It’s true that you usually get what you pay for. But every so often, you come across a device that offers way more bang for your buck. The $199 Amazfit GTR 4 is not going to compete with the Apple Watch Series 8 or the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 on features. It’s not as stylish as the Pixel Watch. But it offers several features you’d expect to see on more expensive watches, such as multiband GPS, a vibrant OLED display, and turn-by-turn route navigation. After spending some time with the GTR 4, I wholeheartedly recommend this over the new Fitbit Versa 4 or Sense 2.
It’s not a looker, but the display is neat
The GTR 4 probably won’t win any design awards, but it looks pretty good for a budget watch (especially when compared to previous iterations). The 1.4-inch always-on OLED display is housed in a 46mm aluminum case. It looks fine, if a bit nondescript. But the fluoroelastomer strap on my review unit feels chintzy. Although it’s the same type of material as Apple’s Sport Band, it doesn’t look like it. After about two weeks of wear, one of the keepers is already showing some damage. Thankfully, you can use any standard 22mm strap with the GTR 4 to elevate the look.
But even if I were to swap straps, it clearly has a masculine vibe. I can’t think of too many straps that would make it more feminine, and in my case, I’d have to leave it at home for a formal event. (Unless I was rocking a cool suit. Note to self: get a cool suit.) I have a smaller frame, and a co-worker commented that the GTR 4 was “so freaking big” on my wrist. That said, it’s fairly light at 34g and not too thick at 10.6mm, and I didn’t find it too uncomfortable for 24/7 wear. It snagged on my leather jacket, but so do all but the smallest smartwatches. It’s also rated for 5ATM of water resistance, meaning you can hop into the pool with it. I wore it in the shower and while doing dishes with zero issues.
While I wasn’t too impressed with the watch’s overall look, the OLED screen is another matter. Watchfaces and animations are crisp, colors are vibrant, and notifications are easy to read. The GTR 4’s display has 326 pixels per inch, which is on par with the 41mm Apple Watch Series 8 and slightly better than the 40mm Galaxy Watch 5. Plus, the bezels are minimal. Any way you slice it, it outclasses the displays on the Fitbit Versa 4 and Sense 2, which are both more expensive.
Sensors and battery life galore
The GTR 4 doesn’t skimp on sensors. You get the typical motion sensors — accelerometer and gyroscope — as well as a geomagnetic sensor, barometric altimeter, and ambient light sensor. On top of that, it has a new continuous heart rate sensor that also measures blood oxygen levels. For connectivity, it supports 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, and Bluetooth Low Energy. You’ve also got a speaker and microphone for calls and interacting with digital assistants. Basically, this checks all the boxes for a modern smartwatch. It’s missing advanced health sensors, like EKG and body temperature, but those are niche metrics that aren’t even utilized well by smartwatches that do have them.
What’s impressive, however, is the fact the GTR 4 includes multiband GPS — and at this price point. Multiband GPS isn’t that common yet, and we’ve only started seeing it on fitness watches in the past year or so. In a nutshell, it utilizes both L1 and L5 satellite frequencies, translating to more accurate GPS in challenging environments like cities or forests. But you’re more likely to see it on higher-end GPS watches from brands like Coros and Garmin. It’s not even in the Apple Watch Series 8; it’s a feature Apple reserved for the Ultra. I can’t think of another smartwatch in this price range that has multiband GPS. The closest is the Garmin Forerunner 255 series, and that starts at $349.99.
Cheaper smartwatches often have better battery life than more expensive ones. Usually, that’s because they use dim, low-resolution screens, which draw less power. That’s not the case with the GTR 4, and yet Amazfit claims seven days of battery life with heavy usage (i.e., multiband GPS, always on display, etc.). Normal usage gets you around 14 days. For endurance athletes, enabling multiband GPS gets you an estimated 25 hours of continuous use, while regular GPS gets you 44 hours. TL;DR — you’ll get way more juice than flagship smartwatches.
