Kryska’s Tech: Microsoft Band Review

The band.
The band.

Hi guys, I recently acquired another piece of fancy tech. Since this one is a relatively obscure gadget from a giant tech firm, I figure I’d take a crack at it.

First off, addressing the OCDs and hater out there, the bubbles around the edges of the screen are caused by what I’d consider one of the most frustrating screen protectors out there on the market. I bought it from Zagg’s and it’s one of the wet mount protectors. Not only is it an incredible pain in the ass to apply, but after application and squeegee, the bubbles only appeared after the solution dried. I’m going to bash more about it later, but for now, let’s stick to the band.

Features

Heart beat sensor
Heart rate sensor.

There are a multitude of features that are boasted on the Microsoft Band (MB). However, there are only a few truly notable ones:

  • A heart rate sensor at the “bottom” of the band that locks and acquires your heart rate. I consider this one of the biggest pluses of the MB because a lot of smartwatches don’t offer a heart rate sensor. Even if they do, it’s an add on you have to wear around your body. I don’t need it to be ultra precise, so it does its job pretty well. In addition to on-demand heart rate tracking, the sensor also tracks your heart rate during exercises and sleep. Of course, there are special applications on MB that you must first activate in order for the tracking to take place.
  • A UV sensor is placed beside the screen. While the UV sensor at first may seem a little gimmicky, but when it comes to knowing how easily you’ll dehydrate/sunburned, I feel like this function is actually quite useful.
  • While this is not that cool of an feature, the MB features an adjustable clasp. This allows for users to adjust the band size to accommodate their wrists. The clasp is quite tight and well-designed, so there’s no worry of it ever falling off.

    Metal clasp.
    Metal clasp.
  • An activity tracker that is supposedly quite accurate. I have not tested it during extreme workouts yet, but it seems promising. Should the results turn out poorly, I will update this review.
  • Microsoft Health app is the companion app that runs all the reports. Previous reports have shown that the app is nothing but hot air, but when I used it, it’s rather simple and displays the relevant information that I need to know. Personally, I still don’t think that this band and its app will do it for fitness nuts out there, so keep that in mind.
  • Other than the sensors/app, the MB also features a magnetic charger that you don’t have to remove any caps or etc for. This makes charging a complete “snap”. The downside is that you have to charge for about 1 hour to get a full 2 days charge.
    Charging dock on the bottom
    Charging dock on the bottom
    • A big color touchscreen makes viewing a breeze, and the color is a nice touch for the premium price. On top of that, the screen’s viewing software for messages and notifications is a pretty good design.
    • The battery lasts on average of 2 days, given moderate usage. You can probably squeeze another day and half out by adjusting the settings, but with regular use during the day, I didn’t even decrease the band’s battery by 40%.
    • While the Health app does give you a lot of information, you can also use it to customize the UI of the MB to your own liking, whether it’s background designs or color, or even changing what features are available. Pretty cool in my opinion.

Shortcomings

You have to wear it "upside down".
You have to wear it “upside down”.

So, with a plethora of features, why is this band quite obscure and even poorly related among some tech reviewers? Let’s jump on that.

  • Like everyone says, the ergonomics on this band…is completely off. It feels like Microsoft ran out of R&D budget on trying to fit all the features into the band. I don’t really blame them, but the ergonomics of the MB does cause some pretty crucial problems. First off, the MB is advertised as being able to be worn like a watch, but in truth, the only comfortable position is with the screen facing inwards. While that’s not a big issue for me (I’m left handed and I wear it on my left hand due to a watch on my right wrist), I did discover one critical fault: the screen gets scratched easily no matter how careful you are. I’m the kind of guy that keeps his watches pristine, but even then, I didn’t survive more than 4 hrs without the face getting scratched. Thus, you will have to purchase a screen protector no matter what.
  • The Microsoft Health App, while promising and has lots of room for improvement, is somewhat buggy and slow at times. It’s frustrating to wait like 5 minutes for syncing between the band and your phone.
  • The MB is not waterproof. You could say it’s water-resistant for washing hands, but that’s it. Essentially that’s pretty frustrating for a lot of swimmers out there, and you do have to take it off while showering. Kind of a hassle at times, but at least you can charge it meanwhile.

Comparisons

Continuing with the tradition of my G910 review, I’ll compare the band to some of the bands I know/tried.

Jawbone UP3

One of the foremost and premium fitness trackers available, but after using the UP2 and UP3 I felt that the Jawbone tech is just not accurate enough. On top of that, it’s only a fitness band. You’re paying a steep $150 for the UP3, but you don’t even get a screen for notifications and what not. Since the MB (1) experienced a price drop to just $129.99 on Amazon and $99.99 at Best Buy, the MB is undoubtedly the better buy in my opinion. I can sacrifice ergonomics for better sensors and the capabilities of a smartwatch

Razer Nabu / Nabu X

With the release of the Nabu X, it’s a simple LED light fitness band. A somewhat steep price for its features, but then again, what Razer product isn’t? Really nothing extraordinary.

The Nabu however, does feature and OLED screen and boasts some interesting gimmicks, but they kind of rely on a not-so-greatly perceived app and depends on others have the same band as well. Not a bet I’m willing to make for the same price of the MB

Garmin Vivo-products

The Garmin bands available on the market boast an unbelievable battery life and the sensors are known to be world-class. Unless you’re looking for a smartband, I’d probably stick to the Garmins purely for their sensor and battery prowess. The Garmin bands are also cheaper, but they do their function well as top-of-the-line fitness trackers.

Notable Side Comments

  • Seriously, I really detest the makers of the screen protector I bought. Yes, it was $9.99 and about $3 cheaper than some retailers on Amazon, but I decided to be cheap. Yes the screen protector is military grade and that the quality after application is phenomenal, but the application process…was like purgatory. It is kind of difficult for me to accept having trouble with a protector application (I’ve done tons and they’ve all been perfect). If you have a choice, don’t go with Zagg’s wet application screen protectors. Ask to double check. I even had to replace my original purchase because the product was faulty at first.
  • The band’s noticeability drops depending on the activity you’re doing. If you’re typing or writing, you’ll notice it the whole time. However, if it’s exercise, I barely notice it’s there.

Conclusions

Danbo makes a guest appearance.
Danbo makes a guest appearance.

With the features onboard the MB, I think the MB is hard to pass up. However, ravaged by poor reviews and (exaggerations) of bad ergonomics, the MB does not fare so well in the market. For those ergonomic fanatics, the MB2 is coming out at the end of October, so hopefully it’ll be a much better fit then. However, from the tech specs of what I read, the inner works have barely changed, save for a new barometer.

Thus, at $99.99 from Best Buy, I’d probably still just stick with the MB.

I really do have to stress that the ergonomics of the band are bad, but it’s not life-ruining as some reviews put it. You just have to wear it upside down and have a screen protector. So what, an extra $10 bucks? After a supposed $80 price drop? Worth.

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