​Basis Peak review

We tested the Peak for nearly three months – here's our definitive conclusion
​Basis Peak

Never have we spent so long reviewing a single product as we have the Basis Peak. We first received this fitness tracker and sports watch in November, but vowed not to complete the review until the notifications features landed in December.

Those features didn't arrive until January, and in between crippling syncing problems and losing the charger in Las Vegas, we're fairly sure no-one else has used the Peak so long.

But let's start from the beginning.

The Basis Peak is the first product from the company since it was snapped up by Intel in March 2014. At $199/£169, it's a serious outlay but it's a sports watch with serious tech. An optical heart rate reader hides underneath, one that Intel says uses “actual science" to capture a tonne of metrics about your exercise.

But is this the ultimate sports watch or just another also-ran? We put it to the test to find out.

Basis Peak: Design and features

Firstly, let's get looks out of the way. Back in August, Intel wearable chief Mike Bell said the Basis Peak “looked better from the back" – and he wasn't kidding. The Peak comes in black or white, and while the white is a little more ostentatious, we'd say it wins out.

Ours was black, black and black. The black rubber strap has a nice texture, but its effect is nulled when it meets the oh-so-square bezel of the Peak's face. Even the LCD panel at the back is black, and there's a backlight, if you swipe up along the right-hand bezel, hich we totally missed at first (thank you Bob190 for pointing this out).

There is a vibrant red streak at the back of the strap…that's the bit that faces into your skin.

The screen is a 1.25-inch monochrome LCD protected by a layer of Gorilla Glass 3. It's tough and stubborn, and not going to be damaged by any knocks or scrapes. What's more, it's waterproof to 50 metres (5ATM) so it's good in the pool as well as in the gym. The screen is also touch sensitive, so you can swipe through your stats quickly.

The metrics tracked by the Basis Peak are pretty mind-blowing. When it's on your wrist, it constantly tracks your steps, calories and heart rate.

That puts it in the same league as the Fitbit Charge HR, but the Peak has more tricks up its sleeve. It also keeps tabs on your galvanic skin response (sweat) and skin temperature, too.

Aside from tracking your activity on its own, the Basis Peak can also be paired with apps like RunKeeper as a heart rate monitor, feeding into your other metrics. However, you can pick up a strap for around £25/$30 that does the same thing, so the Peak places a high value on its own tracking metrics.

There's a lot to digest here, so let's see how it fares.

Basis Peak: Activity tracking

As a step and calorie tracker, the Peak is great. Both are extremely accurate, and the heart rate monitor is also bang on the money. When you start walking, it detects the activity and records each burst individually, making the high end device great for those who use walking as their main exercise.

It does the same with running. When you start, the Peak goes into run mode, and displays your steps, calories, heart rate and time on the screen. In this respect it's great for jogging, as you get an accurate heart rate reading live on your wrist, which makes it simple to train within zones.

The problem is that there's no GPS, so pace and distance aren't recorded, and unlike the Fitbit Charge HR, it won't steal the information from an accompanying smartphone. You can use it, however, to feed heart rate data into a GPS tracking smartphone app, effectively creating two sets of data – those on the Peak, and those in your app.

There's another irritating problem for runners, too. If you stop for whatever reason, to cross a road, have a drink or take in a view, it will quickly exit the running mode, which actually makes it really hard to see the total duration of a run. Our Las Vegas run ended up being splayed into a number of small bursts, limiting its usefulness to just heart rate reporting.

Many people have questioned the accuracy of wrist based heart rate monitors, but in our tests, we found the Peak to be fairly bulletproof. We didn't suffer any drop outs, and average heart rates matched both our chest strap and gym equipment accurately. A great result.

The gym, however, is probably the Peak's biggest missed trick. The best use of this kind of heart rate monitor is to log gym sessions. Spinning, weights, aerobics, Zumba – whatever you do in the gym, your elevated heart rate is evidence of your efforts and improving fitness.

Of course, the Basis Peak tracks it. It's tracking everything – all the time. But if you're not running or cycling, it's not aware of actual exercise. It sits there dumb, showing you the time. You have to manually check your heart rate by swiping right (not easy on a static bike during 50 minutes of interval training), and the information stays on screen for a couple of seconds before it turns back to the clock, as if to goad you.

Yes, you can check the stats of the session in the web app later – but it doesn't call it out as a session. It's just data in the stream, and it's a bit of a waste of time. A stopwatch feature like the Charge HR would be more useful, to tell the Peak you're going to start some exercise, and you'll be reviewing it later.

Basis Peak: The apps

The Basis Peak makes use of two apps, and the more useful one you'd be forgiven for missing.

The first is the smartphone app. It's available for Android and iOS, and does the job of pairing with the watch and sucking in all the data.

The smartphone app itself is a mixed bag. It's almost great, but has some major flaws.

