I’m always on the lookout for affordable fitness trackers/running watch and/or GPS smartwatches. Most of the time the budget friendly options I review never make it to this site. They get sent back to where I found them but once in a while I come across one that is worth writing about and may be a good option for those wanting a watch with built-in GPS and an accurate heart rate sensor.
- Built-in GPS
- Accurate Heart Rate Sensor
- Supports Pool Swimming
- Touch Screen and Operational by Physical Buttons
- Readable in Bright Sunlight
- Compass Inaccurate (UPDATE: It’s now much better!)
- Step Tracking Could Be Better
- GPS Can Be Slow to Connect
This particular GPS smartwatch is from FitVII. I found it on Amazon. It features a built-in GPS which is a rare feature for under $100. The Amazfit Bip is another option in this category. I’ve compared against the Apple Watch Series 4 on the treadmill and outdoors using GPS and it did pretty darn good.
View the FitVII GPS Smartwatch on Amazon.
Heart Rate Sensor
The heart rate sensor was nearly identical to the Apple Watch Series 4. The Series 4 has a terrific HR sensor that I’ve tested many times. Its built-in GPS is also quite good. So I was happy to discover that the FitVII held up against the Apple Watch.
For me the heart rate sensor has been terrific. No erratic readings. Most budget friendly trackers read resting heart rate well but the wheels usually begin to fall off once you begin working out. That didn’t happen with the FitVII.
As you can see below the average heart rate was exactly the same from both FitVII and the Apple Watch Series 4. This was a brisk walk/run on a treadmill in which I purposely sped up and slowed down to challenge the heart rate sensor. It kept up fine.
I had similar results during an outdoor walk/hike as well between the two watches.
Heart Rate Sensor Grade: A
The built-in GPS takes a while to connect. While the Apple Watch connects pretty much instantly. The GPS on the FitVII can take up to 2 minutes to connect to GPS satellites but once it is connected it remains connected. I didn’t experience any drops and I have with much more expensive trackers in the past.
The GPS isn’t as accurate as the Apple Watch or the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music which I also compared it to but it did a decent job. No GPS watch is 100% accurate. All will experience a few hiccups here and there as trees, buildings, or other obstructions temporarily interfere with the signal but the best have a fairly small margin of error.
From the results below you can see that the FitVII did a decent job tracing my actual path in comparison to the Apple Watch. The FitVII estimated the total distance at 1.21 miles while the Apple Watch estimated 1.15 miles. Neither perfectly traced my path but the Apple Watch was more accurate. Still, the FitVII provided a decent estimate of my total distance.
The FitVII seems to be about 94-95% accurate while the Apple Watch is about 97-98% accurate so there’s not a huge difference. But yes the Apple Watch was more accurate and very quick to connect but a watch that originally listed for $400 better be!
Built-in GPS Grade: B-
The FitVII will miss counting steps of a shorter distance. For instance, when I walked in my house to the kitchen or some other room, it didn’t count all of the steps and this is typical of budget friendly trackers and some more expensive smartwatches.
Some will not begin counting steps until it believes you are really walking. They don’t want to count arm movement while your sitting as steps so some wait until they have sensed you’ve walked 25-40+ steps to include them in your step count.
If you take a lot of short walks every day around your workplace or home, it’ll miss many of those steps.
However, in the tests I did of 100 step walks it was 99% accurate. It only missed one step in each of the tests I did. Still, I do have to mention that on one of my longer tests in which I was comparing it against the Apple Watch it missed quite a few steps which surprised me. This was when I was using the built-in GPS. It counted about 800 fewer steps than the Apple Watch so sometimes it showed some quirky behavior in step counting.
Hopefully a future software update will fix this.
Step Counting Grade: C
The FitVII also supports sleep tracking and I compared it against the Garmin Fenix 5s. Both gave similar numbers for the total time that I slept. It seems to do a good job in determining when I fall asleep and a decent job for when I wake up. It should give you a good idea how long you have slept. It determines light and deep sleep but not REM sleep. The best sleep trackers can detect REM sleep but I’ll leave it up to you as to whether this is important data to know.
Compared to the Fenix 5s, the FitVII estimated almost the same total amount of time that I slept.
Sleep Tracking Grade: B
I have been able to get almost a full week of battery life out of the FitVII and that’s with a few GPS workouts, indoor workouts, and several smartphone notifications throughout the day. This is a watch you should only have to charge once a week unless you do frequent GPS tracking but even the GPS didn’t drain the battery quickly.
Battery Life Grade: A
The FitVII is a comfortable lightweight watch to wear. The screen size is very reminiscent of the Apple Watch and is neither too masculine or feminine in appearance. It would look good on nearly any wrist size.
The straps are quick release so they can be changed or replaced very easily. I found the strap to be comfortable and of good quality.
