Review

Misfit Vapor X review: A beautiful Wear OS watch that doesn't quite get the job done

There's a lot of good that comes with the new Misfit Vapor X, which was announced in August. It comes in a stylish aluminum alloy chassis that weighs in at just 43g, making it comfortable to wear. It also has a beautiful AMOLED screen that's just so pleasant to look at.

But while the Snapdragon Wear 3100 chipset unlocks new power management options for the Wear OS device, it doesn't get the job done. I'll tell you right now that on more than one occasion in my time with the Vapor X, it couldn't get through the day. Unfortunately, that makes it a deal-breaker.

There's still a lot of good here though. I really do love the design, and Wear OS gives you what you need for a complete experience. Read on for our review.

Specs

Chipset Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100
Display 1.19-inch round AMOLED, 328ppi
Case size 42mm, 12mm thick, 43g
RAM 512MB
Storage 4GB
Battery 330mAh, charges to 80% in 50 minutes
Sensors Accelerometer, altimeter, ambient light, gyroscope, heart rate, microphone, NFC, GPS
Water resistance Water resistant up to 30M+10k stroke swim test
Material Aluminum alloy
OS Wear OS
Price $279.99


Day one

Design and display

I really like the design of this device. It's something that's a little bit different, but it's still stylish. And that's sort of what the Misfit brand stands for. The Fossil-owned company says that it's for the "round pegs in the square holes", and it sort of fits here.

Smartwatch design, in general, comes in two forms. I'd refer you to my reviews of the Fossil Gen 5 Smartwatch and the Fossil Sport, which represent each end of it. You can either get dressy or you can get sporty, and there isn't much in-between. This is important when you consider that fashion is one of the most fundamental parts of a smartwatch. You need one that matches you, that fits in with what you want to wear.

The model that Misfit sent me is black, although it also comes in colors like champagne, rose gold, and gunmetal. It's a clean design; the watch is round with flat sides. There are three buttons on the right, with a digital crown in the middle and customizable buttons on the top and bottom of that.

On the bottom of the device, there are two rings for charging. It's actually a fantastic solution. Fossil doesn't use wireless charging on its watches like some competitors do, and normally, I wouldn't like that. Many watches I've used with pin-based charging have issues over time, since the pins under the watch get dirty. But this watch has two rings, which can connect to the pins on the charger at any point. Being that Fossil owns Misfit, it's the exact same system as any other Fossil smartwatch. The bottom line is that with a larger surface area for charging, it won't get dirty as easily.

Using aluminum alloy, it weighs in at just 43g. It's not as light as the Fossil Sport, but it seems like the right blend of fashion and comfort. Any lighter, and Misfit would have had to use a different material. It's very comfortable to wear, not only because of the weight, but also because it's not too big or bulky, being 12mm thin.

The 328ppi AMOLED display is exceptionally pretty. It's also one of few smartwatches that I've seen with curved glass around the edges, giving it a more refined design. There is a bit of a bezel, something that's more noticeable on a device with a small chassis like a smartwatch. But you won't notice it with a black background on the watch face, since OLED screens provide true blacks.

The minimalist design of the Misfit Vapor X is reminiscent of the Moto 360, one of my favorite smartwatches of all time. It's got that clean, circular design that's beautiful but not in a flashy kind of way.

Wear OS

Overall, I'm not a big fan of Wear OS. It's not the prettiest operating system, and it has its shortcomings. The one reason that I love it is because it's Android. That means that it has Google apps and services, including Maps, and it's cross-platform. In fact, for most of my time using the Vapor X, I used it with an iPhone.

In using it with an iPhone, there weren't many disadvantages over using it with an Android phone. That's because Wear OS comes with its own Google Play Store, so I was still able to get all of the apps that I need. It still natively can receive text messages, it rings when calls come in, and you can control media. The only downside to using it with an iPhone is that it occasionally disconnects, in which case you have to open the Wear OS app and then go into notifications on the watch to reconnect it.

