The Microsoft Band has a small, thin display—designed to keep it more of a “band” and less of a “watch”. It’s a 1.4-inch capacitive color display with a resolution of 320 x 106 pixels.
Microsoft has packed a comprehensive array of sensors into the Microsoft Band: heart rate sensor, accelerometer, gyrometer, GPS, ambient light sensor, UV sensor, skin temperature sensor, capacitive sensor, and galvanic skin response. It also has a haptic vibration motor, microphone, and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity.
It has dual 100mAh rechargeable batteries that deliver an estimated 48 hours of run time under normal use. The Microsoft Band is not waterproof but it is dust and splash resistant. Microsoft has designed it to work in temperatures ranging from around 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 degrees Celsius) up to about 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius), and at altitudes up to 3,937 feet (1,200 meters).
I like the general design of the Microsoft Band. In terms of its overall aesthetics it basically looks and feels a lot like the Nike FuelBand, which I wore for a couple years before I started testing a new smartwatch or wearable every other week.
The clasp design on the Microsoft Band is awesome. It is simple to put on or take off by simply pinching the sides of the band. The overlapping part of the band is inserted into a slot on the other side that has a little over an inch to slide along so you can adjust the fit precisely.
Because of the display and all of the sensors much of the Microsoft Band is inflexible. There is some bend between the display and the sensor bundles on either side, and the ends of the band that clasp together are pretty flexible, though, so overall it’s still pretty comfortable.
One issue I have with the form is viewing the display. When wearing it like a watch—with the display on top of my wrist—I can view the display, however, I have to read it sideways or turn my arm or wrist in a funky angle in order to orient the display properly. I noticed in Microsoft’s videos for the Microsoft Band that some of the people wore it upside down—so the display is on the underside of the wrist. That way actually makes it much easier to view and read, but it’s less aesthetically pleasing because then you just have the Microsoft Band clasp in plain sight on top of your wrist.
What doesn’t the Microsoft Band do? That might be an easier way to approach this.
Apple Watch pairs with iOS. Samsung smartwatches really only work with Samsung mobile devices. Android Wear basically works with Android—although it’s expanding to work with iOS. Microsoft seems to lead the way when it comes to cross-platform functionality because the Microsoft Band can be paired via Bluetooth with a Windows Phone, iPhone, or Android device.
The Microsoft Band is, first and foremost, a health and fitness wearable. It monitors your heart rate, and tracks your steps. It tracks the calories you burn and monitors your sleep patterns. The Microsoft Band can track and monitor your runs or bike rides, and it includes a variety of guided workouts you can use to exercise. You can also set daily goals for steps or calories burned and the Microsoft Band will let you know when you’ve reached them.
The Microsoft Band is also a watch. It displays the time and date when you push the main button. You can also enable Watch Mode if you want the time and date to be displayed at all times even without pushing the button.
The Microsoft Band is also a smartwatch—a Bluetooth connected extension of your smartphone. It vibrates and displays information about incoming phone calls, emails, and text messages. It displays notifications and you can connect it with Facebook and Twitter to display posts, tweets, comments and other notifications from those social networks.
The Microsoft Band also has a variety of apps you can use to customize the device and make it uniquely yours. The Weather app will show you real-time weather conditions and a 5-day forecast. The Finance app lets you view your selected investment activity. There are also third-party apps like Starbucks that will allow you to make purchases at Starbucks using just the Microsoft Band
The integration with TaylorMade golf allows you to sync course information and provides shot tracking, range finding and game analytics for your golf game. The Microsoft Band sensors can actually differentiate between a practice swing and an actual shot to keep track of your score as you go. The GPS sensor identifies your exact location to let you know how far you are from the pin at any point. Afterward you can go to TaylorMade’s MyRoundPro to analyze your statistics in detail: fairways hit, greens in regulation, proximity to the hole and more.
If you have a Windows Phone the Microsoft Band also syncs with Cortana. You can use your voice to take notes, set reminders, or reply to text messages using Cortana.
The Microsoft Band syncs with the Microsoft Health app on your smartphone. The Microsoft Health app also enables you to customize the look of the Microsoft Band—changing the color and theme of the display background, or reorganizing the order of the app tiles.
The retail price of $200 is higher than I’d likely spend on something like this, but Amazon sells the Microsoft Band for $150 through Amazon Prime. Microsoft has packed a mind-numbing array of functionality into the Microsoft Band and there’s still room for improvement either through software updates to the Microsoft Band itself or through the addition of new third-party apps.
The Microsoft Band is the best fitness wearable I’ve used so far. It isn’t the best looking smartwatch I’ve used, but in terms of its capabilities and features it is actually the best smartwatch I’ve used so far as well. This device is well worth $150 and I highly recommend it.