Review: Mi Band 2 from Xiaomi – fitness-tracking features on a band with an OLED display

Xiaomi’s stylish Mi Band 2 keeps track of steps, heart rate and sleep analysis, has good battery life and is a no brainer for both new users and owners of this wearable’s first generation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 July, 2016, 12:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 July, 2016, 12:02pm

In 2014, Xiaomi released an affordable activity tracker called the Mi Band. It was a drab aluminium module with a 30-day battery life and was designed to be worn on the wrist. Last year saw an upgrade that included a heart rate sensor. Both models sold out quickly. Now, Xiaomi is giving us all these features on a band with an OLED display – the Mi Band 2.

Design

One thing that made the first generation Mi Band great was its simplicity. A minimalist pebble that fits into a silicone strap. Three indicator lights shine through the metallic surface to relay information. The rest of the interaction takes place on the phone in the Xiaomi Fit app.

The Mi Band 2 comes with a simple OLED scratch-resistant display where you can view information such as the time, number of steps, calories burned and heart rate.

The main oval unit is 10.5mm thick. It doesn’t raise too far up off the wrist. The band is well engineered, and a snug fit and while sitting level with the bracelet, the top surface of the unit remains exposed but is almost completely covered with black glass.

Together with the black rubber bracelet, the Mi Band 2 looks particularly smart, but it may be harder to match against other colour bracelets compared to the aluminium surface of the previous generation.

The rubber bracelet is a topic of contention. I wore mine tight at first, hoping for accurate heart rate read-outs. But after half a day in Hong Kong’s humidity, my wrist began itching quite badly.

I like the design of the metal clasp: a simple but secure pin and hole arrangement. Sadly though, it scrapes on the desk, picking up bits of paint. To avoid the issue, I wore it so that the module was on the inside of my wrist but that caused issues as it kept hitting the desk while I was typing.

Tracking and notification

Among the things that the Mi Band keeps track of are the steps, heart rate and sleep analysis. I’ve compared the accuracy of the pedometer (steps) and the heart rate sensor against the Apple Watch (WatchOS) and the Huawei Watch (Android Wear) and the figure never fell outside a 10 per cent range.

One small complaint is the lack of passive heart rate monitoring but a feature like that could easily eat into the battery life. And speaking of battery life, over the past five days, the Mi Band 2 has drained 37 per cent, so it’s safe to estimate that I could get somewhere from 10 to 15 days per charge, five days shy of Xiaomi’s claim of 20 days.

Battery life is going to differ from user to user, it’ll depend on which features you turn on and how often you make use of them. For example, I have switched on app notifications (by way of vibrations) for my messaging apps such as WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, so if I receive a lot of messages, that would reduce battery life. Charging is handled by a cradle that connects to a USB power source.

While 15 days may seem like a regression compared to earlier generations, it is still excellent and long battery life is extremely important when it comes to sleep tracking. In the past battery life prevented me from using sleep tracking.

Conclusion

I had minor issues with the data sync on Android, which was resolved after some back and forth with Xiaomi reps. On iOS however, it worked smoothly. It was reliable – all the alarms I had set and stand-up alerts worked as expected.

What the Mi Band 2 has over previous models is the OLED display that lets you exercise and see your stats without looking at your phone.

The most useful information the tiny screen displays is the heart rate followed by the clock. It could almost replace a smartwatch with its app notifications.

The Mi Band 2 only costs HK$199. You’ll not find another device with similar features at that price (you can only get a Fitbit replacement band).

For new users and owners of the first generation, it’s a no-brainer.