I got about 10 days on a single charge
I’m not an ultra-marathoner or triathlete, so I can’t vouch for the GPS battery estimates. That said, I got about 10 days on a single charge. Half that time, I had the always-on display turned off, and I always had multiband GPS enabled. While testing, I logged about 2.5 hours of GPS activity. There are smartwatches and fitness bands that last longer, but 10 days with moderate use and an OLED display is great. Less great is the charging time. It took me about two hours to go from zero to 100 percent. That’s not the worst, but it sticks out, as an increasing number of wearables now support fast charging. I wasn’t fond of the proprietary charger, but again, this is an industry-wide issue for smartwatches.
The GTR 4 has a ton of features. Depending on what you’re looking for, it might actually have too many features. If I were to go in-depth about each, this section of the review could easily top 2,000 words. Ain’t nobody got time for that — especially since Amazfit is more than happy to list them all out on its product page. It’s exhaustive.
Instead, I’ll give you the rundown. As far as smart features go, you get basic push notifications — mirroring your phone’s notifications — plus timers, alarms, and stopwatches. Quick text replies work on Android, but not iOS (Then again, this is true for any smartwatch that isn’t the Apple Watch.) You can ring your phone from the watch — handy if, like me, you misplace your phone a zillion times a day. It offers reminders of all types, including move and event reminders. You can take calls from the GTR 4 if you’re in Bluetooth range of your phone. The GTR 4 is compatible with Alexa for smart home control and basic queries. Alexa isn’t the best smartwatch assistant, especially if you want to dictate texts, but it’ll do the basics alright. It also has an offline assistant to control your watch via voice commands, such as starting a workout or launching a health feature when you don’t have internet access.
That’s just the smartwatch-y side. The GTR 4 is jam-packed with health and fitness features too. You get in-depth sleep metrics and the ability to set sleep schedules. There’s period tracking, continuous heart rate monitoring, blood oxygen tracking, and stress tracking, and Amazfit says the GTR 4 will introduce fall detection in an over-the-air update. The GTR 4 also alerts you when it detects abnormally high or low heart rate, low SpO2 levels, and high stress levels.
Overall, most of these features work just fine. That said, here are a few quirks I ran into:
- The GTR 4 doesn’t have NFC, so it can’t do contactless payments. You can supposedly add membership cards (i.e., your Starbucks QR code) and pay that way, but I ran out of patience trying to set this up because the process is cumbersome, especially when my phone app is right there. It’s a good idea in theory but not in execution.
- The GTR 4 supports onboard music storage, but again, I had a hell of a time trying to load my music. You’ve got to do it through the companion app (more on that below), but most people would rather have offline playlists from apps like Spotify or Apple Music. No dice. Eventually, I gave up and opted to use it as a media controller for my phone.
- The GTR 4 is set to metric units by default. You can switch to imperial and Fahrenheit, which I did, but my weather watchface never got the message. I was fine because I learned metric while living abroad, but it’s annoying.
It’s not all bad. The GTR 4 uses the Zepp companion app. (Amazfit’s parent company, Huami, also owns Zepp, which also makes smartwatches. Its companion app is better than the one Amazfit used to use.) The Zepp app is not as flashy as the Fitbit app, Apple’s Fitness app, or Samsung Health, but I like that. Your info is easy to read, the interface is clean, and editing basic settings is fairly painless. I absolutely prefer it to overly convoluted apps like Garmin Connect or clunky ones like Polar Flow or the Coros app.
The GTR 4 also has a native camera remote and Pomodoro timer apps. You almost never see a native camera remote on a budget watch! Sure it’s a smidge laggy, but they all are. The important thing is that it works. I’m a devotee of the Pomodoro Technique who ironically hates the sound of a kitchen timer. Having a Pomodoro timer that vibrates on my wrist was a pleasant surprise. Of all the GTR 4’s features, I’ll miss the Pomodoro timer the most.
Health tracking: as easy as PAI?
