It’s safe to say that everyone has faced the dilemma of waking up and having to choose between going to the gym or getting an extra hour of sleep instead. For many of us this is a daily struggle and more often than not, staying in bed for a bit longer comes out on top. While it’s easy to make excuses to keep avoiding a work out – even if we have some pretty solid goals we’re working towards – sometimes all we need is just a little push and fresh motivation. This is where having an activity tracker can really be a benefit. We tried out the Microsoft Band 2 to see if it could help to get our exercise routine back on track.
Microsoft Band 2
From the outset, the Microsoft Band 2 has a pretty premium look. Unlike its predecessor, the entire band now has a curve to allow it to sit better on the wrist. The scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass screen is a good size, at 32 mm x 12.8 mm and is encased in a nice charcoal coloured silicone strap. Overall, it’s a fairly sleek device, however the clasp is pretty substantial and adds quite a bit of bulk. It takes a day or two to get used to the way this feels during wear. Information is displayed on the screen in signature Microsoft tiles. With a simple swipe to the right you can access them and choose what you’d like to do with the Band 2. The touchscreen is really receptive and it’s easy to select even small icons without accidentally pressing multiple things at once.
The Microsoft Band 2 is packed to the brim with various useful sensors including a heart rate monitor, GPS and accelerometer. These all work towards accurately tracking your activity including sleep patterns – but more on that later. The Band 2 also has a UV sensor, which may be a superfluous feature for some people, but if you’re anything like me and borderline obsessed with sun protection, you’ll love this addition.
As a pseudo-smart watch, the Band 2 can also display some of your phone notifications, such as Facebook and Facebook Messenger, emails, text messages and incoming phone calls. These require you to have your Bluetooth connected at all times, which will of course drain the battery quicker than normal. In general the battery life of the Microsoft Band 2 isn’t huge – it’ll get you a couple of days before it needs a charge, however it does get back to full battery really quickly when you’ve got it plugged in.
Like most activity trackers, you’re required to download an accompanying app or log on to the desktop version to sync your data and keep track of your stats. The Microsoft Health app is clean and really easy to navigate. Within it you can personalise the Band 2 itself to display only the tiles you want e.g. if you’re not much of a runner, you can get rid of the running activity tile since you’ll never use it.
With Microsoft Health you’re also able to build your own workout, or choose from over 100 programs created by others. The range is actually pretty thorough so if you need some inspiration for your routine, the app is a really great resource. I opted to build my own though, which was a really simple process on the Microsoft Health desktop dashboard.
The actual activity tracking component of the Microsoft Band 2 is highly impressive and I was happy to see what kind of data it derived from me. When using the Band 2 to track a run, the app shows splits, elevation, heart rate and even gives a cardio score. Thanks to the GPS, it also displays a map of the route and where I was slowest and fastest along it. These stats are all pretty invaluable for training, allowing you to see weak points and what can be improved for next time. It’s just the push you might need to get you out of bed for the next run too.
The Microsoft Band 2 allows you to track non-cardio based exercises as well. I used it in the gym when doing some strength work and it gives some great insight into heart rate during the work out, plus it also gives you a recommended recovery time. This was a great piece of information to have, as it makes it easier to plan out your work out schedule.
The device also proved to be great motivation to get me moving more throughout the day, even when I wasn’t actively doing exercise. It tells you when you haven’t been active in a while and encourages you to get up to stretch your legs a bit. If you sit at a desk all day this is a game changing feature.
Sleep tracking is also a really useful feature and one of my favourite parts of the Band 2. By using the heart rate monitor and accelerometer, the device can tell when you’re in deep or light sleep. If you wake up in the morning feeling super groggy, even if you’ve had a full eight hours, it could be because your alarm is waking you in the middle of a deep sleep cycle. The Band 2’s smart alarm feature lightly vibrates on your wrist when you’re in light sleep, meaning you actually feel fresh and awake in the morning. This was a really nice way to wake up – especially with no obnoxiously loud alarm clock blaring in my ear first thing in the morning – and it made it much easier to get out of bed that extra hour earlier to fit in a work out.
If you’re after an activity tracker that will provide encouragement and motivation for you to achieve fitness goals, or just to get you moving a bit more during the day in general, then the Microsoft Band 2 is ideal. It’s highly customisable and tracks you in a number of useful ways. It also has a super thorough accompanying app to provide you with lots of data to help you improve.