Fire-boltt Hulk Watch review: High on features, low on accuracy
The budget fitness watch segment in India is packed to the brim with multiple brands plying their trade. Not long ago, Fire-Boltt claimed to be the number 1 brand in the category. I did not read the fine print but that's when I took notice of the brand for the first time. When we got an opportunity to review one of their products a couple of weeks ago, I was curious enough to try it out to see what all the buzz was about. And with a model name like Hulk, it also had my attention. The Fire-Boltt Hulk is an affordable fitness watch that flaunts a couple of interesting features like AMOLED display and Bluetooth calling that aren't very common in this segment. Other than that you have the usual sensors for heart rate and blood oxygen monitoring and multiple fitness modes. But does it have enough going for it to smash the competition? Let's find out.
Standard design, good build, comfortable to wear all day
With a name like Hulk, I assumed the watch would be green, bulky and packed with certain traits of the legendary superhero, but none of that is true. The Fire-Boltt Hulk smartwatch has a standard rectangular frame with a solitary physical button along the right edge. We got a black variant with a glossy finish that interestingly does not attract many smudge marks. The build quality and finish are quite good with rounded edges. The silicone straps feel comfortable around the wrist and do not cause skin irritation even after prolonged use. The straps have a standard 22mm width and are easily replaceable with any third party straps of the same width. It has a standard locking mechanism with the Fire-Boltt branding on the buckle as well as at the back of the watch. The watch is fairly light and weighs under 40 grams. It has an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance. While it can easily survive a drizzle or a quick dip in a puddle, it isn't swim-proof. The SpO2 and heart rate sensors can be found at the back, along with the charging points. The physical button on the right side serves multiple purposes. When pressed, it turns the screen on or brings up the app drawer, and also serves as a back button on all other screens.
Vibrant display, simple interface with some smart UI elements
The display is the standout feature of this watch. The Hulk has a fairly large 1.78-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 368x448 pixels. The screen is quite sharp and the color reproduction is vivid. There is no mention of any scratch resistant glass or oleophobic coating on the screen, but there weren't any scratches after using the watch for a fortnight, nor did I need to wipe off the smudge marks frequently as they weren't very conspicuous. You get a smooth brightness slider for granular adjustment of screen brightness, which is rated at 550 nits max. The screen is bright enough at 25% when indoors, and at 75% outdoors under the bright sun. You get some nice watch faces that look vibrant on its screen. Even better, you have 10 slots on the watch of which you can have 9 faces of your choice. However, each watch face takes over two minutes to transfer from the app to the watch, which is very slow. You can either press the physical button or flick your wrist to wake up the watch. The flick gesture generally works, but the screen response is often a tad sluggish. The bigger issue being the flick-to-wake feature cannot be scheduled to stay off during your sleep hours. You have to manually turn on Low Power mode from the settings before going to sleep and then turn it off when you wake up. The user interface is simple, lag-free, and with some neat elements. Swipe down for settings, swipe up to check notifications, and swipe left or right to cycle through widgets like step count, heart rate, sleep data, etc. You can also add or remove widgets directly from the watch. Swiping right brings up shortcuts to certain commonly used features of the watch, which is a smart addition. Within a menu, swiping right or pressing the physical button takes you to the previous screen.
Can track multiple workouts, but tracking isn't always reliable
You need to download the Da Fit app and sync the watch with it. The app is basic with limited data analysis, but its simplicity works in this case. Other than a few watch settings and a collection of watch faces, it shows you daily activity progress, previous workout data, heart rate chart, sleep data and SpO2 level. You also get weekly and monthly data for certain parameters. Speaking of workout records, some older ones tend to vanish from the app and watch both. Sleep monitoring generally works well here unless you get out of bed early morning for a few minutes and go back to sleep again. It calculates that moment as your wake-up-time. Otherwise things are fine with the watch tracking the quantum of deep sleep, light sleep and REM periods. You get the breakup of deep and light sleep on the watch itself, however, it resets to zero in the middle of the day; a bug that needs to be fixed. The Fire-Boltt Hulk can monitor various fitness activities ranging from walking, running, cycling, free training and their variations. It can also track certain popular sports. Given that this is an entry-level watch, don't expect accurate tracking or deep analysis of the workouts. On that topic, the steps and distance tracking are way off the mark here. The distance is under-reported by at least 15%, which is quite high even for a watch without built-in GPS. We believe the culprit here is the pedometer that reports fewer steps during walks and runs. You need to enter your step length in the app and the watch simply multiplies that with the steps to calculate distance. To beat the system, you can enter 15% longer step length for closer to accurate results. But don't trust the steps count here as it errs on both sides. During your general movements during the day, it reports quite a few false steps.
Supports Bluetooth calling feature, but below par battery backup
The watch supports all day heart-rate-monitoring at intervals of 5 minutes to an hour. Often it shows a lower than actual resting heart rate, and even during workouts, it doesn't tend to increase the tracking frequency as high as it should. The SpO2 sensor does a decent job, and returns a reading in about 20 seconds. The reading is generally a point or two lower than a clinical oximeter, which is acceptable as it is meant to be suggestive anyway. Beyond fitness, you get the usual set of features like music controls, weather, notifications, camera shutter etc. The messages are perfectly legible on the watch's sizable display, but you cannot reply back. It also supports Bluetooth calling functionality. You can make and receive calls directly from this watch. It has a built-in mic and speaker, but the latter isn't loud enough and the call quality is passable at best. The watch needs to be synced with your phone to route the call. This Hulk doesn't seem to be green; energy efficient, I mean. The battery backup here is not so great. The company claims a figure of close to a week. In reality, it managed to last for 5 days with standard load that included very little calling, screen brightness set to 25%, notifications limited to SMS and email, 3 hours of total fitness activity, two oximeter readings per day and three nights of sleep tracking during that period. That is far from impressive for a watch without GPS. Several fitness watches in this price bracket easily manage to go past the 10 days mark, and some like the OnePlus Nord watch even last a fortnight. The battery percentage displayed on the watch cannot be relied upon entirely, especially when it drops below 50%. During my testing, the battery figure stayed close to 45% by the end of the 4th day, and then dropped to zero within a day.
Affordable but this Hulk may get smashed by the competition
The Fire-Boltt Hulk is priced at Rs. 3,499 with a one year warranty. The price is quite attractive for a watch with an AMOLED screen and Bluetooth calling. But the erratic pedometer and mediocre battery life make it hard to recommend this watch, especially in a segment with a lot of good options in this price range. If you do not care about an AMOLED display or Bluetooth calling, there are two excellent options under Rs. 4,000 for you to consider. Firstly, the Amazfit Bip 3 Pro which sells for Rs. 500 more than the Hulk and offers built-in GPS, double the battery life, 5ATM water resistance making it swim-proof and the Zepp app that is far superior in terms of features and data analysis. The other option is the Realme Watch 2 Pro that now sells for just Rs. 2,999, again with GPS, more reliable tracking and almost two weeks of battery backup. Lastly, there's the Boat Watch Primia that we reviewed earlier this year with an excellent round AMOLED display in case you prefer that form factor and with calling functionality too. Barring the display, its price and features are similar to the Hulk but looks a lot more stylish and macho. Choose one that suits your taste and needs.