It was only a few months ago that we posted our review of the first Zepp-branded smartwatch — the Zepp E Circle. Now we’re back with the Zepp Z review: a second, more premium watch from the fledgling Amazfit sister brand.
The Zepp Z is a bigger smartwatch with a classic watch style. It beefs up the internals, adds in some new features, and fixes a few of the problems we had with the Zepp E Circle. However, all those new features and tweaks increase the price by a significant amount. It’s a bold move, and we’re not sure if it was the right one.
Design and hardware: Going for the classic motifs
The Zepp E Circle’s design made it the nicest smartwatch I’ve ever used. It was thin, light, and its curved display gave it a premium look and feel that few smartwatches can match.
The Zepp Z delivers a similar design pedigree but in a whole new style. Instead of thin and light, the Zepp Z is thick and heavy, with a classic look. If the Zepp E Circle was trying to be an Apple Watch-esque minimalist fashion statement, the Zepp Z is going after the consumers who like watches with that timeless, evergreen style.
Personally, I’m more drawn to the Zepp E Circle design, but I can’t deny that the Zepp Z is a beautiful timepiece. It’s carved from a single piece of polished titanium alloy. The dial has engraved 60-second ticks all around it, which harkens back to old flight watches. The whole thing feels like a watch that’s gifted to you by your father, which was gifted by his father before him.
Unlike the Zepp E Circle, the Zepp Z features a rotatable crown on the right side. It has a smooth black finish on the top and ridged metal sides that feel great between your fingers. The crown turns smoothly and allows you to more accurately control the various smartwatch features. A press of the crown turns on the watch face or opens the app list if the face is already illuminated.
Underneath the crown, you’ll find a customizable button. By default, it pulls up the activity tracker app, which gives you quick access to running, cycling, swimming, climbing, and other activities. Above the crown, you’ll find what appears to be another button, but it is inert. It doesn’t turn and it doesn’t press, making it just for show. I have no idea why Zepp went this route as it seems it would have been very easy to make this another customizable button. Strange.
Finally, the Zepp Z review unit we received came with a brown leather band. Unlike the leather band that came with the Zepp E Circle, this one is thick and tough. It felt much more like what I expect a leather watchband to be. It felt great on my wrist and was one of the first times I’ve been totally happy with the default band of a smartwatch.
Zepp Z review: Specs
454 x 454 resolution
550 nits peak brightness
|Case||45.9 x 45.9 x 10.75mm|
~40g (without strap)
TC4 titanium alloy construction
Included band is brown leather
Magnetic wireless charger included
Wireless charging support
|Connectivity||Bluetooth 5.0 LE|
|Durability||5ATM water resistance|
|Extras||Amazon Alexa support (inactive at launch)|
Offline voice command support
Smartwatch features: A lot to love, a lot missing
The Zepp Z introduces a bunch of features that the Zepp E Circle lacked. Probably the biggest addition is built-in GPS support, including GLONASS support. This enables you to head out for a run or bike ride without your phone and still get GPS tracking.
Related: The best GPS running smartwatches
In addition to GPS support, the Zepp Z supports wireless charging. In the box, you’ll find a magnetic charging pad with a USB-A connector (there’s no charging brick). You can use this or any of the wireless charging pads you’ve got around the house to charge your watch. It also works with reverse wireless charging systems on certain smartphones. It worked great with my Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra.
However, charging is probably not going to be on your mind very often. The 340mAh battery in the Zepp Z lasts for an ungodly amount of time. I charged it to full when I took it out of the box and then started wearing it at 8:00 AM last Monday. By 8:00 PM the following Sunday, the watch was at 8%. I probably could have made it all the way to 8:00 AM on Monday to get a full week out of it. However, that would have meant turning off sleep tracking or taking the chance that it would die before I woke up. Still, that’s nearly a week of battery life with tilt-to-wake on, multiple app notifications throughout every day, all-day step/stress/sleep/heart rate tracking on, and a pair of hour-long bike rides with GPS tracking. Not bad at all.
Finally, the Zepp Z also introduces voice commands. There are offline voice commands very similar to what we saw on the Amazfit GTS 2 and GTR 2 (Amazfit is a sister brand of Zepp). These voice commands allow you to pull up apps, set alarms, change settings, etc., using just your voice. The voice command prompt is activated every time you lift-to-wake (you can disable this if you don’t want it). Inside the Zepp app, you can find a list of all the possible commands.
It’s a fun feature but a little cumbersome. Since there’s no AI or machine learning happening, you need to be very specific with your commands. For example, if you want to check your alarms, you can’t say “Show alarms” or “Open my alarms.” You need to specifically say “Open alarm.” Personally, it would take me quite a while to memorize all the specific commands, which is a bit annoying.
The Zepp Z comes with proprietary offline voice commands out-of-the-box and will get Amazon Alexa support in the future.
Thankfully, the watch will eventually support Amazon Alexa voice commands. This is promised through a future software update. However, we couldn’t test this out. We don’t review device aspects that aren’t yet active, so we can’t say much about it. A more robust voice command system would be nice, though.
