Thursday, July 25, 2024

This is the cheapest smartwatch I’ve worn in ages, and I’m really impressed

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

There are good homages and not-so-good homages. The CMF Watch Pro 2 is the good kind, which is excellent news because the first CMF Watch Pro was a bad one.

Contents

  • Never heard of CMF?
  • A homage to a watch, not a smartwatch
  • What is it like to use?
  • Get ready for the price

Let me explain why I’m fine with how this new, cheap smartwatch looks — and also why a cheap smartwatch from a brand you’ve probably never heard of until now deserves to be bought.

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Never heard of CMF?

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

It’s a safe bet that not everyone will have heard of the CMF brand, but I’m sure more people have heard of its parent company. CMF is a sub-brand of flashy phone maker Nothing (the eagle-eyed may have already spotted the CMF by Nothing branding on the smartwatch’s bezel). It has, until now, mostly flown under the radar with some cheap earbuds and mobile accessories. But with the release of the CMF Watch Pro 2 and the CMF Phone 1, that’s all about to change. Together, they may be the most exciting mobile device pairing of the year.

There’s a lot to go through here, and we’ll get to why both CMF’s new phone and smartwatch are so tempting later. First, it’s important to tell you why the smartwatch is far more interesting than you may first expect.

A homage to a watch, not a smartwatch

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The CMF Watch Pro 2’s chunky round case and crown placement at the 2 o’clock point immediately recall Swatch’s streetwear-inspired Big Bold series, and it’s a great move on CMF’s part. The brand targets exactly the same crowd as Swatch does, and this shape is not only functional, but also looks excellent.

Whether it’s an actual homage or not is up for debate, and I much prefer it compared to the first CMF Watch Pro model, which had a square body clearly inspired by the Apple Watch. We all know the Apple Watch exists and is incredibly popular, but imitating it is lazy and shows a lack of creativity. The good news is that the CMF Watch Pro 2 definitely does not lack creativity.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Like the Xiaomi Watch S3, the CMF Watch Pro 2’s bezel can be twisted off and replaced with another in a different finish to match a new strap that can be easily swapped out. At the moment, there’s a choice of two different leather straps in blue or orange or two sportier silicone straps in light green or blue. Changing the strap makes the biggest difference to the look, but the bezel is a nice additional touch.

What’s more, while Swatch watches are best known for being made of plastic, the CMF Watch Pro 2 has an aluminum body and frame, and the bezel is made from metal, too. The good news is it’s really light on your wrist, but I’m not sure the aluminum and metal look that much different from plastic here, so don’t expect it to make an expensive statement on your wrist. Plus, the case back is plastic, so it does get a bit sweaty when it’s hot or you’re working out.

What is it like to use?

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The CMF Watch Pro 2 has many features you will associate with more expensive smartwatches. You rotate the functional crown to move through menus, it has a microphone and a speaker to make and receive Bluetooth calls, and it has built-in GPS. The AMOLED screen is modestly sized at 1.32 inches, but the 466 x 466 resolution means it’s crystal clear. The automatic brightness adjustment isn’t very effective, though, and it was usually too dim to see in sunlight until I manually turned up the brightness.

The back has a heart rate sensor that monitors blood oxygen levels. The watch also tracks exercise, stress, and sleep, as well as menstrual cycles. It promises automatic workout tracking for walking, running, and cycling, and the app links with Apple Health, Google’s Health Connect, and Strava. That’s right. You may have noticed that the CMF Watch Pro 2 works with both Android and iOS smartphones.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The CMF Watch app follows Nothing’s familiar pixel-art, minimalist style of design, with large clear blocks showing all the information you need at a glance. Starting a workout on the watch is simple, and the results from a 40-minute outdoor walk closely matched the data collected by my Oura Ring, although the CMF Watch Pro 2 did estimate a higher average heart rate. I’m using the watch ahead of release, and it’s unfair to assess accuracy at this stage. I have also noticed the scrolling is smoother when using the touchscreen rather than the rotating crown, which may also improve with a software update.

Get ready for the price

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I like the design and customization options of the CMF Watch Pro 2 and appreciate the use of metal rather than plastic, even if it doesn’t feel quite as high quality as I may have expected. It’s the same with the leather straps, which may look the part, but aren’t as supple and comfortable as other examples. The screen looks good, but the ambient light sensor isn’t tuned correctly at the moment. And while the rotating bezel has a pleasing action and haptic feedback, it translates to a jerky on-screen animation.

The CMF Watch Pro 2 is a bit of a mixed bag, but it still does everything you’d expect an expensive smartwatch to do, including offering desirable features like Bluetooth calls and GPS. Except the CMF Watch Pro 2 isn’t an expensive smartwatch — it’s a very cheap smartwatch. It costs just 69 British pounds, or around $88. It represents astonishing value for the money, and the minor quibbles simply aren’t a big deal at this price.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I’ve been using the CMF Watch Pro 2 connected to the CMF Phone 1, the brand’s first smartphone, and you can buy the two together for just 280 pounds (or about $358).

That’s a smartphone and a smartwatch for less than the price of the Samsung Galaxy A35 on its own, and best of all, you aren’t really compromising much at all. The CMF Phone 1 is the smartphone bargain of the year, and although I don’t think the CMF Watch Pro 2 can quite take the same honor for smartwatches, it won’t leave you disappointed.

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