It's well laid out, modern looking and slick. The homepage is a summary of your day's activity, and you can head to a feed of your activity in chronological order or the Habits page.

Habits are little mini goals you set yourself, such as wearing Peak more often or 'torching calories'. You assign yourself a habit, and try and beat the targets. Peak changes the targets automatically too, so when you get fitter, you don't drop off the progress – a nice touch.

The problem with the app is that it doesn't seem to be able to deal with the data input. Data always seems to be missing, or in a permanent state of syncing flux. At first we thought the app was terrible, but came to realise it's just slow. Just after you give up on trying to find today's run, your Peak will buzz to congratulate you on it. It's actually better not to worry. In a few hours, your data will probably turn up in the app.

The web app

The second app, however, is much more impressive. We actually missed the analytics at MyBasis.com because none of the literature that came with the Peak mentioned it, but when you sign up and login, you can analyse any session in terrifying detail.

We watched as our sweat levels soared while we dune buggied in the Nevada desert, and how our body temperature changed during our spin class. We also found our 40 minute run, splayed across three different entries as we had to stop at road intersections, or to take photos.

The plethora of run data is simultaneously too hidden and too raw to be useful.

The information is tucked away in the log for the specific day – and there's no way to find a list of all your historic runs or cycles. It's a big mess.

This data is also exportable too, a neat trick in the latest update – so the theory is that you can use it in other analytics services.

That's useful, because after you've looked at your data, there's nothing else to do. We train with wearables every day, yet we have no idea what to do about our galvanic skin response data. Cadence, yes. Heart rate, yes. But the rest of this data is fairly overkill.

Basis Peak: Sleep tracking

Sleep tracking has always been a strong suit for Basis, and this is one of the most detailed and accurate sleep trackers we've seen. It monitors three levels of sleep – deep, light and REM – and marks every toss and turn, too.

As a sleep tracker it's immensely powerful, yet we always feel this is the least useful element of activity trackers, as once you've monitored the data, it's nearly impossible to action it.

The Basis also misses a trick by not displaying resting heart rate as one of its sleep metrics, which is a useful indicator to tell if you're over training.

Basis Peak: Notifications and pairing

It took a while for the notifications to land, much to customer dismay, but we're happy to report that despite the delay, this is a relatively successful roll out.

We have to temper that statement by reminding everyone that there's no third party support yet, so if you use services like WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter, you're not going to get any wrist-based notifcations.

However, calls and texts are displayed in full on the watch, and you can swipe them away easily. What's more, they only last for five minutes on the device before being automatically cleared, which is a nice touch. It prevents data overload and a backlog of unwanted nonsense.

We hope to see a roll out of third party notifications quickly.

Now, a word on pairing issues.

We reported that customers were returning Peak watches in their droves, leading to some pretty negative feedback on Amazon. Well, we experienced some too. Basis has admitted that pairing is a problem on Android – but it says not so on iOS.

We did suffer problems on iOS with Bluetooth pairing, but have to say that through January the problem was resolved, presumably via a flurry of app and OS updates. If you are having problems, then make sure both iOS and the Basis app are up-to-date.

Basis Peak: Battery life

One of the Basis Peak's big success stories, you can easily get a week's battery even with the continuous heart rate monitoring.

It's an impressive performance, and a few minutes in the charging cradle every other day will mean it shouldn't run out on you. Unlike so many other wearables, we never saw a blank screen when we needed it.


Basis Peak
By Basis Science
We really wanted to love the Basis Peak, and as a general activity tracker and sports watch it’s one of the most powerful and accurate out there. However, despite its power in the gym or on the road, when you return from your workouts, its usefulness plummets. It works great as a heart rate monitor for an existing app, but you can buy a strap to do that for a fraction of the price. We’d encourage Basis to go back to the drawing board and work out how such a powerful bevy of sensors could be more useful to runners, cyclists, swimmers and gym goers, as at the moment, this is the most powerful pedometer ever created and nothing more.

Hit
  • Super accurate
  • Decent notifications
  • Tonnes of sensors
Miss
  • Information overload
  • Hard to learn anything useful
  • Syncing nightmare

23 Comments

  • bob190 says:

    This statement is absolutely false ...

    "and there’s absolutely no backlight, making it impossible to read at night."

    Of course there is a backlight, you just swipe up from the lower right-hand corner of the screen to the top right-hand corner.  

    • j.stables says:

      Do you know, we missed that completely. Amended, and thanks for posting.

      • gadgetJon says:

        There is a backlight.  To enable it, swipe up along the right hand side.  To disable it, swipe down.  It took a couple of nights to get use to swiping to enable it when I wanted to check the time at night.  It is bright enough to view time in the dark, but not bright enough to notice the difference much in daylight.

