The Microsoft Band 2 fitness tracker made its official debut last month in York City alongside the Lumia 950 duo. The newcomer is sleeker, better looking, and smarter than its already capable predecessor.
Microsoft officially lifted the lid on the new Microsoft Band 2at its Windows 10 Devices event back in October.
The Microsoft Band 2 boasts an updated design, curved AMOLED screen and additional features. On paper, it has the specs and features to blow its activity band competition out of the water. But so did the original Microsoft Band – and we gave that one of the lowest review scores ever on Wareable.
Just like the first generation, Microsoft designed the Band 2 to pair with iOS, Android, and Windows Phone hardware. The Redmond giant has priced the wearable at $249.99.
All about it…
The Microsoft Band 2 is Microsoft’s second attempt at the making a smart/fitness band and smartphone companion for general usage – regardless of your intended smartphone OS.
What makes the Band 2 unique is that despite its compact size, it packs a whopping 11 sensors. They include an optical heart rate sensor, gyrometer, 3-axis accelerometer, ambient light sensor, UV sensor, GPS, capacitive sensor, barometer, galvanic skin response, skin temperature sensor, and a microphone.
The device’s screen is a curved AMOLED unit measures 32 x 12.8mm and has a resolution of 320 x 128 pixels. A haptic vibration motor is also on board.
What is it?
Let’s get one thing out of the way first. Although the Band 2 has a screen like a smartwatch, costs the same as a smartwatch ($250), and sucks battery like a smartwatch, it is most definitely not a smartwatch. Yep, you can get your Facebook notifications and emails buzzed to your wrist, but it’s really a secondary, “hey why not” function.
Once you look at the sensors packed inside the Band 2, then you realize what this thing is really for. There’s an optical heart rate sensor, accelerometer, gyrometer, barometer, GPS, ambient light sensor, skin temperature sensor, UV sensor, capacitive sensor, galvanic skin response sensor, and last but not least, a microphone.
All that data is collected by the Microsoft Health platform, viewable on the cross-platform app or web portal. Wherever you look at the numbers, Microsoft tries its best to make sense of all the stuff it knows about you, put it in context with the rest of the population, and help you toward a healthier self.
There are two physical buttons for controlling the Band 2 in addition to its curved AMOLED touchscreen. The wearable’s tiled interface is intuitive and customizable.
Pairing the Band 2 with a smartphone requires a Microsoft account, as well as installing the Microsoft Health app. The latter is available for free on Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
The Microsoft Health app allows you to customize the user interface of the Band 2, manage notifications, and connect the wearable to third-party apps. Some of them include MapMyFitness and RunKeeper, among others.
The fitness tracking abilities of the Microsoft Band 2 are among the best in the business. The wearable will help you track tidbits of your daily activities you didn’t know existed – from sleep, through steps and stairs, all the way to golf swings.
Unlike many of its competitors, the Microsoft Band 2 can deliver all your smartphone’s notifications. You can customize them too!
You can either wear it as a smartwatch, or as a discrete fitness band alongside a mechanical watch.
Microsoft Band 2 is also much better looking and more comfortable to wear than its predecessor.
The Microsoft Health software is really the star of the show. There’s apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, and also a central web portal. It’s all managed using your Microsoft ID, so setup is fairly painless. The cross-platform syncing happens effortlessly, and it’s fantastic—I can log into the web dashboard on my desktop, and see what I’ve been up to this week. More than that, though, the Health dashboard gives you an easy way to improve. You can compare your stats to people of the same age group and weight, and see where you’re lacking.
Once the graphs have sufficiently shamed you for being weak and lazy, the Band is good for setting you up with workouts. There’s a bunch of free workout routines, organized by type and difficulty level, and with videos to show you proper form. One tap loads them onto the Band, and then there’s really no excuse about forgetting training schedules when you get to the gym.
The hardware is still too uncomfortable to wear day-to-day, and that’s a big problem for something you’re meant to leave on while sleeping. The screen orientation leaves me bending my neck to try and tell the time. It’s also still not waterproof—Microsoft says it’s water-resistant, but you also probably shouldn’t wear it showering and definitely not swimming.
Battery life is around two days, depending on the number of GPS-tracked workouts you do. That sucks, because it means you’ll be charging it overnight every other night, rendering the sleep-tracking feature sadly underused.
The Microsoft Band 2 is massively better than its predecessor, but it’s still far from perfect, especially considering its price tag.
The looks are on the premium side for a fitness tracker, but what makes it worth considering is the suite of sensors the company has crammed inside.
However, the lack of waterproofing, the questionable material durability over time, the poor ergonomics, and the underwhelming battery life are likely to put a dent on the device’s shiny armor. Committed workout warriors will love and appreciate the band’s advanced metrics delivery, but casual users will probably be better off with a similarly priced smartwatch, or a cheaper fitness tracker.
Should You Buy It?
There’s a whole plethora of fitness trackers out there, some of which have all the same sensors that the Band is packing around the same $250 price. They also come in packages that look prettier and don’t slowly eat your wrist over the course of a day. In other words, you should probably buy one of those.
But while the hardware of the Band itself sucks, the Microsoft Health software is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. It isn’t limited to Band users—you can already integrate with apps like RunKeeper and Strava, and that list keeps increasing. In a lot of ways, the Band feels like a Microsoft proof-of-concept, sorta like the original Surface tablet, or Google’s earlier Nexus phones. It’s a way of highlighting the fantastic cross-device platform Microsoft has created, but no-one else is using. And while I’m never going to wear the Band 2 day-to-day, Microsoft will still be getting all the details about my gym sessions.