Pebble is 'the other' smartwatch company. Where juggernauts Google and Apple have annual revenue numbers that can match the GDPs of small countries, Pebble was, and is, a company funded by the people.
Like the very first Pebble watches, the Pebble Time Steel was backed through Kickstarter. And this is the fancier version of the second generation of Pebble watches, brother to the Pebble Time.
Much like the normal Pebble Time, you get amazing battery life, a low-key colour screen and a watch much slimmer than most Android Wear wrist-garb. And over the standard Time this Steel edition offers a nicer strap, longer stamina and, you guessed it, more steel.
Is it worth the upgrade? Only if you like the idea of a leather strap over a silicone one or don't mind the extra £50/$30 spend. You see, the Pebble Time Steel is very similar to its more affordable brother.
Design and Comfort
Now for the key question: exactly how different does the Pebble Time Steel look, compared to the standard Time? From the front, it's all quite similar.
The screen is exactly the same size, but more of the surround is taken up by Gorilla Glass rather than the steel outer part. That's right, there's actually more metal visible from the front in the 'non- Steel' version.
However, the look is at least a slight improvement. Pick a watch face with a dark background and all that blank space around the display becomes much less obvious. Still, you do have to get used to the idea that the Pebble Time Steel is a lot of frame for not all that much picture, just like the Pebble Time.
So where does the extra steel end up? Well, while there's less on the front, here the whole watch housing is made of steel where the Pebble Time is plastic with just a veneer of steel on the top to make it seem less as though you're wearing a toy.
On first handling the Pebble Time Steel, you get that cooler, harder feel that comes with metal. But can the back of your wrist really appreciate it half-way through the day? Not really. The Pebble Time is comfortable, and so is this watch.
The Pebble Time Steel is actually 1mm thicker and slightly heavier than the standard Time too, which could make it a bit less comfy. There's no major difference to the main watch part's ergonomics or comfort, though.
Aside from the cooler feel of metal when you first put the watch on, what alters the feels of the Pebble Time Steel generally is the strap. This more expensive model has a leather strap instead of a silicone one.
It has a roughened finish and no stitching that could lend it that self-regarding fuddy-duddy 'prestige' look you get with many leather-strap watches. This helps the design seem very open to differing ages and genders. It'll suit anyone up for the hint of geekiness that comes with owning any smartwatch. Well, apart from perhaps an Apple Watch.
The leather strap feels good, shedding the functional-but-cheap vibe that comes with just about any silicone watch strap. And it causes no discomfort, no undue sweating, no icky rashes. Like any Time-generation Pebble, the strap is also dead easy to replace if it ends up a bit gross, having sucked-up six months' worth of grime and sweat. It uses a standard 22mm strap.
The Pebble Time Steel comes in silver, gold and black watch shades too, letting you spec-up one of these watches as you fancy. All cost £229 ($249.99 US & AU) with the leather strap, or £269 ($299.98 US & AU) with the heavier link strap.
Look and feel aside, the only other difference between Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel is the battery. Pebble hasn't blabbed about the actual specs of this one, but given the Time is meant to last for up to seven days and has a 150mAh unit, we'd expect around a 200mAh one in this watch as Pebble says it'll last for up to 10 days.
Sure enough, you'll get a solid couple of extra days off a charge, although exactly how long the Time Steel lasts will naturally depend on how you use the thing. Using it for all phone notifications and making the screen light come on whenever a button is pressed saw us squeeze just under a week off a charge.
That's slightly under the claimed amount, but we entirely believe you can get 10 days with light use, and even when the reality doesn't quite match up longevity is still a world away from the Apple Watch and all the Android Wear competitors. Charging the watch just involves attaching a magnetised cable to points on the back.
Screen and Software
The reasons why the Pebble Time Steel lasts so long are those that apply to all Pebble Watches to date. It uses an ultra-low-consumption screen and doesn't do much heavy lifting itself: it's not a watch that does much on its own.
But let's start with the screen. The Pebble Time Steel has a LCD screen, but it's completely unlike the LCD displays you're used to from phones and, possibly, other smartwatches. It doesn't have a backlight, its pixels relying on light outside of the display itself to make that screen visible. As such it's closer to the screen of a classic digital watch.
However, unlike a classic Casio the 144x168 pixels can display whatever they like, including colour. The 64 colours it can display aren't very vivid, though. They're there to takes Pebbles out the dull monochrome world, not compete with the flashiest smartwatches.
That is true of the Pebble Time Steel's apps too. They tend to be pretty simple, pretty basic. This comes down to a whole variety of factors.
First, the watch only has a low-power 1GHz Cortex-M4 CPU. It doesn't have a phone-grade brain like some Android Wear watches. Internal memory is also intensely limited. With 16MB memory total the Pebble Time Steel's apps just can't be that complex. Don't worry too much about storage, though. We didn't hit any limit despite installing a bunch more than we'd ever use week-to-week.
What really cements the Pebble Time Steel as a 'basic' smartwatch, though, are its limited sensors and how you interact with it. There's no touchscreen here, just three buttons on one side, and a further one on the other. They're made of steel, and while they require a firm push, they feel a bit better, a bit crisper, than those of the standard Pebble Time.