TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS test: a smartwatch under Wear OS in (slight) evolution

The Chinese brand Mobvoi is once again back on the scene with its famous TicWatch Pro, available this year in Ultra and Ultra GPS versions. Does the dual-screen Wear OS connected watch still manage to convince when the Fossil Gen 6 and Galaxy Watch 4 are lurking around? That’s what we’ll check in this test.

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS test

  • MIL-STD-810G certification
  • The very practical dual-screen
  • Good overall performance of the Wear 4100 SoC
  • Original and efficient Essential Mode
  • Wear OS 2 only…
  • GPS almost unusable
  • Disappointing plastic wristband
  • Battery life is limited to 2 days (unless you make concessions)
  • Very poorly done translations

Since the launch of its first TicWatch Pro in 2018, Mobvoi has become a leading player in the connected watch market under Wear OS. It must be said that the Asian brand had thrown a hell of a paving stone in the pond at the time by managing the feat of doubling the autonomy of its watches thanks to the use of an ingenious dual-screen system.

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In 2021, the surprise of the early days is over. We are now at the third generation of TicWatch Pro. Wear OS is more than ever at the center of Google’s concerns, which is trying to push the new version of its system on a maximum number of smartwatches. The American giant promises better autonomy and stellar performance.

The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS, still equipped with Wear OS 2, is therefore in a weak position despite a price below 300€. However, Mobvoi is banking on its ecosystem of applications and enhanced robustness to stand out. Is it a successful bet? Answer in the following paragraphs.

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS: technical specifications

As its name suggests, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS is above all a technical evolution of the TicWatch Pro 3 from last year. There are many similarities between the two connected watches.

Technical file TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS

The biggest evolution is in the case which is now certified with the MIL-STD-810G standard. The watch can therefore theoretically withstand “extreme” temperatures as well as the harshest shocks.

We also note the arrival of a more advanced cardiac sensor designed to detect problems of atrial fibrillation. This equipment is even able to give an overview of the level of stress and “energy” at any time of day through the calculation of heart rate variation.

Finally, the low-power FSTN screen now benefits from a backlight that can be customized with 18 different colors.

Everything else is identical to the classic Pro 3, from the design to the performance, which is still provided by the Wear 4100 SoC. So it’s not this year again that Mobvoi will be giving us the first look at the Snapdragon Wear 4100+.

For information, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra has a 4G/LTE chip. Its price is therefore 50€ higher than the Ultra GPS model – tested here – which does not have it. For 350€, this version capable of getting rid of the phone can be an interesting choice for those who like to be permanently connected to the Internet.

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Design and finishes

The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS is technically similar to its predecessor. The aesthetic changes are minor, the main change being under the hood.

TicWatch - Design © Johan Gautreau

We find a relatively thick watch with dimensions of 47 x 48 x 12.3 mm for a weight of 68 grams.

TicWatch - Design © Johan Gautreau

If the midnight blue stainless steel case seems robust, one can only deplore the coarse aspect of the whole. This impression is reinforced by the use of a very thick and not very elegant rubber strap. Unlike other years, the silicone and leather model is reserved for the most expensive watch of the brand…

TicWatch - Design © Johan Gautreau

Despite this, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS remains pleasant to wear on the wrist. Its numbered ring gives it a futuristic look, especially since the two side buttons also benefit from the same treatment.

In the end, if it’s not as classy as a Huawei Watch 3, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS is still a decent watch with a modern look, which should appeal to fans of this kind of design.

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Screen

Now let’s take a look at what makes the TicWatch Pro so special: the famous dual-screen. Mobvoi offers us a technology that is, to say the least, surprising and – it must be said – very effective. It consists in stacking a low-power FSTN panel on a more classic AMOLED panel.

TicWatch - Écran FSTN © Johan Gautreau

In use, the FSTN screen stays on all the time, with its AMOLED counterpart only taking over when the watch is manipulated to access Wear OS. The advantage of this combo is that the time – and a few physical metrics – are always visible without draining the battery like the AoD mode would.

