I've never considered myself a Microsoft fanboy, but I do use and love several of their products, so some might accuse me of being such. I still call 'em like I see 'em, though, so I approached this review with eyes wide open and no sentimental brand loyalty. On that note, though, I will admit that the fact that I already use a Windows Phone is what probably pushed me to purchase this device. (More on that reason later.)
If you are interested in or just curious about the Microsoft Band, you have probably already seen its specs elsewhere…or you can with a couple clicks, so I'm not filling space with the redundant "what this device is" section. If a fitness band and a smart watch bred, this would be the offspring.
I am nowhere near Mr. Active. I got married a few years ago, have a toddler and two older kids, and am currently in the middle of a few do-it-yourself home remodeling projects. Having just hit my 40s, exercise SHOULD be a priority for me, but I have failed to make it one. I have maintained a healthy weight and look to be in general decent shape, which is dangerous because it keeps me in denial. My hope with the band is that the numbers from it will serve as both a reality-check motivator to get back in shape, as well as a fitness tracker/guide once moving. I also tend to go through waves of horrible sleep habits, so I'm looking for the band to be a visual accountability buddy there as well.
Now that you have an idea of who's giving the review, let's get into it.
I bought my band from Microsoft's online store. I've purchased from them before and have had good customer service experiences. I used the free standard shipping, and the box arrived in two business days after placing my order. I am a high school teacher, so I get a 10% discount on purchases made at the online store, which is another reason I ordered my band there. It saved me $20 off the $199 price. :-) If you are a student or employee of a public school, check the web site to see if you qualify for the discount on purchases made there.
Through the Microsoft Health app on your phone, you simply select which features you want displayed on your band. You also set up the color and wallpaper of the "home screen" of the band's display via phone app. The whole process is quick and intuitive and easy to change up at any time you like. If you want to get fancy, you can use a free app called Pimp My Band and use an actual photo for your band's wallpaper.
In photos, the MS Band looks like it might be a porker, but in reality the band is actually pretty light. Most people will have worn traditional wristwatches that feel heavier on the wrist than this device. The width of the band is near perfect. Wide enough to clearly see data/info, but still a very wearable size to blend in with the rest of your attire. The clasp works well and feels secure. It is easily adjustable, which is important because as you transition from rest to active mode, you may want to loosen the band's fit a little bit. This is easily done on the fly
Now, my main complaint with the Microsoft Band is the actual fit on the wrist. For size small and medium bands, the screen really needed to be curved more on the ends. I assume for people with bigger arms wearing a size large, this doesn't matter. I am wearing a medium, and there is this distinct corner gap on the underside of the band on each end of the screen. Add that to the fact the whole screen half of the band is stiff, and I feel more like I'm wearing one of my wife's bangle bracelets than a watch. That sensation lessens as you get accustomed to wearing the band, but never totally goes away. It's not bad, but it is noticeable. I have worn it on my left wrist, where I normally wear a watch, but when on my right wrist I definitely am aware of the band's presence and fit. Under long sleeve dress shirts, the band fits under the cuff, but it is a snug fit.
UP OR DOWN?
This section does bring me to my main complaint about the band, but is one that is probably a fairly easy fix when an update is released. I like to have my band display the time. In daylight, however, it is frequently difficult or impossible to see the time display. I'm required to button-on the device to see the time displayed. Telling time is a basic, central function of a fitness band/smart watch. I shouldn't have to press a button to find out what time it is. There should be an auto-brightness setting for the time display. Telling time should be a quick glance and nothing more for users.
The sleep tracker feature of this device intrigued me. I'm not sure how it does what it says it does, but it seems to do an overall accurate job at it. On my third night of sleeping with my band, our toddler ended up in bed with us for the night. If you have ever shared your bed with a toddler, you know it's like inviting a drunk bear with extreme restless leg syndrome under the covers. The Band showed my quality of sleep being significantly less than the previous two nights, as well as me waking up several more times during the night.
Cortana on the Microsoft Band is suh-weet, and the fact that owning a Microsoft Phone let me use her services on the Band nudged me into the purchase. It is pretty cool to push a button on my wrist and talk to Cortana. Using this method, I can set reminders for myself or even send text messages just by using my voice. A novelty feature? Maybe in some settings. In situations like while driving, it is very helpful to just speak a command after pressing a button on my wrist than it is to dig into my pocket, turn on my phone, and then select Cortana or whatever feature. Obviously, the phone does all the thinking and the Band just relays it via bluetooth, so there is a bit of understandable lapse, but is not bad and very useable. If you are pairing your MS Band to an Android or iPhone, an in the near future release of Cortana to those platforms will hopefully add new life to your wrist.
I like getting news notifications on the Band as well. I don't respond to many of my texts via the Band, but it's nice to see them at a glance. I did not set Twitter or email updates to my wrist, as I would find that annoying for me. Believe it or not, you can read text really well on the tiny screen.
Again, as I spend more time with my band, I will be able to report more deeply on its features and their accuracy.