Microsoft have always had a hand in the health business – and they recently got in to the fitness hardware side of things too. The first Band was a great device and the new Band 2 improves it in all areas? Here’s our first impressions…
The Microsoft Band is a great fitness tracker – due in large part to the vast array of sensors contained within it. The Band features an optical heart rate sensor, accelerometer, gyrometer, GPS sensor, microphone, light sensor, galvanic skin response sensor, UV sensor, skin temperature sensor and a capacitive sensor.
That’s quite a list, and it allows the Band to offer a great deal of insight and feedback to you – either directly on the band or through the smartphone companion app and Microsoft Health website. I’ll go in to more detail about the app and website in a future article – for now we’re going to focus on the band itself.
The design of the band makes it a bit tricky to classify – it is a slim band that tracks fitness like any other, but it also has a screen that allows it to function almost completely as a smartwatch. Because the screen is a thin strip rather than a traditional squarer display, the Band keeps it’s, well band shape throughout and is designed to be worn with the display on the inside of the wrist.
This took a bit of getting used to at first as I’m used to wearing a watch in the normal fashion. However after a day or two it becomes second nature just lifting your wrist up to see notifications or use some of the advanced features of the Band. The clasp therefore remains on the outside of your wrist and again is a bit odd at first but you quickly get used to it.
The clasp itself feels very secure, and the Band is available in three different sizes to suit all wrists, and the attachment itself is on a slider so you can do some fine-tuning to the size when you’re wearing it. I normally find myself wearing it looser at night time or in bed and then a bit tighter during the day.
There are two buttons on the Band – one larger button for activating the screen and a smaller one to start or stop actions. In addition the screen itself is all touch sensitive, allowing you to swap between the functions and keep track of your fitness directly on the band rather than having to check with an app.
This works as a list of tiles – you swipe through them and then tap on a tile to open it and see the info. Some of these are highly interactive – the main one giving you info on your steps walked, distance, calories burnt and heart rate. Another tile will let you track and keep a log of all your runs and jogs, whilst another lets you track sleep.
Perhaps my favourite tile though is the guided workouts one – with this you use your phone to look through a list of various workout plans from providers and then sync this to your band. Once it is on there, you can start the workout plan and it will tell you each step to take as well as counting down a rest period between each set. It works really well and there are plenty of workouts to choose from.
The rest of the tiles are mostly for receiving notifications from your phone – phone calls, texts, Facebook and pretty much any notification is supported. Look out for a future article on using the Microsoft Band with your smartphone for more detail on this aspect of the band.
Overall my first week with the Band has been very good – I’ve tracked sleep, walking and fitness and had a great phone syncing experience too. I’d definitely recommend