Due for release tomorrow, we thought we’d share our thoughts on the Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health app…

Microsoft Band

The last couple of months have seen a flurry of tech appear to rival the launch of the Apple Watch. Prices range from £40 to several hundred and all promise to be your fitness companion. The Microsoft Band falls into this bracket, and with a price of £169.99 there’s high hopes that this piece of tech will be pretty impressive.

Released in the US in October 2014, the Microsoft Band is the first device to be powered by the Microsoft Health app, created to make tracking your personal fitness easier and more insightful. Tomorrow marks it’s release date in the UK, just pipping Apple Watch to the post with their April 24th launch.

We got the chance to test out the Band and Microsoft Health app ahead of the April 15th launch and here were our findings…

The basics

The Band is compatible with Windows Phone 8.1 update, iOS 7.1 and later and Android 4.3-5.0 phones, with Bluetooth.

It is has an impressive 48 hours battery life with normal use and can be fully charged in 1.5 hours. We found this to be true, although if you use the sleep monitor and then go for a run in the morning, this will need charging after about 24 hours.

It looks pretty futuristic and starts a few conversations with intrigued strangers, but the fit is comfortable and it doesn’t feel heavy or bulky.

Tracking features:

  • 24-hour heart rate
  • Steps
  • Calorie burn
  • Sleep quality
  • Activity counting
  • GPS

Connectivity features:

  • Email snippets
  • Calendar alerts
  • Text message notifications
  • Keep track of your calls
  • Facebook and Twitter notifications

Running and cycling

The beauty of the Band is that you don’t need to bring along your phone for a run or a cycle. It records all your fitness data and when you return, the band syncs with your phone to upload everything from your run. You can then look in detail at your performance, heart rate and route with the in-built GPS.

It’s very simple to set up when you’re ready to start your training and the gentle vibration alert lets you know when you’ve hit 1km, 2km etc.

The host of other metrics available to assess your training include:

  • Run Map: run with GPS enabled on your Microsoft Band to view your route along with mile markers and heat mapping for a quick glance of where you pushed the hardest during your run.
  • Pace: displays the variations in your pace from your average pace.
  • Heart Rate: displays the variations in your heart rate over the course of the run, and your heart rate zones from across the run. Displays a flag on the graph where you hit your Maximum Heart Rate.
  • Splits: displays each mile split during your run, what your pace was at each mile and your average heart rate during each split.
  • If you run 3+ miles, a cheetah and snail icon displays on the table to give you a quick view of where you were your fastest and slowest.

Having this much information about your training is pretty cool, especially when you are working hard towards race day and aiming to smash your PB.

Swimming

At this point, things go down hill as the Band is not waterproof (just like the Apple Watch). It is sweat and splash resistant but cannot be submerged in water so, surprisingly, hasn’t a swimming tile to log your swims. So, you could say that this favours duathletes more than triathletes!

The verdict

Lack of waterproofing aside, the Microsoft band is a great bit of kit. It has a surprising amount of features for something of this price range, and does actually feel like a fitness companion while running, cycling and exercising. We loved the sleep monitoring, which tracks how long you slept for, how restful this sleep was, how many times you woke up and how long it took you to fall asleep. The route-mapping through GPS is also very intriguing, along with the 24-hour heart rate monitoring.

There’s plenty of wearable tech to choose from this year, but at half the price of the Apple Watch, Microsoft Band is a strong contender for the space on your wrist…

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