Michael Kors MKGO review: Sporty chic but MK misses mark

A solid smartwatch, but all style in the fitness department
Michael Kors MKGO
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The Michael Kors MKGO joins the company's line-up of smartwatches, with Google’s Wear OS on-board to drive the connected features.

While other watches in its collection like the Lexington 2 and Bradshaw 2 look more in line with the MK's brash and blingy brand, that changes with the MKGO. It has most of the same features, with a design better suited to the gym.

Priced at £249, the sporty MKGO does come in cheaper than Michael Kors’ more showy options. That price tag puts it more in line with Fossil’s own Gen 5 smartwatches and does make it cheaper to own than the Apple Watch Series 5 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 – however this is a Gen 4 device so the newest features are missing.

We’ve been living with Michael Kors’ first sporty smartwatch to find out if it manages to deliver great health and fitness features all while still wrapping things up in an attractive design.

Michael Kors MKGO: Design and comfort

Michael Kors Access MKGO front on

The MKGO boasts a smaller case than most of its other smartwatches. It's packing its smarts into a a 43mm case, which isn't quite as small as the 41mm Michael Kors Access Sofie Heart Rate, but is a drop down from the hulking cases on the Bradshaw and Lexington watches.

At 12mm thick, it’s by no means slender. That's a millimetre thicker than the Sofie and considerably chunkier than an Apple Watch in comparison. It's the materials here that make it more gym-friendly with Michael Kors swapping its usual metal straps and casing for a soft silicone strap and an aluminium case, and design-dominating stainless steel top ring.

As far as something that's better suited to a workout, it definitely achieves that. The MKGO is a nice, lightweight and comfortable watch to wear. It's the only smartwatch in the Michael Kors collection that you can say that about. In terms of still retaining that signature stylish look of a Michael Kors watch it does a good job of it. It's still a well-made smartwatch and the color combos are on trend to give it a sporty, stylish look.

Michael Kors Access MKGO case thickness

This is a smartwatch firmly aimed at women, though we'd like to think that there are models options here that can straddle that unisex look. You've got your pick of gold, pink, black and red tone looks.

Some of those options offer greater contrasting case and top ring combinations. If you want something that feels a bit more Michael Kors, those options are there.

Like other Michael Kors smartwatches, the 20mm straps are interchangeable with a simple pin mechanism letting you swap in something less sporty looking in a relatively speedy fashion.

The twisting crown on the right side of the watch is etched with the MK logo and will let you scroll through your notification stream or drawer of apps. It will also launch Google's smart assistant too.

The two buttons above and below are your shortcuts to your most frequently used apps, but out of the box is set up to launch Google Fit and the Michael Kors Access app.

Front and centre is the 1.19-inch, 390 x 390 resolution display and it's a good quality one. It's not the biggest screen you'll find on a smartwatch these days, with many pushing 1.3-inch in case sizes up to 46mm – but it's perfectly fine as far as brightness, sharpness and showing off that splash of color on those watch faces. You'll have no problem glancing at workout metrics on the move or simply checking in on your notifications.

On the case back you'll find the optical heart rate sensor and the place where you slap on the white magnetic charging puck to top up the battery.

If you want to go swimming with this watch, you can as along as you don't go deeper than 30 metres, which we are sure will be fine for most pool lovers.

Michael Kors MKGO: Wear OS

Michael Kors Access MKGO wear OS

Like its fellow Michael Kors watches, the MKGO runs on Google's Wear OS. That's powered by Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 3100 chipset, which keeps things slick and helps power management.

What's not so good is the fact it has just 512MB of RAM to help keep that software running smoothly. There's also 4GB of external storage – when a lot of newer Wear OS smartwatches, including Fossil Gen 5 devices, offer double that storage now.

Unfortunately that does mean that you get something that's a little laggy at times, whether it's scrolling through screens or simply waking up the display to check the time.

As far as what you're getting from Wear OS itself, you're getting mostly the full experience. Staple features like viewing notifications, controlling music playback and downloading apps are all there. There's Google Pay to make payments and the usual compliment of Google apps are on board.

Michael Kors Access MKGO notifications

It lacks a speaker, which is a feature found on Gen 5 Fossil smartwatches, such as the aptly-named Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle. So you can't make or take calls, hear responses to your Google Assistant queries or listen to audio sans headphones. Based on our experiences with the feature on other Wear watches, you're not missing out.

