The women on our team have drooled at the wrist-top computers the men use. Altimeters, chronographs, alarms, barometers…. Man, features we want too! But until Highgear came out with the Axio Mini and introduced it in stores in early 2009, it was only a dream. You see, most altimeter-watches are big enough to use as dinner plates, and most women’s wrists can’t handle the size needed to pack in all those electronics. One of our testers actually suffered a nasty wrist bone bruise a few years ago from wearing a rather large, heavy one for a few hours.
The Axio? It not only is small and petite enough to elicit remarks like, “Oh, how cute!” from non-tech geeks, but it also gets the job done. Cute and functional. What more could you want?
We love that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how to use the Axio Mini and move through the various features. It has an altimeter, barometer, thermometer, 100-hour chronograph, two daily alarms, one rest alarm, one hydration alarm, two altimeter alarms, a data log and a backlight, plus it’s water-resistant to 50 meters and (of course) has the date and time (two time zones). You can choose Fahrenheit or Celsius and 12- or 24- hour display. The only thing missing that you get with a larger altimeter is the compass.
The watch is not only functional, but good-looking as well. While many devices are merely gray and white or all black, the Axio Mini is available in light blue, as well as gray with a yellow ring around the display.
We had one gripe, which we heard the company was going to fix with models shipped for Fall 2009 (so pay attention if you look at one to make sure you have a new one): The upper right button that allows you to flip between time zones can flip all on its own with a light bump – even just as you slip on a backpack or put it down on a counter. That’s not a problem normally, but we found two cases in which it’s an issue. As one of our testers experienced, if you are in a time zone that is only one hour different from the home time zone, you can easily figure you just lost track of time and, like our tester, be verrrry late for an appointment. Or, if you are in wet conditions and the button is pushed inadvertently, could allow moisture through the gasket and ruin the works. Neither is great.
We had one additional gripe that we’ll preface with a compliment: We liked that the strap had decorative but functional perforations all along it so it could easily fit any size wrist. But the strap is pretty long, despite the fact that the product is intended for women, who typically have small wrists. People with small wrists can usually cut off excess material on a watch or other wrist-top device, but the strap for the Axio Mini has a raised nub on one end to “lock’ the strap down into the strap keeper. If you cut off the strap (i.e. also the nub), you lose the ability to secure a loose strap. One of our users, who has quite a petite wrist, found the end of the strap reached nearly all the way back to the front of her wrist and the watch face. She had to constantly re-adjust the strap because each time she wore it the end would get pulled backward or come untucked from the strap keeper.
SNEWS® Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $125