Xiaomi MI Band AH 03

Featured Review: Xiaomi Mi Band

March 24, 2015 - Written By Tom Dawson

Last summer, Xiaomi released the Mi Band, a fitness tracker that garnered headlines for its price more than anything else. It’s been a little tricky getting hold of one thanks to the fact that Xiaomi devices aren’t exactly that easy to get hold of outside of China, but the folks at MobileFun UK have them in stock, and kindly sent us one for review. To be clear, the Mi Band retails for 79 Yuan in China, which is roughly $13 uSD or about £9 GBP. MobileFun sells this for quite a bit more, but considering the stock is in the UK and delivered to your door promptly, there’s always going to be a difference. Elsewhere, the Mi Band is available in the US from Amazon, but your mileage may vary. Depending on how much you purchase the Mi Band for, it’ll either be half the price of the cheapest competitor or a fraction of that price. Either way, the Mi Band is cheap.

I’ve been wearing the Mi Band for the past month or so, and I’ve been putting it through its paces in terms of features as well as its hardware. So, is the Mi Band worth its small asking price, or is just a cheap imposter trying to take on on the big boys? Read on as I aim to answer that question.

Design and Features

Xiaomi MI Band AH 02

Right away, the Mi Band is somewhat underwhelming out of the box. It’s basically a black rubber strap – with other colors available, if you’re lucky – and a silver topped nugget that goes in the center. This “nugget” as I like to call it is what does all the tracking and connects to your phone. It’s got a battery life rated for roughly a few weeks, it’s waterproof, will track your steps, monitor your sleep and interact with your phone as an alarm and such. Other than that, there’s not much more to it however, we need to remember how much this costs.

The strap features a loop and a peg to secure it around your wrist and after a month of wearing it, I can say this is a pretty secure band. I managed to knock it off once or twice, but I found it would stay on throughout an entire night, while in the shower and while on the move. All this with it being fastened to my wrist on the largest fitting, which leads me to my next problem. There’s only one size available of the Mi Band and that goes for the other colors, too. I have large wrists, along with a good amount of padding and it sort of looks silly on my wrist. Not because the band is bad-looking, it’s very subtle otherwise, but because the band is just too small. Having said that, I didn’t feel the band squeezing all the blood out of my wrist, and it didn’t feel tight, it was just not as loose as I’d like, I would have liked two more notches for it to be truly comfortable. As for irritation, I felt no more irritation when wearing this than I would say your everyday wrist watch. I had no skin issues or anything like that, so kudos to Xiaomi here.

As for the overall look and feel of the thing, well the Mi Band isn’t too much of a looker, its clear that you’re wearing something that isn’t a piece of jewellery and so it does stick out a little bit. It’s also more difficult to blend this in with other wrist bands you might be wearing as well, unlike the Sony SmartBand and of course, the Jawbone. The Mi Band is far from ugly however, it’s just not the best-looker out there, and if you’re okay with a fairly standard look and feel, then there’s little to complain about here.

Software

Xiaomi MI Band AH 11

No fitness tracker or smart-anything is any good if the companion app doesn’t work well. The Mi Fit app is – thankfully – available for download in the Google Play Store, and I downloaded it here in the UK with no problems at all. Getting your Mi Band setup (I’m using an Xperia Z2) is really quite simple, and the process was certainly impressive for something at this price point. However, if you want to get notifications set up – which are limited in the first place – and running on anything other than a Xiaomi smartphone, prepare to be disappointed. I struggled to get this working on my Xperia Z2 and while there are guides out there that describe how to get this working, I wasn’t too distraught these didn’t work. After all, there’s literally nothing you can do with the notification on your wrist and you’ll never who has sent you a message, just that you have one.

Mi Band Screen 01

Talking about how your movement and your sleep are represented, this is a high point for the Mi Band. Steps and hours slept are easily switched between, and you’re given a quick look at the previous night for sleep and the time since you woke up for steps. “Workouts” as the Mi Band perceives them, be they a walk to the store, a short jog or a marathon are reported in chronological order with a start time and a finish time. I found this to be fairly accurate, although not exactly precise. They sort of appear as a spike on your little graph with little commentary.

2015-03-24 16.27.20

The overall day or night views are nice and informative, and as you can see I neither get enough exercise or enough sleep. Either way, Xiaomi have done a good job here with the software, especially for something that costs as little as this. These graphs give you a quick and easy way to look back and see whether or not you’re improving and it also shows how consistent the band is, even if it’s not 100% accurate.

Mi Band Screen 02

There are other neat software features available from the Mi Band here as well, such as jump rope, this will track the swirling of your wrist to keep a record of how many jumps you’ve taken. It might not be for everyone, but it works fairly well depending on your height and such. You can also use this to keep your phone secure, loosely, by setting a PIN lock when your band is disconnected, but the PIN won’t appear when you’re wearing it. In practice, this doesn’t work anywhere near as well as it does on a Xiaomi smartphone, but that is to be expected we’d suppose.

Overall, the software from Xiaomi is really quite impressive. While the Mi Band itself doesn’t track all that much, it’s presented well and the data lasts for as long as you have the app installed. For those interested, there are sharing functions as well, but the fact that the app works so well and is so easy to use is a pretty good high-point for the whole product. If only the band didn’t need to reconnect each and every time you open the app, but then again that’s how the band gets its weeks-long battery life (which can easily be viewed from the Mi Fit app, too). All-in-all, it’s a mixed bag, when it works it works great, but when the band doesn’t connect and you need to restart your phone, it can be very frustrating.

 

The Good

  • Very good value for money, if you can get your hands on one easily.
  • Mi Fit app is easy to use and comes with a lot of handy features besides just step counting and sleep tracking.
  • Even if it isn’t accurate, the band is clearly consistent, I measured similar distances with the band over a course of a few weeks and it gave similar results.
  • Excellent battery life that can last as long as three to four weeks depending on your usage, with a quick and easy recharge time in between.
  • Waterproof and suitable to wear while swimming.

The Bad

  • For those of a larger build, the band is just too small to be truly comfortable.
  • Often struggles to connect to the Mi Fit app after long periods of time since the last sync.
  • After just a few weeks, my band is starting to show signs of wear and tear.
  • Doesn’t do much beyond tracking your sleep and counting your steps.

Xiaomi MI Band AH 09

All-in-all, whether or not the Mi Band is a good fitness tracker for you all comes down to what you’re looking for in a fitness tracker. If you don’t want to spend a lot and are looking for something fairly simple, and don’t might putting up with a few foibles here and there, then the Mi Band will suit you fairly well. However, if you were expecting something to really monitor your runs and really push you to either lose weight or keep it up, then a Fitbit or even a Gear Fit will be more to your liking. It’s hard to argue with the low, low price of the Mi Band, especially considering its great battery life and such. There’s a lot to be happy with at this sort of price point, and if you don’t expect too much from the Mi Band then you’ll end up with a pretty decent experience overall.