Xiaomi’s latest foray into the world of ultra-affordable smartphone accompaniments is a successor to their 2014 Mi Band, the Mi Band 1S. What does the 1S (or Pulse depending where you shop) offer over the original, and more importantly, does it retain the stellar price-point of the original. Read on for our full Xiaomi Mi Band 1S review.
We start with a little summary. If you’re reading this hoping for a feature packed fitness tracker that actually measures each individual footstep to the letter, at a price point that other similar devices could only dream of, then look elsewhere. What you do get for the incredible sum of around £25 however is a small, smart, fitness band which is comfortable to use, lightweight, durable and gives a semi-accurate representation of your movements. If you’re happy with what you’ve just read, read on.
Unboxing & Hardware[pullquote align=”right” color=”#FF9900″]”Inside is a 45 mAh battery that Xiaomi claim can give 30 days of battery life….During testing we hit 38 days”[/pullquote]Xiaomi are no longer the new guys on the block in terms of either smart devices or their peripherals and accessories. Xiaomi’s second generation fitness band provides an incremental improvement over their first by delivering just one additional feature; a heart rate monitor. Both the Xiaomi Mi Band 1S and the original share the same size bands, and have near identical dimensions with fractions of a millimetre separating the width, height and depth of the orb-like tracker.
In terms of contents, the Xiaomi Mi Band 1S comes in the same, now infamous, tight-fitting angular cardboard box and houses the unit itself, a quick start guide, a black rubberised bracelet, and the quite short USB charging cradle. If you’re not partial to black, Xiaomi also offers Orange, Blue, Green, Yellow and Pink colour variants of the bracelet.
The tracker is made of a magnesium-aluminium alloy with a polycarbonate wrap around and is very light to hold which helps with comfort during long periods of use. On the top side of the tracker are three LED indicators used during pairing and to give updates on the accumulated step count during the day. On edge of the device are the charging pins, and on the bottom of the device is what sets this apart from its predecessor – its heart rate monitor. Inside is a 45 mAh battery that Xiaomi claim can give 30 days of battery life depending on the alarms, notifications and heart rate settings. During testing we hit 38 days with the call notifications on as well as heart rate monitoring during sleep.
The band is made of a rubberised plastic (TPSiV – a hybrid of thermoplastic urethane and silicone rubber) which enhances that comfort factor. Is it the prettiest thing you’re likely to see in the wearable/fitness tracker sector? No, but it’s one of the lightest, and one of the cheapest – therein lies the trade-off.
Performance & Use
Getting up and running with the Xiaomi Mi Band 1S is typically easy. Simply download the app from either the App Store or Google Play (if using Android we recommend reading the MIUI forum for more information on tweaked English versions of the application), open it, and click the pair button to start the connection to the device. When the LED lights start to flick, tap the metal band and the connection is accepted.
Once paired, the device will start to record your movement. In our testing we managed to get it to accurately recognise 1 step around 60% of the time, with it reading 10 steps closer to 80% of the time. Both of these actual readings were overstated, so be sure to factor that in to the step goals you set.
Another feature of the Xiaomi Mi Band 1S (and its predecessor in fact) is sleep tracking. Setting sleep tracking up is as easy as going to sleep with the product still in situ on your wrist. We initially thought this would be somewhat uncomfortable however due to the material choices and the size of the device, we found it introduce no new issues during our sleeping cycle.
The Mi Fit application allows profile setup with height, weight and step goals, weight monitoring, sleep tracking and heart rate monitoring all built-in. Along with various social sharing options of your achievements, there is a nice little feature whereby your device tells you where you rank in terms of the wider Xiaomi Mi Band universe relating to your steps – a nice little touch and an element of competitiveness creeps in after a little while.
One area the £25 Xiaomi Mi Band 1S doesn’t necessarily excel in is accuracy. In a test of 50 steps with normal arm movement, the Mi Band counted just 39 steps. As with any arm-mounted tracker, a busy day of DIY, or emptying a dishwasher is going to rack up those “steps”. At this price point, it’s not a complete deal breaker, but it’s something to bear in mind if accuracy is higher on your agenda than comfort, price and durability.
Mi Fit also ties in with the device’s GPS in Running Mode to give more accurate reporting of your workout, using the built-in Heart Rate monitor to track your heart rate and can even be set to warn if you’re pushing too hard.
All this tracking is pointless without a repository to view the data over time and as such all the collected data is transmitted to your smartphone (manually) when using the Mi Fit app and can even be hooked up to Google Fit. These metrics can then be viewed historically in order for you to attempt to improve the various elements.
When you’re done with all your exercise and high-octane activities for the day, the Xiaomi Mi Band 1S is, thankfully, very comfortable to wear to bed. One thing to note here however is that the Xiaomi Mi Band 1S seems to “assume” sleeping times are in the evening. An afternoon nap is not measured as sleep, and those working night shifts might have a tough time with this product currently (forum posts suggest this will be addressed in forthcoming updates). With no sharp edges though, and no metal clasps, we had no issues using this 24/7; during the day and in bed.
And we do mean 24/7. Due to the IP67 rating, the Xiaomi Mi Band 1S can be submerged in up to 1 metre of water for up to 30 minutes, so can happily deal with a shower!
Whilst the addition of the companion app, Mi Fit, allows for functionality that you’d expect to see in a higher priced product, if you fancy adding features to the device, take look on the MIUI forums for community built applications to expand the functionality.
Conclusion[perfectpullquote align=”left” color=”#FF9900″]”There are activity trackers two or three times the price that have no more functionality”[/perfectpullquote]It’s quite a simple equation really. If you want something cheap and cheerful to give you some readings of your steps, and some visibility of how you’re sleeping, this is the perfect starting point. There are more expensive sleep and activity trackers out there from FitBit and Jawbone, but you’re taking a leap of faith with your money. With the Xiaomi Mi Band 1S you can safely get to know how trackers work, and also get a nice app experience thanks to the Mi Fit’s versatility.
That only tells half the story however and it would be disingenuous to simply laud the price point of this product and stop there. Once purchased, you’ll then start to appreciate the product for more than just its wallet friendly price, with its companion apps’ features, as well as the battery life. The battery life alone is worth the price.
There are some downsides however. With the paltry price point comes accuracy that can sometimes be a bit hit and miss as well as the clasp mechanism sometimes coming undone when caught. The design is also not as aesthetically pleasing as some of the other, more expensive trackers out there on the market.
For the money, you can’t beat the Xiaomi Mi Band 1S for value and durability. If something happens to the band, buy a replacement for a few pounds; hell, if you manage to break or lose the device, you’re not breaking the bank in terms of a replacement.
Simply put there are activity trackers that are two or three times the price of this product that give nothing more in terms of fit and finish, or functionality; that says it all.