a refreshingly simple approach.

You can grab the Zepp E directly Amazon, both in circular and square forms, with various combinations of strap. For more wearable inspiration, take a look at our choice of the best smartwatch and the best fitness tracker too.

Verdict

The Zepp E is a good looking, minimalistic smartwatch that most would struggle to find a fault with, making it a perfect companion for those snazzy nights out, and although you only get a single strap in the box, the standard 20mm straps are easy to pick up online. The ability to choose between a circular or square design is underrated, and something I’d love to see on offer from other wearable manufacturers.

The software is also largely great, with an intuitive user interface and decent exercise tracking capabilities, but little niggles like random Mandarin text and basic notification support mean it isn’t perfect for everyone. There’s also the lack of third-party apps to consider.

Though the battery life isn’t quite up to the seven-day claim, it’ll still last you a good few days without needing a top-up, and that’s quite the feat from a display with such a gorgeous display.

The main issue is that it’s expensive, and there are cheaper smartwatches on the market that offer more features – including GPS, a fairly standard feature not available with the Zepp E. That shouldn’t be a dealbreaker if you think the Zepp E is the smartwatch for you, but I’d make sure it ticked all my boxes before putting money down on the stylish smartwatch.


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