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Huawei TalkBand B1 review: Huawei wants to walk the talk with the TalkBand B1 wearable

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In settings you can tell the TalkBand to give you a buzz if you've been inactive, set the goals for stepping, and you can access the smart alarm. Like most others, this will vibrate to wake you up when your sleep cycle is at its shallowest, within a given time frame. So, you can tell it to wake you up a 7am with a ten minute window -- from 6.50am on it'll wait until you're out of deep sleep before going off.

The TalkBand did have one smart alarm feature I hadn't seen before -- you can set it to wake you up if you're about to fall asleep. Students, gamers, truck drivers, and binge-watchers of TV can rejoice.

Using the TalkBand B1

Obviously, the TalkBand has two separate functions -- tracker and Bluetooth earpiece -- and we'll deal with both separately.

Earpiece: In terms of call quality and voice pickup, the B1 was a solid performer. I tested both indoors and outdoors and found my calls to be clear, with the recipients noting that they could hear me equally clearly, albeit with a slight metallic echo at times. (One person I called said it was a little robotic, but I could have just needed more coffee.)

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The TalkBand felt just a little large to sit comfortably. Dave Cheng/CNET

Answering a call by popping out the B1 from the band felt a bit odd, but worked well even with a slight fumble to get the earpiece in.

Actually in terms of fit, I didn't have a lot of luck with the B1. There are three sizes of silicon ear cover in the pack and I couldn't find one that didn't leave the B1 feeling like it was about to drop out of my ear. To be clear, it never did fall out -- but it always felt quite tenuously secured.

Tracker: I was disappointed that the app wouldn't let me track specific exercises but for people just looking for a solid step tracker, that won't be a big issue.

I found both stepping and sleep to be accurate, but the relatively large size of the B1 meant that it wasn't very comfortable to wear at night. Also, because you can't tell it when you're heading to sleep, it tracks any period of inaction as nap time -- take it off for a bit while working at desk and you'll quickly find yourself recording a sleep period in the middle of the day.

If worn during running or another fairly strenuous bout of exercise, the plastic band quickly became unpleasantly sweaty.

While I'm on that subject, the TalkBand may be water resistant but, like the Sony SmartBand, the band can get water in around the core unit, so I quickly stopped wearing it while showering.

Finally, while the B1 wants to be worn as if it was a watch, having to press a button to see the time removes a lot of the convenience one might hope for from a wrist-based time piece.

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Dave Cheng/CNET

Conclusion

It's not exactly a case of "jack of all trades, master of none" but it's along those lines. By trying to fulfil two different roles, the Huawei TalkBand B1 manages to be competent at both while not excelling at either.

It's certainly a clever concept and could be ideal for some who wants a Bluetooth headset they don't have to wear all the time. But there are better earpieces and better trackers out there, so unless you desperately want a device that does both, you might be better off waiting seeing what the next generation of TalkBand looks like.

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