by James A. Martin

Amazfit PACE is a streamlined, affordable GPS watch for runners

Jan 31, 2017
Consumer ElectronicsMobileMobile Apps

Amazfit, the U.S. brand for Chinese maker Huami, recently released a stylish runners' watch with built-in GPS and music playback. But how does it fare with other types of workouts?

A lot of activity trackers and smartwatches are laden with features you may—or may not — use. That’s not the case with Amazfit’s new PACE, a stylish new $160 watch with built-in GPS for runners and walkers.

PACE takes a streamlined approach to fitness watches. It ticks some of the expected boxes, adds a few extras — and skimps in some other areas.

You’ll get notifications for calls, messages, and emails from your smartphone. And you can add notifications from apps such as CNN or LinkedIn to an app ‘blacklist,’ to avoid getting too many notifications, which sip battery power. (The company says battery power lasts up to 11 days or up to about three days with GPS and heart-rate tracking on.)

Along with GPS tracking for route, distance and other stats, which looked accurate based on my tests, PACE also offers heart rate tracking, which seemed right-on to me, too.

PACE also has an always-on display that’s dim indoors but extremely easy to read in bright daylight, which isn’t always the case with activity tracker screens.

Unlike some fitness watches, PACE tracks elevation. And it includes weather forecasts, right on the screen.

Also, PACE lets you download music to playback with Bluetooth headphones, a feature some runners love because it enables them to train with music—but without a smartphone or MP3 player.

To transfer music, connect PACE’s USB charging cable to your Mac or PC. On the Mac, use the free Android File Transfer app to transfer MP3 files; the procedure is different for Windows users. Check out this YouTube video or Amazfit help page for complete steps. 

(Huami is the manufacturing partner of Xiaomi, which is the world’s second largest wearable vendor, according to CIO sibling company IDC.)

Music playback is limited, though. You drop MP3s into a folder and play them on the watch without a playlist arrangement. It’s better than nothing, but it may be frustrating for you.

What’s missing?

PACE may also frustrate you for other reasons:

* You can only track four different workouts: Run, Walk, Run Indoor, or Trail Run.

* Currently, PACE can only display military time, so 1:00 p.m. is 13:00, and so on. The company says this feature will be available in the future.  

* The watch requires you to use two apps: the Amazfit Watch app for iOS and Android, to set up the device and change watch faces; and Strava, for syncing your run/walk workout stats. (See Strava screenshots below.)

But everyday activity data, such as sleep tracking and steps, isn’t synced to Strava or even to the Amazfit activity and sleep tracking app for iOS and Android. It remains captive on the watch, though there are plans for the Amazfit app to sync with PACE.

strava app Strava

* Swimmers need not bother. PACE is not meant to be immersed in water beyond about 3.2 feet deep and not for more than 30 minutes.

Who’s it for?

If you’re laser-focused on running or walking workouts and don’t want to spend much on a watch, PACE is worth considering. But keep in mind there are other GPS running watches in its price range, such as the Garmin Forerunner 35 ($200).