Review of Microsoft Band 2
Microsoft’s first foray into the tracker market was a bold statement of intent; packed full of sensors and features, but not quite hitting the mark when it came to the fit and user interface. So we were excited to get our hands on the next iteration, the cunningly named Microsoft Band 2! It’s got more sensors (well one more actually), more functionality and best of all, a more comfortable fit!
WHAT IS TRACKED?
The Band 2 is even more packed with sensors, with the addition this time of a Barometer to also measure changes in height. This means the new device can track your activity even more accurately, whether you’re cycling, running, in the gym or just wanting to keep an eye on your step count. As with the previous version, the sheer amount of information it collects is pretty much unparalleled and he addition of the barometer is a clever one.
Another piece of the tracking tech that’s been upgraded is the online portal, where you can see your data in a lot more detail and even compare your figures to other people your size, weight, age, etc.
With all those sensors it’s honestly hard to find a flaw in the Band 2’s accuracy. For both steps and activity using its GPS in combination with other trackers is spot on. For the winter I’ve got myself a turbo trainer for my bike and I even gave the band a test during a static ride. While it wasn’t perfect, it still gave a fair estimate of the activity and calories burned, largely judged by my heart rate. The tracker really is the most impressive I’ve had the chance to try out.
Setting up the band was still relatively painless and I was up and running in just a few minutes (including a firmware update on a slight iffy Wi-Fi connection). The fit of the device this time around is also remarkably different! It’s still a sizeable band – with that many sensors inside it it’s hard not to be – but it is much, muc more comfortable than it’s predecessor. One barometer I’ve found for the ‘comfort’ of these types of band is whether they move comfortably under the cuff of a shirt and on that front the Microsoft Band 2 does just about squeeze under the cuff, even if it does feel a little tight!
The ability to customise the display and tiles you want is still a really useful user experience to have, but it’s clear the focus of development for this generation of the Ban was to fix the fit. And while it’s still not perfect, it has dramatically improved!
The team at Microsoft clearly focused on the fit for this generation and sadly haven’t been able to fix the other major issue: Battery life. The Band 2 is estimated to last about 48 hours on a full battery and it still charges around 90% of the battery incredibly quickly, but there’s no getting around the fact it’s annoying to have to plug it in every other day.
The Microsoft Band 2 is available for around £170 at the moment, making it possibly the most comprehensive tracker on the market for under £200. For the same price you can get yourself a number of other trackers or smartwatch devices, but you’ll be hard pressed to find something that includes both sets of functionality (and done well). So all things considered, the price seems fair.
Microsoft has clearly taken the feedback from its first foray into account when updating the Band and endeavoured to work on some of the main issues. It is still a little bulky to wear, the battery life is still too short for my liking, but the comfort has been dramatically improved and the functionality has improved too. So for all the potential uses you can get out of the Band, it’s hard to find something better for the price – particularly all the specialist activity tracking options it has baked into it.
The ultimate questions of any of these reviews is whether I would continue to wear the device and if I would recommend it. Both of which I struggle to answer to be honest. I will miss the Band and all the functions it gives me, but I won’t miss having to remember to plug it in or unplug it to put it on every few days. If someone wants a good running or general activity tracker, then I wouldn’t hesitate in mentioning this to them, but recommending it? Not quite yet. All in all, I’m impressed again with Microsoft’s attempt, but this time I’m even more excited to see what they do with the Band 3 (whenever that may be).