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Don't let minor gripes put you off - this is a serious smart watch at an incredible price

The Reflex Series 23 Smart Watch

There's no doubt that in today's tech world, Apple leads the way. While they may not always be first, when the Silicon Valley giant makes its way into a market, its designs quickly become the standard against which all others are tested. The Reflex Series 23 wears its design influences on its sleeve - the simple rectangular, black watch face, the sleek, minimalist design... there's more than a hint of Apple about this watch.

But with an RRP of just £50, is the Reflex just a cheap version of a market leader, or a solid smart watch without the added cost of the 'Apple Tax?' We strapped one on and found out. Read on for our in-depth Reflex Series 23 Smart Watch review...

Upon unboxing, first impressions are good. The watch is lightweight but feels sturdy enough to handle the rigours of a regular day and the bright, sharp screen immediately flickers into action with the touch of a button.

I initially wonder if the lightweight, metal strap feels a little too flimsy to withstand exercise with confidence. It's a first impression that is slightly offset by the strong magnet clip, which does a good job of clamping the watch to my wrist and keeps the watch lightweight and comfortable. As a day-wearer, it's relatively issue free, but on a number of occasions I wake to find the watch has nearly come off overnight as it's snagged on pillows and bedsheets during my sleep. During the day, there are times I find myself having to pull the strap back to a comfortable tightness which is more of an inconvenience than a major design flaw, but given the choice, I'd prefer a sturdier fastening.

In its favour, the 'woven metal' design toes the line between being a functional exercise watch and being smart enough to wear to a wedding or business meeting.

The Reflex Series 23 works straight from the box, as you'd expect. Pairing to my phone and the Reflex app is easy and takes a less than a minute before we're up and running and there are simple customisations available, such as uploading an image from my phone to the watch face. Again, it's simple and self explanatory, as is the ability to choose 'favourites' for the Home Screen (I opt for Heart Rate and Activity, which are then accessed by swiping left on the watch face for easy access).

Text messages, WhatsApps and calls immediately synch to my watch and start popping up on my wrist, which means less time fishing my phone out of my pocket during the day.

But while the merits of the Reflex Series 23 are clear, niggling doubts are brought about by the app which, through a series of curious design elements and integration flaws, falls frustratingly short of its well-known competitors. The first warning sign comes upon setup, when the app recommends I switch off the function on my phone that prevents the app from working in the background. Only, when I follow the instructions, I'm informed that Samsung won't allow me to do this. A developer issue, or gatekeeping by Samsung? Who knows, but it may explain some of the issues I experience with the functionality going forwards.

For one, there's a lack of communication between areas of the app. My daily count tells me I've walked just shy of 11,000 steps and 5.3 miles, but at the same time, the 'walking' section of the app tells me I've currently walked 00.00 miles. It's a small problem, of course, but one that could easily be rectified with an automatic upload of stats from one section to another.

The Reflex Series 23 Smart Watch app showing sleep tracking

The sleep tracker needs a little work, too. For two nights running, I record less than two hours of slumber which, given I have two young children, wouldn't be entirely out of the question, but I certainly don't feel enough like the walking dead for that to be true. Upon delving into the in-app stats, they don't seem to match up. A pie chart clearly shows that between 23:09 and 08:41, I've been switching between light and deep sleep continuously with no visible breaks. But the numbers provided tell me I've had just 45 minutes of light sleep and 6 minutes of deep sleep - a total of 51 minutes sleep in all. Oh, and this screenshot is taken at 7:33am - a full 68 minutes before the app tells me I woke up.

Another strange design flaw is found as I input my weight to my profile. Choosing lbs, I am only offered the option of odd numbers. If I weighed 188.5lbs, the closest options I could select would be 187.9lbs or 189lbs. Again, it's a minor gripe, but in a competitive market full of athletes and fitness fans wanting to track their progress to the nearest point, one that could easily have been ironed out in the design stage.

One final question mark lies in the heart rate monitor, which very possibly may be due to the aforementioned issue with 'background apps'. The only way I can find to use the heart monitor is to swipe across on the watch face and manually start the monitor. While that's perfectly reasonable for use in the gym - for instance, when I want to take a heart rate reading during exercise - but I'd like to see a function that automatically records my heart rate at certain times throughout the day. I've always looked at smart watches as a way of quietly checking in on my stats as I go about my daily activities, giving me an overview of my general, underlying fitness. That's slightly eradicated by having to remember to manually check my heartbeat throughout the day.

But, enough of the minor flaws, let's talk about the areas where the Reflex Series 23 excels. In a market where watches seem to be growing, the Series 23 is a lightweight watch that doesn't take over my wrist. It weighs in at 57g, meaning it's easy to forget it's there most of the time.

The screen is great - bright enough for nighttime viewing but not overly intrusive, plus it's a nice touch to be able to customise the watch face with photographs and the resolution is more than capable of providing a crisp image. The controls are simple - a single button on the right side of the bezel unlocks the watch, and a swipe in any direction takes me to various controls. Swipe left for my 'favourite' apps, which can be customised and changed at will, and right for functions including a very handy 'find my phone' feature, which sets off an alarm on my wayward handset. An upward swipe lays out my most recent texts and WhatsApps, and down takes me to settings, e-cards, battery life and screen brightness. The Series 23 also supports in-watch calls, which is a stunning feature to offer at this price point, and allows me to quickly answer the phone through headphones, without having to fumble around in my pocket or bag - especially useful if my hands are full or I'm mid way through a run or cycle.

For all but the most serious (or pernickety) athletes, the Reflex Series 23 handles everything you could hope to throw at it, and does so while looking every bit as attractive as its more expensive competitors."

And, importantly, it looks great. Now, I'm more of a regular watch guy, with a penchant for stainless steel straps and a chunky bezel, but when you lay the Series 23 beside the Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy, Fitbit or Google Pixel, it more than holds its own. Sure, it's clear where the inspiration came from, but it'd take even the staunchest Apple fanboy to argue that Reflex's design team haven't met their brief.

So, who is the Reflex Series 23 aimed at? Well, faced with the very slight issues I faced during my testing of the watch, I'd argue that really serious athletes - the type for whom a split-second is the difference between a PB and another failed attempt, or those who need to monitor their weight with absolute microscopic accuracy, there's an argument to be made for one of the market's more established brands.

But, let's be honest, how many of us are truly in that category? As a middle-aged plodder, I measure my runs by the minute and not the millisecond, and a general downward trend in my weight is the aim, as opposed to a scientific breakdown of my body fat percentage each day.

For all but the most serious (or pernickety) athletes, the Reflex Series 23 handles everything you could hope to throw at it, and does so while looking every bit as attractive as its more expensive competitors.


So, is the Reflex Series 23 worthy of your hard-earned cash?

In a word: Yes. Quite frankly, it's a fantastic bit of kit for its price-point and whether you're looking for an entry-level smart watch or just not willing to spend five times the price on a big-name brand, the Reflex is definitely worth a look.

It might not boast the accuracy of a Garmin or Fitbit for those ultra stats-driven athletes, or the user-friendly apps and operating systems developed by the Silicon Valley giants, but we don't think there's a better entry-level watch on the market in the UK. So go for it, whether you're curious as to whether smart watches are for you, or just taking your first steps into the world of fitness training.

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