Review: Basis Peak fitness and sleep tracker

Basis Peak

Basis Peak
7.25

Design

6/10

    Ease of use

    8/10

      Use of information

      8/10

        Motivation

        7/10

          Pros

          • Accurate
          • Many sensors
          • Detailed tracking of your life
          • Excellent sleep tracking
          • Good battery life

          Cons

          • Not enough interpretation of data
          • Occasional syncing problems
          • No GPS
          • Pricey

          Basis Science was one of the first companies to come out with a fully featured activity tracker watch back in 2012 – the Basis Peak B1. The company has since been bought out by Intel, so the second version of the watch that came out in 2014 was the first under Intel’s guidance.

          The new Basis Peak fitness and sleep tracker is a total revamp, a redesign and improvement on the previous watch. Basis says the Peak can track your heart rate and other fitness metrics with more accuracy than the average fitness band, and includes features most don’t, such as a continuous heart-rate monitor, skin and ambient temperature sensors and sleep phase monitoring.

          Design
          Ease of use
          Use of information
          Motivation
          Overview

          View technical specs


          Design

          You probably wont be blown away by the styling of the Basis Peak as it does not look particularly attractive. The watch has a chunky look to it coming across a retro digital watch. It doesn’t look like a fitness band and falls more in line with standard smartwatch aesthetics. The Peak features a thinner body than its predecessor, it is made of metal instead of plastic, and it features a redesigned heart rate sensor.

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          The Peak comes in a black and white color and features soft, breathable silicone straps which are changeable. The band is pretty comfortable and stretches to let you keep a firm, but not tight contact. The straps come in a variety of colours including: Vapour (blue with lime green highlights), Coral, Onyx (black with yellow highlights), Firefly (lime green) and Ember (red). Basis has recently debuted a sleeker, more modern version of the Peak called Titanium. The more expensive Titanium Peak has a case that is made of titanium, and it comes with both a leather strap and a silicone one.

          The screen is a 1.25-inch monochrome LCD which is protected by a scratch-resistant sheet of Gorilla Glass 3. It rests in an aircraft-grade aluminium watch case. The screen is touch sensitive and features a backlight which is activated by swiping up from the lower right-hand corner of the screen.

          The watch packs in a number of sensors including an optical heart rate engine, 3-axis accelerometer, skin temperature, and Galvanic skin response sensor. It is water resistant up to 5 ATM, which means that it is safe for swimming.

          The Peak can run up to 4 days on a single charge, even with 24/7 heart rate switched on, and includes a magnetic USB charger. This is very impressive battery life and features well against the competition.

          If you ignore the esthetics, overall, the hardware looks solid for a fitness wearable.


          Ease of use

          The Peak tracks your activity, sleep and heart rate all the time. All you have to do is create a Basis account, enter your basic info (height, weight, gender), and let the band pair and sync via Bluetooth. The band and the app handle the rest.

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          The watch can intelligently recognise when exercise has begun – walking, running, or biking. The system is called “Body IQ,” and the information it churns out is available to view at a glance on your band, with a swipe up or down on the centre section for different metrics. The display shows your activity’s data including your heart rate, duration of the activity and steps taken. The good thing about the Basis Peak is that it doesn’t need to be connected to your smartphone to be able to track your activities.

          The smartphone app, available for both iPhone and Android gives you a holistic overview of your fitness and sleep activity. Once you connect the Basis Peak to your smartphone via Bluetooth, the band will sync with the app to give you the latest fitness and sleep tracking data. The syncing process can however be quite slow at times, especially when you haven’t synced with the app for a while. It seems that pairing can be much more of a problem on Android devices – not so much on iOS.

          The activity feed is where you get an overview of your recent activities. The main app displays your daily totals of calories burned and steps taken, along with your average heart rate for the day. Tapping on a fitness activity will open the a further menu, which displays more in-depth statistics in the form of a bar graph. The app is also viewable in a web browser – and you will find that the statistics in the web browser are actually displayed more clearly and in more detail.

          Both the phone app and the web views provide interesting data, analyses, and graphics. They each navigate a little differently, so you will have to explore a bit. However, there are some helpful FAQ and guides for getting around that answer many of the standard questions. You can also export all of your minute by minute data if you’d like to look at it in a spreadsheet.


