Forget the Google Pixel Watch 2 — I found a great alternative

A person wearing the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro.
Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro
MSRP $290.00

Score Details

DT Recommended Product

“If the Google Pixel Watch 2 is too small for you, the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro is exactly what you’re looking for.”

Pros
  • Two-day battery life
  • Very fast charging
  • Great performance and software
  • Big, bold design
Cons
  • Only one case size
  • No IP rating

You know the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for?” Well, I think it may be true. Over the past week, I’ve been wearing the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro. It is much bigger than the Google Pixel Watch 2, which is a bit too small.

The trouble is, this one is really a bit too big for my wrist. Yes, I know I’m hard to please, but the more I wear the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro, the more it feels like the anti-Pixel Watch 2, and the more I think it is a worthy alternative to Google’s vastly improved — yet terribly dainty — smartwatch.

All about the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro

The side of the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro on a person's wrist.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro, size issues aside, has turned out to be one of the best smartwatches of the year. It uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon W5+ Gen 1 platform, just like the Mobvoi Ticwatch Pro 5, and it’s an absolute powerhouse. The Pixel Watch 2 uses the Snapdragon W5 chip, where Google chose a different, lower performance co-processor to go with it, compared to the higher spec one that comes as standard with the W5+ chip. It really makes a difference as the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro is a rocket ship, even compared to the speedy Pixel Watch 2.

It’s great to see more wearables use Qualcomm’s latest range of suitable chips, and perhaps even better to see Xiaomi has used Google’s Wear OS 3.5 software for the Watch 2 Pro instead of its own proprietary software. It pairs with Xiaomi’s Mi Fitness app, I’ve been using it with the Google Pixel 8, and everything from initial setup to downloading apps has been faultless. The app itself is straightforward and logically laid out, reminding me more of Samsung Health’s approach to data than Fitbit’s.

The Jumble watch face on the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The heart rate sensor on the back also monitors blood oxygen and stress levels, plus the watch will measure your Body Composition, just like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6. Is there anything missing from the specification? It doesn’t have extensive safety features like fall detection, and there’s no ECG, but GPS is onboard, you can program in a contact to send an alert to in an emergency, and there’s the option to buy a model with an LTE connection too.

Inside is a big 495mAh battery, and with the always-on screen active and a single workout tracked, it will easily last for two days. However, Xiaomi disables all-day blood oxygen and stress monitoring by default, and turning these on means the smartwatch may need recharging the evening of day two if you track both sleep and a GPS workout. Still, this is great performance, especially considering it’s also driving a large, colorful screen.

The biggest difference over the Pixel Watch 2

The ambient time display on the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

OK, now that we’ve learned about the impressive specification, let’s talk about the size. Simply put, everything about the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro is big. On the front is a 1.43-inch screen with a 466 x 466 pixel resolution and a peak of 600 nits brightness. It’s wrapped in a massive 47.6 x 45.9mm case that’s 11.8mm thick, making it slightly larger and thicker than even the 47mm Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic. There’s nothing in the design to hide its overall massiveness either, as the screen has a thick, bold, flat bezel around it, and two buttons flank a large crown on the right-hand side.

It really is the anti-Pixel Watch 2, which embraces its minimalism to the point it has no standout design features to give it any character of its own at all. The Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro is the opposite, with its bold, black case, oversized crown, and textured edge on the unmissable bezel.

If the Pixel Watch 2 disappears on your wrist, the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro announces it’s there with a bellow. It’s not lightweight either at 79 grams with the strap. Its size and weight make it uncomfortable for me to wear all day and night, unlike the Pixel Watch 2.

But just like the Pixel Watch 2, the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro only comes in a single size. It’s huge, or nothing. While I personally prefer the statement-making look of the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro, it barely looks sensible on my 6.5-inch wrist. It’s the same conundrum I face with the Pixel Watch 2, just the opposite way around. Yet neither company gives me the choice to try a smaller or larger model, so everyone is stuck with just one option.

