The price and positioning of the Apple Watch range makes it aspirational and perhaps a bit too expensive for many of us, but what it has done is make smartwatches more desirable on the whole. The result of this is a flourishing budget smartwatch segment, supported by various brands leveraging their expertise in smartphones and Bluetooth connectivity to offer capable wearable technology at reasonable prices. This includes Xiaomi, which recently launched the Redmi Watch 3 Active, a health-focused smartwatch priced at Rs. 2,999.
My previous experience with budget smartwatches hasn't been too great when it comes to fitness tracking; affordable devices tend to be best used for core functionality, such as notification mirroring and watch face customisability. It will be worth seeing if the Redmi Watch 3 Active can live up to its name and work well as a fitness and health tracker, apart from ticking the boxes for a budget smartwatch. Find out if the Redmi Watch 3 Active is worth the price in this review.
The Redmi Watch 3 Active has heart rate and blood oxygen monitoring, along with step tracking and more
Redmi Watch 3 Active design and specifications
The budget smartwatch segment is more about offering as many features as possible, while keeping the price low. As such, design and form tends to be a bit straightforward in this space, and the Redmi Watch 3 Active sticks to this plain and simple look. The lack of distinctive elements and logos means that you won't really be able to tell that this is a Redmi product on the face of it. Whether that's a good or bad thing is up to you, but I personally found the look a bit too bland and ordinary.
That said, it is functional, and some might even like glossy exterior blending with the 1.83-inch colour screen. There are thick borders around the edges of the screen, but if you use a watch face with a black background, you won't really notice them, and the front will look fairly uniform unless you look closely. There is just a single button on the right side of the watch, which controls power, opens the app drawer, and wakes the screen from standby.
Usefully, the screen can also be activated with the lift-to-wake gesture (twisting your wrist to face you, as you would normally look at a wristwatch), or by double-tapping the screen. You can quickly turn it off by covering the screen with your palm, or let the screen timeout put the Redmi Watch 3 Active into standby after a predetermined duration.
The underside of the Redmi Watch 3 Active has the only logo on the device, placed just above the optical sensors which enable heart rate and blood oxygen tracking. Below that are the contact points where the magnetic charger latches on, with the other end connecting to a USB Type-A port, although a power adapter is not included with the device. The removable and replaceable straps can be disengaged from the smartwatch at the bottom as well.
The Redmi Watch 3 Active is available in two colour options - Charcoal Black and Platinum Grey. The review unit sent to me is the former, but the latter arguably looks a bit better and more distinctive. The default strap is quite comfortable and also completely waterproof, going well with the 5ATM water resistance rating of the smartwatch itself. For connectivity, the Redmi Watch 3 Active uses Bluetooth 5.3, with support for Bluetooth calling when paired to your smartphone. There is, of course, a built-in speaker and microphone for this to work as well.
There is just one button on the Redmi Watch 3 Active, which controls power and other functions
Redmi Watch 3 Active software, interface, and app
Compatibility with both smartphone operating systems (and sometimes even within the Android ecosystem) isn't a given on budget smartwatches, but the Redmi Watch 3 Active ticks the boxes in this regard. The device works with the Mi Fitness app, which is available for both Android and iOS, and supports the smartwatch on both platforms.
For my review, I had the Mi Fitness app installed on a OnePlus 9 Pro (Review), paired to the Redmi Watch 3 Active. The app uses Bluetooth to manage the connection between the smartwatch and smartphone, also creating the link for voice calls and synchronising notifications between the two devices. Fitness and health data collected on the watch is sent to the app to provide better insights and analysis as well.
The app itself is neatly presented, with widgets for activity, sleep, steps, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and more. You can also start workouts from within the app, and outdoor workouts seem to integrate mapping into the tracking, but this relies on your phone for the location; the smartwatch itself does not support location tracking. Device settings and basic tools can be adjusted easily, and on the whole it's a simple, but functional and adequately equipped app for the device itself.
As with any decent smartwatch, the Redmi Watch 3 Active has plenty of watch faces to choose from. Apart from the three default options, there is a reasonably large list of downloadable options, sorted somewhat randomly. If you see something you like, you can download it to the smartwatch through the app, and can store up to two additional watch faces apart from the three default picks, which can be removed and replaced as much as you like. While a lot of them were too strange for my liking, there were a few decent picks that I liked.
The Mi Fitness app, available for iOS and Android, works with the Redmi Watch 3 Active
Redmi Watch 3 Active performance and battery life
Pretty much every smartwatch, regardless of price, has basic fitness tracking on offer. However, the accuracy and usefulness of this is a hit-or-miss situation on budget devices, although the Redmi Watch 3 Active hopes to set itself apart as a fitness-friendly option, given that ‘Active' moniker.
However, the reality is largely in line with the rest of the budget smartwatch market, and the Redmi Watch 3 Active doesn't deliver significantly beyond its claims. While there are over 100 tracking and sport modes with supposedly tailored tracking performance, most of these are niche, and it's hard to tell if the tracking data is accurate.
For my review, I stuck to tracking the basics - steps, heart rate, and blood oxygen primarily. In our 1,000-step test, the Redmi Watch Active measured around 1,060 steps where I manually counted 1,000, suggesting an error rate of 6 percent. This is fairly similar to what other smartwatches in this price segment deliver, and is a bit too far from the much more accurate step tracking data that high-end devices can generate.
Heart rate tracking is similarly iffy, particularly when I tried to get a measurement while moving around; the figures were often too low or jumped around wildly. Standing still or sitting down with my arm steady was pretty much the only way to get a somewhat accurate heart rate measurement, and the same applied even to the blood oxygen tracking, both of which were compared to the Apple Watch Series 7 for a gauge on accuracy.
The Redmi Watch 3 Active is 5ATM water resistant
Sleep tracking was extremely basic and only seemed reasonable as to the actual time spent asleep, while the specifics of sleep tracking didn't really come across as detailed or accurate enough. On the whole, health tracking on this might be able to give users a general idea of what's going on, but it's far too irregular to be relied on for anything important. General performance on the Redmi Watch 3 Active is decent, with the basic UI and apps working as expected for the most part. The screen, although not as sharp and nice to look at as some of the competition in this segment (which uses OLED displays), the Redmi Watch 3 Active is bright and entirely satisfactory for the price.
I managed to use the smartwatch for around seven days on a single full charge, wearing it all day, including when working out and occasionally when sleeping. You can stretch the battery life a bit if you turn off the continuous connection for calls, and generally don't take too many calls on the Redmi Watch 3 Active itself.
If that's something you intend to use, turning it on is easy enough through the Bluetooth settings. Usefully, even with the connection active, answering a call on your paired smartphone instead of the watch ensures that audio diverts to the right device, and the Redmi Watch 3 Active will only activate for calls if you actually answer the call on the smartwatch itself. Call quality is workable for short calls in somewhat quiet environments. For longer calls or in noisy environments, you'll find it a bit too soft and bothersome to use, and will probably want to switch to your smartphone or proper earphones.
While the Redmi Watch 3 Active is positioned as a fitness-focused smartwatch, its actual fitness chops aren't much to go on. However, that doesn't write it off as a smartwatch at all; it's a capable budget wearable, handling functions such as notifications and calls fairly well. Apart from that, it looks and feels good, has a decent screen and software, and will run reliably for around seven days on a single charge.
As such, there isn't much to complain about here, but there isn't much that really sets the Redmi Watch 3 Active apart either. Consider this if you want a new affordable smartwatch at under Rs. 3,000, largely for the reliability and longevity that you can expect from a device from the Xiaomi stable.
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