Review: Xiaomi Mi 2 band – good value activity tracker

Xiaomi Mi 2 band

Xiaomi Mi 2 band
7.5

Design

8/10

    Ease of use

    8/10

      Use of information

      7/10

        Motivation

        7/10

          Pros

          • Well designed
          • 20 day battery life
          • Low price
          • Simple to use

          Cons

          • Heart rate only on demand
          • App is fairly basic
          • No rewards, leader boards to motivate you

          Chinese tech giant Xiaomi has released a new fitness band earlier this month. The band is officially available for Chinese consumers, but you can get a hold of one through GearBest for just over $30.

          The original fitness band was launched back in 2014 with a retail price of less than $20, an impressive 30-day battery life, an alarm clock and basic fitness tracking functions including sleep tracking. Late last year, the tracker received a bump in specs with the addition of a heart rate sensor.

          The third generation band combines the best features of the predecessor devices, and adds an OLED display to the mix. Which means that for the first time Mi tracker users are not tied to their smartphones to check on their daily progress.

          Our friends at GearBest kindly send us a device to review. These are our impressions after 7 days of testing.

          Design
          Ease of use
          Use of information
          Motivation
          OverviewView technical specs

          Design

          Xiaomi’s latest fitness device comes in a small box that contains the small core unit housing the sensors, a silicon band and the propriatory charging unit. The device does not feel cheaply made. The new silicon bands are more breathable than on the predecessor device and are now resistant to sweat. They are also interchangeable and you can switch between the Black, Blue, Green and Orange options.

          image

          Everything feels impressively slick. The little core slips neatly into the thin silicon band, and everything feel secure once you snap the band into place around your wrist. You can wear the tracker on either hand, as long as you specify in the app the band position.

          Similar to the Apple Watch, the unit can be activated through gesture — lifting your wrist turns the screen on. There is also touch button control. You wake the screen up and cycle through the various metrics by pressing on the anodised 0.05mm ultra-thin button at the lower part of the Mi core. Its worth noting, you can toggle the ‘lift wrist to view info’ option according to your preference via the smartphone app.image

          As mentioned, the Chinese manufacturer has, for the first time, added a screen to one of its fitness trackers. The 0.42-inch OLED display is covered by a scratch-resistant glass and anti-fingerprint coating. It is very visible, even in bright daylight conditions.

          By default, you can view the time, how many steps you’ve taken, and heart rate data and you cycle through these metrics via the button. You can tailor the info on display via the app and add or remove metrics including distance, calories and power remaining.

          The previous Mi Band only delivered information through the smartphone app. Having a screen to show your daily progress is a significant addition, as many people prefer to leave their smartphones aside while jogging or doing some other type of exercise.

          The whole thing is water resistant with an IP67 rating, which means that it is splash and sweat-proof. Don’t plan on going swimming with it though.

          This is a very lightweight device. At only 7 grams, you will hardly feel it on your wrist. Rather impressively, despite the inclusion of a screen, the 70mhz rechargeable Lithium polymer battery will keep it running for up to 20 days (on standby). A number that gives most fitness trackers on the market a target to aim for. We have been using it for more than a day now, and it has not budged from 100%.

          image


          Ease of use

          You will need to install the Mi Fit app before using the tracker. If you are a first time user of a Xiaomi device, the app will take you through the set up process. Answer a few basic questions, open an account and pair the device. Seemless. For a reason only known to Xiaomi, the app will ask you for your phone number. It will then send you a code via SMS which you will need to enter to complete the setup process. A bit unnecessary in our opinion, but not a huge problem.

          The tracker will then ask you to specify your step goal. If you are feeling ambitious, you can raise it from the default 8,000. Other options that you can tweek include toggling incoming call notifications, app notifications, alarms and idle alerts.

          image

          Once everything is up and running, you can pretty much just go about your day and forget about the activity tracker. It will simply sit there on your wrist doing its business quietly enough. Mi Band 2 will automatically monitor the status of your activities, including your sleep. Which means there are no buttons to press.

          To view your daily progress, simply lift your wrist up. The device is very responsive and is usually able to detect the first time around that you have lifted your wrist – which even the Apple Watch sometimes finds difficult!

          For more detailed info, head over to the Mi Fit app. The app will automatically sync with the tracker as soon as you open it. Also, once opened, the app will retain the connection which means you get real-time updates. So if you are walking while looking at the info, you can watch the numbers change with each step. You can also initiate a manual sync by pulling down on the screen if for some reason the app will not pair. We have not run into difficulties though.

          The Mi 2 band contains a light-based PPG (photoplethysmography) sensor to measure your body’s blood flow. The optical heart rate sensor works by shining a LED light on the skin and measuring how the light is scattered by blood flow.

