TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS review

One of the best Wear OS smartwatches gets a modest rugged upgrade
TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS
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The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS takes one of the best Wear OS smartwatches available and gives it a rugged makeover.

Like the standard TicWatch Pro 3, it's powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 4100 processor, and it will run Google's big Wear OS 3.0 software update that's set to roll out to other compatible TicWatches in 2022.

Along with a more durable design, the Android and iPhone-friendly Pro 3 Ultra offers some additional health-centric features we've yet to see crop on TicWatches. New AFib detection will keep closer tabs on your heart rate without using ECG, and there's now a new mental and physical fatigue assessments at your disposal.

You do still of course get something that serves up staples like notifications, Google Pay and a music player that does now play nice with Spotify and YouTube Music to offer offline playlist syncing.

So how does it compare? Read our review to find out.


TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS key features:

  • 47 mm case size
  • Runs on Wear OS 2.0. Will be upgraded to Wear 3.0 in 2022
  • Powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 platform
  • 1.4-inch AMOLED and FSTN dual display
  • GPS, Beidou, Glonass, Galileo and QZSS satellite system support
  • 20+ workout modes
  • AFib detection
  • Mental and Physical fatigue assessments
  • Google Pay
  • MIL-STD-810G certified durability
  • Up to 72 hours battery life
  • IP68 waterproof rating

Price and competition

The Pro 3 Ultra comes in priced at $299.99/£289.99 matching the price of the TicWatch Pro 3 GPS. It's cheaper than the new TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra 4G model, with that extra cellular support only available in select countries.

Wareable verdict: TicWatch Pro 3 review

That's very much a mid-range price, coming in way under an Apple Watch Series 7 ($399/£379) but more than an Apple Watch SE ($279/269). A more relevant comparison is against the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, which costs $279/£269 for the 44mm model, and the Fossil Gen 6 ($299/£279) which is also destined to get Wear 3.0.

If you're looking to save money then look to the Huawei Watch GT 3 (£229/$TBC) or the Amazfit GTR 3 Pro ($229/£179) are appealing alternatives.

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra: Design and screen

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra: Design and screen

While the Pro 3 Ultra has clearly been pitched as a more durable version of the Pro 3, it definitely doesn't scream outdoor watch in the traditional sense and still feels more smartwatch than something like we've seen from Casio's outdoor Wear range.

You're getting a 47mm stainless steel case that measures in at 12.3mm thick and weighs in at 41g. That's essentially the same as what you'll get on the Pro 3 albeit the Ultra is just ever so slightly thicker. Though it's not the kind of extra thickness you can really notice.

There's a chronograph-style bezel that's slightly different in terms of look compared to the on one the Pro 3 with two physical buttons on the side of the case that while can twist, don't allow you to scroll through screens annoyingly.

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS screen

The watch carries a MIL-STD-810G military certification to give it extra protection against some rough and tumble. We took it out for some off-road trail runs and hikes and are happy to say it survived to tell the tale with no signs of damage. You're still getting the same IP68 water resistant rating as the Pro 3, which does mean it's safe to jump in the shower with it and is fit for swimming too.

That watch case is partnered up with a 22mm interchangeable fluro rubber strap, which is pretty much becoming the standard for workout-friendly smartwatches. It's been comfortable to wear day and night and there's been no cause to hastily remove it at any time.

Mobvoi has stuck to the same display setup as the Pro 3, giving you a 1.4-inch, 454 x 454 resolution AMOLED display matched up with a FSTN display, so you're getting that dual display setup and the ability to use the AMOLED option in an always-on mode as well.

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS on wrist showing watch face

We can't say the experience of using it here is massively different from the Pro 3, though Mobvoi has now added the ability to customise the backlight colour when the FSTN display is in use, to improve visibility in more challenging light conditions.

The screen is s nicely bright one that's sharp and worked well in brighter outdoor light. It's still good to see that when the FSTN is in play, you can still see some useful information beyond time, like daily step count and battery status and it will still dish out real-time metrics during exercise tracking too.

What we'd say about the Ultra is that its extra rugged credentials aren't really proudly on show here. You're getting a smartwatch that feels very much like the Pro 3 in looks, feel and stature. If you like the idea of an outdoor watch that doesn't look like one, then the Ultra's design will appeal. If you like your outdoor watches chunky and showy, then maybe it's not one for you.

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra: Wear OS and smartwatch features

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS Wear OS

The Ultra runs on Wear OS 2.0 and while Mobvoi hasn't officially confirmed it's going to get Wear OS 3.0 like the Pro 3 and the TicWatch E3, we'd say there's probably a good chance it will. Or at least, it's at least capable of running it.

