Mi Watch Revolve Active Review: Great hardware, still buggy software

Mi Watch Revolve Active Review: Great hardware, still buggy software

What makes a smartwatch different from a smart band? Is it just about the form factor? Or is the smartwatch supposed to be smarter and more capable? These are some of the questions I’ve been dealing with for the past week while reviewing the new Mi Watch Revolve Active. That mouthful of a name aside, the Mi Watch Revolve Active is Xiaomi’s new smartwatch for the Indian market that’s targeting the sports enthusiasts with far more sports tracking options than its predecessor in India — the Mi Watch Revolve, with which it shares almost all the features. So is the Mi Watch Revolve Active also a glorified smart band like the Mi Watch Revolve?

There’s a couple of things to note — some of you might recognize the Mi Watch Revolve Active, as it’s the same smartwatch that’s sold as the Mi Watch Color Sports Edition in China and as the Mi Watch in international markets.

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Xiaomi Mi Watch Revolve Active Specifications: Click to expand

Xiaomi Mi Watch Revolve Active: Specifications

SpecificationXiaomi Mi Watch Revolve Active
Build
  • Glass fiber-reinforced polyamide frame
  • Polycarbonate back
  • TPU strap
  • 5ATM
Dimensions & Weight
  • 46mm watch case
  • 45.9×53.35×11.8mm (without protrusions)
  • 32 grams (watch case)
Display
  • 1.39-inch AMOLED
  • 454 x 454 pixels
  • 326PPI

 

Battery & Charging
  • 420mAh
  • Two pogo pin charger
  • Rated for 16 days of typical use
Sensors
Heart rate sensor, acceleration sensor, gyroscope, geomagnetic sensor, air pressure sensor, ambient light sensor
Connectivity
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BDS
AudioMicrophone for voice assistant

About this review: Xiaomi India loaned us the Mi Watch Revolve Active for review. This review is after about a week of use. Xiaomi did not have any inputs in the content of this review.

Design and Display

Mi Watch Revolve Active on hand

Xiaomi has gone with a utilitarian design for the Mi Watch Revolve Active. The circular dial gives it the feel of a traditional watch, like the Mi Watch Revolve, but it also looks quite generic. Apart from the round face, there are two buttons on the watch — home and sport. While the sport button opens the workout menu by default, it can be configured to launch a specific workout. The home button can take you to home or in the app drawer. Depending on the long press duration, you’ll also get different functions, like access to the Amazon Alexa voice assistant or force restart.

The Revolve Active’s case is made of glass fiber-reinforced polyamide with a polycarbonate back, unlike the Revolve that sports a metallic design with a polycarbonate back. The glass fiber-reinforced polyamide material is said to be good in strength and relatively lightweight. So the Xiaomi smartwatch is very light and weighs just 32 grams without the straps. This makes it easier to wear for a longer duration, and especially while sleeping.

You also get a 22mm user-replaceable TPU strap that is quite decent. Xiaomi is offering three color options for the smartwatch – Beige (the one that I received for the review), Black, and Navy Blue. There are going to be a couple of extra strap color options as well that you can purchase separately.

The touchscreen is 1.39-inch OLED with 454×454 pixels resolution, and it’s great. The screen also gets very bright, so I had no problems looking at it both indoors and outdoors. It’s also vibrant, and the company is utilizing the presence of the OLED panel by offering an always-on display option. I initially tried to use the watch without the always-on display option and it was just too annoying waiting for that extra fraction of a second that it took to detect the wrist turn gesture and wake up.

On the back of the watch, you’ll find a bunch of sensors that are used to track your heart rate and blood oxygen level. You’ll also notice the pogo pins on the underside that are used for charging it. The company bundles a magnetic charger that’s slightly smaller than the watch itself. You won’t get a power adapter but you can plug the charger’s USB-A port in pretty much any smartphone wall adapter lying around.

The smartwatch is also 5ATM (up to 50 meters underwater) water-resistant, so you can take it in the shower or a pool.

Overall, the hardware is well put together and feels nice. My only problem is with its size. Xiaomi is selling just one case size — 46mm — that will feel very large to people with slender wrists.

