Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS review TL;DR: premium Wear OS smartwatch in a military standard case sold for a tantalisingly low price.
It’s not often I actually look forward to testing and a Wear OS smartwatch. In my experience, they tend to be a bit laggy and samey, providing almost identical user experiences to each other but in a slightly similar body. Nevertheless, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS piqued my interest as it reminded me of one of my all-time favourite watches, the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro.
Thankfully, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS didn’t disappoint. If anything, it made me interested in future Wear OS watches, which in itself is an achievement. It’s priced competitively, offers a range of intelligent features, and its build quality is nothing to be frowned upon. There are very things that aren’t quite right with this smartwatch; allow me to explain all that’s good or bad in more detail in this TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS review.
Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS review: Price and availability
The Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS is available from 13 October 2021 at Mobvoi and Amazon US, Amazon UK and Amazon AUS for a recommended retail price of $299.99 / £289.99 / AU$399.99.
Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS review: design and build quality
Smartwatches with a rugged body are all the rage right now. It doesn’t matter that no one really needs a smartwatch that can survive an atomic blast, but I guess a stainless steel and high-strength nylon watch case radiates a sense of long-lasting quality.
The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS is built using US Military Standard 810G (MIL-STD-810G) materials to withstand “extreme temperatures, humidity, solar radiation, shock, low pressure”. It’s also IP68 water rated for those extreme showers you might take wearing the watch.
Of course, the 1.4-inch AMOLED display ( 454*454 pixels resolution, 326ppi density) is protected by a Corning Gorilla anti-fingerprint glass to ensure the front is as tough as the rest of the watch. The screen itself is fully touch-sensitive, and to my surprise, there was hardly any lag between movements I made with my fingers and the interactions on the screen. I was very impressed with it.
On the side of the watch case, you’ll find two rotating watch crowns that also function as push buttons. Well, they mainly serve as push buttons as I couldn’t find any evidence of the rotation being utilised while playing around with the watch.
I might just be extra special for not finding a feature that works with the crown, but I suspect it might be something to do with the Wear OS operating system. It’s a nitpicky thing, and this feature might get unlocked later. Who knows?
Overall, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS is a rugged smartwatch that will surely be able to cope with whatever extreme sport you like regularly doing.
Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS review: Features
The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS is a Wear Os watch and features the familiar Wear OS tile layout. As well as the usual tiles you find on every Wear OS watch, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS adds its own tiles, including “TicHealth”, “TicPulse”, and “TicExercise”. These and the watch face can be changed in the Wear OS App.
You also have access to Google Assistant on the watch, and you can even ask questions and hear its reply, thanks to the built-in microphone and speaker.
The watch features a myriad of sensors, including an accelerometer, gyro sensor, an optical heart rate sensor, SpO2 sensor, low latency off-body sensor and a barometer. Initially, a compass was also included in the lineup but was removed due to “compatibility issues”. Never mind, there are plenty of other sensors to play around with.
Since heart rate variability (HRV) assessment is all the rage now in the world of fitness wearables, Mobvoi naturally included a feature on the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS based on it.: you can find the Fatigue Assessment tracker in the Mobvoi App. This is similar to Fitbit’s Daily Readiness Score, Whoop’s Strain Score or Garmin’s Body Battery score.
The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS differs from the rest of the lot because it offers mental fatigue as well as energy level assessment. This is based on HRV mentioned above, sleep and activity levels. Mental fatigue assessment is by no means a scientific thing, and I wouldn’t compare the accuracy of the energy level assessment with Whoop’s algorithm. Still, it’s an exciting feature that might make some people pay more attention to their habits in general.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the Mobvoi App. Smartwatch companion apps can be pretty bad, but most of them get better over time. The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS – being a Wear OS watch – uses both the Wear OS App and the Mobvoi App. Although the Mobvoi App is not terrible, it could use a bit of a UI overhaul.
At least you have some third-party app support (incl. Strava and Google Fit), and the dashboard is not overly complicated to navigate, which is good. If only it looked a bit less of an eyesore.
Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS review: Accuracy
The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS is said to come with “advanced algorithms to monitor heart health by capturing every heartbeat, monitoring your heart rhythm and alerting you to irregular heartbeats that may indicate underlying atrial fibrillation (AFib)”.
During testing, I found the heart rate sensor and GPS reasonably accurate when used for running training. There were no dips in heart rate, and the GPS followed my route pretty close to where I actually ran. It took a while for the watch to pick up the signal, though, at least compared to running watches.
As much as I enjoyed the Dual Display when wearing the watch during the day, the same system got in the way of seeing the data screens during runs. The usual wrist flick won't reveal the data screens, only show the overlay that shows the time. You have to tap the screen to reveal the actual data screen but even after you did, it's a bit tricky to make out what's going on as the blocks and the fonts are a bit small.
I used the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS to track strength workouts (using the “Freestyle” sport mode), and it also performed OK here. Heart rate was on point, and there is even an option to track each set individually (manually). The watch won’t count reps, though, not like I care as this feature doesn’t work well in most smartwatches.
A final note on accuracy: given the large watch case made of stainless steel, it might be harder for people with smaller wrists to find a position on their wrist that’s flat enough for the watch to track heart rate accurately. Bear this in mind.
Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS review: verdict
It’s hard to find a real issue with the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS, especially at this price point. Sure, it won’t push the Garmin Forerunner 945 or the Coros Pace 2 off my wrist as my default workout tracker, but it has plenty of decent features that might convince less performance-oriented people to choose the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS over more diehard fitness wearables.
If you need a rugged smartwatch and happen to have an Android smartphone, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS is one of the best smartwatch options you have right now. I hope the Mobvoi App will catch up soon and provide an equally premium experience as the watch itself. But even if it won’t, it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.
Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS review: also consider
The Garmin Enduro might be twice as expensive *cough* as the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS but it has an insanely-long battery life and some trail running-specific features that even non-trail runners will appreciate. If you have the money and want to gain access to the excellent Garmin ecosystem, you can’t go wrong with the Enduro.
Another more expensive option is the Suunto 9 Baro Titanium GPS watch. It offers excellent battery life and good navigational abilities in a slimline package. While you’ll be missing some of the bells and whistles of other models - such as mobile payments and music for example - there is certainly an argument that these add complexity and distraction to the inevitably limited watch interface.
Should you want something less robust but equally as cheap, the Amazfit GTR 3 Pro might be a good option. Build quality aside, this is a decent cheap smartwatch that offers plenty of functionality for a budget-friendly price. It might not be able to take on similarly-priced Huawei or Fitbit watches, but it's well worth considering as a low-cost option.