Microsoft Band 2: What You Need To Know

In 2014, Microsoft dipped its toes into the fitness wearable market with the imaginatively titled Microsoft Band. Today, it is finally bringing the brand to the Australian market. If you're on the lookout for a new fitness/smart band, the Microsoft Band 2 is one of the main products you should be considering. Here's what you need to know.

What is it?

The Band 2 is Microsoft's second stab at a fitness band. The originally Band made its debut well over a year ago, but it was only available in the US and UK markets. This marks the first time Microsoft has officially offered a Band product in Australia.

Dubbed a "smart" fitness band or hybrid, the product falls somewhere between a fitness band and a smart watch — much like the Samsung Galaxy Fit, Fitbit Force and LG Lifeband Touch. The main point of differentiation is the presence of an AMOLED screen which brings additional features beyond fitness tracking. This includes notifications for emails, texts and calendar alerts as well as controls for external music playback.

The trade-off is size — it's a lot bulkier than traditional fitness bands like the JawBone Up. With that said, it remains pretty lightweight and won't in the way during exercise.

The Band 2's main claim to fame is probably its heart rate monitor which constantly runs in the background. It also comes with an inbuilt GPS; handy for tracking speed and distance when you don't have your phone on you. For sporty types, there are dedicated sensors for running, biking and golfing. In all, there are eleven different sensors that track everything from sleep to elevation. There’s also a UV monitor which seems tailor-made for Australians.

What can it track/monitor?

All the usual suspects are present and accounted for. The Band 2 tracks your heart rate, exercise, calorie burn and sleep quality. Like most other fitness bands, advanced feedback is provided via a mobile app dubbed Microsoft Health. From here you can dive into your stats, program workouts, set "wellness" goals and personalise the look of your band.

You get a bunch of additional functionality via the phone-controlled app, including guided workouts from leading fitness brands complete with video demonstrations, a detailed breakdown of your fitness progress via the Health Dashboard and summaries of your data for different dates and date ranges. There's also an option to integrate data with third-party apps such as RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal, among others.

Do you need a Microsoft phone to use it?

Microsoft's not that stupid. In addition to Windows Phone, the Fitness Band 2 supports Android (4.4 or later) and iOS (8.1.2 or greater.) You can also access the app via your browser. However, Windows Phone users do get some exclusive features including access to Microsoft's digital assistant Cortana. You can use Cortana to reply to text messages, take notes and set reminders via voice commands.

Is it stylish/comfortable?

I've been wearing the Band 2 since yesterday. I can confirm that it's definitely comfortable — the silicone band sits snugly on the wrist without causing any itchiness, even when you're profusely sweating (the temperature hit 40 degrees yesterday.) To ensure a natural fit, there are three different sizes to choose from — small (143-170mm) medium (163-185mm) and large (180-210mm). It's also durable thanks to the presence of Corning Gorilla Glass 3. (You'll probably want to take it off during kickboxing though.)

On the downside, the position of the screen does take some getting use to as you need to tilt your head to the side while reading. If you suffer from a dodgy neck you might be better off wearing the display on the inside of your wrist. This doesn't affect any of the functionality.

Whether it's "stylish" is more debatable. As mentioned above, the band is much thicker than a screen-free fitness band which can make it look odd if you have slender wrists. In addition, the colour scheme is very Microsoft: I suspect many users would have preferred a louder, funkier design. On the plus side, you can customise the background and colors on the display to give it a personal touch.

Is it water proof?

Not really. Here's the official word from Microsoft: "Your Band is not waterproof. Light rain and hand washing shouldn’t harm it, but do not immerse your Band in liquids of any kind. Do not wear your Band while swimming or in the shower."

Bummer. If your exercise regime regularly involves swimming, you might want to look elsewhere.

What's the battery like?

Microsoft reckons you can get around two days of use in-between charges. I've been using mine for 24 hours and it's currently at 40%, so this seems reasonably accurate.

Does it use a stupid proprietary cable?

YES! This is the main thing that irks me about this product. Instead of Micro USB, the Microsoft Band 2 sports a unique charging port. This means you have to take extra care of your charger and ensure it never gets lost. Tch.

How much is it?

The Microsoft Band 2 has a recommended retail price of $379.99 in Australia. You can buy it from Microsoft Flagship Store in Sydney, JB HiFi, Harvey Norman, Rebel Sports and Microsoft's online store.

We'll be putting the Microsoft Band 2 through its paces in next week's LH Reviews section. Stay tuned!

Next Up: Which Fitness Band Should You Buy?


