Fitness trackers have evolved highly over the last few years and the current ones are easily comparable to smartwatches. Apart from tracking steps and heart rate, you can fetch notifications and messages from your smartphone – take the Amazfit Bip as an example. I recently reviewed the Mi Smart Band 5 and it essentially acted as an extension to my smartphone all day long. For the majority, it is uber cool.
There’s, however, a group of people who seek simplicity – a group that wants the basic fitness tracking without the jingles of a modern-day smartwatch. There’s a need for a wearable that sits on your wrist all-day without drawing your attention to very little message notification and alert. Amazfit has identified this need with the Neo. It costs Rs 2,499 and is easily the cutest looking wearable I have seen in a while.
The Amazfit Neo is a nostalgic take on the fitness trackers of today. A simple LCD display with the little perks of those old digital wristwatches on the outside and all the modern fitness tracking inside – that is the Amazfit Neo for you. While it looks cool, does it make sense in a world full of colorful displays adorning the wrists? Well, I strapped on the Amazfit Neo for two weeks and it changed my perception.
Design and comfort
Right from the headline, I have been on and on about the retro design of the Amazfit Neo. That’s because there’s nothing like the Neo in the market at the moment. Amazfit has taken inspiration from the old Casio digital wristwatches for the design elements. Hence, kids growing in the 90s will find the bold markings, texts, and plastic cladding on the Neo extremely appealing.
The Neo goes for a rectangular dial with a retro STN monochrome display. There’s black plastic cladding around it adding to the rugged feeling. There’s even a circular plastic element inside the display that separates the mode section from the rest of the display. This circular section essentially shows icons. The rest of the display shows readings, date, time, and connection status. My unit came in bright orange, thereby doubling the attention it got from onlookers.
Oh, did I forget to mention that a blue backlight lights up once you press the buttons? There’s nothing as satisfying as turning on backlighting on an STN LCD display. Additionally, there’s a beep every time you press the buttons. Nostalgic heaven for us kids!
The buttons themselves are reminiscent of the older watches in looks and feels. There are four in total, two on each side. Two of them act as navigation buttons to move through the modes while the other two are used to select an item or go back. The select button only works in a few modes where you can choose between options. The strap too carries on the retro rugged theme. Don’t assume that the retro ruggedness is just for looks. The Amazfit Neo is actually a rugged wearable that can resist scratches, dirt, and water.
Despite all the rugged looks, the Amazfit Neo is comfortable to wear all day. The rubber strap is comfortable on the wrists even in sweaty conditions while the optical sensor underneath the watch does not dig in. At 32 grams, it is among the lightest watches you can wear every day. The STN LCD display remains turned on always and when you lift your wrist, it lights up the backlighting.
Hence, despite being retro, the Neo behaves like a modern-day fitness tracker.
The Health stuff
After discussing the retro appeal of the Amazfit Neo, it’s time to talk about the stuff that matters more to users. Being the cheapest wearable from Amazfit, it gives up on a lot of fitness tracking modes. You can only track walking, cycling and running on Amazfit Neo – nothing else. Unlike the Mi Smart Band 5, you have to manually enable these modes. Although Amazfit says you can change it from the watch, I was unable to find an option to do so.
The Neo uses the same sensors from the Amazfit Bip Lite. Hence, you can track steps and calories similar to the Bip models. You can even track sleep with the Neo, although the data is only visible via the app. The Neo even lets you automatically track your heart rate if you do not wish to check it manually. You will have to enable it via the Zepp app, which is a companion app for Neo. All the data recorded on the watch is shown in the app with illustrated graphs and tables. Sadly, the app interface does not match with the retro theme of the Neo.
On the Neo, you can see the calories burnt, the current heart rate, steps, and your PAI score. PAI is a fitness algorithm long in use on Amazfit wearables and it awards you scores based on the activity. On the days when I was moving around a lot, I managed to get double-digit PAI scores. If you cycle or run, the scores will be higher.
The Smart stuff (or the lack of it)
To maintain the retro theme (and save costs), Amazfit has dialed down the smart features on the Neo. Just like a smart band, you get notifications for messages but only as a blinking icon and a loud beep. The same stands for call notifications where the beep keeps going on until the call is canceled. The watch itself lets you set timers and see the number of alarms. That’s it – that’s all the smartness you get with the Amazfit Neo.
As a user, the lack of basic smart features was frustrating initially, especially after using the Xiaomi Mi Watch Revolve. However, as I spent more time with the Neo, I realized that it serves another purpose apart from the retro appeal. The Neo enables digital detox for the wearable world. While running or driving, I found myself not getting bothered about the digital distractions. The lack of a modern display pushed me to keep the phone inside and focus on my activity.
Would you could this digital detox as a smart feature? For a person like me who is continuously exposed to the latest and greatest in technology, I find the Neo’s approach to smart wearables helpful.
With not much to power, the Amazfit Neo promises a battery life of almost a month. Yes, a month! In just over two weeks of regular wearing and constant connection to my phone, the neo is still showing 75 percent of battery charge remaining. Do note that this is with automatic heart rate detection and sleep tracking turned on.
Charging takes place via a proprietary magnetic dock. Over my usage period, I did not get the opportunity to charge it but Amazfit says you have to leave plugged for 2.5 hours. That’s not much inconvenience considering you only have to charge it once a month.
Amazfit Neo: Should you buy it?
Regardless of what I say, you might end up getting the Amazfit Neo. You may even be wearing it as you read this. Even I would do the same (I will book it once I finish our conversation). The Amazfit Neo is a novelty item for us kids from the yesteryears. The retro design with the rugged looks is more than enough to make people like us buy it in a flash. The appeal is heightened with an ultra-low price tag of Rs 2,499.
That said, the Amazfit Neo is meant for a niche market. Fitness enthusiasts may not find the Neo enough for their tracking needs. Those wanting a smart wearable may also be left asking for more. The Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 5 at Rs 2,499 proves to be a better all-rounder than the Neo in this regard. It does fitness monitoring better, has a color display that can show texts, and is more comfortable to wear.
The Amazfit Neo, then, is not for everyone. However, it is for the 10 year-olds inside us who want to flash something cool – something from an era bygone. And trust me, the retro rugged design of those digital watches from the 1990s hasn’t grown stale in 2020. Additionally, the Amazfit Neo does a bit of digital detox on your wrist. If you love unique gadgets, you should head over to the store and get one while the stocks last.