Xiaomi Watch S1 Active Review: Nailing The Basics

But not one without a few flaws

Xiaomi Watch S1 Active Review
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Xiaomi is not a new name in the world of wearables. But despite the company’s best efforts at competing with the big dogs in the premium arena, you don’t hear people recommend its flagship smartwatches that often. However, Xiaomi hopes to change that rhetoric with the Watch S1 series. This lineup consists of the standard Xiaomi Watch S1 and the Watch S1 Active, and I’ve been using the Active model for a little over two weeks now for this review.

At USD 199 or NPR 23,000 here in Nepal, it goes against the likes of Amazfit GTR/GTS 3, Mobvoi TicWatch E3, and Huawei Watch GT 3. Tough crowd, I know! You can find our review of all these smartwatches in our channel, by the way. So, let’s dive into this review and find out if Xiaomi has finally struck gold with the Watch S1 Active, or does the company still have a long way to go in this space.

Xiaomi Watch S1 Active Specifications:

  • Body: 46.5 x 47.3 x 11mm, 36.3 grams (without strap)
  • Strap: TPU (Ocean Blue, Space Black) / Silicone (Moon White), 160-220mm adjustable length
  • Display: 1.43″ AMOLED screen, 450 nits (typ)
  • Resolution: 466 x 466 pixels, 326 PPI
  • Frame: Glass fibre-reinforced polyamide, Metal bezel
  • Water Resistance: 5 ATM waterproof (up to 50m)
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Ambient light, Atmospheric, Geomagnetic, Gyroscope, Heart rate (with blood oxygen sensor)
  • Health Tracking: 24-hour heart rate, SpO2 monitoring, Sleep, Stress tracking, Women’s health
  • Sports Mode: 117 sports modes in total (including 19 professional modes)
  • Navigation: GPS, Glonass, Galileo, BDS, QZSS
  • Phone Calls: Yes (Built-in microphone, Speaker)
  • Battery: 470mAh cell (Up to 12 days of endurance)
  • Connectivity: WiFi b/g/n (2.4GHz), Bluetooth 5.2
  • Companion App: Mi Fitness (Android | iOS)
  • Price in Nepal: Rs. 22,999

Xiaomi Watch S1 Active Review:

Design & Build

  • Polycarbonate frame/base, Metal bezel
  • 46.5 x 47.3 x 11mm, 36.3 grams
  • TPU/silicone strap, 5 ATM water resistance

Okay, the first thing to you need to know about this guy is that it’s not that different from the Xiaomi Watch S1 which costs USD 70 more (or USD 50 depending on the market). For that premium, you’re getting a more classic design with a stainless-steel frame and sapphire glass on the front.

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Xiaomi Watch S1 Active - Design

On the other hand, the S1 Active comes in this sporty look composed of polycarbonate material all around except for the metal bezel.

That’s it—they’re identical when it comes to core functionality.

I’ve used smartwatches of all prices, from the absolute flagship ones to those that cost a fraction of the money. And the only thing that matters to me—as far as the design and build quality is concerned—is that (a) it should fit my wrist and (b) it should be comfortable to wear without causing any sort of skin irritation.

But if you prefer something that feels luxurious on your wrist, that’s perfectly fine. It’s all relative!

22mm universal watch strap

Thankfully, this watch ticks both of those boxes with ease. And it’s super lightweight too. Weirdly enough, Xiaomi has used TPU straps on the Space Black and Ocean Blue color options whereas the Moon White variant enjoys a softer silicone strap instead.

Xiaomi Watch S1 Active - Sensor

So if you don’t like the feel of a TPU strap, you can easily swap it with any 22mm band since the company has gone with a universal design here. In terms of durability, the S1 Active is 5 ATM water-resistant, although I feel like some form of dust protection should’ve been on the cards as well. Anyway, you’ll find two buttons for navigation on the side.

The Home button on the top is non-customizable and it can either take you to the homescreen or launch the app menu. The one on the bottom can be configured to trigger different types of workouts or the workout menu in general, but that’s about it. It can’t launch any other app or shortcut which feels like a lost opportunity to me.