Key to that it seems is being powered by the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 4100 platform, which along with promising general performance improvements over previous Qualcomm chipsets for Wear, it does seem to be the key factor in making Mobvoi's watches compatible.

So at some point in 2022, the Ultra can look forward to apps that have been rebuilt for new Wear and potentially some integration with Fitbit's fitness tracking features. Until then though, it's stuck in an old Wear world, which isn't as bad a life to live on a TicWatch.

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS notification

You're still getting Wear staples like notifications, NFC to enable Google Pay, access to Google Assistant and the Play Store to download third party apps. There's a music player here too and Spotify is preloaded to let you take advantage of the offline playlist syncing support the music streaming giant has recently enabled for Wear OS watches. There's still the same clunkiness around elements like how notifications are presented and Google's own suite of apps and it can overall feel disjointed in places much like it is the case on other Wear watches.

We say Wear on the Ultra isn't terrible because Mobvoi adds its own software flourishes here too. Along with including a host of its own health and fitness-centric apps to help you sidestep Google's ones, it's used a different app drawer to the standard Wear one and it's much nicer to interact with. If you like watch faces too, Mobvoi offers a nice collection of both digital and analogue ones with scope to venture into the Play Store for more.

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS menu

Performance-wise, we can have no real complaints here. Much like we found on the Pro 3, the Ultra has no horrible laggy moments when you swipe and tap through screens. Apps launch nice and swiftly and clearly that Snapdragon 4100 platform powering things really does its job here.

Off the watch you're still dealing with having to run two apps on your phone when it comes to making the most of your Ultra time. You'll need the Wear OS one first to get things set up and then also have the Mobvoi one to delve into your health and fitness stats too.

Overall, Mobvoi's strong software presence is welcomed here. It doesn't solve some of the issues that still plague Wear OS, but it does make it a nicer smartwatch to use on the whole. Now it's a waiting game to see when or if it gets new Wear and what exactly that's going to look like outside of what we've only seen on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 so far.

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra: Fitness and health tracking

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS fitness tracking

Everything we got in the Pro 3 makes the cut in the Ultra plus a few extras that may or may not be huge deal for some. We also wonder if these are features that could eventually make it to the Pro 3 as well as they don't seem to rely on different sensors to unlock them.

While you can take advantage of Google's own apps and third party ones, Mobvoi does also fill its watch its own apps to do everything from tracking heart rate, blood oxygen, hearing and sleep among other things. The Mobvoi apps are easy to use and well designed but the data they dish out is definitely questionable at times.

For fitness tracking, you've got a dedicated watch widget to let you glance at active time, steps and exercise time. We found step counts were in general in 500 steps within the daily step counts recorded on a Fitbit Charge 5 and you'll get some pretty standard inactivity alerts to prompt you when you've been sitting down for too long.

Step tracking compared

Step tracking compared: TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra (left) and Fitbit Charge 5 (right)

For sleep tracking, there's a dedicated TicSleep watch app to display information like sleep duration, efficiency, sleep stages, sleep heart rate and blood oxygen during sleep.

Turning on the latter will have a significant impact on battery.

We found the way sleep tracking is recorded odd, as it often broke the night into two or even three parts.

When it worked elements like sleep duration and sleep sdsstages seemed reliable on the whole, though resting heart rate felt too high.

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS review

Sleep tracking compared: TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra (left and centre) and Fitbit Charge 5 (right)

You have the capability to monitor heart rate and blood oxygen levels continuously with the latter supporting low SpO2 alerts.

Thankfully, we didn't seen any of those alerts and the the readings in general seemed consistent with a pulse oximeter.

For heart rate, we found resting heart rate and around 10-15bpm higher than readings on the Fitbit Charge 5, which offers pretty reliable resting heart rate readings based on our testing time. The readings seemed too high throughout our testing, which does undermine health credentials.

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS review

Continuous heart rate compared: TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra (left) and Fitbit Charge 5 (right)

One new feature on the health front is the Irregular Heart Beat (IHB) detection, which uses the onboard optical heart rate monitor to detect irregular heart rate patterns that may be in line with atrial fibrillation. Yet, it also states that this feature is not intended for medical use either.

Thankfully we had no abnormal alerts to report, but our question marks over the accuracy of the heart rate monitor does throw some doubt over how useful this feature is – even if just used a guidance to your the behaviour of your heart.

The TicHealth app that ties these and your fitness and sleep tracking data on the watch together is really nicely presented, giving you nice glanceable breakdown of your insights.

It's just a shame that some of the tracking is a little off at times.

