The Lenovo Watch X is a hybrid smartwatch that wants to prove you can pack big features into a budget connected timepiece.
We've already seen the likes of Xiaomi do an admiral job of offering low-priced wearables that you actually want to strap on, and now Lenovo is looking to do the same for the smartwatch category with this attractive hybrid.
And the £39.99 device has already created quite the stir in its home territory of China, allegedly selling out in 15 seconds when it went on sale earlier this summer.
But while it blends together an impressive spec sheet with a neat, small-screened hybrid design, how well it's actually able to stand up against the industry's heavyweights in real-world testing is another matter.
We've been living with the Lenovo Watch X to find out the answer to that very question. Read on below for our full verdict.
Lenovo Watch X: Design
When you pick up a smartwatch for a fraction of the typical asking price, you expect to there to be a few concessions. However, at least at first glance, design isn't one of them here.
The Watch X comes in a few variants, with our review model being the standard edition. There's also the Watch X Plus to consider, but this simply offers you a different finish: a silver equivalent to our all-black model, or a gold watch with a leather strap. The digital accents present on the watch face are also replaced Roman numerals, but, all in all, they're very similar devices, with the bezel size sitting at 42.5mm and offering a thickness of 12.5mm.
Read next: The future of hybrid smartwatches
So, just how do the smarts work here? Well, since this is a hybrid, you'll be accessing all the menus through tiny black-and-white OLED display on the 1.5-inch face, as shown below. Navigation, meanwhile, is performed through the crown on the right of the watch. With no touchscreen capabilities, you simply wait a second or two for the device to progress further into a menu, or press to keep cycling through.
People Would Shell Out Money For It. Most people recognize that the best virtual reality headsets cost quite a lot. After all, the best virtual reality experience is worth spending money on. One study found that a majority of consumers would be willing to spend up to $500 for the right virtual reality gear. This is really good news, considering that some of the top headsets for virtual reality cost about $500. There are also plenty of lower-priced ones that can be used for virtual reality as well.
It's not the best way to get around a watch, particularly when you have to cycle all the way through when you accidentally fly past your desired option. But at least there's a digital screen to have some interaction with.
When pressed, or when you raise your wrist, the default screen on the digital screen will show the date and battery level, before going across to the digital time and the weather (though, as we discovered, this isn't actually available outside of China).
Those glow-in-the-dark numbers and watch faces can also be used to give you the time, obviously, but in our experience the calibration has been nothing short of baffling. And we're not the only ones to experience problems, with plenty of customers complaining about a lack of accuracy when it comes to configuring the hands.
This should be fairly standard practice for a hybrid smartwatch - typically, your location is used to sync things up. However, through its companion app, the Watch X requires you to do this yourself. This would be fine, of course, if it actually showed the time you inputted, but instead you're left with the watch hands slowly spinning - quietly mocking you, all the while - into a completely different time.
Through sheer accident, we actually discovered the only way to get the hands to show the correct time is for you to input the (wrong) time the hands are currently showing. Even then, the Watch X began running slow after just a day. It's deeply flawed stuff from Lenovo.
If this oversight in the design is unforgivable, it does, at least, gain some points back with its look. The Milanese strap, which continues to make a comeback thanks to Apple, gives it a classic look, and the bezel itself isn't overly dominant on the wrist.
However, even in this area, there are issues. As we've found with many watches featuring a magnetic, Milanese-style strap, the bezel is too heavy to carry it. It may look nice, and you don't have to faff about with watch holes, but you'll also find yourself re-tightening it about 30 times a day and constantly nicking your arm hairs. In sleep, which we'll come onto more below, we've also woken up more than a few times to the buckle being undone in the night.
Cons: Battery life not improved | Siri integration Feature check: GPS, swimming friendly, Apple Pay, 2 day battery, heart rate monitor. Cons: Lack of apps | Computer-only music transfer Feature check: Works with iOS and Android, GPS/GLONASS, heart rate monitor, dedicated sports modes including swimming, Garmin Pay, music storage, Deezer/iHeartRadio playlist syncing.
So, when it's all put together, this is really a design that flatters to deceive. We've never minded strapping the device on - the look isn't an ugly one - but elementary errors in the actual function of the Watch X make it pretty tiresome to keep on your wrist all day and night.
The best hybrid smartwatches
Garmin Vivomove HR
A hearty hybrid smartwatch that is up there with the best
A hybrid smartwatch that's not just a pretty face
Fossil Q Neely
A beautiful hybrid watch for small wrists
Lenovo Watch X: Features
Hybrid smartwatches, by nature, don't typically try and compete with their touchscreen counterparts in the features department. But part of the appeal of the Watch X is that it does aim relatively big, considering its price tag and category.
