Michael Kors Grayson is an Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch worth every dollar.
Michael Kors has just released its new Android Wear-powered smartwatches for 2017 in the form of the Grayson and Sofie. The Grayson is the larger of the two and is a really good-looking smartwatch. The Grayson comes in at $350, which is about where most smartwatches come in at, but unfortunately, it does lack a few features that devices from Huawei and LG do have like NFC and a heart rate monitor. However, Michael Kors is seeking to penetrate the market that is interested in more traditional-looking smartwatches instead of those that just look like screens on your wrist. And with the Grayson, it looks like the company has done just that. But how well does it work in the real world? Let's find out.
First of all, Michael Kors is only selling the Grayson with metal bands out of the box. It is selling a few other replaceable bands that users can buy and, of course, other 24mm bands will also work with the Grayson. There are basically four SKU's for the Grayson, one of which is all silver, one that's completely gold, entirely blue, and then fully black which is the model we've been reviewing (for reference, that is the MKT5029 model). It's a great-looking, stealthy smartwatch. Of course, we can't really talk about the other colors, since we've only seen them in pictures and haven't witnessed them personally.
The Grayson in black feels really nice in the hand. Since it is an entirely metal device, it does indeed feel a bit heavier than something that has a leather or silicone strap included. But it definitely feels high-end. Now, you will likely need to take out a link or two from the metal band for it to fit your arm, as was the case for us (although we didn't have the tool on hand). It's nice that there are some extra links included though, since not everyone has the same arm size.
There are three buttons on the side of the Grayson, which is pretty standard for new smartwatches launching with Android Wear 2.0. The center button acts as the crown and does stick out a bit more than people might expect. But it does allow you to scroll through certain aspects of the user interface like the app drawer. It's akin to the way Samsung does things with its Tizen-powered smartwatches, but not quite the same as rotating the bezel. Using these three buttons does make it much easier to navigate through the OS of the smartwatch, and since there is room around the watch to accommodate them, you might as well have them available to the user.
One of the big complaints from the Dylan and Bradshaw models that Michael Kors released last year was the flat tire look. Not only did Michael Kors have flat tires, but they were colored the same as the bezel, meaning that on the gold model, the flat tire really, really stood out like a sore thumb. This time around, Michael Kors has gone away from using that aesthetic and instead opted for a full-circle display. The display here is a 1.39-inch AMOLED panel with a 454 x 454 resolution. Having an AMOLED display on a smartwatch is a great idea for a few reasons. One, it makes it better for battery life with the always-on display, seeing how AMOLED panels light up individual pixels instead of the entire display. But on top of that, it makes it easier to see outside.
Speaking of outdoors, the Grayson smartwatch is really easy to see and use outdoors. We kept the smartwatch on auto-brightness throughout our time using the device, and it worked quite well. Now, the Grayson wasn't spectacular outdoors in terms of being able to see the display, but it was still perfectly usable, which is more than we can say about many other smartwatches these days. Overall, the display looks great and gets plenty bright, which is definitely good to see on a contemporary smartwatch.
There are very little surprises here with performance, seeing as the Grayson is using virtually the same internals as every other smartwatch on the market for the past year to 18 months. Those components include the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor along with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. Having said that, the Grayson performs very well. It doesn't get hot - unless you are using it while it is charging. It doesn't show any hint of lag or stutter at all, and part of that is due to the fact that Google keeps manufacturers from really adding anything to the core of Android Wear (the only real changes that OEMs are able to make pertain to custom watchfaces). Sure, it would be nicer to have a bit more RAM available here, but the current amount is still enough for now.
The battery life on the Grayson smartwatch is pretty decent. It's powered by a 370mAh unit, which is quoted as lasting around 24 hours. Now, in our testing, we found that it lasted just a bit longer than that. It would last up to around 2 days, but of course, as is usually the case with battery life on any device, that all depends on how you are using the smartwatch. It does take quite a while to charge up to 100 percent though, which is expected, since there's no quick charging here, and it is charging wirelessly.
So, as mentioned, this is running Android Wear 2.0, and anything launching in 2017 should be running Android Wear 2.0. The experience seems to be a bit more refined than with other smartwatches, like the Verizon Wear24 that launched alongside Android Wear 2.0 (it seems that Android Wear 2.0 has been refined a bit since its launch earlier this year). The software is nice and smooth on the Grayson smartwatch, without any slow-downs, or even slow redrawing of the UI, which is something we haven't really seen since the original Moto 360 with that TI OMAP processor back in the day. So, that's no real surprise either.
Aside from standard Android Wear 2.0, Michael Kors does also have its own Access software on here. With the My Social feature, you can connect your Facebook or Instagram account and use a picture from your account as your watchface background. It's a fairly interesting functionality to have on a smartwatch, but it is something that people will definitely use quite a bit. There's also My Looks which refers to all changes you made to different watchfaces which are saved here for you to use. And finally, there's My Modes, which allows you to use one watchface style during the day and then a different one at night, and is another interesting feature that some will probably use but others might steer away from. This section can be accessed by pressing the button above the crown.
There are only three watchfaces that are pre-loaded on the actual watch here. Keeping things nice and simple, that's something that everyone can get behind, really. There are others available in the Android Wear companion app on your smartphone, of course, and also plenty more available from the Google Play Store, so there's no shortage of watchfaces compatible with the Grayson.
The display, bye flat tire
General look and feel
No Heart Rate Monitor
Price is a bit higher than some might expect it to be
The Michael Kors Grayson smartwatch is definitely a looker, as you'd expect from Michael Kors. But there are some omissions here that make the watch a bit difficult to justify over others on the market out there. Largely the lack of NFC and a heart rate monitor. While that might not be a big deal for some users - it's not likely that many will use Android Pay on their wrist for a while - it would still be nice to have those features to keep the smartwatch future-proof, at least for a little bit. And with it being about the same price as the Huawei Watch 2, which has both NFC and a heart-rate monitor, it's a tough justification. But those that are looking to purchase the Grayson are likely interested in a good-looking watch, and not a smartwatch that can do it all, especially seeing as Michael Kors is one of those "traditional watch makers."
The Grayson is available for purchase today for $350 from Michael Kors and will be expanding to more retailers in the next few weeks.