Microsoft Band 2 Review

Microsoft Band 2 Review

One of my goals for 2016 was to purchase either a Microsoft Band 2 or the Fitbit Charge HR. I went with the Microsoft Band, and I was really excited because I have a Windows Phone, which means I could use the full functionality of the band including Cortana. But I ended up sending it back within two days.

The Microsoft Band 2 was a huge disappointment for me, for a few different reasons.

  1. Not easy to set up out of the box.
  2. It didn’t count my steps worth crap.
  3. It only tracks your heart rate every 10 minutes, not continuously (unless it’s in exercise mode).
  4. The information the app provides is pretty useless and not very in depth.
  5. For $250, there are a lot of “features” that are useless.
  6. It’s extremely uncomfortable, especially if you’re on a computer all day like I am.
  7. It has a lot of frivolous sensory information that you can’t even access.

Let’s look at each of these individually because I’ve got a few things to say…

Not Easy to Set Up Out of the Box

Once I got the device, I was ecstatic to try it. So I unboxed it, but there was very little information on getting started. I plugged in the device to charge it, and saw a line that progressed (very slowly) from the left side to the right side of the device. I assume this was a firmware update, although I honestly have no idea.

I checked the Microsoft site and found that the device will walk you through the set up process. Thankfully, the site told me what to expect during the set up process. The information should have been in the start up guide, however.

I finally got the device set up after about 45 minutes of frustration. Needless to say my experience didn’t start well.

Inaccurate Step Counting

This was extremely disappointing. During my workout on Monday, the band only picked up 2400 steps. My workouts are typically 4000 – 5000 steps. I even did some math, thinking maybe the Fitbit actually overestimates your steps. But even at 800 steps per class, and four classes per workout is 3200 steps!

Microsoft Health App Screen Shot

I purposely tested out this theory when I got to work. I walked from my office to the front desk counting each step in my head (which was 42) and checked the band. I didn’t even have to count the steps because the band didn’t count ANY of them.

The main purpose of this thing is to count steps!! To say I was frustrated is putting it mildly.

Heart Rate Tracking is NOT Continuous

This was also very disappointing. Heart rate monitoring is the main reason I purchased a new fitness band. Unfortunately, unless you are in exercise mode, the Microsoft Band 2 only tracks your heart rate every 10 minutes.

You miss quite a bit of data taking a heart rate every 10 minutes. Especially when you sleep, which makes me question the accuracy of the sleep information it records. If the heart rate monitoring isn’t continuous, tracking my sleep cycle wouldn’t be accurate because it wouldn’t pick up exactly when I went into REM (for example).

The band does have automatic sleep tracking, which is nice. But if it’s using your heart rate to determine when you fall asleep, how accurate is it at 10 minute intervals?

MS Health App Sleep Tracking

The information the band provides for sleep is interesting. Knowing how much time I spent in restful sleep and how restorative my sleep was is useful. But again, you can’t tap on anything on the graph. So if I want to see exactly what time I woke up, I can’t.

The Microsoft Health app displays all your heart rate information in a graph format. Unfortunately, it’s not very detailed, and you can’t select anything to get more information (like you can in the Fitbit app).

MS Health App Heart Rate Graph

That’s all you get folks. You can’t click on the 74, you can’t even click anywhere else on the graph to see what the heart rate is at different times! Even when you look at an individual workout, the heart rate information is just as bad.

MS Health App Workout Summary

The app does give some interesting information like recovery time and whether or not your cardio is burning fat or maintaining your current weight. But since it isn’t counting all my steps, I question its accuracy.

I also question the heart rate accuracy since in between my cardioboxing classes, I checked the heart rate monitor and it said it was acquiring my heart rate, and it was in exercise mode where it’s suppose to continuously monitor heart rate.

Extremely Uncomfortable to Wear

The Microsoft Band 2 was designed to make the band more comfortable to wear than its predecessor. Although I have not tried the original Microsoft Band, I can only imagine how uncomfortable it was if the Band 2 is an improvement.

The band is extremely uncomfortable, mainly because of the weight. The clasp is metal and slides to adjust the fit. It is surprisingly secure, but very difficult to put on with one hand. The galvanic skin sensor is on the inside of the clasp, which makes it even more bulky.

While wearing the band, even loosely, I got pinched multiple times when I bent my wrist. It also made typing on a computer extremely uncomfortable because of the thickness of the clasp. Although Microsoft recommends wearing the screen on the inside of your wrist, I was concerned about scratching the screen, so I wore it like a normal watch. This also made it very difficult to use because I had to twist my arm in odd ways to see and use the touch screen. Let’s not even talk about the teeny ass little keyboard for texting.

Did I mention it was extremely bulky and heavy?

Frivolous and Useless Bells and Whistles

The Microsoft Band 2 has 11 sensors on it including:

  • Optical heart rate sensor
  • 3-axis accelerometer/gyro
  • Gyrometer
  • GPS
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Skin temperature sensor
  • UV sensor
  • Capactive sensor
  • Galvanic skin response
  • Microphone
  • Barometer

That’s a lot of bells and whistles. Some of the sensors aren’t even necessary, like a galvanic skin response sensor, which measures the amount of sweat produced on your skin to gauge the intensity of a workout. Yes, in theory it’s a good idea, but the skin under the band is going to produce more sweat than the skin around the band simply because there is something covering it, which makes the information the sensor gathers useless. Think about it, you sweat a lot more where your clothes are covering you (like in between your legs) than you do on your forearms.

The skin temperature sensor makes more sense, but you can’t access that information in the app or online dashboard.

You also can’t access the barometer readings. Granted the barometer is used for measuring flights of stairs, but it would be nice to access this information, especially for those of us with migraines that are triggered by changes in barometric pressure.

The UV sensor is cool, if you’re outside frequently or you work outside. But for those of us who work in an office setting, it’s useless.

Interestingly, several of the “sensors” on the band aren’t used to collect fitness information at all. For example, the capactive sensor (which Microsoft actually spelled wrong on their website, it should be capacitive) is just the touch screen. The ambient light sensor adjusts the brightness of the screen, and the microphone is used with Cortana (which you can only use if you have a Windows Phone). So technically, the Microsoft Band 2 only has eight fitness sensors.

There are also a few “apps” like weather and news. There’s even an app that lets you pay for your coffee at Starbucks. You can get your Facebook Messenger messages (but you can’t answer them), and you can get notifications from Twitter and Facebook. It will also sync up with your calendar. If you have a Windows Phone, any notifications on your phone get sent to your band, including email, but you can’t answer the emails.

I should mention that if you get a lot of emails and notifications like I do, you’re band will go off frequently which can deplete the battery quickly. You’ll want to turn off some of the notifications which you can do from the Microsoft Health app, or if you have one, through your Windows Phone Settings.

With all of the Band’s capabilities, I was disappointed to find that it didn’t link up to the Xbox One or Xbox Live at all. Since Xbox One boasts the Xbox Fitness app with the Kinect, one would think the Microsoft Band 2 would connect to the Xbox somehow. Even if it’s just an app on the phone, or a screen in the Microsoft Health app for seeing stats for an Xbox Fitness workout.

To use the workouts that Microsoft has boasted about for the band, you have to go through the app on the phone, pick a workout and then sync the band. All the band does is track steps, heart rate, GPS, calories burned and duration. There’s no “coaching” which I think a lot of people expected. It wasn’t a big deal for me, since I wouldn’t really use that part of the app on a regular basis.

The Microsoft Band 2 is Not Worth the $250 Price Tag

Compared to many other fitness bands on the market (most notably the Fitbit Charge HR which I will be reviewing next week), the Microsoft Band 2 is extremely  expensive considering what it can and can’t do.

There are two things that I found I actually liked about the band. It has a reminder function that you can set every 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes that tells you to get up and walk around. That was very cool, and I wish the Charge HR had the option to set step reminders.

It also has a smart alarm. You set the alarm to wake you up at say 04:30, and the smart alarm will wake you when you are in a light sleep instead of REM, which means it can wake you up to 30 minutes before your alarm. I have to say, I really liked this function. It actually did work. The band woke me up at 04:00, and I actually felt refreshed and ready to go.

But those two really cool features are not worth $250.

As a fitness band, it makes a better paper weight, and as a smart watch it falls way short. Thankfully, I bought mine through Amazon and actually got it for $220, but it’s still not worth the price.

The verdict? Microsoft needs to put more effort into the band and the app. For a software company, the Microsoft Health app should be much better than the Fitbit app, but it was horrible. Hopefully the third edition of the Microsoft Band will fix all of these issues, but I won’t be purchasing one to find out.

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