Here comes a category we entertain ourselves with tearing things up by bringing out the worse in what some companies refer to “smartwatches”. This is why it is always enlightening to find something we actually like. Something that stands out and seeks originality.
The Vector Watch company has a line-up of so many stylish models, they have a solution for just about anyone’s needs. Their smartwatches aren’t going to call home on their own or allow you to talk to your digital AI assistant (ie, Siri or Cortana), but they do provide a fancy means of providing you with what we are calling a “dress watch” with a number of customizable faces, notifications, fitness tracking and a long battery life.
Unlike the Fitbit and similar solutions, the Vector watch is something you are going to proudly wear around your wrist when you are sporting a full suit and looking to impress. Their focus revolves around fancy metal and leather bands. Basically, they are another Fossil in the world of smartwatches. They simply look great. Much more durable than the Microsoft Band (which begins to fall apart after so many months), Vector aims to provide you a watch that is going to last you for as long as you would expect the lifespan on a watch to be. You are only limited to your own physical abuse (and the lifespan of a battery of course).
Vector has been around for just over a year and they have been working to improve the interface since their initial launch. They have plenty of new apps they refer to as “streams” that interact with other functions of your phone to deliver data to the watch face. Data such as health, social notifications, app interactions, music controls, weather and so forth. The majority of these functions revolve around both iOS and Android devices with full integration with Google Fit and Apple Health. Eventually, they may find themselves on the same pedestal as Samsung if they keep it up.
What really makes them unique is that they also support Windows 10 Phones as well, which is a great variable in the mix as Windows 10 users don’t have much of a selection to chose from just yet. Add in the fact that these watches are both durable and fancy dress, and now they have one of the best solutions they can find for Windows.
Given, the focus on Windows is still limited as you don’t have the same selection of streams as the other two OS selections. So there is still a little bit of a waiting game until the Vector watches truly shines in this category, but at least they are off to a great start.
The model they sent out to us is the Luna smartwatch with steel band. Silver in color and a full metal body and band, this watch screams “wear me” as soon as you open the box. The band is like any other, making it easy to adjust or repair. The watch face, a clear crystal design, features a circular black and white e-ink display with no space taken away from the shape of the screen. The screen is surrounded by a black bordering frame to add a little play on layers. I truly am surprised that Fossil hasn’t tried stalking them out with a buyout request.
The watch face is not touch, which comes at a bit of a surprise, but you quickly get used to the three buttons on the right side that control everything. Maybe by adding a digitizer, they felt it was adding a layer of cost or a limitation to its durability. The three buttons allow you to flip through the various watch faces, retrieve your latest notifications (ie, text messages, emails, calendar events and other app notifications) as well as scroll through some of the data the watch faces features, such as fitness tracking (steps, distance, calories and sleep).
There is a set of four contacts on the back where the provided charger makes magnetic contact to charge the watch. It is a proprietary connection, but it also helps in the water resistance of the watch since there are no open ports. It doesn’t take long to charge it up and begin moving ahead with pairing it to a phone.
We tested the watch on a number of devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the iPhone 6 Plus. This is where the Vector watch truly shines with most of its features (streams). You can download a wide selection of streams to your phone including Facebook, Twitter, ESPN, and Uber as well as other functions such as music controls and Nest. They continue to add all sorts of streams to the selection. It is important to point out though, that this is limited to these to operating systems.
What we really want to focus on is the compatibility with Windows 10 phones. Because Android and iOS have everything when it comes to smartwatch choices. Windows 10 has a limited selection, including only a few, like Microsoft Band and Fitbit. When it comes to their fancy design, Vector is by far the best choice for Windows. Functionality however is still limited, so they have a way to go in development before it catches up to iOS and Android. Thankfully, their record of consistent development holds a lot of hope for things to come.
So shifting this focus to Windows, we tested the Luna smartwatch against the Microsoft Lumia 950XL. Pairing was as simple as any other OS and we experienced no difficulties with this. The Vector Watch app can easily be found in the Windows Store and it immediately saw the newly paired watch. Once paired, it walks you through creating an account (or logging in if you already have one). All That is needed is your name, email and a password. Once you have established your account, it checks for software updates for the phone itself and updates it OTA (over the air) if one is found.
It will then update the watch faces if needed with the default line-up and dump you into the main screen where you will be able to chose which ones you want to use or throw out. This is also where you can chose what streams you want to take advantage of, and you do so by clicking on store and scrolling over to streams. The store is also where you chose the faces and apps. When it comes to displaying streamed information on the watch faces, you are limited to what each watch face supports. You can see what you can do this by pressing on a watch face in the main screen and choosing from stream options it gives.
