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TicWatch Pro 2020 Review

Even with minimal upgrades, the TicWatch Pro 2020 is a smartwatch that can be recommended

Verdict

For anyone who’s looking to buy their first Wear OS watch, or indeed their first TicWatch, then the TicWatch Pro 2020 is a solid option with enough features to make it stand out amongst the crowd.

Pros

  • Dual-layered display is genius
  • Super speedy GPS
  • Brilliant watch for runners

Cons

  • Barely any upgrades over its predecessor
  • Hard to justify upgrading if you have the old TicWatch Pro

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £222.99
  • D45mm x 12.6mm
  • Untethered GPS
  • Dual-layered display
  • 1.39” AMOLED 400x400 Screen
  • IP68 water and dust resistance
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset
  • Military Standard 810G durability
  • Up to 30 battery life

The TicWatch Pro has been part of Mobvoi’s smartwatch range for a few years now, but instead of releasing a fully-fledged sequel, the manufacturer has opted for an iPhone SE style 2020 upgrade.

The only problem is that the biggest addition to this year’s upgrade can be surmised in two simple words: 1GB RAM. As far as upgrades go, it’s incredibly minor, even if that newly added RAM does allow the watch to perform at a noticeably faster rate than its predecessor.

The question is then, who is the TicWatch Pro 2020 designed for? Can it be viewed as an essential upgrade for buyers of the last TicWatch Pro, or has Mobvoi put out this updated version purely with the intent of reeling in new adopters?

Design – Robust for a smartwatch but oozing in style

Placing the older and newer TicWatch Pros together, it’s clear that Mobvoi was happy enough with the original design because it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between these two watches. Much like its predecessor, the TicWatch Pro 2020 features a physical exterior dial that adds to the watch’s rugged feel, alongside two sizeable buttons on the side and a part-leather watch strap that actually houses a rubber underlay on the inside for better grip.

The main body of the watch is divided into three distinct parts which, from the side gives the appearance of a metal on metal sandwich, weighing 58.5g (without the watch strap) across a 45mm x 12.6mm chassis. Even though the TicWatch Pro 2020 is definitely on the larger side of the smartwatch spectrum, the comparatively lightweight watch strap prevents it from feeling cumbersome on your wrist.

Speaking of the watch strap, I must say that I’m genuinely impressed with the use of hybrid materials here. As much as I love a good Milanese loop, leather watch straps will also take the advantage where style is concerned, but the required upkeep involved with maintaining the integrity of leather can sometimes be more hassle than it’s worth, and certainly the last thing you want to worry about from a smartwatch boasting a rugged design.

Having textured rubber on the inside of the watch strap allows the TicWatch Pro to have its cake and eat it. Especially given that it also utilises a traditional single-pronged clasp that makes adjusting the size of the strap an absolute breeze – something I’d missed dearly after struggling to get my head around the overly tricky clasp on the Skagen Falster 3.

Despite its largely unchanged design, the TicWatch Pro 2020 is hiding a brand new feature in plain sight – military grade durability. As a military grade 810G certified device, the new TicWatch Pro can withstand a barrage of conditions that might soil other smartwatches, such as temperature shock to levels as low as -30℃, while the use of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 allows the watch to take some pretty hefty knocks without worry. Being the occasionally clumsy person that I am, our review unit took several hits from table corners and nearby walls, but all of these events failed to make a scratch.

Screen – Return of the dual-layered display

One of the best features of the original TicWatch Pro was undoubtedly its dual-layered FSTN display. Sat just slightly above the watch’s main 400×400 AMOLED screen, that second LCD display would offer key bits of information – time, steps, heart rate and battery life – in a Casio-style format. Well that exact same second display is back for round two, completely unchanged over its predecessor – and I couldn’t be happier.

I’ve said it before but it never stops being a crucial point in my reviews: if a smartwatch can’t offer you the time as soon as you need it, it fails in its simplest goal as a timepiece. It’s for this reason that I’ve never been a fan of the ‘tilt to wake’ feature, as it makes small glances at your watch near impossible. Good luck trying to casually read the time during a meeting if you have to bring the watch all the way up to your face each time.

With the second display utilised as an always-on watch face (as opposed to the main AMOLED panel), the TicWatch Pro 2020 not only solves this issue, but also does it in a way that doesn’t hamper the battery life. Because there’s so little flare to consume energy in the second display, you’re never penalised for using the always-on feature.

Of course, because the second display uses LCD technology, it’s also incredibly easy to read outdoors. If only there was a backlight to illuminate the second display during low-light situations, I would argue that the TicWatch Pro 2020 has the best screen set-up of any Wear OS watch.

Features and performance – Hampered by Wear OS but still has a few tricks up its sleeve

I’ll admit, when I read through the specs for the TicWatch Pro 2020 ahead of testing and spotted the Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset on the list, I groaned. After all, how can a smartwatch with 2020 in its title be using a chip that’s now over four years old?

As it turns out, having that aforementioned 1GB RAM onboard the new TicWatch Pro means that the older hardware isn’t really an issue, and when it came to everyday use, there wasn’t any noticeable slowdown to make the watch standout against newer devices loaded with the Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip.

