Review: Microsoft Band 2 – Great Combination of Smartwatch and Fitness Tracker

 

Review: Microsoft Band 2 - Great Combination of Smartwatch and Fitness Tracker

The Microsoft Band 2 is a smartwatch / fitness tracker hybrid. It is definitely strange looking and takes a bit of getting used to but once you start wearing it, it will quickly become your favorite wearable that helps you keep productive and active.

The Microsoft Band 2 combines the functions of a smartwatch, fitness tracker, sleep tracker, GPS, heart rate monitor and more into one small wearable package. The Band 2 has 10 sensors for advanced tracking capabilities; Optical heart rate sensor, 3-axis accelerometer/gyro, Gyrometer, GPS, Ambient light sensor, UV sensor, Skin temperature sensor, Capacitive sensor, Galvanic skin response sensor, and a Barometer.

Microsoft Band 2 Build

Display

The Microsoft Band 2 has an integrated curved screen which fits well on the wrist. The Corning Gorilla Glass 3, AMOLED screen measures 12.8mm X 32 and has a resolution of 320 x 128 resolution, or 255 pixels per inch (ppi). The screen is bright and vivid and you can customize the background color.

Microsoft Band 2 Front Face

1
Touchscreen
2
Power button
3
Action button
4
Microphone
5
Barometer

Design

The Microsoft Band 2 had an overall simple and sporty look to it. The display has a silver metallic finish on the edge and the band is made of thermal plastic elastomer silicone vulcanite – translation: a soft, durable plastic.

The Band 2 comes in 3 different sizes (small, medium and large) and there is a big metal clasp on the strap which provides some adjustment too to ensure a good fit. To find your right size click here. The clasp also houses the UV sensor which when used in conjunction with the ‘UV Tile’ it will let you know the current UV level. The charging port is also located on the clasp.

Microsoft Band 2 Clasp

1
Clasp
2
Tab
3
Adjustment slot
4
Tab

I have found the Microsoft Band 2 to be quite comfortable. I have tried wearing it on both my left and right wrist and have no issues using it while typing or working all day long. I also wear it while sleeping (for sleep monitoring) and I have had no issues with it. I have small wrists and I wear the size small in the Band 2. Some other smartwatches and fitness trackers are made for larger wrists and don’t feel as comfortable when wearing them.

I should point out that the Microsoft Band 2 is not water proof but it is splash and dust resistant. Maybe future models will be water proof as I could see the Band brand being good for tracking water activities too at some point.

Getting Started

Set up was easy with the Microsoft Band 2. It is compatible with Windows Phone 8.1 Update, with Bluetooth 4.0, iOS iOS® 8.1.2 or later: iPhone®: 4S, 5, 5C, 5S, 6, 6 Plus, and Many Android™ 4.3 – 5.0 phones with Bluetooth. I am currently using my Band 2 with the Samsung S7 Edge without any issues. All I had to do was download the Microsoft Health app, sign into the app with my Microsoft account info and then pair my phone with the Band 2 and follow the instructions. and prompts on the screen. It took me less than 5 minutes to be all set up.

Below is a screen shot of the Microsoft Health app main menu options available for use on the Band 2.

Microsoft Health App Main Menu

Personalize

After setting up the Microsoft Band 2 you can personalize it by selecting a theme color and wallpaper for the Band’s touchscreen. To change the theme and wallpaper you need to open the Microsoft Health app, select the menu, and then select Personalize Band. I chose purple for mine.

Microsoft Band 2 Personalize Feature

Tiles

The Microsoft Band 2 uses what they call ’tiles’ which are basically different options / apps which can be turned on and off via the Microsoft Health app. When you press the power button the default tile (home screen) is called the ‘Me Tile’. By pressing the action button you can toggle through how many steps that you have taken, floors that you have climbed, overall distance traveled, calories burned and heart rate. If you swipe left you can scroll through the rest of the active tiles. The tiles provide a lot of the same alerts and notifications as other smartwatches plus some added features which I love.

