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Ticwatch Pro review: The smartwatch flagship killer?

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
220

Improves on its predecessors in nearly every way, but the Ticwatch Pro falls down in one crucial area

Pros 
Competitively priced
Good build quality
Google Assistant
Cons 
Sluggish performance
Heavy
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The Ticwatch Pro is the latest smartwatch from Chinese company Mobvoi, a relative newcomer to the UK smartwatch market whose previous wearables were launched via a Kickstarter campaign just last year. The Ticwatch Express (E) and Sport (S)  stood out among their premium rivals for one simple reason: they offered much the same features but at a fraction of the price.

Both models run WearOS, have a built-in optical heart rate monitor and GPS and let you store music offline, allowing you to enjoy a few tunes when you go for a run or bike ride without having to take your phone with you.

However, the Ticwatch E and S both lack the kind of high-end build quality you’d expect from big names such as Apple and Samsung and neither model supports contactless payments via NFC. Mobvoi has managed to right both these wrongs with the Ticwatch Pro.

Ticwatch Pro review: What you need to know

Unlike its cheaper predecessors, which are both all-plastic affairs, the Ticwatch Pro’s casing adds stainless steel for a more robust feel and its strap is nicer, too, combining a bit of leather with the mostly silicone construction.

Like the Ticwatch E and S, the Ticwatch Pro runs WearOS 1.3. However, the Ticwatch Pro’s hardware is built around the better-known Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip and also has NFC for making contactless payments. There’s still no altimeter, but the watch has built-in Wi-Fi, GPS and an optical heart-rate sensor.

The waterproofing is better than on it siblings, too. It’s protected to the IP68 standard, meaning you can submerge it to 1.5m in fresh water for up to half an hour. Having said that, Mobvoi doesn’t recommend that you swim with it.

READ NEXT: Best smartwatches

The biggest change, however, is arguably the watch’s “patent pending” layered display, which comprises a basic FSTN LCD display stacked on top of an OLED panel. This innovation lets you check the time and date, along with your step count at a glance without needing to wake the power-hungry OLED screen. When the battery is really low, you can also activate Essential Mode and squeeze out a couple of extra days use.

Ticwatch Pro review: Price and competition

The Ticwatch Pro costs £220, which is considerably more expensive than the Ticwatch E (£120) and S (£150). Other than Mobvoi’s cheaper watches, the Ticwatch Pro’s main competition comes from the Huawei Watch 2, which can now be picked up for around £280 (or even less if you look out for a good deal).

The Watch 2 also runs WearOS and comes with a heart rate monitor, GPS and NFC. If you’re an iPhone user, then you should seriously consider the Apple Watch Series 3, which remains our favourite smartwatch – just note that you will need an iPhone to use it. In other words, Android users need not apply.

Ticwatch Pro review: Design

Mobvoi boasts that the Ticwatch Pro uses “premium materials” on its packaging but, depending on your tastes, the main downside to the Ticwatch Pro’s stainless steel and glass-fibre reinforced casing is apparent as soon as it’s unboxed: it’s one hefty watch.

With the strap attached, the Ticwatch Pro weighs a mighty 78g, which is not far off double the weight of the Ticwatch E (42g). To give you some more context, the highly rugged Samsung Gear S3 Frontier weighs 63g without a strap and the Ticwatch Pro comes in just under this with its silicone and leather strap removed at 58g.

Although the extra weight undoubtedly makes the Ticwatch Pro less appealing to exercise with, especially for those with smaller wrists, it’s surprisingly comfortable thanks to its  silicone strap and smooth stainless steel casing. There’s a slight protrusion where the optical heart rate sensor is situated but this didn’t create any discomfort for me.

Broadly speaking, the styling of the Ticwatch Pro mimics that of the Ticwatch S, with second numbers marked on the bezel around the edge of the watch face. However, unlike the cheaper model, the Ticwatch Pro has two buttons on its right side as opposed to one button on the left. One of these opens the app list and doubles as a back button, while the other is a dedicated shortcut to Mobvoi’s Fitness app.

Although the Ticwatch Pro evidently has a higher build quality than its predecessors, its aesthetic appeal is still somewhat open to debate. From afar, there’s no reason anyone would guess you’re not wearing a premium device, but up close the Ticwatch Pro clearly lacks the subtlety and refinement of more expensive smartwatches such as the Apple Watch and even some cheaper ones, including the Fitbit Versa. If you’re the sort of person who buys a watch as a fashion statement, this one might leave you cold.

Having said that, I have only seen the silver version of the watch in the flesh and the black model looks slicker from the press images. The watch also takes a 20mm watch strap, so you can at least swap the plain black band for something a bit more colourful, if you prefer. Mobvoi sells a brown leather strap and four different coloured silicone bands, but of course you can  buy straps from other manufacturers too.

For charging, the Ticwatch Pro uses a magnetic dock. It's not altogether dissimilar to the cable you get with the cheaper Ticwatch E and S, except that it's larger, and because it mimics the shape of the watch's rear casing, you sit the device on top of it rather than just clipping it to its side. In practice, I found this design worked very well. It's both quick and easy to attach and made a succesful connection every time.