For now, this is where the Windows support is limited. At the moment, the streams are limited to the fitness points listed above, events, date, stocks, time, timezone and weather. Your apps are limited to activity, alarms, timer and stopwatch. Unlike iOS and Android, these are all of the options you currently get with Windows support. So right now, they still have a distance to travel in improving upon this. Until then, it sometimes feels more like a fancy digital watch more than anything, with the ability to change the watch face to whatever you want. I am sure we can expect to see improvement in these areas by the end of the year (hopefully).
From the phone app, you can view your days activity and control your goals for your calories, distance, steps and sleep. You can create/control the alarms on the watch, dig into the settings (ie, vibrations, alerts) and update the watch if needed.
Hopefully they can integrate it with Microsoft’s Health app as well, like they have done for iOS and Android. However, since Microsoft has recently rebranded that app, calling it “Microsoft Band”, things aren’t looking as promising. I hope Microsoft doesn’t shoot themselves in the foot causing more limitations in their products.
Let’s move forward and discuss the screen and the glass that protects it. The screen, as mentioned, is a black and white e-ink display. This means no color, but it also means that you can read it in any lighting condition and you get a greater battery performance. The edges of characters and shapes on the screen aren’t perfect. You see jagged edges and can easily tell this is due to the number of pixels in the screen’s resolution. It isn’t a show stopper or anything, but noticeable to those looking for it and isn’t hard to find. Thankfully though, the battery performance you get out of this watch is grand, so it feels as though everything has its purpose.
The glass that protects the display is your typical crystal you find on most of the non-smartwatches on the market. From Citizen to Fossil, it’s just glass. So far, we haven’t found that it is susceptible to scratching, but we have also been giving it an extended layer of care in our use of it. At the same time, we have been passing it around and letting some of us leave the office and spend a normal day with it on our wrist to see what happens. We have had this watch for close to a month now, and the watch face looks just like it did when it first came in.However, this doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t rather see Gorilla Glass in the mix. If Vector would move towards using Gorilla Glass, it would help provide that added layer of confidence.
So how about that battery? Vector claims that you can get up to 30 days of battery from this watch before you have to charge it again. Of course, this heavily depends on you and your usage of the watch. Do you make constant daily use of the vibrating functions, such as waking up to the vibrating silent alarms or receiving a heavy amount of notifications from your device every day. We made sure to do just that, by drowning the watch with as many notifications as possible. This was easy since this describes our daily life anyway, so we simply had to act normal and let the notifications pour in. We also set the alarm almost every day to go off. Either using it to wake up during the times it left office for many days with different users, to just playing with the alarms while its here. Testing began on September 10th and it finally stated low battery on the screen on October 2nd. I would say the battery test was successful, and proves to be one of the best performing batteries in a smartwatch that we have ever tested.
Fitness and Sleep Tracking
Fitness and sleep tracking is something you find in just about every smartwatch now. If it’s not in there somewhere, it isn’t going to sell well. There also has to be a solid level of accuracy, and Vector seems to be doing pretty good with this so far. The step counter is pretty accurate as long as your arms are swaying by your sides as you walk. If you hold it up to your face as if to read it and hold it there while walking, nothing occurs like most watches.
Smartwatches typically rely on sensors that track specific movements so that they can decipher your various activities. This is why most watches will stop tracking steps if your arms aren’t naturally swaying as they would normally when walking. This also means that they won’t incorrectly count steps if you are typing at a keyboard or lifting weights. I guess we still have a ways to go before we develop a better means of obtaining this kind of data, but for now, it gives you exactly what you need to best understand your days activity.
The accuracy of the steps tracked with the Luna watch was pretty good. The margin of error was low enough to compare it to any of the top fitness trackers on the market.
Sleep tracking is a little different though. The Vector watches do not track heart rate or other sensors to help decipher the quality or stages of sleep. They track your sleep by motion alone. This means at the end of the day, when you stop moving, it thinks you are sleeping and starts counting the minutes and hours. Since it relies on movement alone, you can simply take it off and place it on the nightstand beside your bed and still get a result. Not exactly too accurate or informative really. So there is nothing I can brag about when it comes to this. I think sleep tracking needs a lot of work.
The Vector watch handles notifications quite well. We found that the notifications hit the screen almost instantly as they came in on the phone(s). Notifications both short and long were easy to read or summarize and proved to be just as useful as any other watch when it came to keeping an eye on text messages and calendar events without having to pull out the phone for anything.
You can retrieve recent notifications by clicking on the middle button on the side. Still, preventing you from having to pull out your phone, unless you have to respond to something. The only odd quirk we found was on the “activity” watch face. With this watch face, you can hit the middle button to scroll through your activity tracking (steps, distance, calories and sleep). If you have any recent notifications that haven’t been scrolled through, it will first default to those before you can read your fitness information. This becomes a little distracting and you find yourself using these screens less due to the minor inconvenience.