          The heart rate sensor can be used on demand, such as while running or monitoring your sleep patterns. So it will not track your heart rate activity during exercise, or even during the day. Only on demand. The smartphone app will, however, remember and log each measurement in your history section.

          image


          Use of information

          The 24/7 activity tracker features an upgraded pedometer algorithm and a more accurate optical heart rate sensor, along with the usual step, calorie, and distance tracking. Of course, sleep tracking is still a key feature, breaking down your deep sleep and light sleep patterns.

          Mi Band 2 will automatically monitor the status of your activities. When you sit still for too long, it will vibrate and a little walking man will appear on the screen of the tracker to prompt you to get off the sofa. Toggle the option via the smartphone app settings if you do not wish to be disturbed. You will also need to specify the hour window for prompts, unless you want to receive move notifications throughout the night!

          As a basic fitness tracker, the band tracks steps, distance and calories fairly well. Pretty much as any other fitness tracker does. It is light and comfortable enough to wear in bed and, as mentioned, sleep tracking is automatic. To improve sleep tracking accuracy, you can head over to the settings and turn on the sleep assistant feature. This will measure your heart rate every 10 minute or so.

          In terms of actual data, we tested the tracker for 7 days against the Vivoactive HR. The Mi Band reported a 7% smaller step count compared to Garmin’s new tracker, 13% lower distance. The biggest discrepancy was in the active calorie count. The Mi Band reported a 30% lower active calorie count than the Vivoactive HR. We are not saying that Garmin’s device is the gold standard of accuracy, so these results should be taken with a grain of salt. Also, as tests have shown, fitness trackers are known for being imprecise when it comes to counting calories. As far as sleep metrics go, the results were fairly close – only a 5% difference.

          By the way, don’t expect an overly sophisticated app. But the basics are there. Also, on the positive side, you can sync with Apple Health and Google Fit. The screen breaks your walking and running into blocks of active time and presents hourly, daily, weekly and monthly graphs.

          Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 11.30.08

          Another drawback is that the heart rate sensor only functions on-demand. It can take up to 30 seconds for heart rate monitoring to start up, and it may not work the first time around in broad daylight conditions. On the positive side, the readings are fairly accurate for a wrist based heart rate monitor.

          Heart rate monitoring works particularly well for resting heart rate, less so if you are engaged in more intense activities such as running. There is no periodical heart rate measuring throughout the day, but we’ve heard it is possible to use third party apps for this.

          image

          With the addition of a display, you get some basic smartphone notifications as well. The Mi Band 2 will vibrate and notify you via the screen on incoming calls, texts and other notifications. For detail, you will need to look to your smartphone. The device is also capable of unlocking your Xiaomi phone and there is a silent vibrating alarm to wake you up in the morning.


          Motivation

          Tracking your movement, steps and activity is a great way to keep you motivated to achieve your fitness and health goals. As mentioned, the device defaults to a 8,000 step goal. If you need a little extra push, you can set your own fitness targets. Gradually increasing your step goal over time is a simple but effective way to increase your fitness intensity over time and to continually challenge yourself.

          At the moment, the app will allow you to share that you hit your step goal, for instance, with friends via Facebook or Twitter for example, but it ends there. We feel the app would benefit from a social feature, leader boards, and perhaps awards to give you that extra nudge.

          image


          Overview

          The verdict

          We think Xiaomi is sitting on a winner here. The Chinese company shipped over 10 million Mi Band fitness trackers in the first nine months of 2015 and the new tracker may help it close the gap on Apple and Fitbit.

          Aside from the bump in specs, one of the most highly anticipated wearables of this year has received a slight bump in price (149 Yuan or around $30) compared to Xiaomi’s other trackers. Nevertheless, the Mi Band still sits firmly at the lower end of the budget fitness category.

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          Xiaomi Mi 2 Band
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          This is a fitness band. It is not a comprehensive Apple Watch or Garmin device with continuous heart rate monitoring, GPS etc. There are several other low-cost fitness trackers on the market as detailed in our earlier article. However, despite the several times larger price of the Misfit Flash, Fitbit Zip, Pivotal Living, Razer Nabu and Jawbone UP Move – none offer heart rate monitoring.

          On the negative side, we wish the Chinese manufacturer would make more of the heart rate sensor. Having on-demand heart measurements is of less use than a device which passively monitors your ticker throughout the day. But this is presumably a trade-off between function and battery life.

          The Mi 2 band does the basics well and with its lightweight, slick design, looks good enough to wear during the day, in the office or for an evening function. The addition of a screen this time around makes a big difference. As a entry level fitness tracker you won’t go wrong with Xiaomi’s latest fitness device.

          View technical specs

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