Tracking your steps, sleep and overall fitness has never been easier thanks to the rise of the smart band. Pioneered by the likes of Fitbit, there are now a whole host of slim, bracelet-style wearables available, and at a fraction of their original cost.
The Mi smart band 6 is the most recent wearable from the Xiaomi. Although its name you might not be familiar, the electronics brand is huge in its home country, China, and makes everything from phones to electric scooters.
Its latest smart band is an update on the popular Mi smart band 4 (£34.99, Mi.com), and is packed full of features that can give even some more expensive smart watches a run for their money.
Plus, at £39.99 RRP (currently reduced to £32.18 on Amazon), it manages to undercut the likes of the Huawei band 6 (£44.99, Huawei.com) on price too. But how does a fitness tracker that cheap stand up to the test?
How we tested
We wore the Mi smart band 6 continuously for two weeks to see if its battery lasted as long as claimed. This also allowed us to see if it was comfortable enough to wear 24/7 and make the most of the sleep and heart rate tracking.
Activities tested included walking, running and cycling, and we wore the Garmin Forerunner 945 triathlon (£429.99, Amazon.co.uk) watch alongside to see just how accurate something a fraction of its price could be. Here’s what we thought…
- Dimensions: 47.4mm x 18.6mm x 12.7mm
- Display: 1.56” AMOLED touchscreen, 152 x 486 pixels
- Sensors: Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Optical heart rate
- Features: Sleep monitoring, SpO2 tracking, heart rate monitoring, 30 workout modes
- Water resistance: 5 ATM
- Rating: 6/10
Design and set-up
The Mi smart band 6 has a pill-shaped 1.56” AMOLED screen that is held in place with a TPU plastic strap. While the display is bright and crisp, its narrow width makes some of the smaller details hard to see at a glance. It also can make it tricky to navigate if you have the watch face set to one with lots of widgets – the step tracking screen, for example, was revealed during attempts to tap the weather icon on numerous occasions.
Outside of these hiccups, the four-way touch screen was intuitive to use. Swipe right to cycle through a range of programmable shortcuts (ranging from the weather to a Pomodoro timer), up to reveal the band’s full menu, and left to return to the previous screen. The information displayed also meant that, once fully set-up, there’s no need to use the accompanying app unless you want to drill down into your data trends.
Heart rate monitoring is taken care of by an optical lens on the reverse of the band, which is used for tracking your efforts when exercising, general day-to-day life and sleeping.
It comes with a sleek black strap as standard, but five more (including a jazzy yellow and ivory white) are available to buy separately. Unlike a conventional watch strap, the fastening is secured by a popper that clips into holes on the band.
This design meant that the band could come undone quite easily if knocked by mistake, making it feel quite insecure during energetic activities. Its saving grace, however, was that it was supremely comfortable – an important feature for something that is meant to be worn all day (and night).
Getting started with the fitness tracker was really straightforward. After downloading the accompanying Mi fit app, it was easy to pair the band with our smartphone and make the most of the features on offer.
The app not only gives an overview of health stats, but is also where we could make various customisations – whether that’s the shortcut settings when swiping right or turning on activity heart rate sharing, which allowed other smart devices to receive our heart rate data.
Whether you’re a table tennis aficionado or prefer hitting the rowing machine, the Mi smart band 6 has a workout profile for you. In reality, the band is doing nothing more than tracking your heart rate, but it’s nice that Xiaomi is catering for some niche (if quite specific) activities in its 30-strong list of workout profiles.
The big ones – running and cycling (both indoor and out), and swimming (thanks to the band’s 5 ATM water resistance) – are also covered, but the land-based exercises require your phone to be paired to get the most accurate information. That’s because the Mi smart band 6 doesn’t include a GPS tracker, which isn’t surprising considering its sub-£40 price tag, so instead relies on your phone’s signal.
When running, we found the size of the screen again let the tracker down when compared to a dedicated running or triathlon watch as it’s quite difficult to see the data displayed. That said, starting, stopping and pausing an activity with the touchscreen is seamless – even when in the middle of a high-intensity effort.
Good value-for-money tracker
All-round health and fitness is the aim of the game with a smart band. The Xiaomi tracker and its associated app are able to give you an overview of your current status but also provide you with tips on how to improve – whether that’s your sleep, workout schedule or stress levels.
The most interesting data screen is the Personal Activity Intelligence (PAI). Something unique to Xiaomi, the idea is that the smart band takes all of the data it’s collecting, combines it with your sex, age, height and weight while giving you a PAI score. The idea being that you should aim to keep this number above 100 over a seven-day period.
As you progress on your fitness journey, the difficulty of gaining PAI is increased, making you work even harder to reach the target. Although it might sound a bit gimmicky, we found it provided added motivation to get our heart rate going, while the app’s tips on what we needed to do to reach the next goal were a handy feature.
In terms of sleep and heart rate tracking, the Mi smart band 6 appeared to be fairly accurate, correctly showing when sleep had been disrupted and recording roughly the same figures as the Garmin Forerunner 945 (£429.99, Amazon.co.uk) that was worn alongside.
This can also act as an extension of your smartphone, displaying the weather for the next five days, allowing you to skip the song you’re listening to without having to get your phone out, and even allowing you to screen texts, emails and calls on your wrist.
The battery life didn’t last as long as the claimed 14 days, but it’s fair to say we were putting it through its paces. Xiaomi does provide the caveat that it can last just five days with heavy use, and luckily recharging is a relatively quick job.
The verdict: Xiaomi Mi smart band 6
The Xiaomi Mi smart band 6 is one of the cheapest ways to start tracking your health data, but can give competitors that cost twice as much a run for their money.
The main downside we found was the narrowness of the screen, which did make viewing and navigating the device a trying experience at times. That said, if you don’t mind the odd wrong screen being displayed, it’s a good bit of kit that, when paired with the Mi fit app, is a handy fitness tracker – whether you’re just getting started or are looking to add more data to your workout routine.
Xiaomi Mi smart band 6
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