Here is a list of tiles that you can chose from:

The Run Tile
Use the Run Tile to track activity that covers distance.
The Exercise Tile
Use the Exercise Tile to track exercise routines.
The Guided Workout Tile
Download workout plans to the Guided Workout Tile to track workouts designed by fitness pros.
The Bike Tile
Use the Bike Tile to track bike rides, including rides on stationary bikes.
The Golf Tile
Use the Golf Tile to find new courses, track your shots, and view your score.
The Sleep Tile
Use the Sleep Tile to track how long and how well you sleep.
The UV Tile
Use the UV Tile to check the current intensity of ultraviolet light.
The Messaging Tile
Tap the Messaging Tile to see a few lines of your most recent SMS text messages.
The Mail Tile
Tap the Mail Tile to see a few lines of your most recent emails.
The Calls Tile
Tap the Calls Tile to see who’s calling or view a history of calls.
The Calendar Tile
Tap the Calendar Tile to glance at what’s next on your schedule.
The Facebook Tile
Tap the Facebook Tile to see what’s new in your Facebook feed.
The Facebook Messenger Tile
Tap the Facebook Messenger Tile to see a few lines of your most recent Facebook messages.
The Twitter Tile
Tap the Twitter Tile to see your most recent incoming tweets.
The Weather Tile
Tap the Weather Tile for current weather and forecasts.
The Finance Tile
Tap the Finance Tile for info about your favorite stocks, indices, and more.
The Notifications Center Tile
Tap the Notifications Center Tile to see info from your phone’s Notification Center.
The Alarm and Timer Tile
Tap the Alarm & Timer Tile to set an alarm or timer or use the stopwatch.
The Cortana Tile
Tap the Cortana Tile for news notifications (Windows Phone only).
The Settings Tile
The Settings Tile is your path to many Microsoft Band settings.
The Starbucks Tile
Tap the Starbucks Tile to pay with your Starbucks® Card.

There is a small selection of other sports related tiles available by downloading them through the Microsoft Health app.

You can display a maximum of 20 Tiles on the Band 2. By being able to select which tiles that I want to be active on the Band 2 , I am able to stay more productive while working and when I am on the go. I receive my email notifications, incoming call alerts, social feeds (Twitter and Facebook), calendar and other notifications without having to pull out my smartphone. It helps to keep me organized and on track with my daily goals and objectives.

Getting notifications on my Band 2 makes it easy to dismiss, answer and take action with emails, texts and incoming phone calls without pulling out my Smartphone. This helps me to stay focused when I need to be at the task at hand and also lets me enjoy what is going on around me without having my face glued to my phone. As a productivity tool, the Band 2 is great!

New Explore Tile

There is a new feature that was added to the Band 2 a couple of weeks ago. It is called Explore. The Explore Tile will track your heart rate, calorie burn, elevation changes, and more while on a hike or walk. It will track your trek in your neighborhood and even in the woods. After your trek you can see a map of your exploration. It is my new favorite tile to use.

Below is a summary through the Microsoft Health app, of a hike that I took using the Explore Tile.

Microsoft Band 2: Explore Tile Map of Hike

Battery

Microsoft claims that the battery will last approximately 48 hours and that will depend on your daily use. I have drained the Band 2 and it did last almost 48 hours when I tested it. I generally charge it while I am getting ready for work in the morning and an hour charge gets me through the day and night until the next morning.

Activity Tracker

I am used to wearing various smartwatches but the Band 2 is definitely a better activity tracker. It has a built in GPS and also includes a barometer for measuring elevation (great for climbers and hikers). Plus there is also the measurement of VO2 max for running and other sports, which enables users to work out to their exertion limits, and then it assists you to recover properly from hard training sessions in the Microsoft Health app.  You can monitor your performance levels over time. There are also guided workouts built into the Band 2 or you can build your own and sync it to the Band 2.

Sleep Monitor

The Band 2 is an excellent sleep monitor because of its combination of tracking location, movement and heart rate tracking. It records all of that data, and uses it to accurately measure your light sleep, deep sleep and wakefulness. You simply tell it when you are going to bed, and when you wake up. And it won’t alert you to any messages you receive during this time.
You can review your sleep habits in the Microsoft Health app and see night after night how you are doing.
Microsoft Band 2: Sleep Tracking

Music Player

At first glance the Band 2 does not appear to control music on your smartphone but it does!! It is not intuitive, but you can control your music by pressing quickly pressing the power button twice. You can play, pause, move forward and backwards through your song library.
Microsoft Band 2: Music

Overall

I love the Microsoft Band 2! It offers great value for the price and combines the best features of an activity tracker and smartwatch into one. The Band 2 comes with a lot of sensors and I find it accurately tracks steps and other activities with ease. It is well made despite its weird looks and fits well on the wrist. I love the productivity capabilities it offers and that I don’t have to constantly be staring at my phone.

Disclosure: Microsoft Band 2 products mentioned in this post were supplied by Microsoft Canada.

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