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(Pocket-lint) - Michael Kors offers a number of smartwatches in its portfolio, many of which are excellent and a perfect blend of form and function. They all fall under the Fossil umbrella, which not only has its own-branded smartwatches, but other designer brands aside from Michael Kors too, like Kate Spade and Diesel. 

The Michael Kors Access Gen 5E Darci smartwatch has the same internals as Fossil's Gen 5E smartwatch, but in a more fashionable shell and with a few extra Michael Kors-specific features. Is it a smartwatch worthy of your attention?

Design and display

  • Finishes: Silver, Gold, Rose Gold, Two-Tone
  • 1.19-inch round AMOLED display
  • 5ATM waterproofing (to 50m)
  • 43mm stainless steel case
  • Weight: 112g

The Michael Kors Darci Gen 5E is big, bold and unapologetic in its design. For those who love the blingy look that Michael Kors offers in some of its designs, the Darci smartwatch will be right up your alley. For others, the Michael Kors Bradshaw smartwatch might be a better option for a more subtle, but still Kors, approach.

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The Darci is certainly an acquired taste, but that's not a bad thing as such. In terms of build quality it's great, although it would have been nice to have seen the stainless steel casing extend to the watch's rear, rather than the plastic alternative, although this would have made the Darci even heavier - and it's already pretty weighty at 112g.

Again, weighty isn't a bad thing, even if it takes a little time to get used to on the wrist. It offers a premium feel, which you would expect from a standard Michael Kors watch, so why should a smartwatch be any different? The case itself is quite thick - protruding 20mm from the wrist - which makes it pretty chunky to wear, though not uncomfortable, while the stainless steel link bracelet gives a proper watch look.

On the side of the stainless steel casing is a 'MK' etched crown, though this doesn't turn. You'll then find the heart rate monitor on the underside of the casing and a 1.19-inch AMOLED display on the top, with a slim stainless steel bezel surrounded by pavé studs.

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The display is crisp, colourful and responsive, delivering a great experience. It could be larger in the space it occupies, offering a more edge-to-edge approach, like the Apple Watch Series 7, but overall it's a lovely screen. 

Features and fitness

  • Heart rate tracking, built-in GPS
  • Activity and sleep tracking
  • MK Access app
  • Google Pay

The Michael Kors Gen 5E Darci smartwatch comes packed full of features. Compatible with both Apple iOS and Google Android devices, the Darci will deliver all your smartphone notifications, allow you to answer phone calls on your wrist, and there is NFC for Google Pay too.

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There's also Google Assistant on board, enabling you to ask things like what your step count is and set reminders. You can control music via the Darci too, playing and pausing tracks, as well as skipping and controlling volume. You can also download tracks to the on-board storage to listen to if you don't want to bring your phone with you.

In terms of fitness features, there's plenty here too. It's more of a question as to whether you would actually want to workout while wearing the Darci, or sleep with it on for the sleep tracking element. If you do then there's built-in GPS, waterproofing, various exercise tracking with Google Fit or third-party apps, heart rate tracking and standard step tracking too. There's also breathing exercises, a wellness app, and a hand-washing timer.

It's the Michael Kors extra features that make the Darci more exciting than other Wear OS smartwatches though. The MK Access app allows you to choose from a range of Michael Kors watch faces. That gives it distinctive design appeal.

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We've got a Michael Kors Access tips and tricks feature that dives into all the details and what's available, but in a nutshell it allows you to customise watch faces to your outfit, use images from your social media, and switch between day and night modes. It's one of the things we love most about Michael Kors smartwatches.

Performance

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100

The Darci runs on Qualcomm's Snapdragon Wear 3100 chipset - which isn't the latest available after the Snapdragon Wear 4100+ launched in June 2020. This isn't a huge issue though as the Darci runs smoothly with little lag really. It was on par with the Apple Watch Series 7 (worn on our other wrist - that's how hardcore we are when testing) in terms of delivering notifications promptly.

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The main issue - especially when connected to an iPhone - is that you can't do much with the notifications that come through. You can answer a call, though it gets transferred to your phone to continue the call, and we had a number of occasions where it cut the call off too, as well as the battery draining quite a bit during a long active call. There is also no way to reply to messages so the information is delivered but functionality of what you can then do with that is limited. 

Heart rate tracking is good from our experience, and was again on par with the Apple Watch Series 7, though the Darci just isn't a smartwatch that's well matched for workouts. It's too heavy, too uncomfortable when you start to sweat, and just not practical at all. Same goes for sleep tracking: this isn't a smartwatch we were comfortable enough to wear to bed.

Battery life is around a day. It promises 24 hours but this naturally depends on what you are doing and how many notifications get delivered, as well as how many calls you make or recieve. We got to bedtime each day with some juice left, but didn't get through much of the following day - so it's a charge every night situation. 

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There are some clever battery modes though, including a Time-Only mode that will display the time on the always-on face, but won't deliver any notifications. It's great for when battery is low but you don't want just a black circle on your wrist. There's also a Custom option, Daily option and an Extended mode, the last of which makes certain adjustments to prolong battery life, such as putting Bluetooth on a schedule.

Software 

  • Wear OS
  • Not compatible with Wear OS 3.0

The Michael Kors Gen 5E Darci smartwatch runs on Google's Wear OS platform and therefore offers all the features that come with that - Google Fit, Find My Phone, Google Play support, and so on. 

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Google and Samsung announced a unified platform that combines Samsung's Tizen OS with Wear OS - which is called Wear OS 3 - though the Gen 5E Darci smartwatch won't be able to run this software.

That means that while the Wear OS platform is fine - it offers good third-party support and various features, as well as an easy-to-navigate interface - you won't get the latest features offered by Wear OS 3, as the Galaxy Watch 4 offers.

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For iOS users, the Wear OS platform is nowhere near as fluid as Apple's watchOS platform and the Apple Watch, but for Android users everything is a little more seamless, as you would expect.

Verdict

The Michael Kors Gen 5E Darci smartwatch offers a lovely and solid design - if you're into that style. It's got a premium build quality, runs smoothly, and delivers some great features - including the specific Michael Kors features that come with the MK Access app.

This is not a smartwatch that makes sense for fitness tracking however - even though it has the capabilities - and it's not one we would recommend for sleep tracking either. It also doesn't offer the latest hardware and it isn't compatible with Google's latest software - Wear OS 3.

If you're after a smart, stylish smartwatch and the blingy style is a little bit of you, then the Michael Kors Gen 5E Darci is a good option to consider. But if you're after a smartwatch that does a little more in terms of fitness and functionality overall, there are better options out there, like the Apple Watch Series 7 or Samsung Galaxy Watch 4.

Also consider

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Apple Watch SE

Apple's entry-level is around the same price point as the Darci, but it does a lot more in terms of fitness features and smartwatch features, and plays much nicer with iOS devices. It's a totally different style, of course.

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Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

Although not as blingy as the Darci, Samsung's top-end watch runs on the latest hardware and Wear OS software. It isn't compatible with Apple iOS devices though and it doesn't offer those MK faces either. But it's still easily the best smartwatch for Android users.

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Michael Kors Bradshaw 2

A much more subtle design compared to the Darci, making it a little more versatile. It still won't be compatible with Wear OS 3 and it doesn't run the latest hardware, but it's a lovely smartwatch - and very Kors.

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Writing by Britta O'Boyle. Originally published on 5 November 2021.