Speaking of which, while the latest Fossil-produced smartwatches have opened up the gates for battery mode customisation to allow users to get more juice of out their devices, Mobvoi has gone in a different direction with ‘Essential Mode’.

Doing exactly what it says on the tin, Essential Mode switches off almost all of the TicWatch Pro 2020’s smart features, relying solely on the LCD display to convey core pieces of information, which Mobvoi states will get you 30-days worth of battery life. It’s a neat feature to have, especially if you’re heading off camping and don’t fancy packing an extra charging cable in your backpack, but I would love to see more battery modes akin to what Fossil has on offer.

Where the TicWatch Pro really does shine is with the surprisingly numerous exclusive watch faces that are loaded onto the device. During my testing of the Skagen Falster 3, I lamented that one of the ways in which wear OS watches can stand out from one another is with exclusive watch faces, and in that department the Falster 3 fell drastically short. With the TicWatch Pro 2020 however, there’s an abundance of designs here that you’re bound to find something that matches your style.

Of course, with each new addition to the Wear OS lineup, the flaws in Google’s operating system become more glaring over time. For instance, I still can’t believe there isn’t a dedicated sleep tracking system within the Wear OS interface, or offline support for Spotify. In fact it’s because of that lack of Spotify compatibility that the Garmin Venu will always have a solid spot on my wrist during a workout.

Fitness tracking – one of the best Wear OS watches for runners

Just as with any Wear OS watch before it, the TicWatch Pro 2020 is loaded with Google Fit which is still a pretty solid fitness tracking system. It’s easy to go back and see your performance through various workouts, and there’s compatibility with other devices like the Myzone MZ-3 band.

The new TicWatch Pro comes with an additional fitness program made by Mobvoi itself. While the Mobvoi app is nothing to write home about, its fitness section is surprisingly robust and as it turns out, absolutely essential if you want to make the most out of the watch’s fitness tracking capabilities.

For example, if you’re using Google Fit to track a run, the LCD panel will only show you the time, your step count and your heart rate if you request it. With the Mobvoi app doing all the work on the other hand, the previously minimalist LCD panel opens up a whole new host of information including your distance, total duration and calories lost, all available on the standby mode screen without the need for you to awaken the watch and take your eyes off the road. And given just how easy it is to read that LCD screen in direct sunlight, there’s a case to be made that the TicWatch Pro 2020 may just be the Wear OS smartwatch to beat among runners.

What really impressed me was the ferocious speed with which the TicWatch Pro connects to a GPS signal on its own. Untethered to a smartphone, I found that the TicWatch Pro 2020 could latch on to a signal in just five seconds on average, making it the speediest smartwatch that I’ve come across in this regard, leaving the likes of the Garmin Venu and the Fossil Gen 5 in the dust.

Comparing its results with a Myzone MZ-3 band and a Whoop 3.0 band, the TicWatch Pro’s heart sensor actually does a pretty decent of job of picking up fairly reliable results. It’s not the most accurate out there, but it certainly gets the job done.

It’s just a shame that the TicWatch Pro 2020 still succumbs to the occasional audio cutouts that I’ve found with other Wear OS smartwatches. It’s by no means a deal-breaker, but it’s something I’ve never come across in Garmin watches so it would be nice to see a fix down the line. Similarly, there were a few times when the GPS couldn’t quite place my whereabouts during a run – making it seem as if I’d vanished into thin air, only to reappear a few yards down the road.

Battery life – up to 30 days depending on how you use it

Going into this review, some of you may have spotted the absurd ‘up to 30-day’ battery life quoted at the start, and while I can assure you that figure is certainly not inflated, it’s sadly not as spectacular an achievement as you might think.

That 30-day battery life stems only by using the aforementioned Essential Mode, which switches off almost all of the TicWatch Pro’s smart features in favour of a super minimalist level of functionality that mirrors a traditional digital watch. While it’s definitely helpful to know that if the watch’s battery is nearing its end, you can always swap to Essential Mode to see yourself home safely, I’m left scratching my head somewhat about its use beyond that scenario.

After all, if a longer battery life beyond the standard smartwatch fare is what you’re after, then I’m afraid to say that you’re better off with just investing in a regular watch. It won’t cost as much and it’ll see you far beyond the TicWatch Pro 2020’s 30-day limit. There’s a different story altogether when you stick with the TicWatch’s smart mode.

Mobvoi quotes a battery life of up to 5 days when in smart mode, but after putting the watch through some heavy usage (multiple notifications, two runs with untethered GPS and music playback), I was able to get two days out of the TicWatch Pro 2020, which is still pretty good for a smartwatch but a decent amount short of Mobvoi’s pitch.

Related: Best smartwatch

Should you buy the TicWatch Pro 2020?

It’s a shame really, because Mobvoi has an excellent product in the TicWatch Pro 2020, but it has so few updates over its predecessor that it’s almost impossible to recommend purely as an upgrade – especially given that during sales events, Mobvoi has discounted the older TicWatch Pro to as little as £107.49.

For anyone who’s looking to buy their first Wear OS watch, or indeed their first TicWatch, then the TicWatch Pro 2020 is a solid option with enough features to make it stand out amongst the crowd.

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