Software

Xiaomi Wear and Mi Watch Revolve Active

The Mi Watch Revolve Active runs on a proprietary operating system that seems to be based on an RTOS (realtime operating system). It pairs with the Xiaomi Wear app on Android and Xiaomi Wear Lite app on iOS for setting up. It doesn’t matter if you own a Xiaomi phone or not, you get the same functionality on pretty much all modern smartphones. The Xiaomi Wear app also shows details of all the tracking done by the smartwatch. You also use the app to control which apps send you notifications, whether you get incoming call details, which widgets you see on the homescreen of the smartwatch, and more.

Moreover, you can download extra watch faces using the app. There are a total of four pre-installed watch faces on the smartwatch, but the app gives you access to over 100 more. Xiaomi does not provide any easy way to sideload additional watchfaces, but you can if you know what you are doing. If you don’t, the collection of Xiaomi’s watch faces is pretty decent and it includes both analog- and digital-type watch faces, with some even including details about your heart rate, steps taken, and more.

Additionally, there are eight standby watch faces that work when you’ve enabled the always-on display and are not actively interacting with the watch.

As there’s no rotating bezel or crown on the Mi Watch Revolve Active, you only use the touchscreen to interact with it. The gestures are fairly simple — swipe down for notifications, swipe up for control panel, swipe from left edge to go back, and swipe left or right to navigate the widgets.

My experience interacting with the smartwatch was mostly fine, except on a couple of occasions when the watch just froze. Apart from a force restart, nothing worked. I also had issues with the always-on display which, despite being enabled, didn’t seem to work on a couple of occasions after checking a notification. The screen just went to sleep. Waking up the watch again seemed to set everything straight but it was annoying.

Another issue with the always-on display was it wasn’t really smart. So even when I removed the watch from my hand, it continued to have the screen on, thereby wasting battery life when it clearly wasn’t being used.

Xiaomi Revolve Active notifications

The notifications mirroring on the watch is also pretty barebones. You can’t do much with it. You’ll see the notification that has arrived but you can’t reply to messages or do anything else. The process of removing an individual notification that has been seen is also tedious. You’d have to tap open that notification and then go back to all notifications, and that’ll remove it.

In terms of the apps, you only get a basic set of applications – weather, torch, find my phone, compass, air pressure, breathing, phone camera control, stopwatch, timer, alarm, and more. There’s no calendar app to tell you about your upcoming appointment or a built-in music player to help you listen to music using wireless earbuds while on a run without a phone. You also don’t get an app store to download more applications. These limitations are common on a Watch at this price range and beyond, but they are limitations nonetheless, and they come in the way of calling this Watch a proper “smartwatch”.

Also, as mentioned, all your fitness and health tracking is synced with the Xiaomi Wear app. However, you can also ask the app to sync the tracking data with Strava or Apple Health to get more insights.

Alexa on Xiaomi Mi Watch Revolve Active

You do get a voice assistant in the form of Alexa but as there’s no speaker, you get answers in the form of text. Alexa support also means you can use the smartwatch to control your compatible smart appliances. Since the smartwatch is using your phone to reach Alexa’s servers, the response time is a tad slower but still usable. Also, you only get a toned-down version of the voice assistant.

Overall, the software of the Mi Watch Revolve Active leaves a lot to be desired. Most of what it offers can be done on a smart band itself, including the ones sold by Xiaomi like the Mi Band 5. There also appears to be bugs in the software given my aforementioned troubles, but these can easily be fixed via a software update. But considering this same smartwatch has been available to consumers in other markets under different names, it’s sad to see these kinks haven’t already been ironed out. We even noted some of these in our Mi Watch Revolve review, so seeing them repeated here makes us skeptical. Having said that, the apps and functions the watch does offer work great.

Fitness and Heath Tracking

Workouts on Mi Watch Revolve Active

The Mi Watch Revolve Active offers a lot in terms of fitness and health tracking. It supports 117 sports modes, meaning you can track everything from walking and running to darts and swimming. However, you’ll only get richer metrics with 17 core modes that are pre-configured in the watch, and don’t need to be added using the app.

The company has also added GPS into the watch, so you can track your route during your runs, walks, and other similar activities without needing your phone.

During my walks, the Xiaomi smartwatch counted the steps accurately, something I checked by manually counting my steps and comparing them to the numbers shown by the smartwatch. The watch also shines in tracking other activities and gives detailed metrics that can be useful to people who like to track the performance of their workouts.