Display

  • 1.43-inches AMOLED panel, 326 PPI
  • 200+ watch faces, 450 nits brightness

Upfront, this watch has a large 1.43” AMOLED display. It’s sharp, vibrant, and bright for comfortable visibility at all times. Auto-brightness also works perfectly, which means whether you’re out in the sun or going to bed at night, this screen will seamlessly adapt to the surrounding lighting condition.

Xiaomi Watch S1 Active - Display 3

It supports Always on Display too but I never really bothered to turn it on for power-saving reasons. There’s nothing wrong with the raise-to-wake feature, so why bother? Moreover, no matter what type of watch face you have on—analog, digital, or artistic—they all share the same always-on screen that shows the current time alongside the day of the week and month only.

Talking about watch faces, Xiaomi says you can choose from over 200 options here. Some of them are animated and some are even editable. Or you can upload a custom photo as well. Regardless, most of the watch faces look pretty well designed and informative to me—and I’m especially fond of this one called “JSON” which shows date, time, and different health metrics in JSON syntax.

No protectors here.

No Lanterns, no Kryptonian.

Then again, since this display is layered with a simple tempered glass on top instead of Gorilla Glass (or sapphire glass like the standard Watch S1), I am somewhat worried about its long-term durability. So if you’re someone who’s constantly on the move—or a somewhat clumsy person in general—I’ll strongly advise applying a screen protector here.

Xiaomi Watch S1 Active - Buttons

With that out of the way, let’s talk about its UI now. The S1 Active runs on Xiaomi’s proprietary “MIUI Watch 1.0”, and I’m not sure if this is something the company built from scratch or if it’s just a simple modification of the RTOS that Xiaomi has been using in its previous smartwatches.

But if you’re already familiar with Xiaomi’s UI for smartwatches, it should feel right at home. All the widgets are accessible with a swipe from the left or right, the control center with some handy shortcuts sits at the bottom, and all your incoming notifications are chronologically stored at the top. Of course, notifications aren’t actionable here and you can’t even reply to messages with quick replies or something.

Xiaomi Watch S1 Active - UI

On top of this, the company hasn’t bothered to format the text properly either since a single word breaks into two lines if it runs out of screen space. Support for Nepali, Hindi Unicode fonts and emojis are also missing here.

Overall, the Watch S1 Active’s UI is quite well-optimized. Yes, it’s lacking a few features you’d expect from a proper smartwatch but I wouldn’t say it’s a dealbreaker in any way. For the most part, animations look fluid enough on this 60Hz display too.

Audio

  • Built-in microphone, speaker

And did I mention that this watch lets you make Bluetooth phone calls? The call quality itself is pretty good as long as you’re in a fairly quiet environment. And when setting the vibration level to “Strong”, I didn’t miss any calls as well. Also, while there’s no dialer app here, you can directly make calls from the watch as long as they’re in the call history. Plus, you know… the watch is connected to your phone.

But more importantly, you can call your emergency contact by clicking the exercise button on the bottom three times in a row.

That’s definitely “better to have, and not need, than to need, and not have”, as Franz Kafka said it.

Moving on, the S1 Active also brings MasterCard contactless payment, Alexa voice assistant, and a handful of third-party app support but neither of them is available in Nepal just yet.

Health, Fitness Tracking

  • 24-hour heart rate, SpO2 monitoring, Sleep tracking
  • 117 sports modes, Auto workout detection, Built-in GPS

Okay, it’s now time to talk about the health and fitness tracking features. As expected from a flagship smartwatch, it can keep track of basically every health metric you could want.

This includes everything from women’s health, heart rate, blood oxygen saturation (SpO2), and stress monitoring—that too on a 24-hour basis. In case of heart rate, the watch can even send alerts if it detects your current heart-rate level is abnormally high.

As for SpO2 tracking, where you can set the frequency between 10, 30 minutes, or just during sleep. Locking it at half-hourly measurements, I often noticed that the graph looked incomplete most of the time. Recording SpO2 level requires you to be relatively still, so I can’t hold this against Xiaomi in any way.

Unreliable sleep tracking

But when it comes to sleep tracking, I’m having a major déjà vu because my experience with the Watch S1 Active has been the exact same as the Redmi Watch 2 Lite that I reviewed a while back.

First things first, it completely fails to log my awake time. Whereas compared to the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, it also over records things like my deep and REM sleep duration. Even the overnight SpO2 measurement is unreliable here. Needless to say, Xiaomi’s got to improve its sleep tracking algorithm by a lot. It’s not just us—GSMArena has reported similar results as well.

