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(Pocket-lint) - The Xiaomi Watch S1 Active is essentially a sportier version of Xiaomi's Watch S1 smartwatch. It's offering pretty much the same features albeit in a design that's a much better fit for exercise time.

That includes support for the big satellite systems to accurately track outdoor workouts, 24/7 heart rate and blood oxygen monitoring, NFC payments and big battery life, both during and after tracking big runs.

A sub-£200 price tag means it's competing in the mid-range smartwatch market, which is as competitive as it's ever been. So, does the Watch S1 Active deliver the goods?

Our quick take

The Xiaomi Watch S1 Active is a smartwatch available at a good price that offers a design and set of features to track exercise in a mostly reliable fashion. Its abilities as a smartwatch are good on the whole too, though if you want a more complete smartwatch experience, there are better options elsewhere to cast your eye over instead.

Xiaomi Watch S1 Active review: Sporty little number

Xiaomi Watch S1 Active

3.5 stars
For
  • Great quality screen
  • Comfortable to wear 24/7
  • Performs well as fitness tracker
Against
  • Sports tracking accuracy not perfect
  • Some smartwatch features not working
  • Small app support

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Design and display

  • 46mm stainless steel case
  • 1.43-inch AMOLED display
  • Silicone and TPU strap options
  • 5ATM water resistant rating
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While the exterior might look a little different, the Active still shares a lot of similarities with the Watch S1. It's got a 46mm size case, it measures in at 11mm thick and is waterproof up to 50 metres depth.

Pocket-lint Xiaomi Watch S1 Active photo 2

The metal case of the S1 is swapped for a lighter, glass fibre-reinforced polyamide, which is basically plastic, and there's the pick of either a silicone or a TPU strap. We had the silicone strap to wrap around our wrist and can report no issues or skin irritation were had in our wearing time.

That case holds in place the same 1.43-inch, 466 x 466 resolution AMOLED screen, which offers the same experience in terms of responsiveness (good), visibility (good) and offers an always-on display mode that will noticeably eat into the battery life .

Around that display is a thin black bezel and then a larger silver bezel that elevates the look of the Active and breaks up that predominantly plastic look.

Pocket-lint Xiaomi Watch S1 Active photo 3

There's two physical buttons on the right side of the case, with the one down below your shortcut to sports tracking and the top one to wake up the display - but you can't use either to scroll through screens.

It's been a comfortable smartwatch to wear overall. It feels like that ideal size and weight for working out with a strong quality touchscreen display and a strap that you can also remove if you want to mix up that look further.

Fitness tracking and smartwatch features

  • 117 workout modes
  • Dual-band multi-system GPS
  • 24/7 heart rate monitoring
  • Amazon Alexa

Pretty much everything we've said in our Xiaomi Watch S1 review applies to the Watch S1 Active when it comes to tracking your fitness, health and what it offers in smartwatch terms. It's a solid experience overall with some room for improvement.

You have 117 workout modes with a portion of those offering metrics outside of capturing workout duration and heart rate. A small batch of those workout profiles support automatic exercise tracking too.

Pocket-lint Xiaomi Watch S1 Active photo 6

Xiaomi includes dual-band, multi-system GPS, which is something we're starting to see crop up on more sports watches and smartwatches with the aim of improving outdoor exercise tracking in problematic areas where tracking can suffer. So, near tall buildings and large wooded areas, for example. Sports tracking in general for the modes we tested in was good. For runs, swims, and indoor workouts like rowing, we were satisfied with the data accuracy. Is it the best we've used? Not quite. The promised improved outdoor tracking accuracy wasn't spotless and while heart rate monitoring for steady paced workouts was reliable on the whole, it struggled in our high intensity tests.

There's positives and negatives when you're using it as an activity tracker. Daily step counts were in line with step tracking from a Garmin watch and the Oura Ring 3. Sleep tracking data was similar to the Oura Ring too, particularly for the breakdown of sleep stages and sleep duration. Continuous heart rate monitoring didn't seem quite up to scratch and tended to post BPM readings as high as 10bpm out from the Oura Ring 3 and a Garmin watch.

There's blood oxygen monitoring available here too, and while the data seems reliable, not much is actually done with that data beyond displaying it inside of Xiaomi's companion app. It's a similar story for stress monitoring, which is also available here and powered through heart rate variability measurements. 

Pocket-lint Xiaomi Watch S1 Active photo 9

All of your data lives in the Xiaomi app, but if you want to share it with Apple Health and even Strava you can set the watch app to fire data to those other platforms.

When you take a break from all things fitness and health related, the Active performs as a competent smartwatch. It will dish out notifications in a slick fashion, though won't let you act on them. There's music controls that are well optimised to that touchscreen display and along with phone calling over Bluetooth, Xiaomi also offers an emergency mode letting you tap the bottom physical button three times to call your emergency contact. Just make sure you've got it connected to your phone as well.

You can technically make contactless payments via Mastercard, though we struggled to get this feature set up on our watch. You can set up Amazon Alexa to ask it the usual queries you fire at Amazon's smart assistant. The core smartwatch works well enough but it's certainly going to be better fit for Android users despite that support for iPhone users.

Battery life

  • 12 days in typical use
  • 24 days in power saving mode
  • 30 hours GPS

The Active packs a 470mAh capacity battery that should give you 12 days in ‘typical' use and 24 days when you switch to a more restrictive power-saving mode. Xiaomi also quotes that when you use GPS to track outdoor exercise, you can expect 30 hours of battery life before it needs charging again.

Pocket-lint Xiaomi Watch S1 Active photo 5

Based on our testing, this is a watch that can comfortably last a week, but like the Watch S1, you need to be mindful of the features in use to get more than a week. Sticking the screen in always-on mode has a noticeable impact on battery life, and features like continuous heart rate, stress and blood oxygen monitoring do something similar. We found GPS battery performance short of that quoted 30 hours as well, but it should just about cover a light week's worth of training.

The bottom line is, you won't need to charge this smartwatch every day and there isn't a horrible battery drop-off unless you're putting its full gamut of features to regular use.

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To recap

The Xiaomi Watch S1 Active offers good value for money. It's got a nice sporty look, decent sports tracking abilities and not-too-shabby battery life to boot. It just doesn't quite do quite enough differently to pick it over similarly priced rivals.

Writing by Michael Sawh.
Sections Xiaomi Smartwatches