          Use of information

          As mentioned, the Peak tracks caloric burn, steps and heart-rate while automatically capturing activity such as walks, runs and rides, and sleep with no buttons to push. This puts it in competition with the likes of Fitbit Surge and Garmin Vivoactive. However the Peak also offers a galvanic skin response sensor (sweat) and skin temperature – two sensors which are not part of the feature-set of most other fitness trackers on the market today.

          On the other hand, Basis Peak lacks GPS. This is probably as Basis is looking to reduce bulk and extend battery life. However, while it can send its heart rate data to apps including Endomondo, Strava and MapMyRun, it can’t receive GPS data from them. Which means that it has to calculate distances run or cycled using just your steps/movements, and like all fitness trackers it doesn’t do this with reliable accuracy.

          Additionally, it can be too smart for its own good. If you stop your run for a traffic light for example, the watch will detect this and will downgrade your session into ‘stroll’ mode. When you start running again – a new session will begin.

          Peak tracks your heart rate 24/7 with a proprietary advanced optical blood flow engine. This engine shines light into your bloodstream just below the skin’s surface. The light that’s reflected back, which changes as your blood ebbs and flows, is measured by an optical sensor. You can stream real-time heart rate to other fitness apps.

          It should be noted that wrist-based heart rate monitors are not optimal for activities with lots of wrist action, like weightlifting or tennis. Peak is also not optimized for high-intensity interval workouts, or swimming.

          The resting heart-rate is displayed on the daily dashboard. A feature that has recently been added through a firmware and app update. Apple Health Kit and Android equivalent support has also been added.

          Basis has one of the most detailed and accurate sleep trackers on the market. Based on your heart rate, Peak automatically knows when you fall asleep, and provides insights into REM, light and deep sleep. It automatically track duration, restlessness, REM/Deep stages and more so you can really start to improve your sleep. It also assigns you a daily sleep score.

          You can also get notifications for texts, calls, emails, calendar events and habit alerts right on your wrist. Calls and texts are displayed in full on the watch – and will last for five minutes before being automatically cleared.

          There are challenges in using the data. The Peak will sometimes report that you are asleep when you are sitting, and inactive when you are working out in the gym. Although that is not overly helpful when it happens, it still provides some very useful training data. So, if you ignore the imperfect algorithms for sleep and activity, you still get interesting data and insightful analyses about your heart rate, calorie burn, sleep patterns, including light, deep, REM and toss and turn count.


          Motivation

          With Peak’s Body IQ technology, you automatically get a real-time comprehensive picture of your walks, runs and rides—including heart rate, activity duration, and steps.

          The Peak also allows you to set goals with a habits system that tries to figure out when you need a nudge. Habits are small goals which you choose for yourself. You can choose over 12 habits for activity, caloric burn, better sleep and more. You assign yourself a habit and try and beat the target. Peak will automatically adjust the target as you achieve your goals.

          In a sense, it is a gamification system, which rewards users if they meet specific exercise or behavioral targets. You start at level 0 and add a “habit” or two, which are basically challenges: take 10,000 steps daily; wake up at a certain time three days a week; burn an estimated calorie total daily; get up and move every hour.


          Overview

          The verdict

          Peak gives you a complete look at your activity, fitness and sleep, along with smartwatch notifications so you can work towards improving your health and fitness. It tracks your heart rate 24/7 and automatically detects your walks, runs, rides and sleep––with no button-pushing required. And with occasional nudges to help you reach your goals, Peak will try and help you to improve.

          As a general activity tracker and sports watch it is great. It packs in many sensors. Some of these sensors such as its skin temperature and Galvanic skin response sensor are not offered by much of its competition.

          There are however certain downsides to the watch. While it faires well against competition in terms of its accuracy, it doesnt feature a GPS. So it doesnt record pace and distance. Also, while it will record your beats per minute, skin temperatures, perspiration and running exploits, the interpretation of data is fairly basic, so you are left scratching your head on what to do with all the raw data that is in front of you. Plus it is not exactly one of the most attractive fitness trackers on the market.

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          Basis Peak
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          The Basis Peak is certainly better than when it launched, with many bugs resolved and improvements made. The real-time heart-rate tracking isn’t perfect, but it comes close. The feature set is on par with competition and the sleep tracking feature is one of the most detailed on the market. And with automatic sleep and exercise tracking, and an improved industrial design, the Basis Peak is much better than its predecessor.

          View technical specs

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