The Microsoft Band is a device that sends you notifications for your messages, email and calendar. It also tracks your heart rate, sleep and activity and has a library of courses ranging from golf to running to improve your fitness. It’s the first fitness tracker and smartwatch produced by Microsoft.
The band comes in three sizes (small, medium, large) and is available for $199.
It works with Windows phones, iPhones and Android phones.
Things I like about the Microsoft Band
1. Notifications and info on the LCD screen
The Microsoft Band screen shows a lot of information for its size. It’s a small screen, but it’s amazing to see how much usable information is displayed on it. When you enable Bluetooth, you’ll get text, email, Swarm, Instagram and other notifications from your favorite apps that you also have on your phone.
The screen doesn’t only show you notifications; it’s also a touchscreen that allows you to track your activity and displays the summary of your activity afterward, including your heart rate, average pace, elevation and other metrics. It’s all in the subtle details: During a bike ride, my Microsoft Band vibrated when I hit a milestone, like biking one mile.
2. Workouts and courses
The Microsoft Band offers a full range of courses to improve your fitness, which is something you don’t see often with wearables and health apps. The Microsoft Band has a lot of courses you can try out: running, bodyweight, strength, biking and golfing. You can browse the workouts on your mobile app and transfer them to your band to schedule them into your day-to-day life, and the band will activate your workouts when the time comes. Handy!
The courses are to the point and tell you which exercise you need to perform for how long.
3. Tracking and accuracy
Using the Microsoft Band while biking seemed pretty accurate, and it shows a lot of useful info on the Band screen about your activity. From a bike ride, it showed heart rate, distance, peak heart rate, average heart rate, maximum speed and average speed. It’s one of the only wearables that gives an abundance of information.
4. Informative metrics
The Windows Health app has some informative metrics that I haven’t seen in any other app, like “Recovery Time” and “Most Burned Calories.”
Information comes together in a visually appealing format, too. For example, you can see the speed of your biking on a map ranging from snail to tiger speed, which was fun to experience.
The band is waterproof, so you can wear it while showering and keep up with texts and other notifications from your phone without getting it wet.
The setup is simple: Your Microsoft Band tells you exactly what to do and how to pair it with the Windows Health app. The band walks you through all the steps and within 5 minutes you’re all ready to use it.
Things I don’t like about the Microsoft band:
I am well aware that wearables have a patent on making the biggest and most of the times most ugly one, but the designer of the Microsoft Band hit the ball where no other one has gone. It’s made of a hard plastic shell and doesn’t adjust to the shape of your wrist. It comes in three sizes, but small was too big and chunky for my female coworker. It looked like she could knock someone out with it.
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2. Price / quality
It’s unclear what the Microsoft Band is exactly. Is it a tracker? A smartwatch? A notification device? A heart rate monitor? I mostly used it as a notification device, but do I really want to pay $199 for that? Or would I prefer the Pebble Watch as a smartwatch with a notification system?
3. No automatic tracking
I’m not a lazy ass who can’t push a button, but I like my wearables to track my activity automatically. Especially my sleep. Sleep and activity aren’t tracked automatically with the Microsoft Band. You always have to tap your screen to tell the wearable you’re either sleeping or working out. I never fall asleep when I say I will, so by default sleep tracking is off. Bummer.
Same goes for biking: I once had a 20-minute bike ride that ended up in a 2 hour bike ride because I forgot to push the button telling the Microsoft Band that I ended my activity.
4. Inaccurate, abrupt battery life
The good news: You recharge your Microsoft Band though your USB port, so you can easily hook it up to your computer.
The seemingly good news: The battery lasts four to five days, which is an average battery life. But the bad news: Unfortunately, the Microsoft Band doesn’t tell you when it’s running out of power and just dies on you without warning. I was walking around with my band for a full day before noticing it didn’t have any juice anymore. A little warning would have been handy.
I also noticed that the battery often didn’t last for four days—just two. When I had a two-hour bike ride, it only lasted for a day. In other words: The battery life depends on how much you track, and you can’t trust it.
5. No background sync and slow sync time
The Microsoft Band can definitely use some sync optimizations:
- The syncing process takes at least 10 minutes.
- The Microsoft Band doesn’t sync in the background. You always have to open up the app and leave it open for the sync to complete. If you accidentally minimize the app, the sync will be interrupted and you’ll have to start over again.
6. Mobile app
I was very confused by the Microsoft Band mobile app. The app has a lot of functionalities and metrics, but a lot of them are unnecessary. That makes the app a bulk of information, and it’s hard to find the information you need. There is too much going on in the app. Only 25% is useful.
7. No recommendations
The band doesn’t help you improve your fitness or sleep. It just shows your tracking but doesn’t analyze it.
8. Sleep efficiency
The way the Windows Health app calculates sleep efficiency is absurd. It calculates it through how many hours you spent in bed vs. how many hours you were a sleep. So if I would be in bed sleeping for two hours, I would have a sleep efficiency of 100%. They need to take other factors into account, too.
Do I recommend it?
Yes, if you’re looking for a good notification watch, just like the Pebble watch. The Microsoft Band is truly one of the better ones we’ve seen so far together with the Apple Watch (if you have more of a budget).
However, overall I wouldn’t recommend the Microsoft Band. I don’t get the purpose of the band. It does everything, but nothing really well. Since it’s Microsoft and it’s the company’s first activity tracker, I am curious to see what the future will bring. The company can clearly afford to learn a lot while failing on its first device.
If you want a good real-time activity tracker, go for the Basis Peak. If you want a more “easy-going” activity tracker, go for the Fitbit Charge HR. If you want a less expensive smartwatch, go for the Pebble. If you want a more expensive one, go for the Apple Watch.
If you want something completely different, check our wearable buyer’s guide where we give tons of other options.
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