Xiaomi Mi Band 2 review
Any fitness tracker worth its salt covers the basics of tracking steps, distance and calories, and now even budget models are adding heart rate monitoring too, previously the exclusive domain of higher-end wearables.
With so many trackers offering a similar set of features, how do you pick the right device for you? Chinese tech giant Xiaomi has always tried to differentiate its wearables by offering them at rock bottom prices – the original Mi Band went for just $15 in the US – and it's looking to repeat the trick with the Mi Band 2.
Despite its low price, the Mi Band 2 brings with it just about everything you could want in a fitness tracker without straying into smartwatch territory: all the basics are covered, plus sleep tracking, movement reminders, and basic phone notifications. But is it enough to convince you to choose Xiaomi over Fitbit?
Xiaomi Mi Band 2 price and availability
- Costs around £28/$35/AU$50
- Available to buy now
The price of the Mi Band 2 makes it ideal if you want to spend as little as possible on a fitness tracker. At the time of writing, the Mi Band 2 is selling for less than £30 on Amazon UK and under $35 on Amazon US, which means you don't have to spend much on this fitness tracker at all.
You'll struggle to find anything comparable for less. The Huawei Band 2 Pro is currently hovering around £50 or $70 online, while the Fitbit Alta HR, the Fitbit product that perhaps most closely matches the Xiaomi Band 2, is all the way up at £130 or $150.
The Mi Band 2 launched in 2016 which means you're likely to be able to get some very decent deals for it online. It also means the software and hardware has had time to become reliable and bug-free.
Design and display
- Plastic but comfortable feel
- Bright, readable OLED display
Okay, the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 looks cheap – but it doesn't look that cheap. The rubber strap is sturdy and actually pretty comfortable, the clasp system is strong and secure, and the actual tracker itself – which you snap into the strap – has the heft of a proper bit of clever wearable technology.
It may not have the looks of a Fitbit or an Apple Watch 3, but then it does cost a fraction of the price, so you pay your money and take your choice. It's certainly not an ugly device by any means, and the monochrome OLED display is crisp and clear.
There's one button on the front of the Mi Band 2, which you press to see the time and your other vital statistics.
We actually prefer the button approach to the alternative, where you have to wave your wrist around and hope the tracker detects the movement in order to wake up the screen. The Mi Band 2 can do this too though, if you enable it in the settings.
Black is your only option for the strap, though we have seen third-party straps in all kinds of hues. The tracker itself is easily removable, so presumably you can change up the color if you like, though we can't speak to the quality of these other straps.
What we can say is the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 is light and comfortable to wear. It can start rubbing by the end of the day, but no more so than any other fitness tracker or smartwatch that we've ever tested.
- Generally accurate step and heart rate tracking
- Automatic sleep tracking works well
This is really what you're here for: fitness tracking. Xiaomi says it's improved the pedometer in the Mi Band 2 compared to its predecessor, and in our rather unscientific comparisons with the steps Google Fit was measuring on our phone, it seemed to hit the mark accurately enough.
Phone and fitness tracker were always slightly out of sync at the end of each day, but within a margin we could live with (sometimes just a dozen or so steps), and with trackers this cheap it's kind of a given that it's not going to be spot on right to the last step.
As long as you're getting close to the mark, then your fitness tracker is doing its job.
We found the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 to be more hit and miss when it came to automatically recognizing workouts and intense exercise – it usually got it right, but not always.
As you can start these activities manually through the app, it's not really a deal-breaker: outdoor running, treadmill, outdoor cycling and walking are the options you've got.
Then there's heart rate tracking. The optical sensor doesn't measure this continually, but can take readings periodically or on demand – we can't speak to its scientific accuracy, but it did seem to match bursts of activity and moments of idleness. Consider it an added bonus rather than a medical-grade instrument.
Finally, sleep tracking, an area where the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 really impressed us – the band's automatic detection of sleep and wake times were pretty much spot on.
Without the aid of a sleep clinic we can't tell you whether its interpretation of light and deep sleep was right, but we can tell you that it did identify one ten-minute period where we woke up and moved around in the middle of the night.
The band comes with a couple of useful extras you don't always get at the budget end of the fitness tracker scale, namely a smart alarm to wake you up with a vibration, and a movement reminder that buzzes your wrist when you've been sat still for too long.
There's no GPS here, as you would probably expect looking at the price, so you'll need your phone to get a lock on where you are and put your runs on a map.
What the Mi Band 2 does offer is IP67 water and dust-proofing, which means it should survive showering and washing but isn't designed to get in the swimming pool with you.
- Go for almost three weeks without recharging
- Supplied charger is a little awkward
This is a biggie: the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 supposedly lasts for 20 days between charges. That's twenty, two zero, days – you can go on holiday for a couple of weeks and still be going strong when you get back.
Anyone who's had to wait to go to sleep or head out for a run because their tracker has been charging will know how important that is.
In fact our review period was less than 20 days – all we can tell you is that the band was very much still juiced up after a week of normal activity, and the app was reporting 85% battery life remaining, so make of that what you will.
Your mileage may vary of course, depending on how you use the tracker, but Xiaomi's battery life claims certainly seem believable. The little supplied USB charging cable is a proprietary one – so if you lose it you can't use your phone cable or anything like that – but Xiaomi isn't alone in that regard.
