Xiaomi is now firmly in the smartwatch game and after making its first Mi Watch available in China only, it’s made its new round Mi Watch and square Mi Watch Lite easier to get hold of outside of China.
Like the original, it’s a pair of smartwatches that won’t blow a big hole in your bank balance and still offers a rich array of features whether you want somewhere else to read notifications or to keep tabs on your heart.
We’ve spent testing time with both watches now to get a better sense of how they match and what you can expect to lose or gain by going for the Xiaomi Mi Watch over the Mi Watch Lite.
Xiaomi Mi Watch vs Mi Watch Lite: Price and availability
Before talking specs and what these watches are capable of, let’s talk cash-money and availability.
The first thing to mention here is that both watches are available in UK and Europe but have yet to be properly released in the US. We have UK/EU prices and this is how much you can expect to pay for them:
Xiaomi Mi Watch: £119.99
Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite: £49.99
So that’s a sizeable difference in price, even if they still both do still sit at the more affordable end of the market. So what does paying more or less get you? Let’s get into it.
If you live in the US, you might see these devices pop up via resellers. Buying a global edition can be problematic when it comes to syncing with your phone. There are workarounds, but if that’s already sounding like too much effort then you may want to consider something else.
Xiaomi Mi Watch vs Mi Watch Lite: Design
The first big difference is that look. One’s round and the other is square. The round Mi Watch is the superior device and packs a 45mm case that measures in at 11.8mm thick and weighs 32g. The cheaper, pared back Mi Watch Lite features a 41mm sized case that measures in at 11.9mm thick.
Both use plastic cases, but they certainly don’t feel like cheap watches, and made to offer smart looks and still be well-equipped for exercise.
You’re getting removable straps here too, though the way you remove them differs. The Mi Watch uses a pin mechanism, while the Lite uses a button system that can feel a little fiddly to release those bands from its case body.
The next big difference lies with the screens these watches are packing. Ultimately, spending a little more gets you a superior touchscreen display.
While the Mi Watch Lite does offer a good screen for the money as well. The bigger Mi Watch hosts a 1.39-inch, 454 x 454 AMOLED display while the Lite packs a smaller 1.4-inch TFT LCD display.
The Mi Watch’s display has all of those nice qualities you associate with a good AMOLED screen, whether it’s colours and brightness. The Lite’s colours and overall quality doesn’t really match up, but compared to rivals such as the Amazfit Bip U it’s a good quality screen.
The way you interact with those displays differs too. Where the bigger Mi Watch reacts to swipes and taps, you’ll need to use taps to change screens on the Lite and it can be a tad unresponsive at times, particularly during exercise.
Away from the screens, the Mi Watch has two physical buttons as opposed to the Lite’s one, with that extra button acting as a shortcut to workout tracking.
They match for water resistance, with both slapped with the same 5ATM rating making them safe for swimming and being submerged in water up to 50 metres depth.
If we had to pick one we actually like wearing, the Mi Watch would get our vote. The Lite isn’t a bad looking watch for the price, but it misses out on that crisper screen tech and that lighter design.
Xiaomi Mi Watch vs Mi Watch Lite: Health and fitness tracking
Xiaomi has sought to make both of its watches capable of behaving like fitness trackers, sports watches and even delving into health monitoring too. You’ll just have to sacrifice some of those features when you drop down to the Mi Watch Lite.
We’ll start with the Mi Watch, which includes a heart rate monitor, full mapping satellite coverage including GPS, Glonass and Galileo, accelerometer and gyroscope motion sensors and an air pressure sensor. These sensors unlock the ability to track steps, monitor sleep, continuously monitor heart rate, send out heart rate alerts, monitor stress and take blood oxygen measurements.
On the flip side, the Lite has largely similar sensors, but drops to dual satellite support for mapping outdoor activities, stress tracking, SpO2 measurements, automatic workout detection and the Firstbeat-powered training effect and recovery insights that make the Mi Watch a more valuable watch if you take your exercise time a little more seriously.
When it’s time to track workouts, the Mi Watch promises 11 workout modes compared 117 workout modes and 17 core workout modes to cover a wider range of activities.
Accuracy and performance-wise, we found it was a bit of a mix bag. For outdoor tracking using GPS, they were both pretty evenly matched, with inaccuracies starting to creep in the longer you worked out for. Indoors, the Mi Watch offers more detailed tracking for indoor workouts, so that would be a reason choose it over the Lite.
Heart rate monitoring for exercise faltered at high intensity on both fronts, though continuous monitoring and on the spot measurements were generally more reliable on the Mi Watch Lite for us – which may be down to the smaller case providing a more snug fit. Thus, that could differ for those with larger wrists. However, questionable HR monitor performance does undermine some of the richer training insights on the Mi Watch.
Both offer similar fitness tracking and sleep monitoring experiences, though if you want the richer sleep data, it’s the Mi Watch you want. They do little to motivate you other than idle alerts, but viewing data on the watch including most recent sleep is consistent across both watches.
So if you want a more feature-rich sports tracking and health monitoring experience, you’re going to find more to your liking on the Mi Watch. That being said, if you care mainly about fitness tracking staples and tracking things like swimming (pool and open water), running and cycling, then the Lite will still give you that.
Xiaomi Mi Watch vs Mi Watch Lite: Smartwatch features
While there’s a bigger emphasis on health and fitness skills on both, they do behave like smartwatches. Maybe not in the same way as an Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch, but they’ll tick off some of those staple features.
Both watches work with Android and iOS devices. When you pair up a Mi Watch you’ll be able to view notifications, select from over 100 watch faces, control music playing on your phone, view weather forecasts, view incoming alerts and silence incoming calls. There’s also Amazon Alexa on board and a smartphone camera remote feature that’s currently in beta.
The Mi Watch Lite gives you notifications too, music playback controls, over 120 watch faces, weather updates and the ability to set alarms.
Ultimately, the experience of using these features are consistent across both, but you do have that addition of Alexa and a bigger display on the Mi Watch that makes it a nicer place to glance at messages and notifications and is better suited to show off those incoming notifications.
Xiaomi Mi Watch vs Mi Watch Lite: Battery life
When it comes to battery life, these are smartwatches thankfully, you won’t have to charge everyday like some other smartwatches out there.
The Xiaomi Mi Watch promises the bigger battery numbers with Xiaomi using a 420mAh promising it can go 16 days in typical usage mode, 22 days in long battery mode and 50 hours of GPS battery life. Those modes are based on enabling features like continuous heart rate monitoring and stress monitoring and how many activities you track with GPS.
The Mi Lite uses a 230mAh battery and that promises 9 days in typical usage and 10 hours of GPS battery life and will charge from 0-100% in two hours.
Based on our experience, these watches are good for a week when you make regular use of the key features. In the case of the Mi Watch, you’ll need to steer clear of always-on mode and how regularly you monitor your heart rate as that’ll impact battery life.
Which should you buy?
So which one is best? Well, it really depends on how you look at it. With the more expensive Xiaomi Watch, you’re getting a better look, screen and more in the way of fitness and health monitoring features.
That being said, when you look at where the Mi Watch Lite sits and the competition around it, it more than holds its own. They both offer similar smartwatch features and software experiences too. Xiaomi has done a good job trying keeping things consistent across both watches.
If you don’t have a lot of money to spend, like the idea of a square smartwatch and care more about fitness tracking than smartwatch features, then you’ll find something to like in the Lite. If you prefer having the feel of a top end smartwatch and richer sports features, then the Mi Watch is the one to look at.