Michael Kors makes it mark with its onboard watch faces and its Access app. Michael Kors does a better job than most including watch faces that really channel its stylish, fashion-focused look. Despite its more sporty exterior, you still get some really nice, fun watch faces here that you can customize to add more data or just keep things simple.

That Access app hasn't really changed at all from its previous appearances on Michael Kors smartwatches. You can create watch faces from your social media pics, customise watch faces to go with your look. It's not an app that does anything groundbreaking, but as far letting you be more playful with your watch faces, it definitely achieves that.

Michael Kors MKGO: Fitness and sports tracking

Michael Kors Access MKGO Sports Tracking Modes

This is a sporty smartwatch – at least that's how it's being pitched to us. The features that let you track your activity though are no different from what you'll find on other less sporty Michael Kors watches.

There's built-in GPS to track outdoor activities like running and cycling. You also have the heart rate monitor to measure effort levels during those workout sessions. The waterproof design does also open up the ability to track swims too when you've downloaded an app from the Google Play Store that enables that.

To track those workouts, there's Google's suite of Fit apps. You can also download additional apps if you don't like using Google's ones. If you do decide to use Google's ones, you'll find something that's well suited for fitness tracking, but is a bit of a clunky mess for anything else. There's also no dedicated sleep tracking features, though battery life on Wear OS watches in general likely dictates its absence.

We put it to the run test to see what those sensors were made of, and it's much of what we've found on other Michael Kors smartwatches and other Wear OS watches.

GPS signal pick up can be a bit slow and will try to make use of your phone's GPS as opposed to the built-in sensor. Distance tracking accuracy is generally fine for a couple of miles and then it can have a habit of losing tracking accuracy and then picking up near the end of a run. That's something serious runners will want to avoid.

MKGO sample running data

Run tracking compared: Michael Kors Access MKGO (left) and Garmin Fenix 6 (centre and right)

If you're using Google Fit to track, there's annoying quirks like the data taking a few seconds to reappear when you take another glance down at your wrist. There is a nice array of stats on offer at least and they are easy to absorb. You will be better off downloading a third party app to get a better tracking experience overall though.

Michael Kors Access MKGO heart rate tracking data

Heart rate tracking compared: Michael Kors Access MKGO (left) and Polar H9 chest strap (right)

In terms of heart rate accuracy, it's a familiar story. It's another sensor that doesn't feel well built for exercise. On the spot readings were generally fine from an accuracy point of view. So if that's something you care about, you'll be well served.

When it comes to rely it on fitness, it's a familiar scenario where the heart rate readings start abnormally high for something like an even tempo run. It settles down after a while and is then more in line with the Polar H9 chest strap we put it against. Every now and then though, that heart rate can shoot up to 10-20 bpm out from a chest strap and you can kind of see that from the graphs above.

This watch may well have a sportier look than Michael Kors' other watches, ultimately though it serves up much the same when it comes to tracking.

Michael Kors MKGO: Battery life

The MKGO packs in a 350mAh battery that promises to get you through a day of use. If you factor in using features like all-day heart rate monitoring and putting that onboard GPS to use, you'll get that day and then you'll need to search out the charger. Those sensors and having the screen at maximum brightness do noticeably impact on the battery.

A 40-minute indoor run knocked the battery by 25%, which is not a particularly good showing. You're simply not getting the kind of battery life you'd get from sporty smartwatches from the likes of Garmin and Fitbit.

As is now customary with smartwatches running on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 3100 processor, you do know get a series of battery modes that are designed to get you using that watch for longer. Some are more useful than others. Custom mode is worth exploring if you want a better idea about the features you actually need turned on.

When the battery reserves ran dry up in normal smartwatch mode, it will switch to that basic watch mode unprompted, giving you a couple more days before it finally runs out of battery.



Michael Kors Access MKGO
By Michael Kors
In the MKGO, Michael Kors manages to deliver a smartwatch that from a design point of view at least, is a lot nicer to work out with. It's still does carry some of those more fashionable touches, which makes it a little easier to justify the price. When it comes to delivering reliable sports tracking, it's a better fitness tracker than it is giving you a Garmin or Polar sports watch in a more stylish frame. If you want a smartwatch that looks good and delivers on those sports features, you might be better paying a bit more for an Apple Watch Series 5 or saving some money and going for the Series 3. Ultimately, there are better smartwatches that offer a better all round package.

Hit
  • Comfortable to exercise with
  • Still retains Michael Kors look
  • Nice watch faces
Miss
  • Sports tracking not great
  • Average battery life
  • Laggy software