Ticwatch Pro review: Screen and battery life

Where the Ticwatch Pro has many of its premium rivals beaten, at least in theory, is its innovative dual-screen offering. Primarily, the watch uses a 1.39in, 400 x 400 OLED display just like that in the Ticwatch E & S. However, to improve battery life, the Pro also has a low-energy FSTN LCD display, situated directly in front of the OLED one.

The idea is that, when you’re not using the watch, only the LCD display is activated, letting you check the date and time, along with your step count. As soon as you need to use an app, just tap the screen or press a button and the vivid OLED display comes springing back to life.

It’s a clever concept, not least because it lets you check the time without having to set the power-sucking OLED display to always-on. As well as being more energy efficient, the FSTN LCD is also more easily visible in bright light. One downside, though, is that the OLED times out if after a few seconds if you don’t touch it, which can often feel too soon – and I couldn’t find an option to change this.

However, a definite perk is that when the Ticwatch Pro is running low on battery, it enables Essential Mode, where only the low-energy screen is used. You can’t check your notifications or use apps in this mode, but you can at least tell the time and check your heart rate until you get the chance to charge the watch again.

Mobvoi claims the watch will last 30 days in this mode but, in reality, you’re much more likely to only use it when the battery has run down in smartwatch mode. In my experience, Essential Mode adds three extra days of battery life to around a day and a half of smartwatch use.

Ticwatch Pro review: Features, apps and performance

In many ways, once you’ve tested one WearOS watch, you’ve tested them all, at least in terms of core features and interface. It’s no surprise, then, that the Ticwatch Pro is more or less identical to its cheaper predecessors in terms of software.

Along with the standard WearOS apps, a selection of Mobvoi-developed apps (Fitness, Health, Heart Rate and Step Ranking) come pre-installed. Unlike the previous Ticwatch models, where it was easy to ignore these in favour of Google’s better-known apps, there’s a clear reason for using them, which is that they work with the dual-layer display where Google’s apps do not. Start the Outdoor Walk or Cycling mode in the Fitness app, for example, and after a few seconds, the OLED shuts off and instead displays the details of your workout, including heart rate, time and distance on the low-energy LCD.

In general the built-in GPS did a good job, picking up a fix just as quickly as the Ticwatch Sport, which has an antenna built into its strap. The heart-rate sensor also gave readings that were largely in line with what I expected to see. On a fairly laid back bike ride across London, my pulse averaged 116bpm and peaked at 143bpm. Coming back the other way, which involved slightly more uphill pedalling, both the average and max heart rate were a few beats per minute higher.

As with its predecessor (and other WearOS watches) one of the main advantages to buying a Ticwatch Pro over more fitness orientated wearables is that it comes with Google Assistant. Instead of grabbing your phone from your pocket, Google’s voice assistant can help you send WhatsApp messages, check calendar entries and even give you walking directions on Google Maps, all without having to press a single button.

Another benefit is that the Ticwatch Pro has NFC and – because it runs WearOS – supports contactless payments via Google Pay. While some smartwatches from Garmin and Fitbit have NFC chips, Garmin Pay and Fitbit Pay currently support a very limited number of UK banks compared with Google’s service. You can find a full list of the supported banks here.

Sadly, though, one area in which we found the Ticwatch Pro distinctly underwhelming was performance. Where the Ticwatch E & S are powered by the Mediatek MT2601 processor, the Pro employs a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100. While that might sound like an upgrade the Snapdragon is actually over two years old and it shows in terms of basic, everyday performance.

Navigating through WearOS’ menus on the Ticwatch Pro was noticeably slower compared to the cheaper models and when it came to more resource-heavy tasks, it felt painfully sluggish. For example, opening Google Play Music on the Ticwatch S for the first time took nearly three seconds (not exactly lightning fast) while on the Ticwatch Pro I found myself staring at a black screen for close to 10 seconds. Setting up Google Pay, too, was so slow that I nearly abandoned it altogether. Unfortunately, these weren't just momemtary blips because the watch felt slow across the board.

Ticwatch Pro review: Verdict

Our main criticism of the Ticwatch E & S surrounded their inferior build quality compared with rival smartwatches from Samsung, Apple, Fitbit and Garmin. However, with the Ticwatch Pro, Mobvoi has upped its game significantly.

The result is a smartwatch that’s not only packed with features, including built-in GPS and an optical heart rate monitor, but also looks and feels luxurious. Consider that it has NFC support and innovative dual-screen functionality and you’d expect to be looking a watch that’s utterly irresistible, especially at £220.

However, Mobvoi has stumbled on one crucial point: performance. Although the Ticwatch Pro has a more widely recognised chipset, it runs painfully slowly at times, with even the cheaper Ticwatch E and S doing the basics much faster.

Unless this is fixed with a software update you’re better off sticking with the Ticwatch E and S – or choosing something from the wearables on our best smartwatches list.

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