The one thing where I found the smartwatch to be failing was the automatic workout detection. It’s supposed to automatically detect when you’ve started your walk or run, but I tried multiple times without success. The one time I did see the automatic workout detection work, I had actually just completed a run. So, all in all, it’s better to start workouts manually with the Xiaomi watch, and it’s actually not a hassle.

The activity metrics tracked by the smartwatch seemed accurate. Clearly, the company’s experience with its popular Mi Band lineup and Firstbeat algorithm have helped it a lot in tracking fitness-related data. Firstbeat is known for its physiological analytics for fitness and sports.

While the Mi Watch Revolve Active works well on the fitness front, its health and wellness features aren’t so great. The company has added wellness features like energy, stress, and sleep monitoring on the watch. While sleep monitoring did seem to be working fine to a point, it counted just lying in the bed after waking up and browsing the phone as sleeping, which isn’t great if I’m looking for accurate data. Also, the watch doesn’t track daytime naps. Similarly, the energy and stress levels shown by the watch were just random at times, not matching with how I actually felt, making them pretty much useless.

In other health-related features, the Mi Watch Revolve Active continuously tracks your heart rate and lets you monitor your blood oxygen levels. I wasn’t able to compare the heart rate data given by the watch with another device at this point but apart from some exceptions, things seemed okay to me but I can’t be certain. Why? Because I saw the watch seemingly tracking heart rate while lying on a table. I didn’t know my table had a heart.

The inclusion of a SpO2 (blood oxygen) sensor in smartwatches and smart bands is in fashion these days but most devices don’t actually provide any workable deductions from that. Similarly, with the Mi Watch Revolve Active, you can check your blood oxygen level but you won’t get any more information. Given both of the sensors aren’t really medical-grade, any data provided by them can only help with amateur tracking.

Overall on the fitness and wellness tracking fronts, the Mi Watch Revolve Active wins on the fitness tracking but its health and wellness features are far from perfect.

Battery Life

Xiaomi Mi Watch Revolve Active with charger

Xiaomi Mi Watch Revolve Active is great on the battery front. Xiaomi promises 14 days of battery life without the always-on display, and while I didn’t have the time to fully test that promise, my usage showed it will easily be able to last around 12-13 days on average use. According to Xiaomi, the battery life reduces by half when you’re using the always-on display, so even if you get around 5-6 days of battery life, it’s quite good for any smartwatch.

The Mi Watch Revolve Active takes 35 minutes to charge from 0 to 50, and just over 1.5 hours to reach 100%. I’ll update this section if more time with the watch shows different results than what I’ve extrapolated from my week-long usage.

Xiaomi Mi Watch Revolve Active charging

Should you buy the Mi Watch Revolve Active?

I started this review by posing questions around what differentiates smartwatches and smart bands. As smartwatches have grown as a product category, they’ve managed to make a space for themselves that’s different from the smart bands by offering certain features, like a wide selection of apps, enhanced support for notifications, and a lot more. This is what I expect from a smartwatch.

Unfortunately, the Mi Watch Revolve Active barely offers any of those features. As I suspected, it’s pretty much a glorified smart band in a smartwatch’s body. Sure, it has a lot going for it, like a great display, long battery life, wide-range fitness tracking options, and an aggressive price tag (₹8,999 for a limited period, and ₹9,999 after that). But its limitations, in terms of the smartwatch features, let it down. Also, the smartwatch’s software needs more polish to iron out the kinks, which is something we find ourselves repeating from the past experience with the Mi Watch Revolve.

So should you buy it? Well, if you don’t expect a lot from your smartwatch and are satisfied just getting fitness tracking features in a decent-looking frame with great battery life, the Mi Watch Revolve Active may be useful to you. But if you want a real smartwatch experience and refined software, you should look elsewhere.

    Xiaomi Mi Watch Revolve Active
    Mi Watch Revolve Active is Xiaomi's new smartwatch for India. It's sold as Mi Watch internationally, and as the Mi Watch Color Sports Edition in China.

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About author

Gaurav Shukla
Gaurav Shukla

Gaurav has been covering technology for over a decade now. From blogging about Android to reporting the latest from the world of Internet giants, he has done it all. When he is not writing about the tech companies, he can be found binge-watching new TV series on the web.