When you discount the fact that Wear OS sometimes feels like a square peg in a round hole, there's a lot of good. Every Wear OS smartwatch supports having an always-on display, something that Apple only mastered this year. It's integrated with Google Fit, which lets you set daily goals for movement. All of those things are the basics for what a smartwatch needs to do.

There's also a Find My Phone app that will ring your phone, and of course, Google Maps will give you turn-by-turn directions right from your wrist. You can also update the watch from the built-in Settings app, being that it connects directly to Wi-Fi.

The watch face is customizable. You can use any of the built-in watch faces or any number of them that are available on the Play Store. And then, if you swipe down from the top, you get quick settings, or you can swipe up from the bottom to get to your notifications. Swiping in from the left gets you Google Assistant, and then swiping in from the right brings you to Google Fit.

Oddly enough, the Vapor X doesn't seem to support Tiles, one of the newest features of Wear OS. These would normally be found by swiping in from the right, and you can customize them to show snapshots of the weather, your daily fitness tracking, and more.

Performance and battery life

The Misfit Vapor X includes a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 chipset, 512MB RAM, and 4GB of storage. In general, performance is satisfactory. I didn't have the same issues that I had with the similarly-specced Fossil Sport, so that's good news.

The Snapdragon Wear 3100 is Qualcomm's latest smartwatch chipset. It uses what Qualcomm calls big-small-tiny architecture, which is effectively taking big.LITTLE in phones and scaling it down for wearables. This unlocks new power management features, such as a moving second-hand on the or colors on the ambient display. The only problem is finding a watch face that actually supports it. The Snapdragon Wear 3100 still isn't the mainstream, so most of the watch faces you'll find are made for the Snapdragon Wear 2100.

The other issue with the Snapdragon Wear 3100 is that the core architecture is still Cortex-A7, the same that's been used since the very first Android Wear smartwatches. Those used the Snapdragon 400 chipset, and little has been done since to actually improve performance.

The real performance issues come from only having 512MB RAM though. I noticed in my review of the Fossil Gen 5 Smartwatch just how big of a difference a full 1GB RAM can make, and I noticed in the Fossil Sport just how much it can get choked up if there isn't enough memory.

And as I alluded to earlier, I do think that fashion is more important than performance in a smartwatch. It's important to remember what you're going to use it for. For me, the primary functionality is telling the time and getting notifications without pulling out my phone. The Misfit Vapor X does that fine. If it takes a bit longer to load apps and access certain services, I'm OK with that if the alternative is using something that's big, bulky, and ugly.

But one thing that's probably the most important is battery life. I ask for nothing more than the ability to get through the day. I don't mind charging it at night. Unfortunately, the Vapor X couldn't do that for me. On more than one occasion, it died on me midday. The good news is that it kicks into battery saver mode, where you can still tell the time but you won't get notifications.

There's a setting on the watch to automatically turn on battery saver mode at 9%. I just wanted to point that out because it's weirdly specific.

Conclusion

The Misfit Vapor X is a great Wear OS device, which has one big downfall: battery life. Like I mentioned, there was more than one occasion where it died on me in the middle of the day. And it wasn't even at the end of the day, leaving me to wonder just how it could have died so quickly when on other days, it was perfectly fine.

It's a real bummer too, because I absolutely love everything else about the Misfit Vapor X. The minimalist design fits the type of thing that I'd like to wear on a regular basis, and the AMOLED display is so pretty with its curved glass and vibrant colors.

I also appreciate Wear OS. I've used third-party smartwatch platforms and they all have major shortcomings, like the inability to get turn-by-turn directions or the inability to store music. Wear OS can do more, even if you're not downloading a huge catalog of apps through the Play Store. Because let's face it, most of us don't do that much on a smartwatch. We want to tell the time, get notifications, and a few other things that can probably only be described as niche.

I really do hope that Misfit updates the Vapor X to improve battery life, and I don't see why it would be impossible. After all, it was more inconsistent than anything else.

If you want to check out the Misfit Vapor X, you can find it on Misfit's website here for $279.99.

 

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