Microsoft Band Review

The Seattle software giant introduces their first fitness tracker, and it is a doozy.

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Product Description:

The Microsoft Band is a very, very smart fitness tracker. It really is on the verge of being a smart watch, yet is more affordable than most smart watches. The Microsoft Band will help you to live healthier, be more productive, stay connected at a glance of your wrist, and it also includes a lot of advanced technology.

First released in December of 2014, the Microsoft Band comes in three sizes. It only comes in black, but you can personalize the screen color. Although the Microsoft Band probably works best on Windows phones, it is compatible with Google and Apple devices too.

Feature Table:

Guided Workouts Have goals, track reps, calories, and more.
24/7 Heart Rate Monitoring Continuous tracking helps to know calorie burn, sleep quality, and more.
Sleep Tracking Must be activated. Tracks length of light and restful sleep, and your average heart rate/hour.
Cortana Use your voice to take notes and set reminders with Cortana.3 Or ask her to give driving directions and keep you on top of news, stocks, weather, and more. She’s ready to help whenever you need it.
Calendar Microsoft Band stays in sync with the calendar on your phone, reminding you of important events throughout the day.
Email email notifications and snippets right on your wrist
Quick Read Feature When enabled, incoming calls, texts, emails, and more are displayed in a larger font size and in rapid, automatic succession.
Text messaging Reply to texts with the Virtual Keyboard quickly and without errors. Or respond with a standard message, or dismiss with a tap.
UV Monitor Tells you when to apply sunscreen.
GPS Tracks location, distance, etc.
Band Band size: width: 0.75″, thickness: 0.34″ (19mm x 8.7mm)
Band materials: Thermal plastic elastomer
Weight 2.12 ounces (60 g)
Display Display AA size: 0.43″ x 1.30″ (11mm x 33mm)
Display type: Touch-enabled TFT full-color display
Memory 64MB internal storage
Processor ARM Cortex M4 MCU
Sensors Optical heart rate sensor
3-axis accelerometer
Gyrometer
GPS
Ambient light sensor
Skin temperature sensor
UV sensor
Capacitive sensor
Galvanic skin response
Additional Technology Microphone
Haptic vibration motor
Connectivity BlueTooth 4.0 (uses low energy)
Buttons There are two buttons
Battery Type: 2 x 100mAh rechargeable Lithium ion
Life: 48 hours of normal use (Functionality like GPS will impact battery performance)
Average charge time: Full charge in less than 1.5 hours
Connector: Magnetically coupled connector to USB
Water proofing Water resistance: Sweat- and splash-resistant
Operating temperatures Operating temperature ranges: 14° to 104°F (-10° to 40°C)
Non-operating temperature ranges: -40° to 140°F (-40° to 60°C)
Operating altitude Maximum operating altitude: 7.45 miles (+12000 meters)
Compatibility Windows Phone 8.1 update with Bluetooth
iOS 7.1 and 8
Android 4.3-4.4 devices with Bluetooth
Warranty 1-year limited warranty

Common Questions:

What comes in the box with the Microsoft Band?

In the box will be the Microsoft Band, Microsoft Band USB Charging Cable, Safety & warranty document, and Quick Start Guide.

How long does the Microsoft Band battery last?

The battery lasts up to two days under “normal” use. If you are using the GPS a lot, that will make the battery drain faster.

How long does it take to charge the Microsoft Band?

Microsoft says the Band charges in less than 1.5 hours, or 90 minutes.

Does the Microsoft Band come with a warranty?

Yup, the Microsoft Band comes with a 1 year limited warranty.

What mobile devices is the Microsoft Band compatible with?

The Microsoft Band is compatible with Windows Phone 8.1 update with Bluetooth,

iOS 7.1 and 8, and Android 4.3-4.4 devices with Bluetooth.

Can I use Cortana without a Windows Phone?

Unfortunately not. You must have a Windows Phone to use Cortana on your Microsoft Band.

I don’t have a smart phone. Can I still use the Microsoft Band?

The Microsoft Band really works best with a smart phone, but you really only have to have one at initial setup. After that it will work without a mobile device. Without a mobile device, you’ll still be able to track calories, heart rate, steps, running, exercise, sleep, and use the watch functionality like time, timers, stopwatch, and alarm.

Having said all of that, without a smartphone this device is kind of wasted. I would instead recommend getting another device that works on a computer (assuming you have a computer) or something that is stand alone.

Does the Microsoft Band work with an app?

Yes, you can download the free Microsoft Health app from the Windows Store, Play Store, and App Store.

What Others Are Saying:

Samantha Murphy Kelly, Mashable:  “Microsoft’s first jump into wearables is a good one: it has the software down, but the hardware has room for improvement, especially when it comes to size, style and display.”

David Pierce, The Verge:  “Microsoft is on to something. The company has all the right ideas — be multi-dimensional, be prescriptive, be everywhere — and the company readily admits the Band is just a first step. You have to start collecting data somewhere, right? It’s not all that compelling yet, but Microsoft Health is going to get better, fast.”

Scott Stein, Dan Graziano, CNET:  “Microsoft Band is an ambitious first crack at a smart health wearable that throws in a ton of features and cross-platform support, but it’s just not as easy to use or as functional as it should be.”

Review:

The Microsoft Band is a very, very smart fitness tracker. I think it is pretty amazing that this device comes in at its current price point given all the features that it has. The MS Band has all the features you’d expect of a device in this price range, including sleep tracking, GPS, continuous heart rate monitor, and it tracks steps, distance, calories, etc.  They also have brought a lot of smart watch features to the MS Band, including phone notifications on your wrist for texts, calls, reminders, and even emails. The MS Band also syncs with your calendar.

The device also brings some new ideas to the fitness tracker market, including a UV and skin temperature sensor to monitor how much sun you are getting and body temperature. There also is a “virtual keyboard” so you can reply to texts quickly.

I was kind of surprised that the MS Band has support and is compatible with Android and iOS, as you’d think that Microsoft would want their device to be Windows only and thus get people to buy Windows phones. I guess they went for full mobile support so that they have a bigger market, and the fact that they did that means that we all can enjoy this amazing device.

If there are any issues with this device, it would be the way it is designed to be kind of bulky, the notifications can seem a bit quirky, and the Microsoft Health app could be a bit better. That last one probably doesn’t even matter as the MS Band works with MyFitnessPal, Runkeeper, and several other 3rd party apps.

I think I should note that reviews for the MS Band have been all over the place. On the Microsoft website it has 4.5/5 stars, on Amazon it has 4/5 stars, and the Guardian gave it 4/5 stars. On the other side of the spectrum, Wired gave it a 6/10, CNET gave it 3/5, and The Verge gave it a 6.3/10.  It seems like people either love it or just think it is bland. You can’t really deny the technical achievement of the MS Band, but the design could be better as could the notifications and the way the device works with devices (which can be quirky).

I would recommend the Microsoft Band to anyone interested in this device, to all Windows phone users, and also to anyone that wants a smartwatch-type device for an affordable price. If you purely want a fitness tracker, you don’t really need the extra features included in the Microsoft Band. If you don’t like the design of the MS Band (which is admittedly a bit boxy looking), you probably aren’t ever going to like it regardless of how impressive the tech is, so you might as well go with the device you like, be it a FitBit, Jawbone, or whatever. I’m sure there is a large group of users that are going to absolutely love the Microsoft Band, and I am in that camp.

Microsoft Band

Microsoft Band
9.5

Amazing

10/10

    Pros

    • Chalked full of awesome features
    • Brings some new ideas to the fit track party

    Cons

    • No Cortana unless you're on a Windows Phone
    • Battery only lasts 2 days