Sony SmartBand Talk review: Sony gets the fitness tracker right

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Sony SmartBand Talk's e-ink display makes it easy to see your activity, the time and incoming notifications. The display uses very little power so battery life is pretty good and its ability to take calls comes in handy when you're too busy (or too lazy) to fumble for your phone.

The Bad It doesn't have GPS, a heart-rate monitor or the most glamorous design. Sony's Lifelog fitness app keeps track of too much pointless information.

The Bottom Line The SmartBand Talk's screen, waterproof design and ability to show your incoming notifications make it a useful piece of tech to wear, even if you're not fussed about keeping track of your activity during the day.

7.5 Overall
  • Style 7.0
  • Features 7.5
  • Ease of use 8.0

The world is awash with fitness bands, each one promising to help you make sense of your workouts, track how well you're doing and spur you on when your willpower flags. With so many options available from so many different companies, it's difficult for new models to stand out.

Sony is hoping the SmartBand Talk will catch your eye, thanks to its easy-to-read e-ink display -- like on a Kindle -- as well as the ability to show notifications and receive phone calls via your phone.

The SmartBand Talk is available now directly from Sony in the UK for £130 or for $170 in the US. It's due to go on sale soon in Australia, although final prices have yet to be confirmed (the UK price converts to AU$240, for reference).

Design and comfort

Due to the fact that it's housing a proper display, the SmartBand Talk is much wider than strict calorie-counters like the Jawbone Up24 or the Garmin Vivosmart. It's more similar to wearing a watch -- too wide in fact to comfortably wear next to a watch, I found. It's 23.5mm wide though, so still slim enough to go mostly unnoticed throughout the day.

It only weighs 24g, too, so your wrist certainly won't feel at all weighed down when you're on a jog. It has a rubber strap that wraps around and fastens in place with little pegs. It's fairly easily to fasten once you've practised a few times and the flexible rubber is very comfortable to wear all day.

I took it off at night, although it's not too obtrusive to keep you awake. You can also set "Do not disturb" times in the SmartBand app to block notification -- and therefore vibrations -- from waking you up in the middle of the night. It doesn't track sleep patterns, although Sony says this function will be added at some point in the near future, so it might be worth keeping it on your arm at night then.

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

It's available in black or white, both likely to go with most of your outfits, although a range of alternative colours -- including a rather lurid lime green -- will soon be available to buy as well. Sadly, neither launch date nor prices for these spare straps were available at the time of writing. The SmartBand looks inoffensive enough, but it's not exactly what you'd call glamorous.

It's waterproof to a depth of 1.5m for up to 30 minutes at a time. You'd be wise then to take it off before a swim -- unless you only plan on having a quick splash around the shallow end. What that does mean though is that it'll be safe from pouring rain, sweat in a heavy workout or even when wearing in the shower.

It charges via a Micro-USB port which is built into the side of the watch. Having it built in means you won't need to carry around any additional charging cradles, which are easy to lose and difficult to replace. The port is covered by a small flap to keep the water out, but it's simple to open and close.

Display

One of the main features of the SmartBand Talk is its display. It's a 1.4-inch screen that uses e-ink technology, like you see on e-book readers such as the Kindle. Unlike a regular LCD screen, e-ink only uses power to refresh what's already on the screen -- it takes no power to display what's already there. Showing the clock, for example, doesn't take any power, but it will use a minute amount to refresh when it changes the numbers.

View full gallery (9 Photos)
Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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