Michael Kors MKGO Gen 5E review: style and smarts

A great-looking smartwatch with solid smart features
Michael Kors MKGO Gen 5E review
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Michael Kors was one of the first fashion brands to embrace wearable tech and the MKGO Gen 5E is the latest in the company’s line-up of smartwatches.

The new MKGO Gen 5E is lighter, smaller and has a silicone strap that looks and feels workout-friendly. Of course, that's relative. It's not in the same league as any Garmin or Apple Watch for fitness. However, it's focus is style – but if you want something that you can wear to a class or out for a run as get some basic data, it's got that in its locker.

This isn’t the first MKGO. We reviewed the original MKGO in 2020 and found that, although it looks good, it didn’t deliver in the fitness department.

We’ve put the latest version of Michael Kors’ sporty smartwatch to the test to see if it can serve up both style and substance this time around.

Price and comparison

Priced at $250, The MKGO Gen 5e is significantly cheaper than other options from Michael Kors – the latest Gen 5E Darci comes in at $349. But it’s also more affordable than the Apple Watch Series SE, Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 or Fitbit Versa 3.

Instead, it’s more similar in terms of both price and features to the Garmin Lily or Fossil’s own Gen 5 smartwatches, like the Fossil Sport. The Garmin Lily is a much more basic smartwatch and doesn't have GPS. But it can still track workouts well and is super-slim at just 34mm.

Michael Kors MKGO Gen 5E: Design and screen

Design and screen

All Michael Kors smartwatches are based on the brand’s regular watches but with a digital display. This design is perfect for anyone who loves the look of a traditional watch – so wouldn’t want to opt for an "techy" looking Apple Watch or Fitbit Versa – but wants smart features baked in.

Although the MKGO Gen 5E has a more minimal design than other smartwatches from Michael Kors, it’s still unashamedly fashion-focused with plenty of sparkles thanks to a pave-studded ring around the edge of the screen.

The screen is a full AMOLED display, but isn't as punchy or crisp as rivals – even on devices such as the Huawei Watch GT2 or Amazfit GTS 2 Mini. MK doesn't make its screen specs public, but visually, it's not as good as rivals. For may that isn't an issue, but means watch faces aren't as nice. It's also not always-on, so you will have a black screen on your wrist when the watch isn't in use.

Michael Kors MKGO Gen 5E strap

It has a 43mm rose gold casing that feels chunky at 11mm in thickness, but still sits flush on your wrist. This isn’t the smallest case from Michael Kors, but smaller than the Bradshaw 2 and Lexington 2, which were bigger and bolder in every way.

At 70g, it’s also lightweight compared to Michael Kors alternatives, which makes it a better option for fitness and more wearable every day than the hefty Darci Gen 5E at 80g.

Michael Kors MKGO Gen 5E: OS and Michael Kors extras

Michael Kors MKGO Gen 5E Wear OS

Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 3100 chipset powers the MKGO Gen 5E, and it runs on Google’s Wear OS operating system, so you’ll need to download Google’s Wear OS app onto your phone.

The Snapdragon 4100 is now out, but has only made it to one smartwatch so far – the TicWatch Pro 3. So the 3100 is a capable processor that will delivers a decent experience.

This means when paired with an Android phone or iPhone, you can read notifications from your wrist, access customisable watch faces, download apps, monitor your health and fitness and more.

Although it works well with Android and iPhone, there are some features you can’t get with an iPhone because it's Google's OS. This includes contactless payments using NFC via Google Pay, reading iMessages from your wrist and replying to messages from third-party apps, like WhatsApp. That means this is best paired with an Android smartphone.

Michael Kors MKGO Gen 5E: Fitness tracking and GPS

Michael Kors MKGO Gen 5E fitness tracking

The MKGO Gen 5E is marketed as a sportier Michael Kors option but has many of the same fitness tracking features. You’ve got many different types of fitness tracking onboard, including walking, HIIT, weight training and yoga.

There’s connected GPS to track outdoor activities, like cycling and running. The heart rate monitor tracks intensity throughout your workouts. And, because the MKGO is waterproof, you can also track lengths in the pool.

You’ll need Google Fit to track your workouts, as well as the Wear OS app, which can be a bit frustrating if you like all of your smartwatch notifications and fitness notifications in one place.

The smartwatch uses connected GPS, which worked well most of the time we used it for outdoor activities. Although occasionally it was more fussy than other devices and needed a little longer or a short walk in another direction to connect.

Michael Kors MKGO Gen 5E heart rarte

Google Fit works well, but it can take more than fifteen minutes for workouts, as well as just steps, to sync. We preferred a third-party app for tracking rather than relying on Google’s option.

When it comes to heart rate readings, the MKGO 5E is accurate for taking a quick reading on the spot. Heart rate readings while you’re working out are mostly accurate and stable too, which is an improvement over the first MKGO.

We put the MKGO 5E to the test against the Whoop Strap 3.0 in terms of heart rate tracking during a 30 minute spinning session. We kept checking in real-time and although the Whoop was quicker to pick up on elevating heart rate, the two devices were similar throughout – with a few bpm. The Whoop Band 3.0 recorded an average of 118bpm throughout the session, the MKGO 5E 122bpm and both recorded highs of 142bpm.

If you really start pushing yourself the heart rate sensor does struggle to keep up – but for general gym workouts or runs – it's a solid performance that will give you a good estimate of your exertion and make post-workout data relevant and useful.

The graph in the Whoop app showed much more sensitivity, but most people would be more than happy with the way Google Fit presents the data from the MKGO 5E – and you could always get a third-party fitness app if you wanted to try other options.

There’s also sleep tracking available, which you can view via the Google Fit app, but we’re not sure how useful this will be considering most people are likely to charge up the watch overnight so they don’t miss out on using it the next day.


Michael Kors MKGO Gen 5E: Battery life

Michael Kors MKGO Gen 5E battery life

The battery can last 24 hours, but that depends on how you use the smartwatch. For example, cranking up full-screen brightness, using GPS and taking heart rate readings will significantly drain it.

We got around 22 out of it with light fitness tracking and 20 with a workout.

Interestingly, a workout drains the battery quite quickly. We noted down 42% battery before a 30 minute spinning workout and that had gone down to 37% after – not a massive leap, but there’s no doubt the more you use fitness features and heart rate tracking the quicker the battery will run down.

Around a day’s worth of battery life is what you can expect from an MK smartwatch – as well as all Fossil smartwatches using the same tech. This is similar to some of the top smartwatches, including the Apple Watch Series 6, but still might be frustrating if you don’t want to charge it up most days.

If the battery is empty when you’re on the move, the watch automatically switches to basic watch mode; this gives you nearly another day’s wear. When you connect the watch to its USB charger, which easily clicks into place on the underside thanks to magnets, it takes only an hour to go from zero to one hundred per cent.


Michael Kors MKGO Gen 5E
By Michael Kors
The MKGO Gen 5E looks sporty compared to other Michael Kors watches but still has bags of style and a sprinkling of the brand’s famous bling. If you’re looking for a fashion-focused smartwatch that’s genuinely wearable every day and has some solid features built-in, the MKG Gen 5E might work for you. If you want best-in-class tracking and more battery life, you might have to ditch the bling and look elsewhere.

Hit
  • Great-looking design
  • Bold, bright screen
  • Some fitness features
Miss
  • Average battery life
  • Sports tracking could be better
  • Google Fit can be frustrating