As for fitness tracking, it supports a total of 117 sports modes out of which 19 of them are professional ones. So you can get deep and helpful insights on exercises like running, swimming, jump rope, and HIIT—although I can’t talk about their accuracy quite yet.

And the remaining 98 sports modes are limited to keeping track of your calories and heart-rate levels only. Since all my workout includes is walking, running, and maybe cycling sometimes, the S1 Active is more than enough for my fitness tracking needs.

Likewise, it can automatically detect and record walking and running exercises too. But unlike the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, you’ll have to manually end the workout here. On the other hand, I’m really impressed with how fast the watch locks on to a GPS signal. Granted that the actual workout trail isn’t as precise as it could be, this is still quite amazing stuff!

Companion App

  • Mi Fitness (formerly Xiaomi Wear)
  • Available for both Android and iOS devices

So like every other Xiaomi smartwatch, the S1 Active pairs with the “Mi Fitness” app which is available for both Android and iOS devices.

While we were prompted to install an APK file of the app when setting up the Redmi Watch 2 Lite, the QR code swiftly prompted to the Play Store link this time. Phew! Having said that, this app still has a few bugs and inconsistencies.

On two separate occasions, it over recorded my daily steps. Grossly over recorded, might I add. As you can see, the app says I somehow took over 150,000 steps on May 17. That’s about 3 marathons worth of steps if I’m not mistaken.

If I actually took 150,000 steps in a day, I’d literally be shouting it through the roof until I lose my voice, but this is beyond ridiculous!

And even when I manually synced all my health data before switching phones, I still lost about a week’s worth of exercise and sleep logs. Just… gone, like tears in rain. Other records like heart rate, SpO2, and stress levels are here just fine, but I have no idea what happened with those two.

Battery

  • 470mAh battery
  • Up to 12 days of battery life

Keeping all this chaos aside, the S1 Active’s battery life is actually incredible! Xiaomi says you can expect up to 12 days of endurance under normal usage, while it managed to stay on my wrist for 6-7 days before requiring a fill-up.

Xiaomi Watch S1 Active - Charging

My usage pattern includes turning on every health tracking feature available, setting the brightness to auto mode, and receiving at least a dozen notifications every day. But charging it is a little slow since the watch takes two and a half hours to go from 0 to 100%.

Xiaomi Watch S1 Active Review: Conclusion

Wrapping up this review, the Xiaomi Watch S1 Active has impressive hardware for the price—no doubt about that. Its sporty look is attractive and comfortable, this AMOLED display is no slouch, and its battery endurance is some of the best in business. And for what it’s worth, MIUI Watch is pretty reliable too. Then again, it still has some major and some minor issues that may or may not be a dealbreaker to you.

For instance, I can easily live without NFC payment or summoning Alexa. But its unreliable sleep tracking mixed with inconsistencies in the companion app is something that shouldn’t be a thing on such a premium smartwatch. Maybe it’ll all be fixed with a software update sometime soon or maybe it won’t.

Xiaomi Watch S1 Active - Display 1

But as a reviewer, I must judge a product in its current state—not what it could be in the future. Then again, if my concerns don’t apply to you, this is still a decent buy. I’m kinda tempted to recommend the Huawei Watch GT 3 by extending your budget a little. But the price difference between these two is a little too wide—especially in South Asian markets like Nepal.

Xiaomi Watch S1 Active Review: Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Sporty, comfortable design
  • AMOLED display that gets plenty bright
  • Decent Bluetooth call quality
  • Nice health, fitness tracking features
  • Excellent battery endurance

Cons:

  • No dust ingress protection
  • No display protection
  • MIUI Watch lacks some key features
  • Unreliable sleep monitoring
  • The companion app is a bit buggy
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Build
Display
Control
Battery
Software
Health, Fitness Tracking
Assorted Features
Companion App
Value for Money
Xiaomi Watch S1 Active does a lot of things right for a premium smartwatch—starting with the price. Yes, it's not one without a few flaws but I believe most people can easily overlook it. And it's likely that the majority of the software bugs could be fixed with a future update. So, you can definitely consider the Watch S1 Active if you're looking to buy a flagship smartwatch at a relatively affordable price.xiaomi-watch-s1-active-review