The Stratos 3 has obviously been ‘inspired’ by the Garmin fenix in the same way that almost every laptop we see today was inspired by the MacBook and how every phone appears to look like almost every other phone. In fact, this is what made me notice it in the first place because I like the fenix design a great deal.
The fenix 6 retails for £529 and the Stratos 3 for £129 which is a huge gap, huge!
Obviously a price gap means nothing if two products are completely different so to first gauge that we need to look at the specs.
As you can see the specs are similar in terms of the hardware, too similar to make sense when one costs 4 times more than the other. Again, this is somewhat subjective though because many very poor tech products boast good specs and are still awful.
The problem for Garmin starts with the fact that the Amazfit feels quite well built and solid despite its very light weight. There is more of a sense of quality with the Garmin of course, but the Stratos does not feel cheap at all from a hardware perspective.
Also, it looks good. It really does look good and carries off the big sports watch look with ease. It does not look like a tough watch at all, but it looks substantial and for many people this is the preferred option. The fact it is so light means that it is also very comfortable to wear despite the size- the way the small lugs drop down helps a lot with this.
In use the Stratos is a bit of a mixed bag to be truthful. The screen is designed to ensure that battery performance is kept light and because of this it suffers from a phenomenon of invisibility for me. This may sound odd, but the fenix has exactly the same issue; you never quite feel like you are seeing anything clearly. The washed out colours are not helped when the backlight appears with a wrist raise and there is an ever present sense that this is not new display technology.
Speed wise it is fine, but there are lags on occasion which are hard to deal with, and I mean lags that can stretch into many seconds at a time. It is occasional and general performance is fine, but things like this can lessen the amount of faith a user may have in a product. Then again, I am seeing software updates appear every single day so it is possible that this will be resolved soon.
The app, Zepp, is impressive and one of the better fitness solutions I have seen on iOS with all of the data presented cleanly and in an organised way, albeit with bits of Chinese text scattered around the place. Syncing seems to take some time when I start it up which is strange to see after using the Apple Watch, but overall I see a lot here for the price.
This is not the fitness smartwatch for me, but only in the same way that the Garmin fenix is not the solution for me. The screen technology, the inconsistent performance and perhaps most importantly the haphazard heart rate monitoring leave me looking at replacing it very soon. The heart rate monitoring does seem to be an issue for some reviewers, but it also seems to be working better than previously these days so many it will be fixed in the short term.
Despite the above criticisms I have to say that for £129 the Stratos 3 is incredible value and for most people it will suffice as a daily wear watch that can monitor their fitness. There are many (many!) workout modes, a multitude 0f features including VO2 Max, training load, training effect, recovery time and even offline music playback. This latter feature is not even available in the Garmin fenix unless you buy a Pro model so it is without doubt a bonus. However, in a world where moving MP3 file manually feels akin to putting coals on a fire I don’t see too much benefit in that.
Overall, the Stratos 3 is an excellent bit of kit with some quirks that need ironing out to make it a reliable and complete training partner. It would appear that taking those few extra steps to make a competent and truly tough fitness watch is where the extra money goes, but I am far from convinced that it should cost 4 times as much. I am even less convinced that the Garmin fenix is worth the extra money- the difference is just far too much for it to make sense and I personally would much rather spend just £129 on what is a very good smart watch that on the whole does fitness very well.