Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite Review: GPS-Fueled Budget Smartwatch

Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite Review
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Fitness trackers kicked off a whole new way of keeping up with your health. A svelte, tiny gadget wrapped around your wrist that can track so many things—things were looking futuristic—back in 2015. Half a decade later, while things have evolved by quite a big margin, a new storm is brewing. Just like how smartphones have evolved throughout the year, fitness trackers are now shaping up more and more like miniature smartwatches. And leading the charge is Xiaomi’s new Mi Watch Lite. Let’s find out more about the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite in this review.

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Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite Specifications:

  • Body: 41 x 35 x 10.9mm, 35 grams (with TPU strap)
  • Display: 1.4″ TFT LCD screen, 350 nits (typ), 60% NTSC
  • Resolution: 320 x 320 pixels, 323 PPI
  • Water Resistance: 5 ATM waterproof
  • Sensors: Heart-rate, L-sensor, Compass, Barometer, 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, GPS with A-GPS/GLONASS
  • Sports Mode: 11 sports modes in total
  • Battery: 230mAh cell (Up to 9 days of endurance)
  • Companion App: Xiaomi Wear (Android | iOS)
  • Price in Nepal: Rs. 7,999

Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite Review:

Design and Build

  • Squarish body with a lightweight body
  • Comfortable TPU strap, 5 ATM certified

Unlike traditional smartwatches, Xiaomi has opted for a squarish design for the Mi Watch Lite. This form-factor also contrasts the circular build of the more expensive Mi Watch Revolve. Anyway, I’m really fond of the way it feels. Being the budget smartwatch that it is, Watch Lite has a plastic-build all-around resulting in a net weight of just 35 grams. As a result, it is super light-and-comfy on my hand. Plus, the TPU strap is incredibly soft and comfortable to put on as well.

Mi Watch Lite - Design 1

After almost 2 weeks of using the Mi Watch Lite, I haven’t developed an allergy or discomfort with the Mi Watch Lite either. And if you’d like, you can even play around with different colors of straps that Xiaomi sells. It’s a proprietary one so don’t get too excited about switching it up with a universal 20/22mm strap. Still, it is 5ATM rated meaning you will be able to take it to your swimming sessions. And it also helps that the watch can track open water and pool swimming, so that’s great.

Here, Mi Watch Lite has a traditional loop/buckle strap mechanism. Now, the following is me entirely nitpicking but I would’ve liked an additional loop to hold the strap more securely. Moving on, there’s a multi-function on the right frame of the watch. You can trigger the home screen or the app drawer. I wish it doubled as a back button as well but Xiaomi wants you to swipe right for that.

Display and UI

  • 1.43-inches TFT LCD panel, 323 PPI
  • 120+ watch faces, 60% NTSC gamut

Let’s shift our gear to the display now. Greeting you is a big 1.4-inches TFT LCD screen with a 320 by 320-pixel count and a 323 PPI pixel density. Additional specs of this display include 60% NTSC color space and a rated brightness of 350 nits. Moreover, the screen is curved on all four edges for added comfort and ease for swiping. In order to not sway people from the company’s other more premium smartwatches, this one comes with big bezels on all four sides.

Mi Watch Lite - Display 1

But if you can look past that (which you should), Mi Watch Lite offers a decent viewing experience. The texts look sharp enough and I didn’t notice any sort of pixelation issue either. With a total of 6 levels of brightness to choose from, thanks to the L-sensor, you can even set it to Auto—thereby shifting the level of illumination automatically.

The screen has a nice response too and it would accurately recognize input even when you’re tapping the edge of the display. “Raise to Wake” works perfectly fine as well and the watch screen turns on even with the gentlest action.

Well-designed watch faces

In terms of watch faces, Xiaomi gives you 120+ options to choose from. That’s a fairly vast selection for a budget smartwatch. Here, I settled to this “Extreme LCD” watch face almost immediately. So retro, so nostalgic, so timeless—I love it. If this doesn’t float your boat, I’m happy to report that there are a bunch of really well-designed watch faces you can choose from too. Additionally, you can even customize a couple of them with different widgets.

Getting to the UI, it’s pretty basic stuff here. Swiping left/right switches between different pages like heart rate, weather, sleep record, music, etc. Similarly, all your notifications will be stacked on the top while you can bring up the control panel by swiping up from the bottom.

From here, you can head to the settings, lock-screen, turn on the flash, and more. As expected, there’s no way to switch them up though. And about that notification, Mi Watch Lite supports call/app notifications.

Mi Watch Lite - in Hand

I would’ve preferred for the text to be arranged with justified alignment since breaking the same word into two lines without a hyphen looks super weird. Also, they’re not actionable but that’s to be anticipated from a budget smartwatch. The call notification does take it a step further though since you can reject calls directly via the watch although accepting one isn’t possible.

No animation

Now, all of this sounds really good for a budget smartwatch—and hey, it absolutely is. Decent brightness, colors, and sharpness should be your top priority when looking for a good inexpensive fitness tracker. The only complaint I have with this screen is its animation—or better yet—its lack thereof. The UI transition is rigid and soulless. And it doesn’t help that Mi Watch Lite doesn’t have a scrolling UI either—it’s just one page jump after another.

Maybe that’s a clever way to cloak its chipset’s weakness. We’ve seen Xiaomi struggle at this department in its Mi Band lineup of fitness trackers as well. On the contrary, Honor delivers on this front even in the budget Honor Band 5i. I’m telling you—if only the Mi Watch Lite had a fluent animation adding a little life into it, you’d be getting an entirely elevated user experience.

