The Xiaomi Mi Band had a few things which really set it apart, if nothing other than the bang-for-buck you get from the $15 pricetag of the previous models. The Mi Band has since rapidly evolved with the addition of a heart monitor and now with the addition of a display and soft button. In this review I cover the Mi Band 2 and all of it's goodness - as well as its flaws.
The Mi Band has had a fairly dramatic facelift. While it's still roughly the same physical size, it now sports a small OLED display which is customizable, and the aluminum on the Mi Band has been replaced with "scratch-resistant" glass. Located under the display is a small circular touch-sensitive soft-button which is used for navigating through the Mi Band 2's options.
On the underside of the Mi Band 2, much like the Mi Band 1S, you find a heart rate monitor. The core of the Mi Band 2 slips into a black Dow Corning TPSiV band, with other colors being made available for purchase separately.
The 'buttons' on the face of the band, as well as on the strap, both have the same design as the back of the Xiaomi Piston 3.0 headphones, suggesting that Xiaomi is looking to unify their product line design.
The feature set hasn't changed too much, apart from the display which has added some things and simplified others. You can see my coverage of the features for both the original Mi Band and Mi Band 1S if you'd like additional information.
Display & Notifications
The display defaults to time, but a user can also enable the wearable to display steps, distance, calories, heart rate and remaining battery. It uses the display for things like notifications as well: receiving a WhatsApp message will show a WhatsApp icon on the display, and similarly for Facebook and a number of other apps. Just to make things clear, though, I've only ever had the aforementioned happen to me once. It almost always shows the SMS icon for WhatsApp, and the generic 'app' icon for everything else.
The display is also used to indicate that a firmware update is taking place and, in combination with the soft-button, can be used to trigger heart rate monitoring without the use of a phone.
Moving your hand up to look at it automatically turns the display on to tell you the time. This was significantly flawed, though, and I'll cover it a bit further down in more detail.
Heart rate monitoring
The ability to monitor your heart rate was introduced in the second generation Mi Band 1S, but it appears to have been slightly improved in this generation. Successive firmware updates had my Mi Band 1S having wild swings with what it thought my heart rate was, but I'm not getting this on the Mi Band 2. Hopefully future firmware updates don't negatively impact the current performance.
Although measurements for heart rate are accurate for the time being, new issues have emerged with the Mi Band 2, as it refuses to work about three out of five times. It would attempt to take a measurement, but after about 20 seconds it would display "x--" on the display instead of a heartrate. It's definitely not the way it's being worn, as I've tried several different positions. I put the flaw down to almost certainly being just shoddy firmware instead.
The sleep monitoring feature is pretty great in that it knows a little too well what time you've fallen asleep and what time you've woken up, and it also tries to throw some analysis in there about the wearer's sleep cycles during the night.
Personally I believe the latter is bunk, mostly because determining 'sleep cycles' through a tri-accelerometer is still practically impossible, but just knowing what time you've fallen asleep or how many hours you've slept is worth its weight in gold when trying to figure out what works for you.
For about a week with the Mi Band 2, it stopped recording anything and failed to sync several times. I haven't experienced this with previous generations of the Mi Band, and the only way I can usually make it sync is to restart my phone.
Although the Mi Band 2 displays steps on the display, the only way to see your sleep data is to sync it to your phone through the companion app.
The Mi Band 2 keeps track of every step you take at all hours of the day, and also tries to figure out if what you're doing is intentional cardio-heavy or if you're simply just walking. It doesn't always get this right, but it does seem to be able to pick up on things I wouldn't expect it to. For example, I was late for a train, so I started walking a bit quicker, the Mi Band 2 registered that as "activity" rather than continuing to see it as a walk.
It also estimates the distance you've walked or ran and the calories you've burned while doing so. All of this is also viewable by just touching the soft-button on the display, so you don't need to check your phone to see how far you are from your daily goal.
This is the real kicker for me. I'm not sure what's going on with my Mi Band 2, but I burn through about 20% a day. This is significantly more battery use than both the original Mi Band and Mi Band 1S, and it results significantly less battery life than Xiaomi's claimed 20 days.
I mentioned the display having issues earlier, and it was in regards to coming on all the time. Literally every five to ten seconds, all day, everyday, when my arms are not dead at my sides. This means that whenever I'm at a desk, whenever I'm driving, or whenever I have my hands on my lap, the display is flashing on and off.
I spoke with a representative from Xiaomi about this specifically, and his response suggests I may have a defective unit. This is definitely possible, but Xiaomi isn't getting away with it that easily based on the rest of the issues I've been having.
Fortunately there was a fix, the Xiaomi rep told me I'm able to disable the feature. When I did, battery usage dropped significantly.
The Mi Band has come a long way since I first reviewed the original a while back. It has grown in features, design, and even price. The overall build quality of the device - as in whether or not it could take a beating - is still solid. I'm a big fan of the TPSiV band, and I've never had a Mi Band die on me.
The issues with the Mi Band 2 range from things as simple as syncing to very important things like battery life, and features they often tout like heart monitoring are almost useless if they only work once every couple of days.
Most of my experiences with all of the Mi Band generations have been great, but the Mi Band 2 - at the time of writing this - is nowhere near ready for purchase. I expect multiple firmware updates, multiple app updates, and at least one model revision before it becomes what it set out to be.
Thanks to TinyDeal for supplying the device for this review. If you'd like to pick one up, TinyDeal has them on sale for $43.99.