Comments

    Mine shipped yesterday!

    Mine is with the courier, who thought that attempting to deliver it to my house at 6:55am made sense! Hopefully, I'll get it tomorrow.

    looking for something to replace my fitbit charge HR, i wonder if this is it. I'll wait to see the review next week.

    Got mine at the start of January (US) and it's pretty decent. The lack of waterproofing is weird - technically it's certified water resistant and it should do fine in the shower but they say not to. I've had watches that were fine in the shower since I was about 15 so remembering to take it off beforehand is pretty difficult. The biggest issue is the charging though. I get ~50 hours off a full charge but I want to use it for sleep tracking meaning I have to take it off and plug it in at work, and remember to take that damned proprietary charger home on weekends (because by Monday it'll be nearly dead). If it had been a micro-USB or something on the side I could plug in without having to take it off.

    Had a family member go to Sydney in December so had one since then, loving it. I don't use the heart rate function except during workouts and if I track about 30-40 mins of GPS a day I get 2 days. That being said I also turn it off before I go to bed.

    Great device, not sold on smart watches, smart fitness band does all I need :)

    I just wish it wasn't so chunky :(. I'm a small-framed female, it would look ridiculous on my wrist.

    I've been using an MS Band 2 for about month. I am fairly active as I run(3x weekly), cycle(5x weekly) and swim(2x weekly). I used a Garmin 410(with an HR strap) to track running and cycling and Fitbit Flex for step counting to socially compete with friends.

    Some remark from my experience
    1. I can't swim with this -- which didn't make things worse for me as my old Garmin wasn't waterproof either. It would have been nice though
    2. Compared to the Fitbit Flex, I am more aware of the fact that I'm wearing the Band due to it's slightly larger footprint
    3. No HR based alarms - I have a slightly higher than average HR when I'm active. Garmin 410 supports setting alarms to indicate when HR is too high. I miss that feature
    4. Multiple data screens - Garmin 410 supports several customizable screens with heaps of different information while running. Band 2 supports only two screen which is not sufficient in my opinion
    5. Integration - This is more of a criticism of MS Health than the Band itself. MS Health claims to be a repository of fitness data regardless of how you source it. I wish the integration is better with other Fitness apps/sites such as Fitbit and Endomondo. I've been using www.fitnesssyncer.com to sync my activity with Fitbit but results have been mixed. PS: Strava integration works very well.

    Overall, I'm loving my Band and all the convenience it brings. No more two devices and HR strap. Band works well, and it does everything it set out to do, very well. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

    I lost interest at 2 days battery life. Needs to be minimum 5.

      It'll be pretty hard to find something that has all the features Band 2 has with 5-day battery life. Beautiful bright screen, GPS and all day HR is very taxing.

        Fitbit Surge is probably closest competitor.

        Today, maybe. In a couple years, not really. I'll happily wait 2-3 years or more.

      Very happy with my band 2, charge it while in the shower, it charges 70% in ½ hr, 1½-2 hrs for full charge.

    "The Band 2 is Microsoft’s second stab at a fitness band. " Well, it's an iteration. It's very similar to the first one. It's hardly "a second stab" at it.

    Also, MS says to wear the display on the inside of the wrist, and that makes far more sense, as you discovered. Also, the UV sensor is on the clasp.

    And getting a couple of days out of it isn't too difficult if you don't use the GPS or track fitness sessions.

    I've had mine for about six weeks and love it. Sold the Fitbit Surge, much prefer it to my Basis or the (first gen) Moto 360 I had.

    Got mine delivered from the US. Haven't worn a watch for quite some time, so getting used to having something on my wrist took a couple of days. So far, love it. Remember to have the screen it on the INSIDE of your wrist, for ease of use. I'm not a big fitness freak, but it's certainly making me aware of my inactivity, or indeed activity - big fan of seeing progress and graphs and whatnot. I just wish the data wasn't just viewable on a webpage. Also I do take it off doing gardening or whatnot - I'm wary of knocking it too hard - it's bad enough hearing it clunk on the desk if I drop my wrists while typing.
    Good job Microsoft!

    Last edited 22/01/16 10:04 am

    It's an AMOLED screen, not LCD. Sorry to be that guy, but calling every screen 'LCD' or 'LED' is misleading and unhelpful for consumers when new tech enters the market.

      My bad. When I was in film school, I also called every camera movement a "pan". It's a sickness.

    So you got yours delivered from the US and it worked fine with you Microsoft phone?? because when I see a brand new one on amazon for like $175-250USD and here in Oz there $399AUD is seems odd?

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