Microsoft Band hands-on

This is what you can expect from the Windows-powered, all singing, all dancing wearable.
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Microsoft Band hands-on

The Band is the first wearable from Microsoft since the Spot ‘smartwatch’, and following a few days of use, it’s obvious the company has been listening to its audience.

First impressions

First things first, let’s address the elephant in the room – the Microsoft Band is not a pretty wearable. It’s chunky, heavy, and in no way ergonomic, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have some redeeming physical features.

The Band powers up with a magnetic charging cable, which is similar to those used with Apple’s MacBooks. The colour touchscreen is surprisingly bright, and displays all the information you would expect to track activity, and more.

As Windows is all about working from anywhere, you can pick up all your emails and messages straight from the band. With just one click of the action button, the screen will display one word at a time and whip through the message so you can get on with your day. It also recognises punctuation, so will pause briefly after commas, question marks and full stops.

The advantage of displaying one word at a time is that it makes lengthy messages very easy to read – tests prove the human eye can read quicker this way than if the words were laid out on a standard page.

The clasp can also be readjusted without having to remove the Band, which is great if you’re on a run and it’s jumping about, as there’s no need to stop. And another plus point is that it works with Windows, iOS and Android. Which is a pretty big deal.

More tracking

There’s also a shed load of trackers on board that help you keep tabs on your daily activity. We’ve got a heart rate monitor, an accelerometer, a gyroscope and inbuilt GPS to measure distance and speed without the need of a phone. Sleep-cycle tracking is also built in, which will map how much deep sleep and light sleep you’re getting every night.

The problems

We can’t believe Microsoft hasn’t addressed this, but you can’t really wear the Band on the outside of your wrist if you want to be able to read what time it is.

The numbers don’t rotate depending on which way the band is facing, so they either face up your arm, or towards the back of your hand. The only logical solution is to wear the face on the inside of your wrist as you don’t need to perform yoga moves to get the time to face you.

There’s no glance or tap to wake feature like there is on Android Wear devices, either. So if you want to check the time, you have to press a button on the Band, rather than just lift your wrist towards you.

You can turn on Watch Mode in the settings, so the time is always on the screen, but this is a drain on the battery. Speaking of the battery, with moderate use we found we were getting about 2.5 – 3 days out of it – not bad for a wearable.

Early verdict

The Microsoft Band has its faults, but it’s nothing that we didn’t expect. The real headline is what it can do – not what it can’t. It’s one of the first wearables we’ve seen from a big manufacturer that can work across multiple platforms. The ability to read out messages is a big tick, too.

If you fancy getting your very own Microsoft Band, head to Currys.

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