Zeblaze VIBE/MUSCLE Review: Function & Extreme Affordability

These are simple, affordable sports watches that perform their intended functions without issue.

When it comes to wearables, most people think of fitness trackers like the Fitbit options or those from Garmin and any number of other device brands or smartwatches. But how many people think about Sports watches? Sports watches are a whole other category of wearables that are a potentially useful option if you’re looking for a wearable to keep track of your activities and other various details, and many of them offer a good amount of features that make them at least worthy of consideration. This past week we spent some time testing out the VIBE and MUSCLE from Zeblaze, two sports watches that offer pretty similar features, but come with vastly different styles to cater to different taste when it comes to design. The nice part though is that they’re both similar in function, so what it comes down to when choosing between both is what your taste in style is like. Let’s take a closer look at both the Zeblaze VIBE and the Zeblaze MUSCLE and see what they offer as well as how they stack up.

Specs

Since these are sports watches the specs are pretty minimal here when compared to smartphones and tablets, but there are still specs to look at so we’ll be listing them off for each watch. When it comes to the Zeblaze VIBE, this watch is packed with a 240mAh battery, and is designed to withstand the elements as it’s made for hiking and adventure so it comes with a 5ATM rating which means it’s waterproof and you should have no problem wearing it in the rain, and it should be just fine if something gets spilled on it. While this is a nice feature, it’s best attribute might be its long battery life as it’s rated to last about 5 months with heavy, frequent use, or about 8 months for those who may use it somewhat less often. It even has an energy saving mode which can help it last up to an entire year before needing new batteries. It supports Bluetooth 4.0, comes with 316L stainless steel buttons, an Aluminum zinc alloy watch case, a strap made out of high tensile silicagel, and a display with a size of 1.1-inches, which is about the size of many watches out there. It’s also compatible with both Android and iOS.

When it comes to the Zeblaze MUSCLE, a lot of the specs are either similar or the same, but there are definitely some improvements here that you won’t find on the VIBE. For one, the MUSCLE comes with a 550mAh battery instead of a 240mAh battery. Zeblaze’ website doesn’t list an estimated time frame for how long the battery will last, but considering most of the features are the same, and the battery is larger than the VIBE, chances are it will have slightly longer battery life. As for the rest of the specs, it’s also compatible with both Android and iOS, supports Bluetooth 4.0, comes with a tiny bit larger screen at 1.2-inches, and also has 316L stainless steel buttons. The strap however is made from TPU so it feels a little more rigid or stiff than that of the VIBE, which may or may not matter to some. It’s also waterproof, and comes with a 5ATM rating, though when looking at the IP rating it’s listed as IP68, whereas the IP rating on the VIBE is IP67, so the waterproof capabilities of the MUSCLE are a little bit better here.

In The Box

There isn’t much in the box with either watch, as neither watch needs to be charged every night or every other night thanks to the being no rechargeable batteries included. You simply wear the watch and when the batteries are dead, you replace them. Because of this there is no need for a charging cable or a charging dock, so in the boxes you’ll find the watches themselves, as well as a short quick start guide, and that’s it.

Features

It might seem like these watches are limited in what they offer in terms of features as they’re not really smartwatches, and to some degree that might be an accurate assumption, but there are a fair amount of functions that each watch has. Starting with the VIBE, it’s definitely more akin to a fitness tracker as it’s capable of showing you the date and time, but it can also track how many steps you’ve taken, how many calories you’ve burned, how far you’ve walked distance-wise, and you can even use it to set alarms for whatever reason you might need an alarm. There’s also a stopwatch feature, and a remote camera button if you want to set up your smartphone for pictures and you want to be in the picture yourself. You can simply use the remote button to snap the shot when ready. Beyond these there are some smartwatch-like features, as it will alert you to missed and incoming calls, and alert you for things like SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook, Skype, and other social apps. As for the MUSCLE, it has all of those features included with the VIBE as well as a few extras.

What it has over the VIBE is a feature for monitoring your sleep, so if getting good sleep is important to you this will offer that option, though I feel it’s important to note that because the watch is chunky and quite a bit bigger than the VIBE and other wearables, like a fitness tracker, which you might use for monitoring your sleep, some might find it uncomfortable, though this is entirely a preference thing. It’s also got a UV monitor if you need to see how much UV light you’re being exposed to, and there are a couple of other extra features that the VIBE doesn’t have like the altimeter and a temperature meter, which might come in handy if you frequent areas that tend to be more cold or more hot than your typical everyday around town climate. Specifically, the temperature meter might be especially useful if you go hiking at higher altitudes where it might be colder, or if you hike or mountain bike in areas where it might be hotter. In these types of situations, the meter can be a nice way to check up on what the temperature is so you know if you either need to layer up or layer down to accommodate your needs.

