Nixon The Mission Smartwatch Review

Nixon's Android watch is rad for skiiers and surfers, lame for everyone else

The Mission is the perfect smartwatch for surfing or skiing.
The Mission is the perfect smartwatch for surfing or skiing.
The Mission is the perfect smartwatch for surfing or skiing.

Highs

  • Very rugged
  • Tons of sensors
  • Useful for surfers and skiers

Lows

  • Lackluster battery
  • Too bulky

DT Editors' Rating

The name Nixon may mean Watergate and scandal to older Americans, but a younger crowd may be more familiar with the California watchmaker partly owned by Billabong. The company’s latest is one of the biggest Android Wear releases to date — and comes at a time when Android Wear is more than a little forgotten.

This watch isn’t just another showpiece for Android Wear, however: Android Wear is an operating system for this watch. The difference? The software is secondary here. But just how does The Mission compare to other devices? And is it worth the premium price? We put this Nixon to the test to find out.

Design

The Mission is unashamedly a sports watch, and you’re not going to forget it – it’s huge. You may as well strap a dinner plate to your wrist. Okay, maybe it’s not that big, but the point is to prepare yourself for a big device if you purchase The Mission. The case of the watch is a huge 48mm, and it’s made with 316L surgical grade steel. That means it’s not just big but heavy too, and, if you’re a surfer, it should be able to withstand some pretty big waves.

The watch isn’t just wide, it’s also pretty thick — around half an inch thick, in fact. Safe to say, this isn’t a device you’re going to strap on and forget about. Considering how big it is, those with smaller wrists probably aren’t going to be fans. The size isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however; the device could be described as rugged, which is kind of the point here. That’s because Nixon targets skiers, surfers, and other athletes, so The Mission has to be able to withstand a few knocks.

The strap is also fairly rugged; it’s made of rubber and take a little maneuvering to properly tighten up. It’s not supremely comfortable, especially considering the size, but thankfully it’s not overly uncomfortable either.

There’s another reason The Mission’s size is a good thing: The watch doesn’t suffer from the flat-tire look other circular devices have, so the AMOLED display (it has a resolution of 400 × 400) is perfectly round.

Nixon has clearly put time and effort into engineering, and the result is top-notch waterproofing. In fact, the device has 10ATM waterproofing, which equates to around 100m, much deeper than any surfer will ever go. Heck, you could scuba dive with it. Watergate? Fuhgeddaboudit. You’ll have no issues no matter how the surf is pounding.

The Mission is unashamedly a sports watch, and you’re not going to forget it – it’s huge. You may as well strap a dinner plate to your wrist.

That waterproofing isn’t perfect for all of the device’s features, unfortunately. You’ll notice a strange looking mechanism on the left side of the watch, which locks and unlocks the microphone hole. You’ll need to remember to close that up when you’re going near water to keep the guts dry, which is unfortunate because that microphone can come in handy — especially if you’ve gotten used to “OK Google” voice commands.

You’ll find a button on the side as well, to toggle the watch in and out of its low power state and acts as a home button when you’re using an app.

When it comes to color options, The Mission has a range of options including custom ones. The process was extremely simple, which is good news for those that want to give their watch a personal touch. In fact, according to Nixon, the device offers a massive 44,000 design variations, if you include color options for the strap, bezel, and main body.

Tracking and software

The Mission features a number of important trackers for surfers and skiers, although it doesn’t have everything.

Most important, the watch includes a GPS, one of few Android Wear devices to do so. That’s an important feature – most Android Wear smartwatches can piggyback off of their associated smartphones for GPS tracking, but as a skiing device and especially for surfers, the watch won’t always be connected to a phone.

To use the feature, you start by setting up a location for where you’re going to be surfing or skiing, something you can do through the Nixon app. Then the watch will be able to tell you the conditions of your chosen location, including things like wind speed and the weather.

Different metrics will show on the watch face depending on whether you’re surfing or skiing. Skiiers will see top speed and altitude; surfers will find altitude replaced with distance travelled.

Seeing these things is cool, but unfortunately the smartphone app and watch app are largely set on in-the-moment stats – they don’t offer information for improving your technique or changing how you ski or surf. And the watch doesn’t have a heart-rate monitor, something you’d expect from a device of this thickness and nature. Most smartwatch monitors of this ilk aren’t very accurate, yet it still would have been nice to see.

The watch runs on Android Wear 1.5, however hopefully it will get the update to Android Wear 2.0 when the software is finally released. For more on how to use Android Wear, head here.

Sensors and battery life

The Mission smartwatch has a range of sensors, but not everything you would expect from a sports watch – notably, it’s forgetting the heart rate monitor. Apart from that, however, it’s a pretty packed device. Inside, you’ll find a thermometer, altimeter, barometer, gyrometer, humidity sensor, and accelerometer. That’s a lot of ometers, on top of the GPS radio.

All these sensors come with a cost: battery life. After a run that lasted around an hour, The Mission lost almost half of its battery life. That may not be a big deal for some, but don’t expect to wear this watch to work all day and then take it out for a run.