I’ve never been a fan of arbitrary “goal” metrics. Calorie burn, as calculated by smartwatches, just isn’t reliable. The 10,000-step thing doesn’t have a real basis in science either — it was a marketing idea from a Japanese pedometer company. But the GTR 4 uses a better holistic measure called PAI, which you may remember from Mio trackers back in the day.
PAI stands for Personal Activity Intelligence. It’s an algorithm developed by Professor Ulrik Wisløff, a well-known figure in exercise science with over 115,000 citations on Google Scholar. The gist is it calculates a score based on demographic data, your resting heart rate, and the last seven days of heart rate data. The goal is to maintain a score of 100 PAI per week; the max you can earn in a day is 75, so that encourages people to exercise at least twice a week.
Like Fitbit’s Active Zone Minutes, I find PAI is a way more sustainable and holistic metric for gauging whether you’re getting the 150 minutes of moderate exercise recommended by the American Heart Association. Not only can you bank PAI points to fit your schedule, normal daily activities that increase your heart rate will count. Speaking from experience, that sort of flexibility is key for folks who struggle to build long-term healthy habits. I wish more wearables — especially popular flagships — would adopt this approach instead of emphasizing streaks.
Aside from PAI, the GTR 4 allows you to track your VO2 Max and Training Load, which helps you gauge progress and whether you should prioritize recovery. Sleep tracking was on par with my Oura Ring — a sleep tracker that I use as a control device — for my sleep stage charts, basic sleep metrics (i.e., resting heart rate, breathing rate, etc.), and sleep duration. These, together with PAI, give you a good snapshot of your overall activity and recovery in a relatively simple interface. The only thing I wasn’t impressed by was stress tracking. It’s a nebulous metric, to begin with, and Zepp’s implementation isn’t very actionable. It mostly just confirms what you probably already know but doesn’t offer meaningful ways to address it. To be fair, the vast majority of wearables drop the ball with stress tracking.
Like Garmin and Polar watches, the GTR 4 supports turn-by-turn route guidance. Importing your own routes is easy — I used Komoot and Strava, but you can use any route-planning site or app that supports exporting maps to GPX files. All you do is open the file with the Zepp app and hit save. When you head out to run, hike, or cycle the route you imported, you can then enable turn-by-turn navigation. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this plus multiband GPS are not things I expect from a $200 watch.
As for multiband GPS accuracy, it was on par with the Apple Watch Ultra with negligible differences. It didn’t take too long to find a GPS signal, though it was a couple of seconds slower than the Ultra or the Garmin watches I’ve tried with multiband GPS. Those few seconds are not a dealbreaker, but they make a difference in winter running.
The best bang for your buck
I come from a family that loves a good deal. At family gatherings, we often talk about deals we found in the way other families fondly reminisce about shared memories. This year at Thanksgiving, I will doubtlessly bring up this watch to my techier cousins. It’s an absolute steal.
The Amazfit GTR 4 isn’t perfect, and it’s not going to impress people the way an Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch might. That said, most of my issues with it were small things in passing that I promptly forgot. And even when those came up, I often thought to myself, “But it’s only $200.” Amazfit is also a brand that is frequently on sale, especially during big shopping holidays. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if you find it for less.
Fitbit used to be the king of budget wearables, but I’d argue that Amazfit snatched Fitbit’s throne a while ago. When I consider the GTR 4 against the $299.95 Fitbit Sense 2, the GTR 4 is the clear winner. It’s got better GPS accuracy, longer battery life, a better display, tracks much of the same health metrics, and has more advanced navigational metrics overall. The Sense 2 has better stress management features and contactless payments, but it’s been nerfed to the point where I don’t think it’s worth the price tag — let alone the Fitbit Premium subscription.
Full disclosure: I bought the Amazfit GTS 2 for my mother-in-law a few years ago to replace her Fitbit, and she loves it. She’s by no means a gadget head and generally isn’t interested in highfalutin flagships. But that watch was simple enough for her to use, with comfortably long battery life and no extra fees. It’s not time for her to upgrade, but if it was? This is 100 percent the watch I’d get her.
Photography by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge