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Pivotal Tracker 1 review: An activity tracker that costs less than dinner

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The Good The Pivotal Tracker 1 is incredibly affordable. It can track your daily activities, sleep and even your hydration level. There's a silent alarm for gentle wake ups and inactivity alerts to get you moving.

The Bad Sleep tracking isn't automatic, the band isn't waterproof and distance tracking isn't very accurate. There are some build-quality issues and Pivotal's app doesn't integrate with any third-party options.

The Bottom Line While you won't find any advanced features in it, the affordability of the Pivotal Tracker 1 makes it a low risk tracker for newcomers interested in the wearable market.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.6 Overall
  • Style 7
  • Features 7
  • Ease of use 9

Review Sections

What can you buy with $12 in your pocket? In New York City, that's about a cup of a soup and a small salad at lunch, or two beers during happy hour. Well that's all about to change thanks to a small startup out of Seattle. What if I told you that you could buy an activity tracker for that price? You may think I'm crazy or perhaps talking about a plastic toy, but the Pivotal Tracker 1 is a full-fledged activity tracker.

Pivotal Living is taking a unique approach to the crowded wearable market and is offering it's activity tracker as part of a yearly subscription plan. The Pivotal Tracker 1 can be had for $12, which will get you a band and access to the company's Android and iOS app. If you like what you see, pay another $12 the following year for another band (you can also keep your current one) and another year of access to the mobile app.

Editors' note, January 13, 2015:Since its launch, Pivotal users -- including CNET staff -- have experienced syncing problems due to the high volume of new users. Pivotal has acknowledged the issues and is working to resolve them. To compensate for these problems, the company is extending membership for 12 months for free to all members that are registered on or before January 15.

Design

The Tracker 1 doesn't look like a cheap tracker and it doesn't feel like one either, but it's not the most comfortable band to wear. This is because the sides of the OLED screen aren't very flexible. It's not nearly as bad as the ultra-stiff Microsoft Band , but you definitely feel the Tracker 1 on your wrist more than you would a Jawbone Up24 or Fitbit Charge .

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The screen is used to display the time of day (including a battery and alarm indicator) and all of your daily activities: steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, and goal completion percentage. You can scroll through these data groups with a tap of the Tracker 1's button. There is sleep tracking, however it isn't automatic. Instead you must quickly double tap the button to activate it.

On the back of the device there four pins that are used to charge the device. The Tracker 1 uses a proprietary charging dock, which means if you lose you are out of luck. Battery life is rated at 5 to 7 days, but those estimates appear to sell the device short. I got a little over 7 days on my first charge. It likely could have reached day eight if I wasn't worried it would die in the middle of the night.

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The Tracker 1 is similar to so many of the other trackers on the market. Two small prongs are pushed into the the rubber band to keep it on your wrist. There is a small loop at one end of the band, but it won't do much if the prongs were to become dislodged. I find myself constantly checking my wrist to make sure the band is still there. It hasn't even unclipped yet, but I would feel better if there was a secondary security slider, such as the one featured in the Garmin Vivosmart .

One of the biggest drawbacks is that the device isn't waterproof. It will hold up if you are washing your hands or doing the dishes, but it can't be worn in the shower or the pool. The battery takes only 60 minutes to go from zero to 100 percent, so won't be off your wrist for long. I would usually charge it in the morning during my shower and as I got ready for work.

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I do have concerns about the build quality. I noticed after only a few days of use, small white scratches began to appear on the screen. I don't remember bumping into anything and while they aren't very noticeable (I could barely get the camera to focus on them), I am left wondering what the screen will look like after a few months. It's a good thing there is that option to upgrade to a new device every year.

Tracking

While it doesn't include GPS or a heart-rate monitor, the Tracker 1 has the basic features you would expect from an activity tracker. It can track your steps, distance, active time, weight and sleep. It even has features, such as hydration tracking, that some of the more expensive bands don't include. The band will also track the amount of calories you burn from your steps, rather than the overall number that most trackers show.

The average person walks about 2,000 steps per mile. Step counts were on target with the Tracker 1, however distance accuracy was no where near where it should be. To test this, I walked on a treadmill for a mile and compared the mileage from the treadmill to the mileage recorded on the tracker. I usually perform this test three times to ensure accuracy, but I was skeptical of the first three results and performed two additional tests. For things to remain consistent, I used the same exact treadmill each time and walked at the same exact speed (3.5 mph, to be exact, about a 17-minute pace). You can view the results below:

Pivotal Tracker 1 Tracking Data

Test # Steps Distance (mi) Difference (mi)
1 2,090 0.84 -0.16
2 2,078 0.84 -0.16
3 2,082 0.84 -0.16
4 2,080 0.84 -0.16
5 2,087 0.84 -0.16
Average 2,083 0.84 -0.16

As you can see above, the Tracker 1 was consistent, but it was consistently inaccurate when it came to distance tracking. No other band I tested in the past few months was off by this amount. It would appear that something is off in the algorithm Pivotal uses. I've informed the company about the accuracy issues and they are looking into it.

On a lighter note, the band was more accurate when it came to sleep tracking. The results it recorded were comparable to the S+ by ResMed, an accurate sleep tracker.

Android and iOS support

Jawbone creates one of the most appealing apps for its Up activity trackers. Rarely have I been impressed with the apps of the products I test, but the Pivotal Living app is a huge exception. It offers an attractive design, while still being able to deliver a sufficient amount of information.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

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