It Is Global. Virtual reality is not just a thing in the United States alone. People all over the globe are learning to embrace the technology. Some of the biggest virtual reality conventions are actually held in other nations. Some of the leading companies behind virtual reality are located overseas as well. Virtual reality is gradually becoming a great way to connect with people from around the world. No matter the distance, this technology can bring people together.
It's nothing we haven't seen before from more expensive hybrids, but the ability to track the wearer's heart, runs, sleep and even blood pressure are all boasted by the budget watch.
Unfortunately, though, much like the design, what appears impressive at first glance quickly descends into ruin for Lenovo. Accuracy is about as hit and miss as it gets on the wrist, and it ultimately makes the experience one that's hard to put your faith in.
Let's take the basic areas of steps, sleep and heart rate as examples. We've been testing the Watch X alongside the Fitbit Versa (one we consider to be at the peak of on-wrist sleep monitoring, while offering generally stable step and heart tracking), and though there's definitely some areas of similarity, the two watches paint quite different pictures on a day-to-day basis.
(Lenovo Watch X, left to right: steps, sleep and heart rate)
As seen in the images above and below, both were worn pretty much throughout the day. However, after the Watch X was taken off for roughly an hour, it failed to then pick up that it had been placed back on the wrist. That led to the step count being roughly half of what the Fitbit tabulated, and the heart rate monitoring incomplete for the day.
Why this example, where the Watch X bottoms out? Well, because this was all too common in our time with the device. Gaps in data are unfilled far too often (perhaps as as a result of the strap issues we alluded to above), and this again undermines its ability to give correct insights into your day.
When it does track, it's not too far off the mark. We can see the step graph and the heart rate graph matching up in certain areas, but there are also sections (for example, when heart rate briefly spikes to nearly 120bpm at around 2am, while the Fitbit stays consistently at around 50bpm) that don't add up.
Sleep, too, is a problem. We're willing to ignore the odd bits of analysis that have been translated poorly from Chinese to English, but the data is hard to defend. We would often see the Lenovo massively overreport sleep times, with an initial reading like the one above quickly spiking to 9-10 hours (or more) because it wasn't able to detect we'd woken up. The Fitbit, meanwhile, was able to pretty much nail when we settled into bed and when we stopped snoozing our alarm (note, the small red 'Awake' spikes at the end of the graph).
Samsung Galaxy Watch review
The data on the Watch X is presented in blocks that don't really make sense, the wake-up times are flat-out wrong and it just leaves us with little trust that the algorithm is able to accurately pick up on our night's sleep. Like every other area of the watch we tested against another device, it picks up the broad-strokes while ultimately missing major bits of data.
(Fitbit Versa, left to right: steps, sleep and heart rate)
Blood pressure, a feature that would have been fairly interesting to test against a monitor with medical approval, is also currently unavailable through the Watch X. Based upon what we've seen from the rest of the device, we're not sure it would have given us a reading worth investing headspace into, but we imagine that it does pique the interest of many looking for a wrist-based solution.
All Generations Love It. While some critics view virtual reality as something only young people like, it turns out that even previous generations largely approve of the technology. Currently, millennials are the generation most likely to embrace virtual reality, but apparently older generations are also getting on the bandwagon. One study found that a majority of baby boomers have a favorable perspective of virtual reality. A big reason behind the popularity is the versatility of many virtual reality systems.
So, are there are any redeemable aspects from the Watch X feature set? Well, it does bring water resistance up to 5ATM, but the device doesn't actually track your swimming activity, meaning it's only useful for saving you worry when wearing it in the shower or a rainstorm.
You can also track your runs - however, because there's no built-in GPS, this is simply piggybacking from your phone's connection and giving you basic data on the mini-screen. We actually tried to test this out, and, quelle surprise, nothing happened on the watch after it gave us the '3, 2, 1' countdown.
We're not sure there's an area of the feature set that stands up here, though perhaps there's potential for software updates to improve accuracy over time.
Lenovo Watch X: Battery life
As you'll have gathered, the Watch X is a fairly hard one to praise. However, one area it does deliver - and deliver big - is in battery life.
Lenovo promises 45 days of juice on full charge, and, based on our usage and estimations, you may even be able to get more than that. We've been testing the device for just under two weeks and the battery indicator has only just ticked below 70%.
Granted, there's not too much you can actually do with this watch that sucks up battery life (such as activity tracking via GPS), but there's also plenty of hybrids without heart rate monitors that give you much less life.
And, really, it's a shame that this strength hasn't been put to better use. Not worrying about charging your watch for six weeks is great, but we'd love to trade some of that battery life for more tech under the hood to help create a more stable and extensive tracking experience.