I bought the Microsoft Band a few weeks ago, just about after the first batch got sold out and I had to drive down 30 miles to get it from a microsoft store. I wanted to write a nice in-depth review from a point of view of a regular user that many may connect with.
Just to give you some background on me and how I go about my day, I’d like to share with you my habits and how I planned to use the Band.
I’m a programmer so I spend the whole day, every day, at the computer writing code. I like to run and exercise but find time to do so 2-3 times a week. So I think I’d fit the criteria of a casual gym-goer. Outside of that though, I like to go walking with my dogs (almost daily) and hike sometimes; however, I still haven’t gone with the Band.
I’m pretty skinny with funny shaped wrists. One larger than the other. Just a good thing to note as far as comfort goes. Also, I’m left-handed.
I’ve not used any other bands in the past so this will be my first experience. Though, I have been using a good pedometer for the past couple of years.
First things to discuss is if the Band is even wearable. People seem to be either hating the design or loving it. I’m somewhere in between as I think most people truly are.
The band has an adjustable clasp which “snaps on” and can tighten through several clickable steps.
The awesome thing about that is that the medium size fits my right wrist (which is technically a small) and my left wrist alike. Not only that, but by tightening or loosening it, I can have it sit at different parts of my wrist. I can have it sit right up against the palm of my hand, or I can have it further up almost at the forearm.
The reason I switch the Band between my wrists is because of typing. My left hand sits a little lower and drags the Band across my desk while my right hand (which also lifts up to use the mouse) does not touch the desk.
During workouts, I vary between leaving it right over the wrist bone or right above. By tightening it, it won’t slide around but by keeping it loose, it won’t feel uncomfortable. I do keep it turned inward while running or walking as I find it easier to check but I turn it around on other ocassions.
Is it bulky? Yes, and no. No in that it’s not a bother and after a month of wearing it, I no longer perceive it. I can even sleep with it on (despite my own initial protests that I would not be able to do so). I wear watches that are slightly bigger on a regular basis so it’s not unorthodox for me. It is bigger and heavier than any casual watch (if you’re a Timex Weekender type, the two can’t even compare, at least the Band is quieter).
As far as sleeping, I had an issue with it at first and sometimes I get into a mood where I just don’t want it on, but that seems normal to me. People don’t sleep with watches or heavy bracelets. But on most days, I’m happy to leave it on.
Battery is tricky and depends LARGELY on usage. If you go for a long run (eg. an hour or more), expect your battery to need a recharge that same night.
I’m not used a 7-day battery span on any device by now (other than my kindle) so I’m totally fine with the 48 hour limit. My current pedometer lasts about 3-4 months but its features are not even comparable.
What I like about the battery is that it’s not another cellphone. I don’t have to charge it every night and it’s not imperative to be constantly charged. I found my Band dying only once on me since I got it and that’s because I forgot to charge it for a long while. My phone dies on me just about every day.
I have noticed that the battery goes much faster when I go running with the GPS on but for a casual user like me, that’s not a big deal. I tend to get the 48 hour battery span otherwise.
One thing I do find annoying is the charge. I’m used to phone chargers, laptop chargers, and even my 3DS charer. They all get inserted, fit in, and stay in. The Band charger is awkward at best, and while it does tend to stay connected, it just looks weird with the wire sticking out the side. And the watch is either facing you with the cable trying to turn it over, or facing away so you can’t use it whatsoever.
Luckily, there’s a magnet that keeps everything in place.
I’ve seen people 3D print their own stands and would love to get one of my own. Hopefully, Etsy creators will see this as an opportunity.
As far as the usability, the UI is pretty fluid, striaghtforward, and easy to pick up right away. If you’ve used a Windows Phone in the past, it’s a natural transition. The “action” button is pretty neat too because it lets you “confirm” or “start” an action right away without having to deal with the touch screen. That helps a lot when you’re on the move. So you can tap “running” and press the action button when ready.
The sync works well too. It doesn’t take long and it’s usually automatic. I sometimes manually sync it to get an information overview right away.
As far as the “apps” or Band features:
Running is by far the most badass part of the watch. The heartbeat is right there and constantly updating. If you’re into cardio and like to keep your heart in that 155-165 range, the Band can help you do it. The band vibrates whenever you pass a mile which is a good indicator as well.
