Usual run-of-the-mill “smartwatches” are fundamentally just bigger displays slapped onto fitness bands and, in general, don’t offer the flexibility or features of actual smartwatches. The bright side to them, however, is their lower price and extensive battery life since they don’t have critical feature sets. Users don’t have much of a choice when choosing between inexpensive and expensive smartwatches, as they lose one thing while gaining another. However, what if we told you there’s one smartwatch that tries to be like an actual smartwatch and pretty much accomplishes it while still costing less than half of the price of the actual regular smartwatch?
Enter Haylou Solar Plus RT3. Now, this smartwatch has its shortcomings, plenty of them, but it gets so many things right that it’s easy to ignore those, and it’s even easier to do so after hearing the price, so stick till the end. Here’s our extensive Haylou Solar Plus RT3 review. If this is your first time hearing about the brand Haylou, just know that it’s a distant relative of Xiaomi, one of the leading smartphone manufacturers.
Haylou Solar Plus RT3 Review
This review was written after putting the RT3 through its paces and rigorously testing it. Haylou was given no editorial control; Tthe review sample was provided by Haylou, but Every opinion in this review is of the authors.
What’s in the box?
- Haylou Solar Plus RT3
- A Magnetic charging cable
- A Quick start guide cum Warranty card.
Build and comfort
The build quality, for the price, is pretty solid. The watch’s lug and body are made of brushed metal, while the back is made of plastic. The silicone straps are 22 millimeters, and I found them to be pretty average. They’re a little too soft and do not complement the wearing mechanism, which is similar to the Galaxy Watch 4.
If you like wearing your watch too tight like me, you’re going to have trouble tucking the remainder part of the watch because the straps are just too soft. That said, the overall package is pretty lightweight and follows the wear-and-forget philosophy pretty well.
The left side of the watch houses speakers (more on them later), while the left side has two crowns, which are fine. They’re not as smooth and responsive as on the Apple Watch or Pixel watch and aren’t tied to the watch’s haptics either, but they get the job done. The upper crown has the “clicky” rotation, whereas the lower crown lacks the same. Overall, we’re off to a good start.
Display and User Friendliness
The 1.43-inch 466×466 resolution AMOLED panel on the RT3 boasts great colors but is let down by its refresh rate. Haylou claims that the display runs at 60Hz, which it does, but only in a few places, like the notifications, app menus, and during quick settings pulldown. While it’s understandable that this step was necessary for saving battery life, the “60Hz” marketing term is enough to lure most people to buy the watch, thinking it’s 60Hz throughout the UI, and leave them displeased.
Speaking of the display, you do get an always-on display option. Now, the AOD itself is fine, but the problem is it takes the Always-on term too literally and stays active even after taking the watch off your wrist, consuming more battery life. There are a few solutions to this — measure the heart rate and, based on the readings, decide whether the user is still wearing the watch or not, or do the same by measuring the stress.
Swiping from the top reveals quick settings, and swiping from the right and the left cycles through the same tiles on a loop. They’re not customizable; however, there are lots of watch faces to choose from. Besides, there’s no touch-to-wake option, which is weird, but understandably it’s due to battery constraints (AOD probably disables the touch screen). However, the tilt-to-wake function works very well.
The Watch and App’s UI/UX need work
While everything was pretty easy to set up after pairing the watch, the pairing process was pretty rough on the Haylou Fun app. For starters, you’d need to manually go to Android settings and enable some features and settings; the Haylou Fun app asks you to do it manually and, unlike other apps, doesn’t take you to that Settings. What’s even worse is once you enable the setting and get back to the app, it doesn’t confirm that you’ve enabled the setting; instead, you’ll need to tap on the button “I have completed” to continue.
The app’s UI is easy to navigate, but the UX needs a lot of work. For example, the push notification that shows the app is active reads “module_ad,” and we have no idea know what that means. Similarly, the home page of the app reads “4 minutes agorefresh,” when it should’ve been “Refreshed 4 minutes ago,” or just a tiny refresh icon with the text “4 minutes ago.”
The same is the case with the watch. Swiping all the way to the heart rate reading, the resting heart rate text displayed below the graph shows “Resting70” (70 being the average resting heart rate) when it should’ve been something else. It’s small details like these that make a huge difference to the user experience.
While I didn’t have professional tools to test the accuracy of the sensors on the RT3, I realized I do have a gadget whose health monitoring features have been proven close to accurate by a study. I’m talking about the Galaxy Watch 4. Let’s start by comparing the heart rate and sleep data.
And I’m happy to report that the heart rate tracking on the Solar Plus RT3 is on point and pretty accurate and is continuous, which is great. The step tracking, although a little too generous at counting steps, is still surprisingly accurate for a watch that costs merely $50. Great job, Haylou! The Tranya Go smartwatch made me a little worried with its ability to track the heart rate of my table, but you wouldn’t believe how relieved I was when I found out my table is not a living being (xD).
Likewise, the SpO2 sensor is accurate too. I wasn’t able to put the stress testing mechanism and compare it against the Watch 4’s, but from what I’ve noticed from the graphs, the Haylou Solar Plus RT3 recorded lower numbers even when I was the most stressed; The feature needs some work.
There’s also an option to test your mood. It takes a good minute or two to determine your mood, but sadly (no pun intended), in my testing, I wasn’t able to reproduce other moods except “calmness;” perhaps I don’t lose my cool that often, or maybe the algorithm is flawed.
Battery Life was a letdown
The battery in the RT3 is a 220mAh cell, which Haulou claims, will last for seven days with continuous heart rate tracking. However, we found this claim far too ambitious as, on a full charge, the watch barely made it till the end of the second day. However, to give them the benefit of the doubt, we tested with the always-on feature turned on, which might have affected the numbers.
Haylou’s website claims that on the basic usage mode with the “default watch face, all-day sleep monitoring, Bluetooth turned off, with continuous heart rate monitoring, and other functions,” you may squeeze around 20 days’ worth of battery, but I wouldn’t take their word for it.
The dull side to this is smartwatches like the Galaxy Watch 4 or 5 can get you through two days of medium usage easily while running a heavier OS on top. The bright side is you can turn off some functions on the RT3, and it’ll have a huge impact on the battery life (Spanning 3-4 days worth of difference even); however, doing the same on the Galaxy Watches may give you a few hours worth of battery life. The scope of savings is high on the RT3.
Unlike other “smartwatches” that only notify you when a call arrives, the RT3 has a speaker and lets you take calls on the watch. I wasn’t expecting the speakers on the RT3 to sound louder and clearer than the Galaxy Watch 4, but here we are. You also get a dialer to call, but in our case, despite giving it all the permission, I wasn’t able to dial and call from the watch (calling from recents worked, though).
Notifications on the Haylou Solar Plus RT3 arrive quicker than the Watch 4. However, you cannot reply to messages but dismiss them. Another thing worth noting is, dismissing notifications from the watch doesn’t clear them on phone. Other features like controlling music, find my phone, theatre mode, alarm, and brightness can be found in the app menu and quick settings.
Closing Thoughts: Is the Haylou Solar Plus RT3 right for you?
While the Haylou Solar Plus RT3 boasts the characteristics of an actual smartwatch, the watch’s unpolished UI and UX, combined with less-than-mediocre battery life, take the bling away from it. However, that flashiness returns when you reflect on the price-to-performance ratio and the practicality.
If you’re looking for a smartwatch that behaves like a Smartwatch (almost), tracks your fitness activities, and does it accurately for less than half of the price of a regular smartwatch, your search ends here. For $50, the Haylou Solar Plus RT3, while being unpolished, is a very good affordable smartwatch for fitness enthusiasts.