Wow! Was I excited to get my hands on one of these! For the first time in my life I purchased a Microsoft product!!! For those who know me this is a big deal as I live and breath Apple products. But this health and fitness band was a breakthrough product at a price of only $199. It contains all the bells and whistles of the popular health bands on the market, but added to it are a GPS and heart rate monitor built into the wrist strap. At least that’s what it claims….. And, it’s a smart watch that will pair with not only the obvious windows phones, but an Android and iPhone as well!! But that’s now what caught my eye. It was the addition of the built in GPS that did not require a smart phone to be paired with it to work. The long awaited Apple Watch has a built in heart rate sensor but lacks the stand alone GPS.
Rather than bore you with an even longer introduction, here’s my thoughts of this “Microsoft Band”!!! My review is more focused on the running options of this watch.
The Band uses what are known as optical sensors to measure one’s heart rate. There are several on the market and I haven’t had the chance to test any of them yet other than this one by Microsoft. I did try one on several years ago at The Running Event but was not satisfied with the fit as it had to be worn really snug, or probably more accurate to say TIGHT. From what I have gathered they are nowhere near as accurate as the chest strap heart rate monitors which would make them an incapable tool for running.
Optical sensors are less accurate at measuring a person’s heart rate because they require illuminating the blood vessels on a person’s wrist with an LED in order to track blood flow. The measurement’s accuracy declines when a person is in motion, and is generally less precise because blood flow slows by the time it reaches your wrist. Monitors with chest straps that measure blood flow in motion tend to be more accurate.
I have pretty much done everything possible aside from taking the watch apart and implanting the HR sensor into my wrist in order to obtain an accurate reading while running. I started by doing what Microsoft recommends which is trying both positions of the watch. Facing out or in on the wrist. Neither of which worked for me.
I shaved my wrist to remove any hair which could be in the way. No success. I used ultrasound gel to increase… well this made no sense but I tried it anyway. For those who use chest straps, they will understand this increases the conductivity of the sensors but they are a completely different sensor then an optical sensor. I tried two different medium watches to make sure it was not a defective one. No luck. Finally I returned it and got a small thinking maybe the sensor is not fitting on my wrist correctly. I will be honest it did give some improvement to getting an accurate reading, but still not one that could be used to monitor the HR while running.
There were even times when I wore the watch while walking around my house during an evening of entertaining and it still couldn’t keep an accurate reading. I wasn’t even running!!
I’ve talked with numerous Microsoft agents and have read countless forums and posts on this issue. It appears that it’s not made for running or any activity with motion as the technology which Microsoft utilized for the HR sensor in not capable of reading the blow flow during any motion activity. Others have experienced the same problems as reported on Windows Central forums. Being that The Band is so new and in such limited supply, I think it will take time for others to post comments and reviews justifying what I have encountered.
What about the GPS?
It was actually really accurate in comparison to my Garmin 610 as well as the Garmin 10. The one mile alerts were beeping almost instantaneously between the two. It is set to vibrate and alert you at every mile and display the time for that mile. The display can be set to show your HR, time, distance, and pace. There is no lap average or total average pace that can be displayed during the run. Hopefully this can be updated with new firmware.
Aside from running, it’s actually a really cool smart watch that worked pretty well with my iPhone despite being a Microsoft product. I did have some initial issues getting it recognized by my iPhone 6, but once I did there were no issues. It syncs with a cloud so your data is accessible even if you have to reset the watch. Trust me, I’ve reset and synced three Bands so I can attest it works! I’ll spare you the details of what all the bells and whistles are since the focus of this blog is more running related. Windows Central has some great reviews of what The Band can do as a smart watch.
The battery life is described as lasting for two days. Running with the GPS and using the sleep monitor does tend to drain it. I did 13 miles with it and it was over half dead. It’s described as being able to go almost 4 hours with a continuous run. It does charge really quickly and can get to 80% in 30 minutes. The charger is a magnetic attaching clip which works well.
The Microsoft Health App syncs with The Band presenting a nice display of your data after a run as well as your sleep patterns.
There are some other watches on the market which have optical sensors very similar to Microsofts Band. One is the Mio Alpha which retails for $199 and only reads HR and functions as a stop watch. There is no GPS and it does not record any HR data. I have not had an opportunity to test this watch yet. They have a new watch due for release on December 8th which claims EKG accurate HR.
The Mio FUSE is set to be released December 8th and I will be posting a review after that. EXTREMELY excited to try that watch!!!
Samsung introduced a watch known as the Gear Fit earlier this year which has mixed reviews. DC Rainmaker’s review of the Gear Fit demonstrates extremely poor accuracy of the heart rate monitor.
Dr. Campitelli is a podiatrist in Akron, OH specializing in foot and ankle surgery with an interest and enthusiasm for running as well as helping runners with injuries. For the past several years he has been treating running injuries in patients by fixing their form and transitioning them to minimalist shoes. Having treated runners with all types of injuries through conservative measures with orthotics and shoe gear changes to reconstructive foot and ankle surgery, Dr. Campitelli has brought what works best and is most current to his practice as well as the Akron and Cleveland running communities.