Specs and interface
The Runtopia S1 keeps things simple. There's an accelerometer, gyroscope, 24-hour PPG photoelectric heart rate sensor, and GPS+GLONASS built-in. The thinking behind the latter two is to make this a great watch for real-time monitoring.
Dual-GPS means no need to take your phone with you and a guarantee that you'll always get an updated location. Heart rate monitoring again is keen to show your heart rate zones at all times so you can perform an effective but also safe run.
In practice, that's almost true. The heart rate monitor reports a little lower than an Apple Watch Series 4 does but not drastically so. We found that the watch did a better job of updating the GPS than the Runtopia app did too, no matter what the location, which made deciding which device to rely on a little confusing until you get used to sticking with the watch over all else.
It's not designed to be used when swimming (although does have 3 ATM water resistance) but it does have weatherproofing in mind. The Runtopia S1 can withstand temperatures between -10C and 50C so it's fine in various different weather conditions, potentially more so than you are.
However, the interface for navigating the Runtopia S1 can be a little sluggish. It might use an OS specifically designed for it but at times a warning would remind you to wait a moment for the watch to sync up or update alongside your app. Simply updating the GPS took time that felt slower with other (albeit more expensive devices) like the Apple Watch series 4 or even the fashion orientated Skagen Falster 2.
There's also no sign of useful features like NFC that you'd expect from a smartwatch, or even anything more than rudimentary notifications of text messages or WhatsApp alerts. However, the Runtopia S1 makes up for this with features that are key to the avid runner like a stopwatch and compass feature, as well as the obligatory choice of workout types. When in use, the watch is pretty good at noticing when you've stopped and automatically pausing for that time.
The Runtopia S1 will happily work on its own but you need to install the Runtopia app to enjoy features like audio coaching and encouragements, being able to view your heart rate zones, or your journey. While there's Bluetooth connectivity between phone and watch, you can't play music through the watch so you'll need to take your smartphone with you on your runs unless you prefer to exercise in silence.
Following that same logic, audio coaching is only available through the app. It also requires you to subscribe to the premium service (about £22.50 per year) to get the full wealth of features.
Once set up, the audio coaching is useful. It gives you a nudge in the right direction when it comes to your speed, heart rate or pace, but it's unfortunate that you'll need your phone somewhere on your person to use it.
Message notifications pop up on the Runtopia S1 but you can't interact with them here. Still, it's useful if you want to just look at your wrist quickly rather than feel obliged to dig out your phone mid cardio workout session.
Where the Runtopia S1's strengths lie is clearly in fitness orientated features. At all times, it works as a pedometer, tracking the steps you've taken, distance you've covered, and calories burned.
Delve into the Exercise part of the watch and you gain more options, provided you're a runner. Runtopia suggests that cycling will be added to the roster in May but for now, you're limited to choosing from an outdoor or indoor run. Predictably, the latter skips the GPS in favor of distance but both options are roughly the same otherwise. Your heart rate is constantly monitored, along with distance covered and average pace.
It's also possible to monitor your heart rate separately if you so wish, as well as use the Stopwatch feature for interval training.
In our tests, the GPS was slow to update but accurate once it caught up. Similarly, stats tracking seemed reasonably accurate too with distances working out on a par with other devices. Where the watch falters a little is when it comes to heart rates. They were reported as lower on the Runtopia S1 than on the Apple Watch 4. This didn't happen every time but it's something to be aware of.
We were big fans of how quickly the Runtopia S1 realized we'd stopped running when popping into a nearby shop. It typically reacted faster than any other smartwatch we'd tried, and helped keep results accurate.
The Runtopia S1 might be able to withstand substantial temperature changes but it can't cope with swimming or anything more than a downpour of rain, so don't bother considering it if you're an avid swimmer or triathlete.
To get the most from the Runtopia S1, you need to use the accompanying app. The app is where data is presented in a more attractive way, highlighting your exact route, where you may have dipped in energy levels, as well as cadence analysis and stride length. Some of these figures are on the watch itself but it's nowhere near as easy to browse as it is on a full smartphone screen interface.
The app is also where you can arrange training routines that offer up audio coaching and encouragement, as well as become part of Runtopia's reasonably active community.
The Runtopia app started out as a way in which you can convert your steps into rewards such as buying socks or even (eventually) an Apple Watch. It's a service that isn't available in all countries and, weirdly, doesn't offer up a Runtopia S1 watch as a reward, but it's an interesting concept if not one that adds to its worth.
Powered by a 240mAh Li-Polymer battery, the Runtopia S1 has a massive advantage going for it - its battery life is vast. Thanks to having a monochrome screen and some basic features, standby time is an impressive 25 days. It's long enough that potentially you could forget where you put your charger which always feels like an inexplicably good thing to us.
Of course, when used regularly, the battery life will dip but it's still quite respectable. With GPS active, expect it to work for just under 10 hours without missing a beat. That's about two marathons worth if you're that way inclined, and means that most people will only need to charge this wearable about once a week (depending on your schedule, of course).
Even though you won't be using it often, we're not massive fans of the change to the magnetic charging puck. Rather than the now somewhat standard approach of using a circular disc on the back of the watch, the Runtopia S1 uses a small, slightly awkward set of electrodes to hook up to the back. It's only a little bit more effort as it is still magnetized, but it just doesn't look as attractive as a circular puck.
Image credits: TechRadar