What can £30 get you nowadays? A pair of trainers, maybe a box set of your favourite TV show, some headphones. How about a fitness tracker? Too good to be true? Not according to Xiaomi, the Chinese hardware giant, who have followed up its value orientated line of fitness trackers with the Mi Band 2.
Despite costing less than £30, the Mi Band 2 doesn’t scream value in terms of build quality. Reminiscent of previous models, the Mi Band 2 comes in two parts – the module containing the brains of the device and the wrist strap it slots into. While this may seem unorthodox, it is necessary to charge the device using the proprietary cable included in the box, as it can’t be done while the module is in the band. However, this isn’t too much of a drawback, as the 70mAh battery contained within the module is more than capable of counting all your steps for well over two weeks, with Xiaomi claiming 20 days on a charge, a claim I believe to be true after testing the device.
The face of the device is clean and understated whilst switched off (at least until I managed to scratch it deeply without realising until later that day), sporting only a capacitive button. One touch of the button, or alternatively a raise of the wrist, brings the 0.42-inch OLED monochrome (which is near impossible to read in direct sunlight) display to life. All navigation is done through the button, as single presses cycle through the time, steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned, heart rate monitor and a battery reading, all of which (bar the time reading) can be turned off. The underside of the module sports an optical-heart rate sensor, allowing for on-the-go readings, or continuous tracking to improve the quality of sleep tracking available through the app. Hidden under the band are the two metal pins used for charging the device with the aforementioned cable (just be careful not to lose it). It is also water resistant, with an IP67 certification, meaning it can be worn in the shower, although I wouldn’t recommend it, as if you don’t dry underneath the band, it can cause the area to become somewhat clammy.
The band that comes with the Mi Band 2 is made of a breathable, anti-sweat material, supposedly more comfortable than that found on its predecessor. It is comfortable to wear for long periods of time, but I found that wearing it on too tight a setting could lead to rashes developing, though this can easily be remedied by wearing it looser for a few days. The seemingly endless supply of third party bands available on the internet can also fix this somewhat. You can find them in the same rubber material in a multitude of colours, as well as metal bracelets which give the tracker a far more professional look
Despite the fact that it costs less than £30, if it doesn’t track your steps accurately, it doesn’t provide very good value for money. Thankfully, the step tracking is rather accurate, usually showing similar readings to that of higher end fitness trackers such as the Fitbit Surge. I found that after walking 500 steps, the tracker gave me a reading of 501 steps walked. Whilst running, I found that the tracker was similarly accurate, only straying a few steps off the real value. However, an issue I did find was the tracker not counting short walks after long periods of inactivity, such as walking to the toilet or across the room, something I’m sure can be remedied in a firmware update.
Unfortunately, the heart rate monitor and sleep tracking functions weren’t as accurate as the step counter. I found the heart rate monitor to be inconsistent at best, giving me a reading in the low 60s then spewing out something in the mid 80s seconds later. The sleep tracking is just as bad, if not worse. There have been times during my use where I have woken up in the middle of the night, and found the next morning that they weren’t registered by the Mi Band. While I did find that the accuracy did improve considerably after turning on the heart rate scanner during sleep (a feature which is switched off by default), it still wasn’t quite up to par with considerably older fitness trackers I had tried in the past, such as the Jawbone Up. Another small niggle I found during my time using the Mi Band was that it didn’t track naps I took during the day, or if it did, they never showed up in the sleep section of the app
The app provided by Xiaomi to accompany the Mi Band is beautiful to look at, and while it may not be the most feature rich, it does display information in a rather attractive fashion. Upon opening the app, you are greeted by your step count for the day, as well as your distance travelled and calories burned. Underneath is where you will find your sleep from the previous night, your weight tracking, heart rate and, one of my favourite features of the Mi Band, your walking streak.
The streaks I found were an excellent addition to the Mi Band, which often motivated me to hit my goal for the day. This is also one of the largest benefit of having a fitness tracker in general, that it encourages increased levels of activity.
Below the streak is the navigation bar, which is how you can find the other features of the band. Upon clicking the play option, you are given further options. For example, the option to notify the user of incoming calls, texts and notifications from selected apps gives the band a smartwatch-esque feel. This can be useful in certain situations, such as when your phone is on silent. However, the fact that I can’t peek at the actual notification itself does leave much to be desired, especially as a former smartwatch user. There is also the option to set a silent alarm which will cause the band to vibrate, something especially useful if you want to be woken without disturbing your partner. In the same tab is the option to enable screen unlock, as well as the option for Google Fit integration, something I didn’t expect at this price point.
In the final profile tab, you are able to edit personal information, such as height, weight, goals and activity alerts, a feature I found more annoying than useful. Digging deeper, you are granted with the option to customise the content on the screen of the watch, however, there is no option to remove the time from the Mi Band (something especially useful to someone who wears the Mi Band accompanying an actual watch), nor is there an option to reorder the displayed measurements, something I hope will be addressed in a future update.
Is the band right for me?
At under £30, the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 does present excellent value for money, offering more features than some of its more premium competitors. The relatively accurate activity tracking, stellar battery life and low price tag do make the Mi Band 2 a compelling purchase and while it may not be appropriate for people serious about their fitness, it is great for those looking to dip their toes into the world of fitness tracking.