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra: Sports tracking and heart rate accuracy

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS review

While the Ultra doesn't scream sports watch, it has all the features to take care of tracking your indoor and outdoor exercise time.

There's the typical motion sensors to track indoor activities like treadmill running and pool swims, there's a dedicated HIIT mode and you've got a barometer and support for the key five satellite systems to deliver accurate outdoor tracking.

TicExercise is your place to go to track exercise with over 20 workout modes available including running, cycling, indoor rowing, elliptical and more niche pursuits like badminton and Taekwondo.

For runs, we had a few teething issues around trying to get a quick GPS signal lock on, and often meant heading out on runs without a lock. However, it seemed to pick up during runs and in general offered similar distance tracking data and core running stats compared to the Garmin Enduro.

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS review

GPS outdoor run testing compared: TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra (left and centre) and Garmin Enduro (right)

TicWatch representatives confirmed there have been some issues around locking onto a GPS signal when you run without your watch paired to your phone, but this is something that will be addressed in a future software update.

Heart rate performance during runs was a bit of a mix bag. On some slower, steady runs average heart rate readings against a Garmin HRM-Pro chest strap monitor were very low.

It did perform better on other runs like a quicker session with some high intensity intervals thrown in where maximum heart rate was 4bpm off the chest strap for average heart rate and was just 1bpm off on maximum heart rate readings.

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS review

High intensity running compared: TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra (left and centre) and Garmin HRM-Pro (right)

Heading indoors for some workout time and for indoor rowing sessions the watch captures stats like heart rate and duration only.

We found heart rate was 2-3bpm out from a chest strap monitor for average heart rate and and 4-5bpm lower for maximum heart rate in most of rows.

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS review

Indoor rowing compared: TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra (left) and Garmin HRM-Pro (right)

Mobvoi has now added a 24-hour physical and mental status monitoring, which scores your fatigue and energy levels on a scale of 1-5, based on heart rate variability measurements.

Register higher on the scale for mental fatigue and you should probably consider relaxing. If you hit 5 on the energy level scale, you're refreshed and ready to take on the day.

These assessments are carried out throughout the day and you can see your scores plotted out on a graph in the Mobvoi app.

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS review

On a day where we'd worked out, but it wasn't a high intensity workout, I saw a lot of 4 and 5 scores on the energy scale.

On the mental fatigue scale, scores were mainly in the lower end of the scale. It seemed like pretty reliable insights on most days, but we'd definitely use this as guidance on fatigue and energy levels, as opposed to definitive take on what your body and mind is telling you you're prepared for.

Sports tracking on the Ultra is good, but not the best you'll find on a smartwatch. It tracked runs and indoor workouts well enough with a nice array of metrics on offer. It doesn't rival what you'll get on an Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 or a Garmin Venu 2, but it will serve most people well enough.


TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra: Battery life

TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS review

Of all the Wear OS smartwatch makers, Mobvoi has made the biggest strides to improving the battery performance expectations for smartwatches running on Google's Wear OS platform.

The Ultra packs the same 577mAh capacity battery as the Pro 3, claiming to deliver 72 hours in smartwatch mode, and up to 45 days in essential mode, which brings that FSTN display into greater use.

With the Pro 3, we found it managed to last for around two days, but the Ultra seems to have fared better for us. It lasted the quoted 3 days, with a 30% daily drop-off using it from morning and using it to track sleep.

That was with notifications enabled, and the screen not set to always-on mode. When you start to enable features like continuous heart rate monitoring or blood oxygen monitoring, then you'll get closer to 2 days, but the performance in general is good.

When you factor in using GPS, not a huge amount has changed, though it seems to hold up slightly better than it did on the Pro 3. An hour's worth of outdoor running dented battery by just over 10%. You're not getting Garmin, Polar or Coros levels of GPS stamina here and it's pretty much in line with the GPS performance we've seen from other Wear OS smartwatches we've tested.


TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS
By Mobvoi
The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra much like the Pro 3, offers one if not the best Wear OS experiences you can get right now. Yes, it's not Wear OS 3.0 (yet), but it handles those gripes we have about Google's OS platform better than others. That's particularly true of overall performance and giving you the best battery life on a Wear watch. Like the Pro 3 though, it's not perfect and some software and tracking quirks slightly let it down. It's by no means disaster here and if you're after a smartwatch with Wear that will get the new Wear, and want a slightly more durable look than the Pro 3, then it's one worth looking at.

Hit
  • Slick performance
  • Delivers on battery promise
  • Will be updated to Wear OS 3.0
Miss
  • Same Wear OS 2.0 frustrations for now
  • Some odd sleep tracking quirks
  • Slow GPS signal lock on at times
  • HR question marks