Sporting the new Snapdragon Wear 4100 chipset, the TicWatch Pro 3 is a blast to use. The interaction with Wear OS has never felt so smooth, leaving previous models in the dust. The simple addition of a backlight to the watch's dual display also goes a long way to improve usability. While there are a number of issues holding the watch back, including an erratic heart rate sensor and the lack of offline music storage, there's enough here to make the TicWatch Pro 3 feel like a success and a worthy upgrade at that.
- Fast performance, courtesy of Wear 4100
- Long battery life for a Wear OS watch
- Dual-display is still a winner
- The design isn't as bold this time around
- Questionable heart rate tracking for weightlifting
- No Google Play Music equals no offline listening
- Review Price: £289.99
As the second entry in Mobvoi’s TicWatch Pro line this year alone, the TicWatch Pro 3 marks a serious jump in hardware that fans have been waiting for.
For the longest time, it seemed as though the SnapDragon Wear 2100 was the chipset that would never be retired. Like the trusty calculators of old, companies would continue to find a way to utilise the processor, despite the fact that its successor, the SnapDragon Wear 3100, has been readily available for several years.
For example, the TicWatch Pro 2020 and the TicWatch C2+ smartwatches both included the 2100 chipset (albeit with an additional 1GB of RAM) – and they were released only a few months ago. Well, it seems the time might finally have come for the 2100 to hang up its hat, as the brand-new SnapDragon Wear 4100 chipset is here, debuting on the TicWatch Pro 3.
TicWatch Pro 3 design – A sleeker TicWatch Pro 2020, but is it worth it?
If you’ve had any experience with the TicWatch Pro range to date, then there’s no mistaking the TicWatch Pro 3 for belonging to any other series. The clue is in the stylised watch face surrounding the display, with numbers etched into the frame for added flare.
This time around, however, that frame has been minimised to the point where its presence is barely noticeable in everyday use. I can understand the desire to make this feature slimmer in the newer model, but I was among the few who didn’t mind its more bombastic nature on the TicWatch Pro 2020. After all, the design is one of the few opportunities for Wear OS watches to really stand out from the pack, and a more visible frame really helped the Pro 2020 do that.
It isn’t only the frame that’s been scaled down, either; the body of the TicWatch Pro 3 is now slimmer and lighter than its predecessor. It’s difficult to gauge from pictures, but the Pro 3’s size betrays just how light it feels when worn, weighing in at only 42g.
The Pro 3’s interface remains the same, with two sizeable buttons occupying the top and bottom spaces of the watch’s right-hand side. It works well and the buttons definitely feel tactile – but even now, I miss the existence of a rotating crown on Mobvoi’s premium smartwatches. The Fossil Gen 5 still feels like a more mature smartwatch in this regard, even though the internals have now been surpassed.
Solid silicone makes a return as the material of choice for the TicWatch Pro 3’s watch strap, and its presence is as welcome as ever. I’ve always said that silicone watch straps are far more comfortable to wear when working out, and this sentiment hasn’t changed. However, what I do enjoy here is that, from a distance, you could mistake the Pro 3 for having a leather watch strap, as the outward-facing surface features lovely bronze stitching that really stands out.
TicWatch Pro 3 screen – As bright and easy to read as ever
Following my review of the TicWatch Pro 2020, I immediately shifted over to the TicWatch C2+ and found myself lamenting its smaller screen. Much like with a smartphone, once you’ve seen the benefit of having a larger display, it’s hard to go back to any other variant. For that exact reason, I found myself smiling as I wrapped the TicWatch Pro 3 around my wrist for the first time.
The return to a larger screen alone would have been enough to keep that smile on my face, but others maybe be pleased to learn that Mobvoi has made some other changes here that add to the appeal of upgrading. The Pro 3’s 1.40-inch AMOLED display just slightly trumps the Pro 2020’s 1.39-inch display when it comes to size, but there’s now a noticeably higher pixel resolution of 454 x 454 to let watch faces pop and allow text to appear clearer than ever.
Of course, the AMOLED display is still just half the story, with the superb secondary FSTN display making a comeback. The dual display setup of the TicWatch Pro 3, which uses a low-energy watch face to offer up the date, time and your step count at a glance, all without having to wake the watch, is a great option for conserving battery life.
While the design of the dual display watch face is a bit cleaner this time around, Mobvoi has also introduced a backlight to make it easier to tell the time in dark environments. The lack of a backlight in the Pro 2020 was a big problem, since it rendered the dual-display useless once the sun had set. As such, it’s a welcome addition here.
In fact, I find it baffling that such a feature hasn’t caught on more generally through the market, given that it offers a battery-friendly version of the always-on concept – something that can decimate the lifespan of other smartwatches. For now, however, it’s just the TicWatch Pro series that carries it, and that’s a huge win for Mobvoi.