Hardware & Design

The build of both watches feels fine, though it’s definitely more apparent on the MUSCLE that it feels like an inexpensive watch. It retails for about $30, and to me personally, it feels like it would retail for around that price as it doesn’t feel premium, and the buttons in general just feel like cheap plastic. That said, that doesn’t mean this is a cheap watch in terms of quality. As a watch it functions just fine and it can likely hold up pretty well to scratches, scuffs, dings, and drops as it’s thick and bulky, so if you’re taking it off your wrist and it happens to fall out of your hands you should be fine. The VIBE on the other hand only retails for a little bit more at around $36, and it feels more premium than the MUSCLE, which actually has a few more functions. This might be due to the slimmer profile and smaller footprint of the watch case, as well as the fact that the entire case is metal with no plastic surrounding it, but it definitely looks and feels nicer than the MUSCLE, though they both have an ok build quality about them. On both watches there are four buttons - the light button, which illuminates the display, a reset button, a start button, and a mode button.

There is no actual power button included here, but that’s because you simultaneously press the mode and start button to turn the watches on. On the flip side, if you press the same buttons while the watches are on this will turn them off, so once they’re on you don’t have to leave them on, and this can help with battery life over time if you aren’t using them every single day. Both watches have metal parts included in the build so this is likely to help with longevity as far as holding up is concerned in regards to wear and tear, and both have some form of plastic or silicone for the straps, though it’s a bit more pliable and soft feeling on the VIBE which to me was more comfortable for wearing during exercise and longer periods of time. Overall both watches felt just fine during wear, but the MUSCLE is a little big for my taste. Size aside the design is a little more stylish on the VIBE as well, though both will certainly cater to different consumers. Neither has an inherently bad design, but the VIBE definitely has a much less “look at me” type of style to it, which I found to be more inviting.

Battery Life

As mentioned above the batteries inside each of these watches are not rechargeable and you simply swap them out once they die. This is great for two reasons. One, it means they’ll last a whole lot longer than your typical smartwatch or activity tracker, and two, you won’t have to worry about yet another device to charge every night or two. Simply wear it when needed, take it off when you don’t and eave it on the desk or anywhere you feel like setting it down.

App

The app experience here is a mixed bag, as it looks nice when it comes to the overall style, but there are more than a couple issues with how it functions. First off, it wasn’t terribly easy to get it to connect to my phone. The connection process is not very intuitive and this made it a little bit more of a challenge to get things synced up. Quite simply, it just isn’t anywhere near as simple as setting up something like a Fitbit tracker, an Android Wear smartwatch, or other type of tracker. Once you get past that though there is a decent interface to interact with and this is the app that works with both watches. It’s called Xwatch, and like many other companion apps out there for fitness trackers and wearables it will list your data at a glance for the day, but you can also see things as an overview for the day, week, or month if you prefer. You can also share your current activity goals that you’ve reached through different social apps like Facebook, Twitter, or WeChat.

The app also allows you to set goals for each of the activities you want to achieve, though this is insanely limited as it only offers two goals total, which are an exercise goal that consists of how many steps you want to try and hit each day, and a weight goal, which is essentially setting a target weight that you want to reach. That’s literally all there is, so if you’re someone who is used to the types of goals you can set with the Fitbit or Samsung Health apps, this will feel severely lacking. The one thing that was really simple to use was the remote camera button, though admittedly I do wish there was just a one click option to get this to work. That said there really is only a few steps. Simply open the hamburger menu in the app where the features are, tap camera, then on the watch tap the start button which acts as a remote shutter button when the camera feature is open in the Xwatch app. Sadly, this is really all there is for features so you shouldn’t be expecting a robust offering. This also shouldn’t reflect on the usefulness of the watches as even without the features of the app the watches are still handy.

The Good

Affordable

Durable feel and build quality

Extremely long-lasting battery life

A nice set of features

Multiple buttons for function interaction

A light button to illuminate the screen

Mostly comfortable

The Bad

App experience was not great

Set up of the watches to connect with the app was bad

No touch display made some interactions a little more challenging

The size of the Zeblaze MUSCLE felt overly large

Wrap Up

As sports watches go both devices from Zeblaze might offer what most people look for in a sports watch, though there are some things that are also lacking. Neither has GPS, so if you want to track your runs or cycling sessions with GPS you’ll be out of luck. That said, each watch is extremely affordable as both come in at under $40, so for what you are getting, it might be worth it if you don’t mind not having the GPS function as it still tracks activities, quite a few of them, and each watch is waterproof so you can wear it rain or shine without worrying it might get wet and damaged. When it comes down to it, these are simple, affordable sports watches that perform their intended functions without issue.

Should you buy the Zeblaze VIBE or Zeblaze MUSCLE?

This really depends on what you want in a device like this. There is a lot these can’t do, but that’s also because they’re not trying to do everything. They’re simply trying to offer some of the more common exercise functions that active people might want in a sports watch/tracker, and for that it hits the nail on the head. Plus, you really can’t argue with the price. If you’re looking for something a little more simple without breaking the bank, we’d recommend these, but do keep in mind the app leaves a lot to be desired, so if you want a good app experience along with a full-featured device, you may want to look elsewhere.

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About the Author
2015/07/13-1.jpg

Justin Diaz

Head Editor
Lover of food, craft beer, movies, travel, and all things tech. Video games have always been a passion of his due to their ability to tell incredible stories, and home automation tech is the next big interest, in large part because of the Philips Hue integration with Razer Chroma. Current Device: Google Pixel.
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