Microsoft Band 2

Microsoft Band 2 first thoughts.

Band 2 on box

Microsoft Band 2

How about some first impressions of my Microsoft Band 2 that I got a week ago. (This is NOT a blow by blow review of all its functions etcetera, just some first thoughts on how I found using it.)

Let’s get something sorted out first – I’m not a fitness fanatic, I do not do ‘let’s go to the gym’ type stuff (I think the last time I went to do any gym related fitness activity was about 17 years ago) though I do like walking and occasionally ride a bicycle.¬†Having said all that I do keep an eye on my weight and record my blood pressure fairly regularly and also quite like gadgets. So when Microsoft recently dropped the price of their Band 2 I thought I’d get one.

So, initial reaction¬†– very mixed. I bought mine from one of the larger high street retailers who have a ‘return in 28 days if not happy’ policy which I yet may take advantage of – maybe.

First, what do I like about it. Knowing it’s constantly monitoring you does act as motivation to do things like use the stairs rather than the lift, or to speed walk rather than just ambling along. Even though I’ve only had it a week it’s still quite interesting to see how things like pulse rate changes through the day’s activities. I find its display easy to read and like having email and message alerts on my wrist. So much nicer than having to dig out my phone when all I want to do is just check for anything new. I’m quite happy with the limited size of its display; if I want to look in detail at an email then I wouldn’t want to be doing it on a wrist band anyway.
Its GPS seem to work well tracking my route with surprising accuracy, even picking up on quite small deviations (both in direction and speed). I do like that it is a band shaped rather than watch shaped. I prefer this longer but narrower compared to a watch-style square brick on your wrist.

Things I am neutral on. It’s reasonably comfortable. Not brilliant, nothing like a comfortable as my watch but still good enough to let me wear it through the night without any problems. I would have liked three days out of the battery rather than just two, but I can live with this. It’s iPhone app is just meh. Does a job but is a bit awkward to navigate around, the (browser/web based) desk-top dashboard display is so much nicer to use. Its operating routine – as in one large button on the side to activate it, then swipe on the screen to select your desired function, then a smaller button on the side to activate that function – is basic but workable.

However there are quite a few things I don’t like about it. Its sleep tracking really is rubbish (and that’s putting it very politely!). It tells me things like how I went to sleep quite quickly after going to bed (as in within 6 minutes), then soon after that of going into deep sleep, but I know I was fully awake thinking about and planning the next day’s work schedule. I do tend to wake up during the night and when I do I usually check my alarm clock (this involves me having to reach out and feel for it and then activate it, so actual physical activity) which it fails to pick up on. I often wake up before my alarm clock and switch on the radio (again physical activity) but this it sees as still asleep. As a comparison I occasionally use an old iPhone 3GS as a sleep tracker and that picks up on these activities without a problem.

It does its alerts through haptic vibration. However even on its highest vibration setting it’s easily missed so I’m still having to routinely check its display for any messages.

According to its step counter last week I climbed 132 floors. Sorry, no, I did NOT climb 132 floors worth of stairs, perhaps half that number (and that’s being generous).

Its pulse monitoring is usually fairly accurate but at times when I’ve done a manual measurement I’ve found the Band 2 to be out by up to 10 bbm. It can also take some time for its to catch up with a change in pulse rate. Perhaps not a problem for long term trends, but not good for short burst activities.

To charge it you must use its own charging cradle rather than directly via USB. So if you go away for more than a day it’s yet another adapter cable you’re going to have to carry with you, or if you are just out and about and the battery’s getting a bit on the low side you can’t do a simple top-up.

So overall I’ll class this device as something that has potential but at the moment is still a ‘work in progress’. I’ll use it for the next week then make a decision whether to keep it or not. Right now I’m undecided; it is failing to fulfil two of its primary functions, proper sleep tracking and proper step counting, while its pulse monitoring is ‘suspect’, but is still an interesting device.

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