Microsoft Band 2 evaluate: Nonetheless flawed, however a step in the correct course

Microsoft Band 2 review: Still flawed, but a step in the right direction

You actually cannot accuse Microsoft of phoning it in when it constructed the unique Band. Between jamming 10 totally different sensors right into a glorified wristband and creating a brand new well being platform to interpret your knowledge, the corporate shot for the celebs… and wound up with one cumbersome wearable. Fortunately, the $250 sequel fixes almost each gripe we had with the unique design, and provides a brand new sensor too. The Band 2 won’t be the right health associate, nevertheless it comes a lot, a lot nearer to realizing Microsoft’s aim than the unique did.

seventy five
Microsoft

Band 2

Execs

  • A lot-improved design
  • Microsoft Well being is beneficial, considerate
  • Guided exercises are nonetheless nice
  • Third-social gathering app choice is getting higher

Cons

  • Battery life continues to be brief
  • Interface could be a little obtuse
  • GPS can take ages to seek out you

Abstract

Microsoft’s first health tracker was a clunker, however the Band 2 is extra refined, with a cushty design and a considerate software program platform that has gotten higher over time. Even so, there are nonetheless some kinks Microsoft must work out, and the brief battery life particularly is perhaps a dealbreaker for some.

Hardware

I am in all probability within the minority for not hating the unique Microsoft Band, however my fondness by no means prolonged to its design. Aesthetically and ergonomically, the factor was a multitude. Microsoft, realizing that a wearable ought to be, nicely, wearable, went again to the drafting board and eventually got here up with a design that is not almost as cumbersome. The brand new Band owes its relative consolation largely to its curved AMOLED display — the display follows the pure curve of your wrist extra elegantly than the unique’s flat show ever might. The draw back? It makes the Band look a bit like an sick-fated Samsung wearable. No matter — it was the appropriate determination to make. That display is roofed with a tiny sheet of Gorilla Glass three, too, a flourish I want they remembered final yr. Once I tried that first Band, Microsoft included a display protector I shortly misplaced and it was perhaps 4 hours earlier than the primary nicks began marring the display. It did not assist that Microsoft advised you put on the Band with the display on the within of your wrist, which gave me pangs of concern each time I plopped my palms on my laptop computer and began typing.

Microsoft Band 2 review: Still flawed, but a step in the right direction

Extra importantly, the hefty battery bulges that punctuated the primary Band are principally gone. See, Microsoft used to brag about all of the sensors it managed to cram into such a small package deal, and the designers mounted two separate energy cells on reverse ends of the wristband. Neat technical achievement? Maybe, nevertheless it additionally made for a clunky cuff that tended to squeeze individuals’s wrists. Microsoft’s answer is extra considerate this time — the battery lives in a single bulge on the finish of the strap so it pushes into the highest (or backside, relying in your choice) of your wrist as an alternative of throughout it. There hasn’t been an considerable dip in battery life, both, so you will usually squeeze a superb two days out of the factor earlier than connecting it to its charging clasp (the older one will not work, alas). For those who’re itching to make use of the Band as a smartwatch, anticipate to get nearer to a day and a half of continued use with Watch mode enabled — no less than you’ll look on the date and time each time you should.

Microsoft Band 2 review: Still flawed, but a step in the right direction

The remainder of the band is product of a cushty darkish grey elastomer — your wrists may get just a little sweaty, however at the very least they will not really feel the pinch of dangerous design. Make no mistake: This yr’s Microsoft Band is a large enchancment over the unique, even when it is nonetheless tough to placed on with one hand. Now, about these sensors. All 10 of these unique knowledge collectors — the guts fee sensor, accelerometer, gyrometer, GPS, ambient mild detector, pores and skin temperature monitor, UV and capacitive sensors, microphone and one which measures galvanic pores and skin response — are again they usually’re joined by a barometer for measuring elevation modifications. It was and stays some of the complete approaches I’ve seen to cellular well being monitoring, and it represents a really worthwhile kind of considering. Simply counting steps is ok and all, however traipsing round will get so many bodily techniques working in unison that it might be a disgrace not to collect all that additional context.

Software program

Microsoft Band 2 review: Still flawed, but a step in the right direction

One may think Microsoft’s step ahead with hardware can be accompanied by some candy new software program performance. Properly, sure and no. The corporate has been dutifully updating the unique Band with new options since launch, so there is a surprisingly small hole between what these two wearables are literally able to. Fast Learn, for example, helpfully flashes incoming messages on the display one phrase at a time (like Spritz) — that arrived on the unique Band again in February. And that spectacular, shot-monitoring golfing function? A part of the primary Band’s repertoire as of June 2015. I’ve to offer Microsoft props for ensuring final-era Band house owners do not get the shaft, nevertheless it does make the Band 2 just a bit much less thrilling… for now, anyway.

The approaching of Home windows 10 additionally signaled a brand new period of third-social gathering app help for the Band, with companions like Uber and Subway engaged on extra software program for our wrists. Alas, they are not fairly completed, so it’s going to be some time but earlier than you possibly can order a Candy Onion Hen Teriyaki sandwich out of your watch. (Professional well being tip: Don’t order a Candy Onion Hen Teriyaki sandwich.) Past these new apps, the Band hooks into a number of well-liked health providers, together with go-to choices like MyFitnessPal, Runkeeper, Strava for bike rides and extra. By providing your well being knowledge as much as the providers you already use, Microsoft is worming its approach into your present health routine (and doing a reasonably good job of it). In fact, Microsoft has a well being platform of its personal — imaginatively referred to as Microsoft Well being — which retains tabs in your every day steps taken, energy burned, hours slept and extra. Likelihood is you will principally work together with this knowledge in your telephone, however I might advocate poking round in Microsoft Well being’s net dashboard — the shortage of measurement limitations means you will discover extra observations, comparisons and fairly graphs.

