thumbsUp Spy Watch review

Waterproof wristwatch with AVI, JPEG and WAV recording
Photo of thumbsUp Spy Watch
£80

Dustproof, and waterproof to a depth of 30m this may be, but the Spy Watch lives up to its name by offering some clandestinely features that you wouldn’t normally expect to find around your wrist.

What it lacks in design, build quality and general aesthetic appeal, the Spy Watch attempts to make up for in miniature movies, photography and a voice recorder. The miniature camera is hidden in the analogue clock’s face, and is flanked on one side by a built-in microphone and on the otherm, a USB connection. A normal version of the latter would let the cat from the bag, so there’s a 3.5 mm analogue-USB cable provided to match the smaller port.

Plug ‘n’ play

This socket is used for outputting the results to a computer, and we had no problem accessing the resulting files when hooking it up to a laptop running Vista. An accompanying mini 80mm CD is provided which contain the drivers, showing the Spy Watch’s age; no Mac we know of can take such a disc.

Surprisingly, the Spy Watch manages 4GB of built-in storage, which proves just about enough space for fuelling its major recording features. The battery itself (rechargeable via USB) lasts less than two hours, if you’re taking pictures and recording audio or video.

Video, audio & photography

Video recording uses the M-JPEG codec, which produces AVI file technically shot in a 1280×960 resolution. With no LCD screen, operating the Spy Watch is left to a variety of knobs and levers around the clock face. It’s a case of toggling between the three modes and remembering which colour flashing light means what. This is all easy enough, when you’ve got the hang of it, but the results are truly terrible.

These AVI video files suffer from so much picture noise and not so much jagged, as completely ruined edges, that it’s barely worth continuing with the review. The audio from the built-in mic is so crackly that it reminds us of the Moon landings. Dedicated audio files, recorded as WAV files, are identical in their complete lack of any clarity.

The aspect orientation of the camera is equally annoying. It’s designed to be used outwards, so you can only really film someone from the side of your body. As this is the place from where the watch is worn,  therefore making any attempt to record a piece to camera an upside-down affair.

Date and time-stamped JPEG photos, which only reach a paltry two megapixels in size, are soft and noisy, though there are two much larger problems. It is impossible to focus pictures, and also keep the watch or wrist still, while pressing the shutter button of the watches’ side at the same time.

Although it’s waterproof to 30m, this isn’t designed to be a diving watch – it just can’t cope with the pressure. Given its video and photo performance, it’s no loss.

Company: Thumbsup!

Website: http://www.red5.co.uk/

Contact: 01482 830358

Positives
  • Easy operation.
Negative
  • Inaudible audio; soft photos and video; photos limited to 2 mega pixel; no focus; not suitable for diving.

Verdict

Unless the world’s spies have had their budgets severely slashed, few secret agents will be able to glean much information from photos, video or audio taken with the Spy Watch. The operation of which is fairly simple to master, but it's hardly worth the bother with such disappointing results. We wouldn't even recommend this to those wishing to record a lecture or meeting as a WAV file – as the results are almost inaudible. A big thumbs down to the thumbsUp; use a smartphone instead.