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Michael Kors Access Sofie Heart Rate review

A Wear smartwatch with fashion at its heart, now with added smarts
Michael Kors Access Sofie Heart Rate
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The Michael Kors Access Sofie Heart Rate is a Wear smartwatch that aims to pick up where it predecessor left off.

The first Sofie was a great seller for Michael Kors' parent company Fossil Group and one of our fashion smartwatch faves too. While it had already ushered out a more feature-packed smartwatch in the shape of the Michael Kors Access Runway, it's decided to give the popular Sofie the upgrade treatment too.

So with the Sofie Heart Rate you're getting a heart rate monitor, built-in NFC for contactless payments, onboard GPS to track your outdoor workouts and a waterproof design along with more advanced fitness tracking smarts.

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While you get those big new features, the design has stayed true to its predecessor. This is still an elegant, fashion-focused smartwatch with a look that works just as well in the office and on a night out as they do on the ‘gram.

With pricing ranging from $325 to $395, the Sofie Heart Rate sits with other smartwatches from the Fossil Group including the Emporio Armani Connected and is firmly knocking around in the same pricing realms as the Apple Watch Series 4.

So, is the Sofie Access Heart Rate more than just a pretty face? We've been living with the new Wear watch to find out. Here's our full verdict.

Michael Kors Access Sofie Heart Rate: Design and look

Michael Kors Access Sofie Heart Rate review

Michael Kors watches are unashamedly feminine and while the oversized design may not be to everyone’s taste, there’s no denying this is a good-looking smartwatch. The Sofie Heart Rate is available in a variety of precious-metal tones (we’ve been wearing the rose-gold option). If you want to up the bling stakes there are straps with pavé panels or you can dial it down with an embossed silicone strap.

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Each 41mm case (that’s 1mm smaller than the previous version) has that fine detailing around the topring and straps are interchangeable so you can mix it up to mirror your own style.

Size-wise, the watch we’ve been wearing was on the small side out of the box making it good for those with petite wrists. If you’re worried about fit however, it does come with additional links so it can be made larger as required. While it’s comfy to wear for everyday use, if you’re going to be wearing the Sofie in the gym you may find an additional sweat-proof strap comfier when working out. It would also sit more snugly for accurate heart-rate readings.

The touchscreen AMOLED display is impressively crisp and easy to read on all but the lowest battery saving brightness settings and there are plenty of watch face designs to pick from to really make it your own.

Unlike its predecessor, which had a single button for navigating the watch and powering it off and on, the Sofie Heart Rate now has three buttons dotted around the display. The top and bottom buttons can be customised to provide a shortcut to your most used screens while the middle crown, which wakes the watch screen, takes you to apps and launches Google Assistant. It can also be gently turned to scroll through screens and menus, which is handy when you're fingers are cold or wet and it's a bit more troublesome activating the touchscreen.

We should also note that unlike its predecessor, this is a waterproof smartwatch letting you take it for a dip up up to 30 metres depth. Whether you'd want to go swimming with it is up for debate, but it's good to know you do now have the option to jump in the pool with it.

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Michael Kors Access Sofie Heart Rate: Wear OS and features

Michael Kors Access Sofie Heart Rate review

Like the Sofie and the Runway, the Sofie Heart Rate runs on Google's Wear OS operating system. That means you're getting staple features like notifications, the ability to control music, Google Assistant, app support and all the usual frills that Google brings to the software party.

Essential reading: Wear OS super guide

Third party apps are easily downloaded and Google Assistant does make it easy enough to check simple things like the weather, search Google and perform a number of other tasks using voice control. During testing we found the Assistant prone to crashing, though this may be down the fact we were mainly using an iPhone as opposed to Android phone, which offers a more stable experience.

The big new features added into the mix are Google Pay, which allows contactless payment with a security pin activated when the watch is removed. Then there's built-in GPS so you can track workouts and use your location when the watch isn’t tethered to your phone. Last up is a heart rate monitor, which reads your heart rate every 20 minutes and at any given time with a simple tap. We found Google Pay worked seamlessly and was easily accessed from the main watch face, Heart rate and GPS are things we’ll discuss in more detail in the fitness section below.


The Sofie Heart Rate is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 2100 processor, as opposed to the newer 3100 processor, which may generally seemed to keep things running fine, though we did encounter some issues. Most notably, the touchscreen froze and became unresponsive every few days. This seemed to follow a flurry of notifications as though the software was struggling to keep up with demand. It was easily resolved by turning the watch on and off again but that's obviously not ideal.

One of the things we really like about the Sofie Heart Rate are the little Michael Kors touches that aim to make it feel a very different from owning another smartwatch. Alongside the numerous customisable watch faces, including animated options, available in Wear OS, Michael Kors mini-apps let you choose personalised images for the watch face from your Facebook and Instagram. You can also set different auto-timed looks for day and night modes and create a countdown to a big event such as a holiday, birthday or custom event which you can then display on your watch face.

These may be little things, but if you like your smartwatch to have a personal feel they’re a nice addition.

Michael Kors Access Sofie Heart Rate: Sports and fitness tracking

Michael Kors Access Sofie Heart Rate review

While the Sofie Heart Rate may not look like your standard fitness watch, daily steps, Move Minutes (given for all activities such as walking) and Heart Points (awarded for activities performed at a higher intensity) are easily viewed from the watch face via Google Fit and can be adapted to meet your goals. The addition of built-in GPS means you can now track your workouts without tethering to your phone and an optical heart-rate monitor means you’ve got additional workout metrics to analyse.

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That said, the watch is better suited to casual fitness fans who want to ensure they’re getting enough exercise as opposed to keen athletes. Those who take their running, cycling and fitness tracking seriously would benefit from the added features found in a dedicated sports watch from the likes of Garmin, Polar or Suunto.

While the onboard GPS sounds like a great addition, in practice we had issues finding a signal. This may be due to the built-up London streets, but on numerous occasions the GPS refused to lock on and we lost patience waiting, relying on the watch’s accelerometer to calculate distance instead.

Michael Kors Access Sofie Heart Rate review

GPS compared: Sofie Heart Rate (left), Garmin (right) | HR compared: Sofie Heart Rate (top), Garmin (bottom)

The only time we did successfully acquire a signal was waiting at the traffic lights 25 minutes into a 27 minute run. The watch’s accelerometer did a fairly adequate job of keeping track though, measuring 2.83 miles against the 3.07 miles recorded on a Garmin Forerunner watch. While obviously you can get GPS by connecting to your phone, if you’re a city dweller and tracking workout distance without your device is an important factor this may not be the best choice.

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Heart rate readings tended to be lower than those taken from a heart rate chest strap. On an interval training run the chest strap measured average heart rate as 165bpm whereas the watch had it as 156bpm. Maximum heart rate readings were closer at 183 and 188bpm with only 5bpm between the two. While wrist heart rates are never going to be as accurate as chest readings one thing that could improve this is swapping the strap for a sportier version. The bracelet was slightly loose on our wrist whereas a strap that sits snugly will give more accurate readings.

As mentioned earlier, the watch is swim-proof to 30 metres. We wore it during a stand-up paddle boarding session in the river no problem. There’s no option to track swimming natively through Wear OS as yet though, so this will need to be done via a third-party app.

Michael Kors Access Sofie Heart Rate: Battery Life

Michael Kors much likes its predecessor should offer around 24 hours battery life. This does of course depend on how you’re using the watch. If you’re using it with low brightness, checking the odd notification and occasionally using Google Pay you should get away with charging nightly.

If you’re using apps, tracking workouts or regularly checking heart rate however, you’ll probably want to pack your charger when you head to work. On heavy usage days where we ran or hit the gym, we found we only got around eight to 10 hours of use.

While the battery drain is inconvenient and the latest Snapdragon 3100 processor would have provided valuable energy saving efficiencies, charging is at least quick. It takes around an hour to charge from 0-100% when you drop it onto its magnetic charging disc.


Michael Kors Access Sofie Heart Rate
By Michael Kors
A fashion-focused watch, the Sofie Heart Rate is ideal for those who want something that looks good on the wrist and comes with a few added extras. Contactless payment, GPS and heart rate monitoring mean you can now do more with your watch, but it’s better suited to casual gym goers rather than sports fans. On the downside the battery life really isn’t the greatest and a few bugs and time lags mean the watch sometimes seems as though the software is struggling to keep up with demand.

Hit
  • Looks great
  • Google Pay works well
  • Customisable Michael Kors touches
Miss
  • Battery performance
  • Niggling GPS issues
  • Touchscreen freezing


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