Using the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro

A person twisting the crown on the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

This is the third time in 2023 I’ve faced this situation, as the Mobvoi Ticwatch Pro 5 is also only available in a single size, limiting its appeal. But let’s say you’re fine with the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro’s size; what is it like to use? It’s excellent. Xiaomi has added its own interface to Wear OS, and it closely mirrors its own MIUI interface found on Xiaomi’s phones with lots of colors, big fonts, and clear typefaces that make seeing and interacting with the smartwatch easy. The crown can be rotated to navigate the menus, while a long press calls up Google Assistant. Swipe left or right to view different informative tiles, plus there’s the option to add many additional ones to the list.

It took me a while to get used to one interface difference over other Wear OS smartwatches, though, as a swipe up on the screen shows Quick Settings and a swipe down shows your notifications. This is the opposite of most other smartwatches, and I can’t see any functional reason why it has been altered. But it can be forgiven when the software is so fast, with everything from Google Maps to YouTube Music launching and reacting instantly.

The screen sometimes needs a bit of a prod to register an action, but it’s mostly when the smartwatch has just woken up, and Raise-to-Wake needs to be active if you want to see notifications when they arrive without tapping the screen. This will drain the battery a little more, as will activating automatic workout detection. The haptic vibration is subtle but noticeable, however, there’s sadly no way to alter the intensity if you’d like it a little more pronounced.

I like how fast the battery charges. The magnetic puck has two locating pins so it snaps securely to the back of the watch, and in my tests, it usually beat Xiaomi’s promise of recharging in 45 minutes by doing so in just 40 minutes. When you then consider the battery has the ability to last two days under many circumstances, the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro never feels like a burden, especially when the powerful chip makes the software so effortless too.

Workout and health tracking

Workout mode on the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The optical heart rate sensor on the back measures heart rate and blood oxygen levels, both of which can be active all day. There’s a skin temperature sensor that also assists with menstrual cycle tracking. While there’s no ECG feature, it does return a body composition measurement. Open the app, touch the two buttons at the same time, and less than 30 seconds later, the smartwatch returns data including body fat, muscle mass, water, bone mass, protein, and your BMI. Xiaomi makes it clear it’s not medical advice, but it could help track improvements over time. It’s arguably a feature that will be more useful to more people than an ECG.

There are 150 activities to track, plus built into the watch’s software are a variety of guided running workout sessions to follow, along with guided relaxation sessions. Starting a workout is performed through the app or from a dedicated Tile, but unfortunately, there’s no obvious way to personalize the Tile to show your favorite workouts, and because there are so many, it can be a little time-consuming to find the one you want if it’s not walking or running. That said, it’s fast and easy to get things going — just be aware Xiaomi also has a voice guidance system that’s active by default, so it will shout your stats to everyone around you unless you turn it off.

The Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro’s case is made of stainless steel, and there’s a choice of either the rubber strap seen in our photos — or a leather version attached to a silver case. It all feels very solid and durable, but there’s no IP rating or military standard certification for toughness, so it makes do with 5ATM water resistance which means it’s fine for swimming.

The Mi Fitness app presents its data clearly, and there’s plenty of depth and information. It’s great for casual and semi-serious exercisers, but anyone really into running may want to look at a smartwatch like the Garmin Forerunner 265, or multi-sports fans may prefer the Garmin Epix Pro (Gen 2).

A bargain alternative to the Pixel Watch 2

The Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro's case back and sensor.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

You can probably tell I’m taken by the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro, but I haven’t gotten to the best part yet. In the U.K., it costs 240 British pounds, which is $290. That’s 110 pounds less than the Google Pixel Watch 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic, making it superb value for money. Even the LTE version is just 290 pounds, or about $350.

The adoption of Wear OS 3.5, with its improvements over previous versions, makes the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro far more appealing than models with Xiaomi’s proprietary software. Plus, it’s one of the few smartwatches to use the highest performance Qualcomm chip available for wearables too. The fact it all works so faultlessly and then costs less than the competition makes it hugely exciting.

A person wearing the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

What a shame the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro joins the Pixel Watch 2 and the Ticwatch Pro 5 in only offering a single case size, like it or not. I’m not going to bang on about why this is shortsighted when it comes to watches again, as I’ve already had plenty to say about the matter.

But if the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro suits your wrist, it’s available to buy where you live, and you feel the Google Pixel Watch 2 is too small, then it could just be the ideal smartwatch for you.

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