CNET First Look
Microsoft Band aims high to be the smartest fitness band around, with mixed resultsWe really wanted to love the Microsoft Band, but right now this feature-packed band's mix of GPS, notifications and workout training is imperfect.
One magical band to rule your life. We've heard this before in wearable tech. The Microsoft Band is a fitness band but it's also a smartwatch in a lot of ways. It knits together notifications as much as many other smart watches and it does it all, hey someone just favorited a tweet of mine. It does it all in a tiny little form, almost looks like a Nike fuel band, what can be wrong with this? Well at $200 the Microsoft band, which is currently available in the U.S., seems like a good proposition, and there's a lot I really wanted to love about it. A lot of the notification modes are not so automatic, to look at them on this wide color screen. Takes some effort, you gotta scroll, twist your hand now for fitness you can go running with this, you can go walking, you can go to the gym there are workouts that you can download onto this I laugh because it's a bit of a hassle. There's a pedometer, there's a heart rate monitor that stays on 24 hours a day, and helps track your sleep quality as well, now the heart monitor actually worked well. And its basically on par with things you find on the Basis Peak and some of these recent heart rate wearables that go around the clock. But as far as the activity element goes your mileage may vary. It has built in GPS so if you're a runner you can go for a run with this thing without your phone at all and it'll actually track where you're going. That worked pretty well although there a lot of other products on the market that can do similar things. Now as far as workouts go, there are a number of workouts available from partners like Gold's Gym and Men's Fitness that will download onto this and you can scroll one at a time and start a little timed workout. Microsoft's help app which is how this pairs looks like a windows phone, so you can turn any phone you have into a windows phone type of environment, and they'll show you your progress and tend to give you some feedback. But the minimalism of it actually counts against it. It's a little hard to tell what your daily and weekly totals all add up to, what it all means, and doesn't really help you build any meaningful routines, like one of our favorite apps, the Jawbone UP, or the recent Basis Peak, which does help you build habits and achievements, which makes you want to wear and add up to something. If you're a hardcore workout warrior, there's a lot in this band that might appeal to you. And Microsoft's really on to something in terms of all the ideas that are building around this band. But to get it to work takes effort. None of it is really automatically. One thing is the Microsoft Band is thick. It's a bulky, doesn't quite feel comfortable. It's not water resistant, and it attaches with a magnetic charger on the back. That's nice, but it only gets 48 hours of battery life. Which for a lot of fitness fans is well below average. It's a good first effort. It's not a great first effort. And the Microsoft band may even be hard to get this holiday season. So consider it kind of an embryonic effort from Microsoft to get into fitness and smart tech. Interesting, probably not for most people. I'm Scott Stein and this is the Microsoft Band, available now. [MUSIC]