TicWatch - Écran AMOLED © Johan Gautreau

The 1.4″ AMOLED panel has a more than the comfortable definition of 454 x 454 px, or 326 PPI of resolution. It is largely sufficient to avoid the appearance of large pixels. However, we notice that the screen looks a little cloudy, due to the FSTN panel that overhangs it. The colors are therefore not as vivid as on more traditional watches. Similarly, the brightness seems more limited, even if the AMOLED panel remains readable outdoors.

TicWatch - Choix couleur FSTN © Johan Gautreau

Is it embarrassing? Not really. In fact, you will find it easier to use the FSTN screen outdoors, as it is more readable in daylight. Note that it is darker and less contrasted than on the first TicWatch Pro. However, this is compensated by the presence of a very effective and now customizable backlight. You can choose from a palette of 18 colors, from bright red to discreet light gray.

In the end, we enjoy using the dual-screen of the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS. The transition between the two screens is very fast, which allows comfortable use and adapted to all situations. The recipe developed by Mobvoi still has a long way to go!

Operating system

If you were looking forward to the arrival of Wear OS 3, you may be disappointed…

TicWatch - Play Store © Johan Gautreau

Indeed, Mobvoi remains for the moment on Wear OS 2. We still benefit from the change of design operated in recent months by Google, especially on its Play Store, but not the features inherent in the third generation of Wear OS.

TicWatch - WearOS © Johan Gautreau

Mobvoi nevertheless highlights some changes of its own. The Pro 3 Ultra GPS has an application launcher with icons arranged in rows of two. Nothing prevents you from going back to the classic Google launcher.

The Chinese brand is especially strong on the applications side. There are a dozen apps created by the Asian manufacturer, the majority being dedicated to health monitoring: TicHealth, TicExercise, TicPouls, TicZen, etc. …

TicWatch - Cartes © Johan Gautreau

Custom maps are also included. So you’ll be able to view heart rate tracking, goal progress circles or even launch a workout from the appropriate map.

TicWatch - Google Assistant © Johan Gautreau

As for the rest, we’re talking about the classic Wear OS. The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS will be able to make contactless payments with Google Pay, give you advice with Google Assistant, play music via your Bluetooth headphones, etc. In short, everything that any smartwatch under Wear OS does.

The beauty is very responsive. The Snapdragon Wear 4100 is very efficient, the applications are launched in a blink of an eye. Scrolling through the menus is also very smooth. Slowdowns are rare, although the watch sometimes freezes up, fortunately very rarely. The Wear 4100 experience is therefore very conclusive!

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Sport functions

By producing a reinforced watch, Mobvoi is trying to attract outdoor sports enthusiasts, such as trail runners and cyclists, to its fold. The new TicWatch Pro 3 is equipped with more sports profiles to offer more than 20, instead of 13 previously.

TicWatch - Liste exercices © Johan Gautreau

The connected watch takes over the barometer of the previous generation. It is also IP68 certified and supports swimming activities. It is therefore relatively complete even if we can deplore the absence of a profile of bodybuilding on TicExercise. You will have to use Google Fit to record your weight lifting sessions.

TicWatch - Suivi santé © Johan Gautreau

Let’s focus instead on health monitoring, because that’s where the main novelty of the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS lies. The TicSanté application is now able to give you an indication of your physical and mental state over 24 hours. This kind of measurement is reminiscent of the Body Battery from Garmin. Two bars are presented to you: the first indicates your “mental fatigue” and the second your “energy level”. Each has five graduations that vary throughout the day, the ideal being to have the mental fatigue at a minimum and the energy level at a maximum.

During my tests, I must admit that I remained rather doubtful about the results given by the application. After an intensive exercise, my energy level remained at its maximum. On the other hand, it inexplicably dropped during a short nap and the stress level rose proportionally. The opposite would have seemed more rational to me. It is therefore difficult to find a real use for these two measures, which personally seem a little too abstract to me.

TicWatch - Suivi coeur © Johan Gautreau

We will console ourselves by enjoying a heart sensor – with SpO2 tracking – of excellent quality. I put it in competition with the Precision Prime Plus sensor of the brand new Prolar Grit X Pro. The verdict is clear: the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS is right on the heels of its high-end competitor without any problem!