Throughout my usage, I was hoping for an update that would introduce fluid animation but nope. Instead, I did receive an update adding support for multiple languages and other under-the-hood fixes.

Health, Fitness, Sleep Tracking

  • 11 sports modes in total, Built-in GPS
  • No SpO2 monitoring, women’s health tracking

Okay, let us now move on to the fitness tracking side of things. Mi Watch Lite features a total of 11 workout modes including running, cycling, swimming, cricket—the standard stuff. There’s no automatic workout detection either but more importantly, I was disappointed to see the lack of SpO2 (blood oxygen) monitoring here.

Considering how the budget fitness trackers from Honor and Huawei have been including them from their last-gen lineup, Xiaomi is still letting us down in this front. Furthermore, there’s no women’s health tracking with the Mi Watch Lite either.

Mi Watch Lite - Design 2

But if you’re on a jog or other exercise and would like to record your trail, the built-in dual-GPS system lets you do that here. While it works perfectly fine when you’re in an open space, I would constantly get a notification that reads “GPS signal is weak, Exercise in the open area” whenever I got indoors or in a dense suburban area.

Anyway, there’s no guided workout but the watch will notify you when you reach a certain milestone like walking a kilometer. There’s also “Idle Alert” that reminds you to get up and take a walk every now and then.

Breathing exercises

To help you relax, Mi Watch Lite also supports breathing exercises and you can even set the speed of the session. All your workout data can be viewed in the Xiaomi Wear app in detail but some basic options like calories burnt, steps taken, and standing data are available on the watch itself.

On top of this, it can also monitor your heart rate. There’s no 24-hour monitoring, but what the Watch Lite can do is record it cyclically under different intervals ranging from 1 to 30 minutes. Plus, it will also send out an alert if your heart rate exceeds the normal level. Moving on, this smartwatch is also capable of monitoring your sleep.

But on more than one occasion, I noticed that it got my sleep cycle over-recorded—especially the time I got up. It seems that Mi Watch Lite will only recognize you’ve gotten up once you get up from the bed and start moving around—which hasn’t been the case with practically every other smartwatch I’ve used so far. Besides, it also shows you records like deep sleep, REM sleep and scores the quality of your sleep between 0 and 100.

Mi Watch Lite - Display 2

In addition, there are a bunch of other assorted features in Mi Watch Lite. It comes with a barometer (altimeter) through which it serves you air pressure and altitude data. There’s also a compass by calibrating it is a bit of a hassle. What’s more, you can even control the music playback on your phone via the watch itself. Other sets of features include finding your phone, alarm, stopwatch, etc.

How’s the app?

Allow me to briefly talk about the companion app now. To sync up your watch data with your phone, you’ll need to download the Xiaomi Wear app (which goes by Xiaomi Wear Lite for iOS devices). For what it’s worth, it’s a fairly well-designed app and the stats are organized in an easy-to-read fashion.

Yet, it overcompensates on certain aspects like how the home screen has this “Sort” option that lets you re-organize the widgets. While the first half of that statement is perfectly fine, the hidden items list includes a set of features that are just not available on the Mi Watch Lite. Shouldn’t those be non-existent in the first place?

But my biggest complaint about the app has to be how it completely erased my past activity data once I tried signing out and logging back in. Weeks of academy training, wasted. No idea what’s going on here but Xiaomi should take a look at it ASAP. So, if you’re using a Mi Watch Lite and want to switch between devices, you have been warned.

Battery Life

  • 230mAh with up to 9 days of battery life

Finally, let’s talk about battery life. With a 230mAh cell, Xiaomi promises up to 9 days of endurance under normal usage and 10 hours with continuous GPS on. Surprisingly, I managed to net out 10 days of battery life under regular usage including an hour-and-a-half of GPS session. I set my brightness level at auto and heart rate monitoring intervals at 30 minutes. So yeah, the battery life on the Mi Watch Lite is pretty exciting. I would’ve also liked a battery-saving mode but it’s not supported yet.

Mi Watch Lite - Charger

On the charging front, it has a big, bulky charging dock that takes power via a USB-A connection. Thankfully, you don’t need to take off the straps from the watch to charge it up. It took me 1 hour and 33 minutes to reach from 1 to 100%. While that’s definitely not the fastest, this charging speed is more than fine by me.

Conclusion

To wrap up this review, Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite is an excellent budget fitness tracker disguised as a smartwatch. It obviously doesn’t have any “smart” features to begin with so the bigger screen is the only point that’s driving it home. Getting this much by investing just a little more than what the regular Mi Band 5 costs, is truly remarkable. So, if you’re not an absolute fitness fanatic and are looking for a basic fitness tracker but a little pizazz, the Mi Watch Lite will bode well with you.

  • Watch our video review of the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite.

Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite Review: Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Lightweight design, soft strap
  • A built-in GPS navigation
  • Terrific battery endurance
  • Decent display with auto-brightness
  • Good-looking watch face options

Cons:

  • No animation when browsing the UI
  • Lacks SpO2, women’s health tracking
  • Over-records the sleep cycle a bit
  • Xiaomi Wear app needs some work
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Build
Display
Control
Battery
Health, Fitness Tracking
Sleep Monitoring
Companion App
Value for Money