Microsoft’s first Band wearable was a blink-and-you’ve-missed-it affair, largely because it was never officially available in Australia.
Probably a good thing, too, as it was widely lambasted for being a pig to wear.
That’s the past. Microsoft has employed the rule of thirds for its sequel: one third the same, one third new and one third improved, and first impressions are good, whether you’ve used a fitness tracker before or not.
Like its forebear, the Band 2 is absolutely stuffed with tech. A UV sensor gives an indication of when to apply sunscreen (admittedly a little redundant here in Australia, since that’s ‘all the time’), plus an optical heart rate monitor, GPS, barometer and the requisite gyroscope and accelerometer.
All of these tools come together to provide real-time feedback on your dry-land activities.
Sadly, the Band 2 isn’t completely waterproof, though it will survive a heavy downpour.
Runners and cyclists are well catered for, linking their activity with apps like Strava, Runkeeper and so on, and so too are golfers, as the TaylorMade app tracks your performance on the course.
You can also customise a gym workout on the web service to then sync to the Band via your phone (which is simpler than it sounds). The best bit? You can set these workouts on your phone and leave the latter behind, only picking it up again to sync once you’re towelling off.
That screen is stunning, thanks to the AMOLED panel which is bright, clear, crisp and responsive, though it’d all be for nought if the fitness sensors didn’t do their job.
Although the GPS can be a little tardy at picking up the satellites, that shortcoming’s no deal breaker. The heart rate monitor is constantly on, even when you’re not actively doing something, plus the motion sensors do an admirable job of keeping tabs on your sleep state.
And all of this combines to monitor the amount of calories you’re burning, for anyone keeping count.
For battery life, expect roughly 48 hours out of a full charge if you’re simply walking, eating and sleeping, though that’ll drop to 24 hours if you spend any time in a dedicated workout.
Tying it all together is the Microsoft Health app and service, which is a bit hit and miss.
Smartly, the web portal has short videos that demonstrate how to do near hundreds of different gym exercises, though it’s a pity that the phone app merely acts as a passive window into your activity, missing out on the same degree of customisation as the web version.
Neither the web service nor the app allow you to retroactively enter exercises, effectively ruling out swimming completely. Still, the web dashboard offers a lot of metrics, and this writer got a perverse sense of satisfaction noting he had 97% sleep efficiency.
Bolted on top are basic smartwatch functions. You can receive (but can’t write) Facebook, Twitter, SMS, calendar and news notifications if you wish, though you’ll need a Windows phone to use Cortana.
More tiles (essentially micro apps) are on the way, too, for other push notifications.
All up, the Band 2 is a fine entry-level to intermediate tracker. If you’ve ever considered a FitBit Surge or Garmin Vivosmart HR, there’s a brand new player to make that decision a little tougher.