TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra Review
So close to being a Wear OS king
In so many ways, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra is a great smartwatch, thanks to its quick speeds, excellent secondary FSTN display and a three-day battery life that breezes past other Wear OS devices. Unfortunately its the lack of Wear OS 3 at launch, the presence of last year’s chipset and abysmal GPS performance that hold it back from being among the best.
- Battery king for Wear OS
- Refined design and a more comfortable watch strap
- TicExercise’s informative dashboard
- Great collection of watch faces
- No Wear OS 3 at launch
- Terribly slow GPS connectivity
- Same chipset as last year
- UKRRP: £289.99
- USARRP: $299.99
- EuropeRRP: €299.99
- CanadaRRP: CA$399.99
- AustraliaRRP: AU$399.99
- Secondary FSTN screenA low power alternative to an always-on display
- Snapdragon Wear 4100 chipsetQualcomm’s latest wearable processor
- Essential modeUp to 45-days of battery in a pinch
With so many facets to its name, it could be easy to scoff at the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra, but to do so would be to miss out on one of the better Wear OS watches of the year.
It’s no secret at this point that the race for a better Wear OS hasn’t unfolded in quite the way we’d hoped. After the surprise reveal of a joint platform making the most of Google and Samsung’s expertise in the wearable space, the hype for a truly next-generation range of Wear OS smartwatches felt tangible, but now that 2021 is reaching a close – reports of a smartwatch revolution may have been exaggerated.
To its credit, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 did do a great job of showing the potential of Wear OS 3, but with the newer software not finding its way to other watches until well into 2022, it’s difficult not to feel deflated. The Fossil Gen 6 suffered greatly from only being a meagre upgrade on its predecessor, and with the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra also lacking Wear OS 3 at launch, it risks falling into the same trap.
Having tested the watch for several weeks, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra pulls a decent effort in offering lots of other features to keep you occupied, but it isn’t quite enough to combat its other issues.
Design and screen
- A slightly more refined look over the TicWatch Pro 3
- The new ‘Fluoro Rubber’ strap is very comfortable to wear
- You can change the colour of the FSTN display backlight
With each new iteration, the TicWatch Pro line has felt recognisable by its larger than usual frame and front-facing dial that surrounds the main display. That same style has mostly stayed the same for the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra, but there have been a few alterations made to make this feel like the most refined TicWatch Pro yet.
For starters, the chunky chin and forehead of previous TicWatch Pros is now long gone, making the Pro 3 Ultra feel more like a smartwatch and less like it’s trying to imitate traditional adventure watches of old. There’s now a textured surface surrounding the outer dial (not too dissimilar to the Fossil Gen 6) which, despite being a minor flourish, does add up whenever you take a moment to admire the watch.
The biggest change can be found on the watch strap. Doing away with the orange laced strap of the original TicWatch Pro 3, the Pro 3 ultra now packs a ‘Fluoro Rubber’ strap with a lined pattern that gradually changes the closer it gets to the watch. While this might sound a bit mundane on paper, believe me when I say that this is the most comfortable watch strap I’ve ever come across on a smartwatch, and it’s exactly the type of material that doesn’t feel abrasive whilst working out.
The only downside is that the strap still utilises a single-clasp mechanism – the bottom of which can leave a mark on the skin if worn too tightly. Something akin to the Fitbit Sense’s ‘Infinity Band’ would have complemented the new material in a much better way.
The dual-display set-up of previous TicWatch Pros makes a reappearance here, with a secondary low-power FSTN screen sitting just above the 1.4-inch AMOLED display. I’ve always maintained that this dual-display has been the best feature of the Pro series and it just feels fantastic to return to after a prolonged absence. The ability to get a quick glance at the time never goes out of style, and it doesn’t penalise battery life in a way that most ‘always-on’ modes tend to do with other Wear OS watches.
You may remember that the Pro 3 added a much needed backlight to this FSTN display, but the Pro 3 Ultra has taken an extra step by letting you change the colour of the backlight to one that better suits your style. There are 18 colours to choose from, so there’s sure to be one that works for you.
Features and performance
- No Wear OS 3 at launch
- Last year’s chipset makes a reappearance
- GPS tracking is a bit of a mess
The TicWatch Pro 3 was the first wearable anywhere to feature the Snapdragon Wear 4100 chip, and while that innovation was applauded at the time, parent company Mobvoi has decided to rest on its laurels for this smartwatch generation. For reasons unbeknownst to me, the Pro 3 Ultra also packs the same 4100 chip, and not even the slightly beefier 4100+ variant that can now be found in the Fossil Gen 6.
The decision to stick with the 4100 isn’t a dealbreaker by any means, particularly as the Pro 3 Ultra is still fast in everyday use and apps open quickly on the device, but it does seem strange. What is more apparent however is the lack of Wear OS 3 at launch. Just like the Gen 6 and the TicWatch E3 before it, the Pro 3 Ultra will not be receiving the updated Wear OS until late 2022 which means that the Samsung Galaxy 4 presents a far more tempting buy for the time being. If you can look past this set back however, there is still a lot to like about the Pro 3 Ultra, even while it’s running Wear OS 2.
To really set its outdoor credentials, the Pro 3 Ultra now comes with MIL-STD-810G military grade durability, meaning that it’s far more likely to survive a proper knock or a scratch than its predecessor. This won’t be the most exciting feature for most consumers, but for those who hike and camp regularly, it’s definitely something you’d want on your checklist. Personally, I have a greater level of interest in a smartwatch’s watch face gallery, and luckily Pro 3 Ultra does not disappoint.
