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Wravis

Microsoft Band Review

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Wravis

(I hope this is the right section)

 

So, as of the time I am writing this I've had the Microsoft Band for 10 days. I've been planning on writing a review of the product but I wanted to have a decent amount of experience with it before I made my judgement. 10 days seems like a decent sample time. So here we are.

 

Some disclaimers:
-This is my first review of any product (and likely my last).
- I am admittedly a big Microsoft fan, so I am not entirely impartial (I own a Zune HD, Windows Phone, Surface Pro 3, and run Windows 8.1 on my desktop. Very not impartial.)
- I am not a health nut or a tech guy.
- This is long and I apologize.

I'm going to start with some very basic, unimportant points before going into hardware and software.

First, the name is awful. Whenever anyone asks about it ("is that a Fitbit?"), I have to tell them it's a Microsoft Band and inevitably all parties agree that the name is a mouthful. Second, the marketing is pretty bad. No one who has asked about it has heard of it.

Alright. Now the important stuff.

The hardware for me is mostly positive. The aesthetics are a mixed bag, though. I love a lot of the details on the band. The Glossy plastic bit at the end of the clasp is looks pretty neat; and the small Microsoft logo in the corner of it is a nice subtle touch. That glossy plastic bit and the glossy plastic face are nice accents to the matte black band.  Some people say it's bulky, but I actually disagree. It may look bulky when you're not wearing it because of all the tech crammed all around the band, but when worn, at least on me, it actually doesn't look much bulkier than any other wrist accessory. However, one thing I don't like is that the lack of a curved display makes the watch stick out just a bit awkwardly on the face side when worn. Also I guess the bezel around the screen is also a bit much in my opinion.

 

The clasp mechanism is interesting. It clicks in easily and is easily adjustable. One thing that worries me is that if I wear it tightened to what I think is the proper tightness, when I flex my wrist downward all the way, the clasp gets forced to click out to a looser position. That makes me worry about the longevity of the clasp. I don't know if that is damaging it or if it's supposed to do that. I do wonder, though, if the position it goes to once I've flexed my wrist and popped the clasp a few notches looser is the actual tightness I should be wearing it. Microsoft says to wear it "snug", but that's very vague.

 

The screen is a tad small. I wish there was more screen and less bezel. It's also hard to see when you're outside in the sun. That seems like something Microsoft should have accounted for, considering a lot of people don't exercise in their fluorescent-lit computer caves. It also loses its touch-responsiveness if you have sweaty hands. Another thing I feel should have been accounted for on a fitness band. It's adequately responsive when you're not sweaty though.

I prefer to wear my Band with the screen facing up like a tradition watch. I am at a desk pretty much all day when I'm not exercising, and having the display facing down would mean having it smack and scratch against hard surfaces all day. Because of this I wish the buttons were on the other side, but the solution to that will be discussed later in the software.

 

The sensors seem accurate. I don't have experience with other fitness wearables to know if it is more or less accurate than the competition. Battery life is good. I haven't had it lower than 30% wearing it all day and while sleeping. I charge it when I wake up while I shower and get dressed and prepared for the day, and it lasts until the next morning when I repeat the process.
 

Overall the one of things I would change (keeping in mind that it's thick because of all the tech packed inside) is the screen. I don't know how feasible it would be to put an AMOLED screen in the band, but I really wish the display was AMOLED. When in watchmode, the whole damn screen lights up and is obnoxious in places like movie theaters. I'm also assuming it'd consume less battery, though I don't actually know if that applies to such a small device. I'd also like increased sunlight visibility and improved touch responsiveness.

 

I guess I also wish there was an NFC feature that let me wave my hand at something near my bed that turned on sleep mode so I didn't have to fiddle with the Band before I went to bed. I'm worried that I'll forget to turn sleep mode on and I'll wake up with a dead Band in the morning.

Now onto the software.

 

First off, I love tiles and the overall aesthetic of Microsoft's software from the Zune HD onward. It's clean and gorgeous. So the overall design language is awesome in my opinion. In general I am a fan of the interface. That said, I wish I could enable two rows of tiles so scrolling to the less important tiles was less of a chore. Another possibility would be to have swiping switch to another set of three tiles instead of having it be a scrolling process.

The term "intuitive" means absolutely nothing these days, but I will say that I am very comfortable and happy with the navigation of the Band because I am used to Microsoft's style. I have no problem navigating the device and all the swiping and poking comes natural to me as a Windows Phone user. I do wish more of the functionality of Windows Phone (and Windows 8) carried over. I want to longpress and drag tiles to reposition them directly on the Band.

 

Another thing would be to reduce the amount of swiping needed to carry out some functions. Currently when looking at a message, you need to swipe up to get the reply button. I am not sure why the reply button couldn't have been on the right side instead of the cropped off portion of previous messages. The same thing applies to the other apps. Remove the cropped bit of previous messages and fill up the whole screen (minus the back bar) with the text or functional touch buttons so you don't need to scroll as much.

My biggest complaint though, is that there is no option to flip the entire screen. When wearing the band facing up, the buttons are facing towards you, and as a result the buttons face slightly downward and it's a bit weird trying to hit the buttons with your thumb. If you could wear it with the buttons facing away from you, you'd be able to easily press them with your index finger. You can't do that without allowing the interface to flip. Or I guess if you're okay with reading everything upside down.

Now, in terms of the software connected to the device (Microsoft Health and Band Sync), I'm pretty pleased. The interface is clean and the information is displayed in a mostly pleasant way. The Dashboard is great. I wish the summary page was a bit more comprehensive (too much space is devoted to recent activity), but all the information is basically one click away from that page. The main actual gripe I have is that the dashboard isn't actually part of the damn Sync app itself. I want to look at all my info in the program that launches when I sync my band. When I click on the Dashboard I want my Dashboard. I don't want it to launch a browser. Having the browser version is nice, but it should be a separate entity.

 

The Microsoft Health app for phones, in my opinion, is mostly superfluous or problematic. If I want the daily info that is displays, I'm gonna do that through the Band itself if I'm out and about, or on my computer if I am home.  The other functions of the phone app that are actually useful to me are tucked away behind not one, but two stupid Hamburger menus. Actually, one hamburger menu and some sort of weird Ketchup Splat menu. No one like Hamburger menus, and two wrongs don't make it right.

The actual useful things in the app are hidden in the Splat menu. You'll find the tile arrangement stuff here, as well as the stock customization features. For some reason, adjusting the tile arrangement always resets the theme back to the default purple for me. I don't know if that's just something happening to me, but it's really annoying, especially if you use a third party app to personalize your Band.

Speaking of 3rd part apps, I am pretty happy with what's available. Lots of good customization apps and some nifty features for your phone like realtime sensor readouts. What I am not happy with is that there's no category in the app store (at least for Windows Phone) for Band apps. So in order to find the apps you have to hunt for them. It's pretty easy to find the apps with "Band" in their name by using that as your search, but some cool apps don't show up with that search and you'll have to hunt for them some more. You'd think Microsoft would at least add a Band category to the store it actually controls.

 

 

So what is my opinion of the Band? I talked more about the things I didn't like, but that's only because it's easier - and in my opinion, more helpful - than talking about the things I do like. But I do like the Band. I love the Band! It's extraordinarily motivating to have something strapped to your wrist reminding you to stop being a loaf and get some exercise.

 I am not athletic. I'm not fit. I'm an overweight short dude with arthritis. I live the sedentary lifestyle of a comic artist/cartoonist. It's really hard to be motivated to exercise when you get tired easily, everything hurts, and you're supposed to be sitting at your desk drawing pretty pictures. But this thing motivates the crap out of me.

I crushed the 5,000 daily default the first day I wore the Band. I set it to 10,000 and have overshot that every day for the past 10 days. That's a big deal for someone like me who barely hit 5,000 more than a few times a month before owning the Band. It's almost like a game now. Steps are points and if you don't get 10k points before the day is over you don't beat the level. I know that's not a direct result of anything Microsoft did with the Band. It doesn't shock me if I don't exercise. It's more of a psychological effect as a result of wearing a fitness tracker.

But I think it would be much less motivating if I didn't have all of the readouts and suggestions and little tidbits of trivia that you get when your tracker syncs with and uses Microsoft Health. I think I'd feel like I had an incomplete product if I couldn't get phone notifications, calendar updates, and all the cool sensor information I didn't know I wanted, like UV light detection and sleep information. It hits all the right sci-fi nerd spots being able to talk to my watch with an actual function and not just because I've never grown up.

People keep talking about Smartwatches not having a real reason to exist. They don't add anything meaningful to your life that isn't more convenient on your phone. I think Microsoft made a really smart decision to make the Band a fitness tracker first and a smartwatch second. Being primarily a fitness tracker means it does actually add something to your life.

 

It was well worth the $199 for me.
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TL:DR - There are some things I would change but all-in-all, I love the Microsoft Band. You should check it out.

Edited by Wravis

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WolfJT

I've had my band for a bit over a week and I must say I am really liking it too. I am a former Pebble user and I will not go back. :)

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ImTheTypeOfGuy

I use the motion data feature for counting my water steps. How does the band work with it. Or does it. I like the way it interfaces with the health app and wouldn't want to lose it.

 

Sent from my Lumia Icon via Tapatalk

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