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LAS VEGAS -- A buzz and a glow: Razer's latest crack at a smart band goes for low-key features and a low price. Maybe, in the shadow of upcoming mega-wearables later this year, the cheaper path is the smarter one.
The Razer Nabu X, announced at the 2015 International CES, is a $50 fitness band with an ability to buzz and light up when notifications come in. Last year's Razer Nabu was Razer's first crack at making a smart band, but it never quite lived up to expectations: it quietly launched at the end of last year, and barely registered a blip on the wearable landscape.
The Nabu X, in contrast, is an even more entry-level band aiming for affordability. Ditching the readout display of the original Nabu, the Nabu X uses three-color LED lights that can pulse red, green or blue, and a built-in vibrational buzz, to indicate phone notifications. A connected app that works on iOS or Android can customize the lights to mean different things: incoming phone call, incoming tweet and so on.
The Nabu X can track basic fitness via a built-in accelerometer, just like the original Nabu: steps, estimated calories, and automatic sleep tracking. Will it be an accurate and useful tracker? There are plenty of other bands that are more vetted out. Extra features include proximity-based social sharing of Twitter and Facebook contacts with another Nabu X owner, should you happen to meet one -- you could even peek at what a fellow Nabu X friend's most recently played Steam game was.
The Nabu X comes in three colors, and the snap-on rubberized band houses the actual removable plastic core of the device, which can be popped out and into other colored bands. It has a 7-day battery life, and is water resistant. The Nabu X launches next month for $50, but subscribers to the community-driven Razer Insider can buy it for $20. At that price, the Nabu X sounds like a pretty good deal, but do you need it, and does it work as well as advertised? I have no idea. It felt OK on my wrist, but not wonderful. After all the promise of last year's Nabu band, the Nabu X can't help but feel underwhelming.