TicWatch Pro 3 features and performance – Wear OS gets a much-needed power boost
The question on everyone’s lips regarding the TicWatch Pro 3 is just how much of a difference the new Snapdragon Wear chipset actually makes in terms of performance (and no judgement here if you’ve just skipped to this part of the review). I’m happy to report that the wait for the 4100 processor has been worth it, with Wear OS now feeling like it has all the power it needs to contend with the Apple Watch. Google Assistant responds in an instant, and jumping between apps and menus feels incredibly fluid – it’s a delight to use.
Beyond the power-boost brought by the 4100, the Pro 3 has another ace up its sleeve that separates it from the usual lineup of Wear OS smartwatches: Mobvoi’s suite of built-in apps.
Between TicSleep, TicExercise, TicZen and more, Mobvoi has covered most of the basic necessities one would hope to get out of a smartwatch, and in doing so has overtaken the need to use any of Google’s own apps that feature on the Pro 3. To my mind, TicSleep is the most crucial here, as Google has yet to step up to the plate with a dedicated sleep-tracking app of its own, and TicSleep offers no shortage of statistics and advice on the watch itself to help you get a better night’s sleep.
While TicSleep isn’t exactly new to Mobvoi’s smartwatches, the experience is improved here due to the addition of SpO2 tracking on the TicWatch Pro 3. With blood oxygen tracking very much in vogue at the moment – as a result of Apple and Fitbit’s efforts – it makes sense for the Pro 3 to get in on the action as well. Unless you’re going to climb a mountain every weekend, however, the feature is best put to use during sleep-tracking to pick up on any potential signs of illness.
Following the recent shutdown of Google Play Music, the TicWatch Pro 3 offers no means to store music offline. While this is completely out of Mobvoi’s hands, it’s still worth mentioning that for now, and until Google releases a YouTube Music app for Wear OS, you’ll be forced to take your phone with you if you want to listen to some tunes during a workout.
TicWatch Pro 3 fitness – Still needs some improvement
The dual-screen setup of the TicWatch Pro 2020 allowed us to wholeheartedly recommend it for runners as a result of how easy it was to view all of your key metrics at a glance without waking the watch, and the same remains true of the TicWatch Pro 3.
Throughout a run, the Pro 3 can also provide guidance based on your heart rate. For instance, if your heart rate is too high, then the Pro 3 will buzz and suggest that you slow down a bit. The inverse occurs if you’re taking things a little too easy.
In comparison to an accompanying heart rate strap, the Pro 3 did a solid job of offering reliable heart rate information – but only during cardio. When cycling and outdoor running, the Pro 3’s data largely lined up with that of a Myzone MZ-3 – but the results told a completely different story when it came to weightlifting.
In some instances, the final recordings were off by a margin of 10bpm, preventing the Pro 3 from being a helpful companion in the weights section of the gym. This probably isn’t too surprising given that weightlifting isn’t an exercise that’s even listed in the Mobvoi Fitness app.
Again, however, much like its predecessor the TicWatch Pro 3 performed well where GPS is concerned. On average, I never found myself waiting for longer than 10 seconds before a connection was made, making the device faster in this regard than even the Fitbit Sense.
TicWatch Pro 3 battery – A new standard for Wear OS
Ahead of our testing, one of the notable points Mobvoi was keen to highlight was the TicWatch Pro 3’s 40% increase in battery life. Given that the Pro 2020 could already go for a decent amount of time on a single charge, this improvement could be crucial in giving Wear OS devices a much-needed leg up on the Apple Watch 6.
Taking the Pro 3 off its charger at around 5:20pm on a Friday, I was able to get through the entire weekend without taking the watch off my wrist, utilising sleep tracking, workout tracking during two exercises, and even an NFC transaction. It wasn’t until 6:30am on Monday morning (when the Pro 3 has 14% battery left in the tank) that I whacked the watch back on to its charger.
This is easily the longest battery life I’ve come across on a Wear OS device, and it’s now getting to the point where Wear OS is gradually leaving the Apple Watch in the dust where longevity is concerned. After all, this should have been the year that Apple made greater strides in battery life with the addition of sleep tracking to watchOS 7, but instead it appears that Mobvoi is taking battery life more seriously.
You can get the Pro 3 to last even longer; switch to Essential mode and you can get up to 45 days of use. Of course, Essential mode prevents you from gaining access to most of the Pro 3’s smart features, but I’ve found it to be a life-saver when the watch’s battery is low and there isn’t a charger in sight.
Should you buy the TicWatch Pro 3?
While there are a few key issues to raise with the TicWatch Pro 3, from its hit-and-miss heart rate tracking and lack of local music storage, Mobvoi has made sufficient strides here to consider the first implementation of the SnapDragon Wear 4100 chipset a success.
The Pro 3’s simple and easy-to-read dual display still remains a huge selling point, and the longer battery life allows the watch to go further than any Wear OS device before it, making it one of the best smartwatches from Mobvoi’s collection to date.