Microsoft Band vs Microsoft Band 2 – A Review
Wearables: The Time Is now
Wearable tech is officially here to stay and there has been a lot of buzz and excitement around the next generation of wearable tech over the last few months.
Samsung, LG, Fitbit, Motorola, and, of course, Apple, are all gearing up to push out the next (or first) iterations of their devices and we can’t wait to see them. Smartwatches, fitness monitors and other such devices that will, as they claim, enhance our digital lives and let us be more productive in the future.
Essential Reading: The Best Fitness Tracker 2015
Microsoft Band 2 price when reviewed: $236.95
Tortoise and Hare?
In October 2014 they silenced the rumour mills of the technology media and officially unveiled their first entry in the wearables market with the suitably named Microsoft Band (we’re not counting their first effort, the S.P.O.T.)
Aiming more to be more of a fitness wearable than a full-blown smartwatch, the Microsoft band is quite similar to the newly announced Fitbit Surge in design. Going with the simple black band, the Band also comes with GPS tracking to monitor distance during a run, something lacking in many fitness bands. It also tracks heart rate, sleep, steps, and calories burned, making the Band a fully featured fitness wearable.
The Band will run for 48 hours between charges (without GPS), as opposed to the reported 24hrs of the latest smartwatches.
Microsoft Band Review
Microsoft Band 1 Design
Starting with the flipside, Microsoft Band’s design is simply the worst of its class. Its flat touchscreen stretches across and extends on both sides of a normal-sized wrist, sits on one side, weighs some considerable grams and has that wearable-typical geeky feel in full.
Well, maybe you’re fine with geeky, but how good does being unable to button your shirtsleeve sound to you? Yes, it’s that thick and ill-fitting, keeping in mind you have to wear it all day and night, including to work – where people wear buttoned shirts – and to bed – where sheets should not clutch to a piece of equipment in your wrist and fly along as you turn over.
That’s really bad, right?
Well, yes, but on the other hand the Microsoft Band gives you everything you’re looking for in a fitness tracker. You can actually be pardoned to think that the engineers focused so much on the function aspect of it that they forgot it has to look great too.
The band is fitted with 10 different sensors that measure every one bit of fluid movement in your body and literally can’t miss a beat, all day even in your stillest moment, in bed. What’s a fitness tracker for anyway? Well, FYI only a few other gadgets out there can guarantee continuous monitoring.
It’s also fitted with a GPS sensor, something you don’t regularly see in such a small device. You can now track and map your run by satellite without the watch-sized TomTom Runner Cardio or Nike+ SportWatch GPS. It also has a capacitance sensor, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, UV and ambient light sensors and a skin temperature sensor, to make it all but your ultimate health manager.
Good for Runners and Athletes
If you’re a runner, this band is a good choice. It sure doesn’t actively display distance, but then it detects your exact location and translates the stats on a map after you’re done, even showing you where you were faster and where you were slower. It also guides you through workouts, allowing you to choose from Microsoft, Muscle and Fitness, Shape and Gold’s Gym workouts, even detecting reps in a set and vibrating gently to notify you when it’s time to move on.
Lastly, the Band is a smartwatch too. And, yes it does everything a smartwatch does! Everything. So, while we wait for a sleeker and tinier version, which is coming, this Microsoft Band is worth a go.
Microsoft Band 1 vs. Microsoft Band 2
What let down the original version of the Microsoft band was not the features, rather the design. There have thus been a few changes in terms of features and functionality, and an overhaul on its build and design.
Generally, Microsoft Band 1 was thick, had a rigid strap, would be in your way in almost everything, from using your computer keyboard to performing workouts at the gym, and generally uncomfortable – something you wouldn’t wait to get off your wrist as soon as you get home. We were kind of forced to take the bad with the good, though, as Microsoft had tried to cram as much features as possible into their tiny device, to all but render second-option other fitness trackers on the market.
But due to “public demand”, Microsoft did a rethink of its design and came up with a new version with a less rigid strap for extra comfort. Unlike the original version’s flat screen, the band’s top is now curved, and has a display of 32×18mm, 320×128 pixel.
New features include an elevation-measuring barometer (for hikers and climbers) and VO2 measurement for sports and running, with which users can work out their exertion, and recover quickly from hard training sessions in the Microsoft Health app.
Most of the features in the original version such as compatibility with Android, iOS and Windows 10 devices, water-resistance, built-in GPS and UV detection remain unchanged, and the new device now stands as one of the most complete fitness trackers the world has seen.
The band has not been released yet and a statement from Microsoft affirms that it will be made available on October 30, and will cost $249.
Microsoft Band vs. Competition
Microsoft Band is just one of the players in the stuffed fitness tracker market, and some of the other big names include Apple Watch, Fitbit Charge HR and Jawbone Up.
The Microsoft Band lies in the middle of the list as far as price is concerned, with the Apple Watch going at around $349, the Jawbone UP4 at $199 and the Fitbit at the lowest price of $149.
From the fitness tracking aspect, which is the main reason you would want to have any of these devices, almost all of them have built-in heart rate sensors, skin temperature monitors and sleep tracking functionalities, but Microsoft’s product stands out as it incorporates UV light exposure monitoring, oxygen consumption and a GPS system, technologies the other manufacturers are yet to adopt.
On display, the Microsoft Band uses a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 Coated OLED touchscreen that wraps around the user’s wrist. The Fitbit on the other hand sports a diminutive and unobtrusive monochrome screen which shows time and current heartbeat rate, while the Jawbone UP4 forgoes a display and instead depends on mobile phones and companion applications to view the collected data. The Apple Watch boasts a 312 by 390 pixel resolution AMOLED display with curved edges. It’s a 50/50 between Microsoft and Apple on this.
Personal Voice Assistant
Our two winners have yet another area of battle: personal voice assistant. While Apple Watch has Siri voice assistant support which can be used to make phone calls, send messages and control watch functions, the Microsoft Band has its own equivalent, Cortana, a good reminder on exercise schedules and upcoming appointments. Fitbit and Jawbone, on the contrary, do not have personal voice assistant. Again, it’s a tie between Apple and Microsoft.
One aspect the Microsoft Band fails terribly in is battery life, though its closest rival the Apple Watch is still weaker. The former’s battery lasts 48 hours under normal use but if you switch on GPS, it may die before 36 hours are over. Apple Watch’s battery on the other hand will need a charge every evening. Fitbit lasts for five days and our winner here, the Jawbone UP4 can go for a whole week before begging for charge.
It’s clear that each brand has its own advantages over the others, but the Microsoft Band’s versatility fits comfortably into an athlete’s kind of lifestyle, making it one of the best fitness trackers on the market right now.
How Smart is the Microsoft Band?
While not a serious contender to the Galaxy Gear range, the Apple Watch or many of the other efforts of the top tech companies, this is not a slouch when it comes to smart features and fits precisely where Microsoft wants to position the device.
we’re not trying to replace your watch
– Yusuf Mehdi VP Microsoft Devices and Studios
Social updates, emails, in-depth fitness tracking, stock reporting, news and Microsoft’s Cortana to always close to hand.
Similar to the competition the Microsoft Band functions at it’s best when paired with a Microsoft (Nokia) device, but it will work well with iOS and Android, just without Microsofts digital assistant Cortana at your wrist.
The Microsoft Band 1 is out in the US for $129 with a UK/EU price around £99.
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