Certain trackers, including the Misfit Shine 2, make use of watch batteries that you swap out every six months or so, but in terms of rechargeable batteries, this is as good as you'll get on a tracker – most need recharging at least every four or five days.
Interface and app
- A clean and clear look at your fitness
- Works with Apple Health and Google Fit
The Mi Fit app from Xiaomi works with devices running iOS 8.0 or later, or Android 4.3 or later, and is clean and polished for the most part.
Some screens (sleep) are better laid out and easier to interpret than others (steps), but overall the interface does the job of telling you what you need to know, and letting you review your exercise over time.
We liked the summary screens as well, showing for example your average steps and how much petrol you might have saved by walking instead of taking the car.
You don't get any extra bells and whistles like coaching advice or detailed analysis but that's fine with us – if you want apps with a more proactive stance, you might have to look elsewhere.
It will tell you what percentage of other users you've beaten in terms of your steps and sleep, which is a fun touch, and you can of course set goals in all of these areas.
Smartphone app notifications are very basic – as in, they just show you've got an alert, and with some apps, who the alert is from – but they do the job.
The Mi Fit app lets you choose which phone apps trigger notifications and which don't, which is very handy, and even lets you set Do Not Disturb times, so the device gets extra points for that.
We found the notifications and indeed the syncing to be speedy, so you're not going to miss any messages with this. To be fair, Xiaomi has had a year to get any early bugs ironed out, so you would expect everything to be running smoothly by now.
As an added bonus, data can be synced with Apple Health or Google Fit, so you can get the basics (steps and sleep data) out of the Xiaomi app and into the default fitness app for your phone.
We strapped on the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 not sure what to expect but came away very impressed.
That's not to say it's a perfect tracker or the best tracker out there, but for such a low price it's a really tempting buy for anyone who wants to start taking their fitness more seriously, even if it's just getting up from the desk every hour.
For your money you get step, calorie, activity, distance, sleep and resting heart rate tracking, plus vibrating alarms and reminders, smartphone notifications, and an app that's actually rather good. That's a lot of value.
Who's this for?
If you want to get into fitness tracking on the cheap without missing out on too many features, the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 is an excellent choice. It does the basics, plus extras like notifications and sleep tracking, and isn't let down by the app either.
All it's really missing is integrated GPS and more advanced stats analysis, so if those are important to you then you might want to look elsewhere. Those of you who are serious about tracking multiple types of activity, and taking continuous heart rate readings, will also need to upgrade to something more expensive.
Those upgrades usually put you in the smartwatch market though – as far as a lightweight fitness tracker goes, the Mi Band 2 impresses.
Should you buy it?
Absolutely – if you're in the market for a fitness tracker then there are very few reasons not to go for the Xiaomi Mi Band 2. Put it in a head-to-head comparison against any other band out there and it will more than hold its own, and probably be cheaper too.
And while some cheap bits of tech look good on paper but fall down in the real world, that's not the case with the Xiaomi Mi Band 2. It works well, syncs quickly, and is comfortable to wear. The fact that the battery life pushes three weeks is another added bonus you shouldn't underestimate.
The Fitbits of this world might offer more features and a slicker overall experience but we can testify to the quality of the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 – do you really need any more from your tracker? And do you really need to spend any more?
Before you spend your money though, check out some of the competing fitness trackers, which we've listed below. You can also browse through our favorite fitness trackers of the year.
Misfit Shine 2
If you're looking at the very budget end of the fitness tracker scale, then the Misfit Shine 2 is a direct rival to the Xiaomi Mi Band 2, coming in at around £60/$70/AU$80 these days. It doesn't have to be worn on your wrist, and can be clipped to clothing instead, so there's a bit more flexibility there.
While the Misfit Shine 2 can track the basics in terms of steps and sleep, plus a bonus bit of smart home controller magic, it doesn't have a display and doesn't have an integrated heart rate monitor, so the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 still edges it.
Read the full Misfit Shine 2 review
Fitbit Alta HR
Probably the closest Fitbit strap to the Xiaomi Mi Band 2, the Alta HR matches the Xiaomi band pretty much feature for feature, and looks more stylish as well. On top of that, we have to say we prefer the experience of the Fitbit app over Mi Fit – it just feels more capable and more polished.
On the other hand, look at the price – you're going to be shelling out about £100/$100/AU$150 more for the Fitbit Alta HR, and that's a lot of money to pay for the Fitbit branding and a tracker that looks slightly nicer on the wrist.
Read the full Fitbit Alta HR review
Huawei Band 2 Pro
Also from a giant of the Asian tech industry and also aiming to undercut everyone else on price is the Huawei Band 2 Pro, which can be yours for around £80 in the UK and $70 in the US, depending on where you shop.
It even beats the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 in terms of features by adding integrated GPS on top of everything else, so you can track your location without the aid of a phone.
There's actually not that much else to choose between these budget options from Xiaomi and Huawei, but we reckon the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 has the edge in a few areas, including the overall design of the device and the intuitiveness of the app. The Huawei Band 2 Pro comes very close though.
Read the Huawei Band 2 Pro review
First reviewed: December 2017
About: Review Junkies
- Previous Clash Royale Official Touchdown is Here Trailer
- Next Middle-earth: Shadow of War Official Launch Trailer
You may also like...
Sorry - Comments are closed