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Matrix Powerwatch X review: Infinite battery... but what's the cost?

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The Powerwatch X has a standard reflective black and gray LCD, like your '80s digital watch. The recessed display looks crisp, but in dim light can get hard to read. Most watch readouts are gray-on-black, and consist of a single big time readout, or step count, or stopwatch countdown (depending on the mode). There are no extra watch faces on the Powerwatch X, and no way to show multiple bits of information at once, which means frequent watch-fiddling.

There's no touchscreen, either. Two side buttons on the right cycle through watch modes and trigger stopwatch or exercise start/stop controls.

There's a backlight, too, if a side button is pressed. It's dim and only helpful in total darkness.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Super-basic fitness

Steps are counted, and sleep is tracked automatically, too, but only in terms of total hours and minutes slept. Matrix's phone app for iOS and Android is extremely basic and lacks helpful charts and detailed breakdowns that show up with most fitness trackers. I also found the watch's step-counting to be too forgiving and easily triggered when I was moving or showering but not walking, compared to Fitbit and Apple Watch.

Step count can't even be casually glanced at: You'll have to press a side button to switch modes.

Sure, the watch has a stopwatch, and an "exercise mode" that's basically the stopwatch plus a simple activity-tracking timer for steps and distance. The stopwatch and exercise modes can't run in the background, though.

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Yes, it knows your skin temperature (or, an approximation)

Sarah Tew/CNET

Notifications... or notifications that you have notifications

The Powerwatch X will buzz to indicate incoming calls, text messages and email. But, the large display doesn't show actual messages, just an icon that a message came in. This renders the idea of watch notifications useless.

I also found the watch's Bluetooth connection to be buggy, wavering in and out. On an iPhone X, the watch seemed to drop off and be offline several times even when I had both devices nearby.

I want forever charging on all my smartwatches

What Matrix is doing is fascinating, and I can't wait to see what's next. I'd love an Amazfit Bip or Pebble-type watch with infinite battery life. Who wouldn't?

I wouldn't get a Powerwatch X right now, because its price and limited features still don't feel worth it. I'd get an Amazfit Bip, which costs far less and still has really good battery life.

But I really do love the idea of a smartwatch that never needs charging. Matrix seems like it's on to something big, if the idea can expand into other trackers and gadgets.

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