Looking for a killer, affordable smartwatch that can hang during any workout, in any weather conditions? Then you’ve come to the right place.
With its adventure-ready, Spartan-worthy design, the Amazfit T-Rex Pro delivers key metrics (from HRV to blood-oxygen saturation) that’ll enhance your training so you can get faster, fitter, and more strategic. Better yet, it does everything pricier sports watches do at a fraction of the cost, and it’s durable as hell. Here’s how we tested it, and why it’s our favorite training companion under $200 for any Spartan Race.
The Backstory: Why Not All Sports Watches Are Equal
As a runner for almost 20 years, I’ve been through my fair share of sports watches, and thank God innovation has only improved. First, I snagged a $20 cheapo (can’t even remember the brand) with start/stop, lap and light functions when I was 14. It worked fine for my crushing high-school cross-country races on a $7/hour video-store-job budget.
But, for robust training data like HRV, GPS tracking or blood-oxygen saturation—as serious Spartans know—you (typically) have to pay up.
So, in my early 20s, I opted for the Garmin Forerunner 220 at $249 to race my first trail half-marathon. It came with an accompanying heart-rate chest-strap monitor, and though not technically a smartwatch, I was still stoked to be able to set timed intervals, get altitude stats post run, and track my heart beats per minute (even if wearing a strap under a sports bra is uncomfortable AF).
That was then, this is now—and smartwatches have gotten way smarter.
This year, I bought a bib for my first 50K ultra marathon slated for November. The course runs around Moab, UT, over harsh desert slickrock and covers 1,000-feet of elevation gain. At 31+ miles of rugged trail, it’ll be no joke. So, like a sucker gear junkie who’s training hard to race harder, I blew $750 on a Garmin Fenix 6S Pro.
Being a frugal athlete who beats the hell out of gear, it just about killed me to hit “purchase” on such a pricey piece. And the truth is, my intuition was right. I’m not knocking Garmin here, but I didn’t really need to drop that dough to get the same training bang-for-buck in smartwatch function.
The Amazfit T-Rex Pro: Best Smartwatch 2021 for Under $200
Enter the Amazfit T-Rex Pro. Its military-grade toughness makes it more durable than most, and it can withstand temps up to 158°F and as low as -104°F (good news for Arctic Circle or Death Valley enthusiasts.) It’s also ultralight at only 59.4 grams including the strap (most other brands weigh around 80g), and has over 100 different sport modes for versatility—ideal for OCR when you’re doing everything from flipping tires, to crushing single track, to bagging vert.
The Test: T-Rex Pro Put Through the 50K Training Wringer
Ever the skeptic, (a sub-$200 smartwatch that can match my Garim in metrics, really? Yeah, right...) I took this ticker out for several 10-15+ mile runs over the course of 30 days. I hauled up and down Colorado’s most brutal Rocky Mountain terrain in temperatures as high as 90°F and as low as 40°F. With it strapped to my wrist, I charged through high-alpine snow fields, icy stream crossings and swampland during ass-kicking vertical climbs for hours on end. I tracked speed intervals, hill workouts, HIIT sessions and miles of cross training in the pool. To my delight, it stepped up and performed exactly how I needed it to. Here’s what I liked most about the Amazfit T-Rex Pro, as a serious endurance athlete who has zero time or tolerance for B.S. gear that won’t do.
1. It’s (Actually) Affordable
Look, these are crazy financial times—the pandemic stung people’s pockets worldwide. But the T-Rex Pro, delivering all metric capabilities that OCR athletes need, clocks in at just $179 (or cheaper, if you buy it during the Father’s Day flash sale). I have no problem spending almost $200 on a pair of solid trail runners or a hydration vest that supports my intra-workout fueling. But I also need to know how far, hard and high I’m running to hit my goals and stay on target for race day. Therefore, a smartwatch with reliable GPS, HRV and altitude stats is essential to my training. My takeaway? With the Amazfit T-Rex Pro’s features, I don’t need to spend a better part of a grand to make it happen.
2. It’s Comfortable AND Withstands a Spartan-Worthy Beating
OCR athletes need a smartwatch that can both track their gains and take a whipping. A glass face that’s banged around on wall climbs or scraped along barbed wire won’t hold up for long. But the T-Rex Pro is a titanic combination of practicality, strength and comfort, with its shock-resistant outer casing that’s ideal for ferocious Spartans. The tough silicone strap features a sweat-wicking, breathable design so there’s no annoying chafe, and its lightweight build means you can wear it 24/7, worry free.
3. It’s Primed for Burly Backcountry Training
Serious Spartans pursue savage terrain like it’s their job. Why? Because what else better prepares you for the challenges of OCR than throwing yourself into the backcountry to test your body and mind? The more vert, the tougher the terrain, the longer the trail, the happier the athlete. Finding boulders to haul around is just a bonus. The Amazfit T-Rex Pro draws from four global navigation satellite systems for precise tracking, and the clarity of the 1.3-inch HD AMOLED color screen (with an always-on display) ensures that you don’t have to stop what you’re doing to check crucial information. And better yet: its up to 18-day typical usage battery life makes it durable long term for insane adventures. Bottom line: this watch has endurance to match your own.