Microsoft Band 2 review: Still flawed, but a step in the right direction

However what’s all of this like to make use of? It kind of relies upon — you possibly can simply use the Band 2 as a smartwatch and be proud of the best way texts, emails, calls, tweets and Fb messages roll in. I’ve spent nearly all of my time testing the Band with an iPhone, and it principally does a positive job of syncing my (awful) well being knowledge over to Microsoft’s Well being app. There are a couple of additional advantages available in case your Band is lashed to a Home windows Telephone — issuing voice instructions to Cortana nonetheless works very properly, and you may reply to incoming messages by pecking phrases out on a tiny on-display keyboard as an alternative of simply firing off a canned response. I might have liked to see how the Band performs with Microsoft’s new Home windows 10 telephones, however they’ve type of dropped off the radar because the firm first unveiled them earlier this month. Quickly, perhaps!

This is the factor, although: Do not buy a Band 2 only for this. The Band 2 is a health gadget at first, and making an attempt to persuade your self in any other case is actually foolish. Sadly for me, this assessment occurred to coincide with an in-workplace health problem and protecting the Band on 24/7 has left me with a really clear understanding of how out of form I’m. I take about 20 % fewer steps than different males of my age, peak and weight. I work out lower than them, too. I hardly sleep (actually because I am a weirdo workaholic). The lifetime of a tech blogger, it appears, is one crammed with sedentary peril.

Microsoft Band 2 review: Still flawed, but a step in the right direction

In an effort to extend my very own life, I’ve began to go for late-night time runs like I did in school. Whereas the Band 2 appears to maintain fairly correct counts of my steps and coronary heart price, I have been operating into some frequent GPS points. Whenever you click on into the Run mode — a lifeless-easy course of — the Band seems to be for a GPS lock and asks if you would like to get began whereas it retains looking. Feels like a good suggestion in principle, however it sometimes took as much as 5 minutes for the constructed-in GPS to seek out me, resulting in a handful of runs with screwy cut up occasions and complete distances. The barometer is a neat addition to the sensor combine, and it does appear to note once I’m clambering up mushy hills, however I have never but taken it for a spin on New Jersey’s many mountaineering trails. Guided exercises have been the most important boon to my train routine to date, particularly since my health club is tiny and infrequently has useful individuals round. At current you possibly can load up routines (my present selection: “Get Ripped Abs”) and go for it whereas the Band 2 measures reps and coronary heart fee. Even higher, you’ll be able to pull up educational movies inside the Microsoft Well being app simply to ensure your type is on level. I now harm all over the place, however in a great way.

The Band interface’s broad strokes are surprisingly elegant, though it isn’t all the time very simple. It is the little issues, actually. As an example you need to fiddle with the display’s brightness — simply pop into the Settings tile, proper? Virtually! Brightness controls (together with vibration degree, studying velocity and extra) reside in a Settings window inside that first Settings window, presumably as a result of Microsoft did not need us scrolling via a too-lengthy record of choices. I additionally spent a very good quarter-hour questioning why I could not change my shade preferences from the Band earlier than realizing — oops — you’ll be able to solely do it from the app. I respect the sentiment at play right here, however a number of the format logic appears somewhat suspect. At the least you possibly can rearrange most of these motion tiles and axe those you do not use (farewell, Bike and Golf).

The competitors

Microsoft Band 2 review: Still flawed, but a step in the right direction

The marketplace for health-pleasant devices has blown up, and there is actually one thing for everybody now. Even as soon as uncommon options like coronary heart fee monitoring have develop into awfully accessible — nearly each well being wearable maker provides no less than one product that retains tabs in your ticker. That the Band 2 aspires to a lot places it in a category of its personal, however you may think about one thing like the Fitbit Surge ($250) when you’re looking out for a wearable exercise associate. It is a GPS watch/exercise tracker with a extra conventional design and a coronary heart fee monitor, however it prices simply as a lot because the Band 2 and does fairly a bit much less. Garmin’s $250 Vivoactive is probably the most regular-wanting wearable within the excessive-finish health bunch and it is waterproof too, in contrast to the merely water resistant Band 2. It is undoubtedly one of many extra versatile choices on the market, though it does not permit you to dump that train knowledge into different well being providers. Then there’s the Foundation Peak ($200), which does play good with providers like Apple Well being and Google Match as of Might, and comes with a battery that ought to final for about 4 days. The Peak is much less formidable than the Band 2, however hey — it is snug and good at counting your heartbeats.

Wrap-up

Microsoft Band 2 review: Still flawed, but a step in the right direction

A very good health gadget is one which makes you understand your shortcomings and provides you the perception to repair them. Whereas the unique Microsoft Band was an formidable however flawed product, this sequel comes nearer to fulfilling that imaginative and prescient. The problems in execution are seemingly fixable ones — the Band nonetheless is not probably the most snug factor I’ve ever placed on my wrist; the GPS can take ages to work correctly; and the interface might be obtuse. Nonetheless, the Band 2 aspires to a lot (and does properly sufficient at most of it) that folks critical about well being and tech ought to have a look earlier than instantly writing it off.