The GPS does take up to 20 seconds to lock but you can start running right away with the step counter measuring the distance before the GPS kicks in. On a treadmill, I turn off the GPS (obviously). The step counter and distance counter is pretty damn accurate though whenever I compare it to the treadmill counter. The heartrate tracker is useful as well and I have noticed an increase in my performance now that I can readily tell when I’m over-exerting before it impacts my endurance.
Workouts work well, too; however, they do feel a little light on features. It’s cool to track heartrate but that’s about it all it can do. The feature does keep me working out and helps me stay in check with how long I’ve been at the gym. But outside of that, I wish I could do all those other things that the Band promised (like counting reps, cooldown periods, etc.).
Guided Workouts is probably where the features are at. The problem is that they are limited and don’t fit what I want to do whatsoever. And on top of that, there is no “custom” option. I can’t put together a list of reps, or that I’d like to do one exercise over another. And I’m honestly not one of those people that wants “killer abs in 4 weeks!”.
The only useful ones that I’d recommend are Couch25K and half-marathod training programs which a lot of people are into.
Outside of these, there are some apps and notifications that tie in and show up on your screen. The selection is limited for now but it works. I originally thought I’d turn off all the notifications and just use the fitness aspect of the Band but was pleasantly surprised by how the Band was changing the way I interact with my phone*:
- Weather – probably my most visited app yet. Weather in Houston changes constantly. It’s 30 degrees one day, 75 another. The weather app is always up to date and I refer to it constantly.
- Calling – I’m notorious about leaving my phone on silent with vibrate off. Or leaving my phone in a different room while I work or do toher things. This means I miss phone calls all the time. I find the Band a better bet of getting a hold of me, and it’s less intrusive than my phone.
- Text messaging – same deal as calling.
I also use Cortana but I’d like to leave that for a separate section. I don’t use anything else (like FB or twitter notifications) but it’s safe to say what I do use works as advertised.
Again though, I can’t stress enough how this frees me from my phone. Another reviewer got it spot on: the Band (even not being actively used) keeps your mind off your phone. With a phone, you may want to check the time, but then you see a notification, so you check it, then it’s facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and email. Thought your phone vibrated? And you’re in that loop again. Don’t where your phone is? Gotta go check it and you’re in that loop again.
With the Band, I’m almost never checking my phone. I got time right in front of me. Phone calls show up right away, and my Band vibrates in case of anything. I’ve no incentive to check my phone.
And then, there’s Cortana. Cortana by itself is fantastic by itself. It can set your appointments, remind you stuff, text people, etc. And you can do all of that from the Band. Got a text? Sweet, answer it right away. Want to set an appointment? Screw the phone, do it from your Band!
I use it for a few other uses as well. For instance, you can set an alarm one minute ahead and wait for the go off. Why? To find your phone. If cortana can’t connect, it’s not in the room. And yes, I use this often. And I can’t believe there is not a built-in option for this already.
I’ve heard a lot of people discuss how the Band is either “highly accurate” or “not worth even using”. I sit in the “highly accurate” camp. My previous pedometer is a highly accurate pedometer. So I used it in conjunction with the Band to check how well it counts steps and the results were surprisingly similar. The distance meter works well, too, even without a GPS.
The heart rate tracker is also a very heated topic. I can’t speak on its accuracy (I don’t have another tracker) but it seems just about right in comparison to my own counting and what it should be in specific instances.
So, after a month of wearing the Band, I have a few problems with it.
First, the band part of the Band does get wear and tear. And that gets annoying. I honestly have no idea how long it will.
Second, the hard plastic gets scratched easily. I have a million scratches on it already. The screen itself is fine but everything around it is scratched like hell. The protector doesn’t do anything and fell off the same day.
There are some things I wish the Band had and hopefully, with time, it WILL have:
- elevation step counter. The current step counter counts only steps, not elevation.
- hiking mode. The run mode keeps constant GPS and heart rate lock, and kills the battery. The hiking mode would check in with the GPS and heartrate only ocassionally.
- better app. The app is severely lacking and has no history.