The watch features both full touch screen operation and three physical buttons that will navigate through the watch. So you can either use the touch screen to make menu selections or the physical buttons. This is a very rare feature on watch for less than $100.
The touchscreen is responsive. It’s not lightning quick but it’s not laggy either. And I appreciate that their are buttons as well because when walking or running, especially when sweaty fingers touch screens aren’t ideal.
The screen is readable in bright sunlight as well and again this a rare feature of cheap smartwatches or fitness trackers. Most for less than $100 are very difficult to read outdoors. The Amazfit Bip is excellent for outdoor readability with its transflective display but the FitVII is also readable with its full-color OLED display. I only wish that there was an ambient light sensor on the FitVII for automatic screen brightness.
You’ll have to increase the brightness manually but at least you can read the screen in even the brightest sunlight.
Build Quality/Comfort Grade: B
The FitVII smartwatch connects with either Android or iPhones. I tested it with the iPhone XR and the Bluetooth connection was terrific. It did better than much more expensive watches I’ve tested.
Notifications came through reliably and full text notifications are supported. The text is quite crisp and readable although some might like the ability to increase the font size. The last 10 notifications are saved on the watch so if you miss a notification you can go back to it, select it and read the entire message.
Tilt to wake is also supported. This means the screen will light up when you turn your wrist to view the watch. Pressing any button will also lighten up the screen. Always on display isn’t supported but that would drain the battery.
Connectivity Grade: A
You can’t respond to text messages and there isn’t a mic or speaker. This isn’t a smartwatch that you can answer phone calls through but you will get your notifications and custom vibration patterns can be selected.
There are several watch faces to choose from including digital and analog. I particularly liked the one shown below that shows both my step count and the percentage of battery remains.
Not everything tested out well on the watch. The compass was inaccurate most of the time and I couldn’t get the fatigue feature to work for me. It always returned an error indicating that I needed to remain still but I was as still as I possibly could be.
7-31-19 UPDATE: After a firmware update the compass now works MUCH better. You can now calibrate the compass to improve accuracy.
So if you’re buying the watch for the compass feature, you’ll want to look to a different product. The Garmin Instinct is Garmin’s most affordable hiking watch and has the most accurate compass I’ve tested.
Also, I want to state again that step tracking was sometimes quirky but I’ve experienced quirky behavior on much more expensive watches too. Still, there’s room for improvement.
The FitVII supports the following workouts/activities:
- Fast Walk
- Run (regular running with no goal, VO2 Max Test, endurance run, fat burning run, target calorie goal, target time, target distance)
- Outdoor Bicycling
- Table Tennis
- Sit-ups (counts reps)
- rope-jump (counts reps)
- Pool Swimming
Other helpful features are distance and heart rate alerts that can be customized. GPS can be turned on or off for outdoor activities. Pool swimming is supported including lap counts. When doing sit-ups it did a perfect job counting the number of sit-ups I actually did.
There’s also quite a bit of data provided after your activities on the watch and through the mobile app.
Data provided on the watch and in the app after a Brisk Walk using GPS:
- Total Distance
- Active Distance (auto pause)
- Total Time
- Active Time
- Pause Time
- Total Energy
- Active Energy
- Avg. Pace
- Max Pace
- Avg. Speed
- Max Speed
- Avg. Cadence
- Max Cadence
- Active Steps
- Avg. Heart Rate
- Graphical Full Color Heart Rate Curve
- and time spent in the following heart rate zones: routine, warm-up, fat-burning, aerobic, anaerobic, and extreme.
- Built-in GPS+GLONASS
- 7 run modes including a VO2 Max Test
- Waterproof for pool swimming (counts laps)
- Touchscreen and Physical Button Operation
- 24/7 HR monitoring
- Sleep Tracking
- 17 activities supported (see above)
- 7-day battery life
- Supports notifications
- Stopwatch, flashlight, and alarm clock feature
- 1.3″ full color display
- Available in either black or gray
Overall I have been happy with the performance of this affordable GPS smartwatch. Pros include: reliable notifications, a very good heart rate sensor, readable screen, decent sleep tracking, comfortable fit and a nice look, a decent built-in GPS, and a lot of features for the money. Cons are sometimes inaccurate step counts, inaccurate compass, and a fatigue test I couldn’t get to work.
If you’re looking for a GPS smartwatch that is affordable this is worth a try. I’ve had a good experience with it and honestly I often find flaws and quirky behavior with more expensive GPS watches too.
This is a watch that would make a great gift. It doesn’t look or feel cheap and more importantly it doesn’t function like a cheap watch. For the casual runner, cyclist, or person that just wants to track their fitness it’s a good choice for under $100.
View the FitVII GPS Smartwatch on Amazon.
Shop for other watches mentioned:
Apple Watch Series 4, Amazfit Bip, Garmin Instinct, Garmin Fenix 5
>>Shop at Moosejaw for Your Outdoor Adventures!