I’m not going to lie – the last time I owned anything made by Microsoft was well over a decade ago when my PC still ran Windows 98. Since then, I’ve been a slightly obsessed Apple customer, so when I got the invite to test out the new Microsoft Band, I wasn’t immediately jumping up and down with excitement.
Well, we’re a week later with the Band still strapped firmly around my wrist and I’m holding my hands up: I’ve officially been converted. Featuring an incredible 10 sensors, built in heartrate monitor, GPS tracking, a sleep tracker and an easy to use cross-platform app, the Microsoft Band is officially the new health tracker to beat!
FIT & DESIGN
The band has a slick and simple black design, with a main interface at the front and easy adjustable clasp at the back. The actual screen is quite big considering the small size of the band, so it’s easy to read the text on the screen – even whilst working out. You can change the colours and background of the screen, but in terms of design that’s it: simple and straightforward. The screen itself is touch screen so you can easily flick through all the different menu options. The band fits comfortably and lightly around the wrist and comes in 3 different sizes. It’s perhaps not the most innovative of designs, but it’s slick and functional.
This is where the band really stands out for me, as it boasts a couple of features no other wearable has just yet. As well as all the expected features of a fitness tracker, like pedometer and calorie counter, there’s also built-in heart rate monitor, which tracks your heart rate 24/7. The built-in GPS makes it possible to go for a run or bike ride without having to bring your phone along, and because it connects with external apps like Runkeeper and MyFitnessPal, you won’t lose your workout data on your favourite apps either.
The main surprise is the option of downloading guided workouts designed by the likes of Gold Gyms, Shape or Men’s Fitness on to the band and complete a guided and timed session straight from there. Imagine the Nike Training Club app, but on your wrist. Fancy a quick Tabata session in the park or want to follow a marathon training plan? Choose your workout from the app, sync it onto your band and follow the instructions – very easy and a real hero feature.
Aside from runs and bike rides, there’s also the option of tracking custom workouts like your weight sessions in the gym, which I’ve found really useful. I finally get a real idea of how I’m performing during my personal training sessions, with a detailed heart rate chart, estimated recovery time, calories burned, etc. I’ve used it to track a ton of different ‘workouts’, like a Laser Tag session with friends, or an afternoon tidying the garden – at the end of the day, not all activity has to be in the gym, so it’s a great way of tracking your performance, whatever you’re doing.
The addition of the Sleep Tracker is nothing new, but because the band uses 24/7 heart rate monitoring, I feel like the sleep data are far more accurate than any other app or wearable I’ve ever used. As a notorious bad sleeper, I’ve been able to analyse my sleep charts to give me insights into my disrupted sleep patterns.
In fact, the very in-depth data capturing is really one of the most valuable features of the band, as it seems to give the most accurate and detailed information on all your activities. You can quickly access these on your band, but ideally all data is synced straight onto your phone with the free Microsoft Health app (available for Windows phones, iOS and Android devices) to get more detailed charts of your performance. The ability to seamlessly use the band across all platforms is of course a huge selling point.
Other notable features include a UV sensor to keep you safe from the sun when outdoors as well as easy connectivity to Twitter, Facebook, your texts and emails to quickly check your messages and stay connected without having to take out your phone each time. There’s even the option to upload your Starbucks card details on there and pay straight with the band (perhaps the least necessary feature, but there you go…). Because the band gets regular software updates, new features will constantly be added in the future. User requests are taken into consideration and since launching in the US a few months ago this has led to the addition of the cycling feature – so the band has the potential to get better instead of being outdated in just a few months.
The battery life is also not too bad, 48hours on a full charge (when not using the GPS, which will reduce it quite a bit).
For me, the main (and probably only) issue is the size of the band. On a small wrist like mine the main interface is quite wide and bulky, so it sticks out a bit more than I’d like to. Especially when wearing it at night it to track your sleep, it can get in the way a bit. – on larger wrists it seems to fit just fine though. The all-black design also looks a bit heavy on smaller wrists, which might put off some of the female consumers who prefer something a little lighter.
We get a lot of wearables sent our way to test, but after only a week of trying it out, I can tell you that this one is a real gamechanger. The built-in heart rate monitor and GPS are unmissable features I now no longer can live without, whilst the option of using the band as your very own personal trainer makes for a great bonus. At £169 it’s not exactly cheap, but considering how far above most other wearables it is, it is 100% worth the investment. As more and more third-party features will be introduced, the band will only get better with time. This is the perfect fitness tracker who want more than what their Fitbit or Fuelband has to offer, but don’t want to go as far as getting an Apple Watch either.
This is definitely the one to beat.