That issue gets even worse for other outdoor activities. Want to take the watch out for a hike all day? Forget about it: This watch simply won’t last through the day.

If you don’t use the GPS at all – and simply wear the watch during the day like you would any other watch, results were a little better, and we found we could get through almost two days of use. But then again, if you’re looking for a device to wear simply as a watch, this bulky, heavy timepiece won’t be your first choice.

Our Take

The DT Accessory Pack

Looking for a dedicated surfing or skiing device? Nixon has built your best option, and thrown in a slew of sensors and 10ATM waterproofing. This is an excellent device for its intended market. And we like the attention to detail, including the little cover for the microphone port.

Is there a better alternative?

For surfing or skiing, this may well be the best watch out there. For everyone else, the Garmin Fenix 3 may be a better sports watch – although you will have to shell out a little extra cash. But it includes everything a fitness fan could ask for, including a built in heart-rate monitor. Sportspeople looking for a device to take hiking or running might also consider the new TomTom Spark 3, a excellent fitness tracker well suited to workout junkies.

How long will it last?

The watch is extremely durable and should last years without breaking. With 10ATM waterproofing and a very strong build, the device should last a very long time. How long will Android Wear itself last? That’s a different question entirely, and lack of support from the market sounds a sour note for its long-term prospects. Still, we’re bullish on the overall space and expect to see continued improvements to the platform that should be reflected in Nixon’s offerings.

Should you buy it?

Hanging ten sometime soon? Buy this watch. Hitting the slopes this season? Buy this watch. Planning athletic pursuits in some other field – hiking, biking, running, cartwheeling, high-jumping, etc? Keep looking. The perfect wearable is likely just over the next hill.

Mobile

If you want a pair of Focals smartglasses, be prepared to go through a process

North Focals are smart glasses that display your notifications, weather, and directions. We went to a pop-up location to try them on and found out just how involved the process is.
Deals

Stay fit and save cash with our top 10 affordable Fitbit alternatives

As much as we love Fitbits, they're rather expensive. If all you want is a simple activity tracker, however, then check out these great cheap Fitbit alternatives. With offerings from brands like Garmin, you don't need to pay full price.
Deals

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for March 2019

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals.
Wearables

These are the best smartwatches for everything from fashion to fitness

Tempted to buy a smartwatch? If so, then the growing number of great models available means you've got plenty to choose from. But which one should you pick? Here is our list of the best smartwatches.
Deals

It’s time to check out the best Apple Watch deals for March 2019

The Apple Watch has surged to prominence in recent years. If you're in the market for an iOS wearable, we've sniffed out the best Apple Watch deals available right now for all three models of this great smartwatch.
Android

Mobile World Congress 2019

There's no bigger show for mobile tech geeks than Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain: where flagship phones are born and intriguing new wearables shine. And this year, where foldable phones and 5G are dominating the news. For 2019…
Product Review

Casio’s Pro Trek WSD-F30 outdoors smartwatch fits city lifestyles, too

It’s equipped with all the outdoor tools and sensors you want, but the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 is as much a lifestyle smartwatch as it is trekking companion.
Deals

It’s no Apple Watch, but the Vtech Kidizoom is a cheap smartwatch for kids

Looking for a cheap, no-nonsense smartwatch for kids? The Vtech Kidizoom DX2 smartwatch lets your child take photos, videos, play games, and track steps. With a $15 discount, it's very affordable.
Wearables

Microsoft Band: Users of the defunct fitness tracker offered a refund

Three years after it stopped making the device, Microsoft has announced it is finally ending support for its Band fitness tracker. The good news is that current users, if there are any still out there, can obtain a partial refund.
Wearables

Fitbit drops the price, splashes on the color for spring 2019 lineup

Fitbit's spring 2019 lineup includes a new Versa Lite Edition, an affordable everyday smartwatch, as well as the stylish and sleek Inspire and Inspire HR fitness trackers. There's also the Ace 2, a swimproof tracker for kids ages 6 and up.
Wearables

Time to get to the gym: The fitness-loving Galaxy Watch Active is now available

Looking for a new fitness buddy? Samsung just launched the Galaxy Watch Active and the Galaxy Fit, two new wearables with a raft of fitness-focused features that'll keep you moving and get you down to the gym.
Home Theater

IPX what? The electronics water- and dust-resistance rating explained

Increasingly, consumer electronics companies are using an IPX code to demonstrate that their products are water and dust resistant. But what does this IPX code mean? We break it all down and walk you through it.
Wearables

Fitbit Versa Lite versus Fitbit Versa: How are they different?

Fitbit took the best of its popular Versa smartwatch and removed some elements to create the new Versa Lite, an even more affordable entry-level smartwatch. How does the Versa Lite differ from the original Versa? Read on to find out.
Wearables

You will never need to charge a smartwatch again, if new EU project succeeds

A new EU research project has launched into finding a new way of powering wearable devices, with the intention of using an energy harvesting system to ensure we never have to charge one up ever again.