While the watch face gallery doesn’t reach the highs of the Apple Watch 7 or even the Galaxy Watch 4, there’s still a solid mix of both analogue and digital designs. The onboard watch faces tend to do a great job of including a variety of complications seamlessly into their design, giving you a good amount of information without ever clogging up the screen.
As is now customary for the majority of Mobvoi’s wearables, there’s a whole bunch of TicWatch-exclusive apps that come pre-installed with the Pro 3 Ultra.
Apps like TicZen and TicBreathe let you keep your stress levels in check, and the TicSleep app does a decent job of giving you written feedback on the quality of your sleep and what could be done to improve it. It’s these apps that give users a bit more to play around with than your typical Wear OS watch, and they go a decent way towards softening the absence of Wear OS 3.
What can’t be overlooked is Pro 3 Ultra’s performance when it comes to GPS tracking. Given that the Pro 3 Ultra displays the GPS moniker in its name on Mobvoi’s website, you would think that the watch would perform well when tracking your whereabouts but sadly this isn’t the case. At multiple locations, it took well over a minute to establish a GPS connection, at which point I was more inclined to just carry on with my outdoor run sans tracking. It’s hard to say what’s gone wrong here, but it’s a major setback that needs fixing.
- TicHealth offers a solid overview of your fitness level
- TicExercise could do with a few more workouts
- Heart rate monitoring results are fairly accurate
At this point, fitness tracking on a Wear OS watch feels like as much of a retread as your fourth or fifth lap around the track. Google Fit is decent enough, but with so few changes made to the app over the years, it’s been up to smartwatch manufacturers to inject a little something extra in the fitness department, with Mobvoi leading the pack courtesy of TicHealth and TicExercise.
All of the workouts that are registered in TicExercise are saved and analysed in the TicHealth dashboard, which lets you see how active you are during the day, where you are in relation to your fitness goal and your current step count. These are just the basics however, as the dashboard expands to include your overall energy levels and mental fatigue if you have 24-hour monitoring switched on.
When paired with the data that comes in via TicSleep, TicHealth offers a surprisingly comprehensive view of your health. It won’t be giving Garmin a run for its money any time soon, but it’s far more impressive than anything I’ve seen on a Wear OS watch to date (bar the Galaxy Watch 4).
With that said, I did find myself switching back and forth between TicExercise and Google Fit as there are noteworthy omissions in both apps. Swimming is nowhere to be found on Google Fit, and while this is remedied by TicExercise, the latter doesn’t include weightlifting in its selection of workouts.
Regardless of which app you use, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra does throw back some solid results from the heart rate monitor. When tested against a dedicated heart rate strap, the Pro 3 Ultra would have a discrepancy of 1-2 points, with one example being a stint on the treadmill which brought in a 183BPM high and a 146BPM average, close to the 182 high and 146 average of the chest strap.
- A new battery king with up to three-days at a time
- Charging isn’t too fast but acceptable
- Essential mode gets you 45-days of use
Major leaps in battery life were one of the best features of the TicWatch Pro 3, and it’s the standard that I’ve come to compare every Wear OS watch to since. As great as those achievements were, it’s time for the Pro 3 to hand over its battery crown, because the Pro 3 Ultra just blew right past it.
The Pro 3 managed to get me through two days on a single charge, but the Pro 3 Ultra can see you into a third without breaking a sweat. Taking the Pro 3 Ultra off charge at 8am on a Sunday, it wasn’t until 11:20pm the following Tuesday that the device needed a top-up with 7% battery left in the tank, after plenty of notifications, two tracked workouts and overnight sleep tracking. That is seriously impressive.
If you switch on the 24-hour activity monitoring then daily charging is a must, but if you’re not too fussed about stress tracking then that three-day stint is easily achievable. Charging is a bit slower than I’d like it to be, taking just under an hour and a half to get the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra from 10% to a full battery, but it doesn’t matter too much when you only need to charge every couple of days.
For when you do find yourself in a pinch however, you can always swap over to Essential Mode, which scales down the watch’s feature set to the absolute minimum, netting you up to 45-days of use in return. It’s not a feature that I would use regularly, but it’s nice to have for peace of mind on a night out.
Should you buy it?
You want a long-lasting Wear OS watch: With up to three days on a single charge, no Wear OS device comes close to outlasting the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra.
You have the money to buy the Galaxy Watch 4: Unless you can find the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra on offer, there’s very little reason why you wouldn’t opt for the already cheaper Galaxy Watch 4.
The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra is so close to being an easy recommendation. The outstanding battery life makes other Wear OS watches feel outdated, and the ever-brilliant dual-FSTN display is still a must-have feature. There’s also a great collection of watch faces to cycle through, and the performance is just as speedy as ever with the Snapdragon Wear 4100 in tow.
Unfortunately, these strengths just aren’t enough to make me forget about the lack of Wear OS 3 at launch, and worst of all, the GPS tracking software is an absolute mess that warrants the device near-useless for any outdoor workouts. The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra could be a very different wearable in a year’s time (particularly if the GPS issues are fixed), but for right now it’s just not the watch I hoped it would be.
How we test
We thoroughly test every smartwatch we review. We use industry standard testing to compare features properly and we use the watch as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Worn as our main smartwatch during the testing period
Heart rate data compared against dedicated heart rate devices
Side-by-side GPS comparison with our best scoring smartwatches
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Not at launch, but it will sometime in late 2022.
Yes, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra works with iPhone via the Wear OS app
The Snapdragon Wear 4100