Outside of these new features, the Zepp Z has all the same features as the Zepp E Circle. Those include app/call/text notifications support, Find My Phone, music controls, dozens of free watch faces, weather, etc. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t include third-party app support of any kind, NFC, or onboard storage. It also has no keyboard or dictation support (even though there’s a microphone). That means you can’t respond to any notifications. Your notifications also don’t sync across your watch and phone, so if you swipe something away on your watch it will still be on your phone.
Fitness and health tracking: All over the place
Marketing for the Zepp Z puts a big emphasis on its health tracking. On paper, there are a lot of features: steps, stress (using heart rate variability), sleep, and SpO2 (blood oxygen tracking). However, included features don’t really mean much if the accuracy of those measurements isn’t on-point. Unfortunately, just as with the Zepp E Circle, my Zepp Z review period proved that there are some big accuracy problems with this watch.
Let’s start with steps. For one day during this review, I wore both the Fitbit Charge 4 and the Zepp Z. For steps that day, the Fitbit recorded 3,175 steps (don’t judge me, there’s a pandemic going on). Meanwhile, the Zepp Z recorded 958 steps. Now, the Fitbit has a reputation of over-recording steps, so I’ll happily concede that maybe these two numbers are a bit closer than they seem. But still…a difference of 2,127 steps? That’s just crazy inaccurate.
GPS tracking is up next. Considering this is a new feature of the watch (and for Zepp in general), a lot is riding on this one. Unfortunately, tracking isn’t incredibly accurate. For this Zepp Z review, I put it up against the onboard GPS/GLONASS tracking of the Fitbit Charge 4. In the maps below, you can see that both trackers had me going through parks and buildings a few times, although the Zepp Z was the worst offender. See for yourself in the images below. Zepp Z is the blue line, Fitbit Charge 4 is the red line:
What about sleep tracking? The Fitbit recorded me having 58 minutes of REM sleep and 93 minutes of deep sleep that evening. The Zepp Z recorded 123 minutes of REM sleep and 44 minutes of deep sleep. Clearly, one of these two devices mistook nearly an hour of REM sleep for deep sleep or vice versa.
Finally, let’s analyze the heart rate data from the previously-mentioned bike ride. The Zepp Z had me with an average heart rate of 107 bpm while the Fitbit recorded my average at 145 bpm. Now, that bike ride was on a really chilly day and I have asthma, so I am certain my average heart rate was well above 107 bpm for that ride. Once again, the Zepp Z is coming up short, here.
Ultimately, Zepp still has a ton of work to do if it wants its smartwatches to be seen as accurate health trackers. These numbers are not encouraging.
The Zepp app: Better, but still needs work
One of the biggest complaints I had related to the Zepp E Circle was the onboarding process with the Zepp app. Thankfully, Zepp made this slightly easier. Setting up the Zepp Z went a lot smoother. I didn’t run into any sync issues between the app and the watch this time.
However, the Zepp app still asked me to tweak my phone’s settings to ensure none of its features would be blocked by the Android system. There are still no instructions for how to do this on a OnePlus phone (or Google, LG, or Motorola phones). There are also tons of translation issues and various aspects of the app are duplicated in multiple areas. All in all, the Zepp app needs a lot of work.
The Zepp app has already improved in just a short time, but it still has a long way to go.
It’s not all doom-and-gloom, though, as the app has a ton of potential. There are lots of settings tweaks, data charts, and other helpful information. You can easily sync the app’s data with other apps, such as Google Fit and Strava. It’s especially nice that you can control most aspects of the Zepp Z right in the app, such as setting an alarm (you reading this, Wear OS team?).
The bottom line is that the Zepp Z is only going to be as powerful as its companion app, and right now, that app just isn’t great.
Zepp Z review: Value, competition, and the verdict
When I finished my review of the Zepp E Circle, I gave it 3.5 stars out of five, which is an overall positive review. I noted that it was a gorgeous watch with amazing battery life, but had poor health tracking and a high price. I also dinged it for missing a ton of features, such as built-in GPS and wireless charging. However, some folks just want a great-looking watch that does the basics, and the Zepp E Circle ticks off those boxes.
Now, with my Zepp Z review finished, I’m leaving the score the same. Even though Zepp made this watch far better by including built-in GPS, wireless charging, voice commands, and an even bigger battery, it also raised the price by a whopping $100. So yeah, you’re getting a lot more watch with the Zepp Z, but you’re also paying almost as much for it as you would a Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 or an Apple Watch Series 6. When you factor in all the flaws still present here (no third-party apps, no NFC, poor companion app, poor health tracking accuracy), that’s just too much money.
If Zepp kept the price of this watch the same or at least close to the $249 price of the Zepp E Circle, my rating would be higher. With that in mind, if you can find this watch at a heavy discount, it’s worth a look. You certainly won’t be disappointed by its design or its battery life. Its upcoming Alexa support could potentially make it really useful too.