TicWatch - Fibrilation © Johan Gautreau

We can therefore hope that the detection of any atrial fibrillation is of good quality. However, it should be remembered that the Chinese watch should not be considered as a medical device. The readings are therefore for personal reference only.

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TicWatch - Activité 1 © Johan Gautreau

TicWatch - Activité 2 © Johan Gautreau

If the heart rate tracking part is of good quality, it is unfortunately not the same for the GPS. In addition to being long to catch the signal (sometimes you have to wait up to five minutes….), it sometimes gives us crazy values. For example, it indicated a peak of 18 km/h during… a simple walk. And what about the VO2Max score, which is totally off the mark? The same goes for altitude tracking, which is imprecise despite the barometer integrated in the smartwatch.

It will therefore be difficult to recommend the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS to athletes who want a maximum of metrics. It’s hard to pass up the erratic GPS on a watch at this price level. Especially since you have to deal with a lot of poorly done translations: Italian in some places, German in others, and often translations that are barely worthy of Google Translate. Let’s hope that Mobvoi works better on its copy by making quick correction updates…

Application Mobvoi

Avant de passer à l’autonomie, jetons un œil sur l’application mobile de Mobvoi. Celle-ci est à l’image de la montre : assez jolie mais pas forcément aussi efficace qu’on aimerait.

mobvoi ticwatch

It is presented in the form of a relatively classic dashboard showing the main metrics collected by the TicWatch: monitoring of physical and mental health, heart rate, sleep quality, stress level, last sports played, etc…

TicWatch - Suivi SPO2 © Johan Gautreau

TicWatch - Suivi sommeil © Johan Gautreau

TicWatch - Suivi santé © Johan Gautreau

The approach is fairly conventional. Pressing on a category gives access to more detailed graphics and some health tips. Unfortunately, the poorly done translations tarnish the whole, as well as the inaccuracies of the GPS readings mentioned above…

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Autonomy

Anyone who has ever tried a watch running Wear OS will have had to deal with the misery of short battery life. Fortunately, Mobvoi gets around – in part – this recurring problem thanks to its dual-screen and the use of a second processor that supports the Snapdragon Wear 4100 of its TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS. The manufacturer promises a battery life of up to 72 hours in connected mode, which would make its smartwatch one of the most enduring to use Wear OS.

TicWatch Pro - Recharge © Johan Gautreau

In fact, you can reach the announced autonomy but then you have to do without a lot of features such as SpO2 tracking, sleep tracking or the new physical and mental health record. By sacrificing these metrics, you will indeed be able to hold the charge for almost three days. On the other hand, don’t expect more than 48 hours of use if you activate all the watch’s options, which is ultimately as much as a Fossil Gen 5 with its Wear 3100 SoC.

The main advantage of the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS is without a doubt its permanently lit FSTN screen. You always have the time in front of you without needing to use up the battery with a too energy-consuming Always On mode. This screen is even more practical as it is also activated during sports sessions. An exercise of 30 minutes consumes only 3% of the battery, so much so a trifle compared to other watches Wear OS.

And what if you run out of battery before the end of the day? Just activate the Essential mode. In this case, the Wear OS part is completely disabled, as well as the AMOLED screen. The TicWatch then turns into a more traditional watch, while retaining the ability to count steps and take manual heart rate readings. With 5% of battery, you will easily last up to 48 hours in Essential mode. It’s always better than carrying around an unlit watch on your wrist!

As you can see, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS is not much more durable than other connected watches running Wear OS. It does, however, stand out thanks to its very practical low-power screen and the Essential mode, which is perfect in case of battery shortage.

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS: the Clubic verdict

For its new Ultra models, Mobvoi does not reinvent its recipe. However, the Chinese brand offers us a more robust watch, with a heart sensor worthy of the best high-end sports watches. And the price doesn’t change one iota.

Should you fall for it? The answer depends on your requirements. If you want an accurate watch for your sports activities, don’t bother. The GPS is far too inaccurate and some of the metrics, such as VO2Max, are totally unreliable.

On the other hand, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS will appeal to you if you want a solid Wear OS watch, with an always-on screen and capable of providing extended battery life if necessary, even if it means sacrificing a few features in Essential mode.

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