Vector watches are rated to be water resistant up to 50m but they do provide a number of warnings when doing so. Warnings such as avoiding the urge to push on any of the buttons while submerged, not to submerge it in anything beyond water, avoiding warmer temperatures and high impacts. So they can be submerged but pushing on any buttons would break your resistance, diving is bad and warm temperatures are probably just bad for the electronics.
We were kind of nervous about this one so we performed two simple tests. They said showers are fine (as long as they are not warm–which takes away from the point of a shower), so we ran the watch under a sink for about 30 seconds to a minute. We then got a little more courageous and gently (vs dropped) placed it inside a bucket of water about 12-inches deep and left it there for the same amount of time. In both situations, the watch did great, surviving without any flaws or changes.
We considered testing this further but opted to move on to other things. It’s easy to point out that the Vector watch is far superior durability-wise to any other smartwatch when it comes to Windows compatible choices. Strong band, strong body, no outer textures that are going to peel after a feel months and you can dunk it in water and still survive.
I wanted to refer to this section as suggestions since there are some things that need work or at least consideration. Since Vector is still relatively new to the market, I feel they have plenty of opportunity to make things better and more towards a very popular brand that can be recognized worldwide. Thus I’d rather think of this as a lot of suggestions rather than cons.
- Windows devices: Needs ability to adjust measurements (ie, kg vs lbs, meters vs feet, etc). This features is limited to iOS and Android.
- Windows devices: Needs ability to adjust military time to 12hr clock. At the moment, you are limited to just military time. This features is limited to iOS and Android.
- Doesn’t recognize smilies in notifications (ie, text messages), therefore result in a blank message if there isn’t any additional content to go with the smilie.
- Needs more watch faces, streams and apps for the Windows app. This point is a little obvious but still worth pointing out. Android and iOS have far more app/streams to choose from.
- No touch-screen (bad for price of things). Either that, or price needs to come down.
- Windows devices: Needs history for daily fitness information (only reflects current-day stats on Windows Phone). This features is limited to iOS and Android, accessed by tilting the screen into landscape mode.
- Androids/iOS view:
- Androids/iOS view:
- Lost Link a few times. Had to reboot the watch and it re-linked immediately in just a second or two. Hopefully this will work itself out with a future software update as the watch can go typically pretty far from the phone before losing link due to distance.
- Slightly more resources and battery usage than Microsoft Band application in Windows. You can see this in one of the images below (see gallery), that the Vector app uses an average of 11% of the phone’s battery compared to Microsoft Health/Band application (7%). Vector stated that they are looking for ways to improve this and that battery drain for iOS is under 5%.
The Vector Watch line seems to be a great break into the market with a stylish watch, easy to read screen and a battery life like no other. Great for using as a fancy dress watch or everyday use, it offers what you need for fitness and keeping track of the notifications on your phone without ever having to take it from your pocket (except to respond). It isn’t perfect though as they still have a way to go with things. The resolution of the screen could be better, the glass should be more durable by using Gorilla, additional support is needed for Windows devices and as well as a few minor tweaks in settings. This, right now, is still mostly a watch focused around Android and iOS users more than anything.
The price is the only thing weighing it down. The MSRP range of $299-349 is a bit high due to the lack of functionality compared to other watches within the same price range. It could save itself if there was something to back that with in design, such as being swiss made, but the “made in China” on the back prevents this. A touch screen would be fantastic to help guide them better towards that price range, but for now, the price weighs down the score the most.
Thankfully, at the time of writing this article, I see the price has come down already and you can buy the model we have here for $220. Some of the models you can find as low as $180. This helps cushion the score a little, but still things feel unfinished for the price. We really like the Vector watch, but until it can compete against the likes of Moto 360, LG and so forth, we can’t give it closer to a perfect score.
Also, we really like their concern for development and improvement as well as their communication. Assuming their customer support has just as much concern for things, this helps cushion the score as well. We wound up giving a final score of 7 out of 10.
If you have an Android or iOS device, this score fits you the most. If you have a Windows device, you probably won’t agree with our score until they improve on things for that OS. It’s always tough scoring something that performs differently in multiple OS environments vs finding a consistency in cross-platform support.
We look forward to what’s to come from Vector. Like I mentioned, we feel they have a lot of potential and could really take this line places. As long as they continue the down the road of improvement, they will find a great success.
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
Vector Smartwatch User Guide (all models) – Click here
- 44mm custom solid 316L stainless steel case with mineral glass.
- Stainless steel fine linear brushed case with high polished details.
- Adjustable custom solid stainless steel 3-link bracelet with solid stainless steel butterfly closure.
- The strap comes with a 22mm lug width and it’s recommended for a maximum 218 mm wrist dimension.
You can use the Vector Watch tool in the Strap Size Guide to determine your wrist size.
- 50 metre/5ATM water-resistant.
- iOS (iOS 8 or higher)
- Android (Android 4.4 or higher)
- Windows (Windows Phone 8.1 update 1 or higher)
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.