One of the biggest gripes with smartwatches is battery life. That’s what made the original Matrix PowerWatch and its successor, the PowerWatch X, compelling—a fitness-oriented smartwatch fully powered by the heat generated from your own body? It was an intriguing concept to say the least, even if we found the PowerWatch X less than stellar once it hit shelves.
But at CES 2019 Matrix is taking yet another stab at the device with the PowerWatch 2. It uses the same thermoelectric tech to harvest your body heat, but this time around, it’s a bit more useful thanks to a solar cell located around the bezel. While the PowerWatch X was lacking when it came to smart features, the solar cell gives the PowerWatch 2 enough extra juice to include built-in GPS, a full-colour LCD display, compass, and heart rate monitoring. It’s also pool-safe with a water resistance rating of up to 200 meters.
That’s a pretty sweet feature-set from a watch with zero battery. It’s also impressive when you consider the PowerWatch 2 will track everything from pace, distance, steps, sleep, and running cadence. And, because it’s tuned into your body heat, it also delivers one of the more accurate calorie counts—a metric that can wildly differ from one fitness tracker to the next. It’ll also be compatible with third-party fitness platforms like Apple HealthKit and Google Fit.
The new watch is a bit chunkier than the PowerWatch X at 15mm compared to the X’s 13.5 mm. That’s probably because it’s packing more sensors and proprietary modules than previous iterations. With the PowerWatch 2, Matrix is also updating its app to give a better fitness experience. You’ll now be able to see a map of your running route, splits, and pace, as well as average and maximum heart rate.
The watch is expected to ship in late Q2, but at the moment it’s available for pre-order for $US200 ($281)—though the retail price is actually a stiff $US500 ($703). Still, if you’re constantly losing your charging cables and/or your dead fitness trackers are collecting dust at the bottom of your drawer, the new updates are encouraging. Our main beef with the original devices was they just didn’t have the features to justify the price, or the novelty of a battery-free smartwatch. There are still some sacrifices this time around—namely an LCD screen and limited push notifications—but the bump in fitness capability makes the PowerWatch 2 worth a gander.