The N0.1 F18 records fitness metrics in a meaningful way at an affordable price without sacrificing too much.
The F18 is one of the newest smartwatches to land on the market in the budget fitness wearables category bearing the No.1 brand. While there are some drawbacks to paying under $100 for this type of device, that doesn't have to mean an unusable or featureless experience. Users can still have access to heart rate tracking, position-based motion metrics, activity logging, alarms and notifications, and a durable build. That's something the company has shown with this particular wrist-borne electronic in spite of its quirks. That doesn't mean the experience is all good but it does mean there's no need to spend more than the above-mentioned price for those features.
In terms of specs, the No.1 F18 is a step above other products in the series. For starters, it features a 1.3-inch ‘ball-type’ sapphire touchscreen display panel. The resolution of that is only set at 240 x 240 and it resides in a 73 x 73 x 17mm 316L steel casing, with an IP68 ruggedization rating. The 25cm length strap is a silicone material and a heart rate monitor is fixed at the bottom alongside a set of magnetic charging contacts. That’s used to charge up a 350mAh battery for up to 12 days of use or 10-hours with GPS, Beidou, and GLONASS global positioning turned on. A Nordic NRF51832 CPU powers the built-in fitness-based software and sleep tracking while connectivity is achieved via Bluetooth 4.2. Although the watch is a bit large, it feels much more well-thought-out than similar offerings from the company and costs just $40 on sale – down from just over $55 – for either a lava red, army green, or black variation. Weight is set at 70 grams.
In The Box
As is usually the case with No.1’s smartwatches, there’s not much to speak of on accessories or bundled items. Slipping off the top half of the box reveals the F18 smartwatch itself, embedded strap-first in soft foam. Underneath that is a fairly thick user manual written in around a dozen languages, with twelve pages dedicated to each. A magnetic contact to male USB charging cable is the only other object in the box. No wall adapter is included.
Hardware and Aesthetics
Aesthetically speaking, the No.1 F18 is much cleaner than many competing devices in the budget-minded fitness end of the spectrum. The stainless steel and rounded glass do a great job of repelling particulates or dust, except under extreme circumstances, and cleaning the device is an easy task thanks to the waterproofing. That rounded glass also makes the glass more visible from a wider range of viewing angles, which is good because the screen isn’t necessarily as bright as might be desired. That display is a definite step up from other F-series smartwatches, offering a wide range of color and even animations for some menus. The buttons are made of steel and click through well without any squishiness or lag. Simultaneously, the watch band's breathable slotted design both looks good and gives a solid wrap on the wrist without trapping sweat. In fact, it can be easy to forget the strap is there at all, with the exception of pressure from the watch backing and the clasp holding the strap in place – and that holds in place exceptionally well, with no slipping to speak of.
With that said, the watch housing itself does feel a bit oversized and unnecessarily so since the components are comparable to those found in other No.1 smartwatches. The display also has unnecessarily huge bezels, which are only slightly offset by the outward curving 'sapphire glass.' At a little over $40 and given its more direct focus on fitness tracking, those issues are difficult to complain about but they are definitely there. It’s a very solidly built piece of equipment and all of the sensors appear to work very well – and accurately.
For software, a proprietary OS is used and that's driven by syncing with an Android or iOS application. To clarify, Android 4.4 or newer is needed – or iOS 8 on iPhone. Plenty of the watch's features don't require any kind of connectivity at all but the app pulls everything together into an easier-to-use interface. No.1 watches use several different applications depending on the watch. In this case, the F18 is interfaced through the 'HPlus' app and the software is relatively straightforward. Once a user sets their birthdate, height, gender, and weight as well as 'binding' the watch via Bluetooth, they're presented with a 5-tab interface.
Under the Device tab, incoming call notifications, all-day heart rate measuring, motion-based screen activation, and unit settings can be adjusted along the top of the screen. That's also where smart alarm clock, sedentary reminders, display-on time, and app notifications such as text messaging or other apps' settings are set and users can disconnect the watch, clear data, upgrade firmware, or sync data too. Unlike some other No.1 smartwatches, the time will automatically follow either military format or am/pm format based on the smartphone's settings instead of being stuck as one or the either by default. To the right from that tab, users can set their name and goals in the Mine tab while a Calendar tab sits to the left, allowing daily tracking of all activity. Activity can also be tracked in the aptly named Activity tab in either daily, weekly, or monthly graph format with calories burned calculated for each respective timeframe. Finally, users can check steps taken relative to their goal alongside distance traveled and calories burned in the Home tab. A swipe to the right on that will swap to similar metrics for sleep tracking for awake, light, and deep sleep states. Swiping one more time brings up heart rate statistics.
This smartwatch also goes somewhat further than the basic step and distance tracking, heart-related health readouts, message and call notifications, and tracking for walking, running, climbing, swimming, cycling, treadmill, basketball, badminton, and soccer activity tracking. Of course, each of the activities logs relevant movement, burn rates, and heart rates, in addition to using GPS to determine distances involved. But the software on the watch also allows for lap tracking and similar metrics in relevant activities at the press of a button during those activities.
Each of those metrics is also recorded via GPS or location tracking automatically if the wearer is moving in a relatively predictable way around a given area or running on a track. Similarly, activity tracking can be paused in order to get a more accurate cumulative picture of the exercise accomplished. What's more, a high-accuracy compass is included just in case one is required during hiking or walking sessions. Each exercise has its own secondary functionality, however, so users will want to consult the manual before getting started.
Battery life seems to be very close to as advertised. We saw a drop of approximately 11-percent after an hour of use with GPS turned on. That's with GPS turned on and actively tracking distances during a workout. The watch is rated to last for ten hours, so that equates to around a percent more than was advertised. Charging was also somewhat quicker than expected, likely owing to our use of a battery bank with an intelligent chip for optimizing output to suit the device being charged. The F18 is said to take an hour and a half to charge up and testing that under the conditions listed above resulted in a full charge being achieved in an hour and 20 minutes. That’s not necessarily anything too special. The battery itself is small and the internal components low-powered. However, this is a watch that should last several days unless GPS is left on constantly in exercise mode- but should still last most of a day under those circumstances and powers back up quickly.
Solid overall hardware design with a few caveats
Rounded glass adds a near-premium feel
Watch strap is very well-made, breaths and stays put
Lots of in-workout functionality and at a budget price
Great battery life for both day-to-day tracking and workouts
Much larger than feels necessary
Bezels are also oversized
No mapping-route tracking
Navigating the UI and features all but requires a read-through of the manual
No.1-branded smartwatches are among the most commonly announced wearable but that now seems to be more of a deliberate decision toward progress on the part of the company than just an attempt to flood the market. While it has helped the company make a name for itself in the lower-budget end of the market for fitness accessories, it has also improved at each iteration. The overall goal seems to be a device that balances between the pitfalls of affordability and solid design coupled with a wide range of features. The No.1 F18 is the culmination of those efforts so far and, at its price bracket, it excels at that. There are some caveats, such as a learning curve for the on-watch OS and a lack of true mapping. The screen is likewise a bit on the large size and so are the bezels. But it is a rugged and well-built wearable, well worth the consideration of anybody who doesn't need Google's Wear OS but does want fitness tracking.