  • sidneyarepp says:

    It seems like a firmware update to allow session recording would fix a lot of the issues you have with the watch, but the lack of GPS is a killer.  Sure, they can add a firmware update in the future that will allow the watch to use a phone's GPS for measuring distance/pace, but it's somewhat pointless to need two devices to measure everything.  Having had a Polar V800 since last July, it's exciting to get firmware updates that add features later on.  If they do a second version of the Peak with a GPS chip in it, and add some additional features, Basis might just have a winner in the fitness watch category.

    Out of curiosity, how responsive was the heart rate while exercising?  From reviews of Fitbit's Surge and Charge HR it seems like most optical heart rate monitors are very delayed in comparison to chest straps.

  • SloSuenos says:

    To me, saying that calorie count is a metrics that is tracked by these devices is just not really true. In setup you input your weight, and then the device uses the pedometer to guesstimate calories burned. Doesn't matter if your weight consists of mostly muscle or fat, and other activities like swimming or weightlifting can't be tracked, so the calories burned number is meaningless.

    To my knowledge heart rate, skin temp, and perspiration level stats are NOT used in calorie burn calculations - or really for anything. The awful Basis B1 did not use these stats for anything useful, and I doubt the Peak does either. 

    Still, I might consider trying a Peak - if they'd offer us angry B1 adopters a big discount...

    Stephen

    • whit says:

      As a B1 owner, I complained about my brick of a watch last week and received a 50 dollar discount for the peak.  If I buy one though; how long until they write it off like they wrote off the B1?  I'm not sure I trust them to update or support anything.

  • JakeSamsonite says:

    If I stop my run (even to cross a street), I'd hope/expect the device to think I stopped running. I'm not sure that's a valid complaint.  Try jogging on the spot. :)

  • Jeff says:

    I'm curious if anyone has a clue as to if this product is done being manufacturers? Even on there website it provides no date for ordering or to be sold again. That seems a little fishy to me. Most any product has a date for delivery. Any thoughts or information would be appreciated. 

  • oc04 says:

    I am really interested in buying one of these. I have been using the nike run plus gps running app on my iphone for years. Will it be able to transmit my heart rate data to the nike app to use. I know nike run app added heart rate features to it. Just not sure if this would work with it. 

  • digitech says:

    Mine until now is keep on saying "UPDATING FIRMWARE AND RESTARTING" since last night...

  • Tneil says:

    I bought one of these this past week and I was concerned about the fact it had no GPS, but after using it I am less concerned about that. For exercise I just track my routine routes so I know the distance and then I can use the cycle, run, walk auto features on the Basis Peak to do everything else. I bought this over the fitbit HR because of the water proof capabilities. I do not like to take my device off and the fact that the fitbit HR would basically die if I submerged it was a deal killer.

    For the price of the Basis Peak compared to other things out there it is decent. Again the fitbit surge costs more, but will die in water, and the only real difference is it has GPS. My desire to have a waterproof device at a cheaper price point seems to be paying off. I love this device.

  • jazzmoose says:

    I was hanging out for the UP3 for months and hadn't even heard of this device until 2 weeks ago.  I was put off by this 3 star review but after much research & deliberation I bought the Peak last week.

    There has been a firmware & app update since this review and there is now a stopwatch feature and full integration with Apple Health Kit & Android equivalent.  Also, resting heart rate is displayed on the daily dashboard.

    I got the silver/white one which actually just looks like a retro digital watch and compared to (e.g.) the Apple watch, I don't feel any public/geek/show-off embarrassment.

    I don't know how Jawbone can claim the UP3 is "the world's most advanced tracker" when the Peak includes all the Jawbone sensors in addition to a rock-solid optical HRM that records 24/7.  The peak is also fully waterproof, has a great display and the stats you get in the web app are fascinating.  There may not be an apparent use for them all but I'd rather have them than not.

    I primarily bought this for the incredible sleep tracking stats and plan to correlate all the exported data with SnoreLab data in order to attempt to understand and treat sleep apnoea.  So there's one potential use...

    I feel 3 stars is a little low for what is genuinely the world's most advanced tracker.

    If it had a wake up alarm and an idle alert, this would get 5 stars from me.  Currently it's a definite 4 as nothing currently competes with it from a hardware perspective in my opinion.

    • SecondNature says:

      Can you elaborate on what do you mean by 'incredible sleep tracking stats'? I'm mostly interested in a wearable sleep tracker in order to gain potential benefits/motivation/insight in the field of sleep (been using Jawbone UP 24 but 2 of them broke). So I became interested in Basis Peak, because I heard it gives the most accurate data.

  • srokus says:

    I think the review and rating needs updating. There have been great strides in correcting almost all the issues reported here. There is even new 'Playgound' features they are testing that you can try, one of which adds a location feature that uses the connected smartphone to determine your location. There is active development on new features.

  • Alexp says:

    Maybe you should mention the version you checked.

    They are constantly upgrading the capabilities ...

  • Emdawg52 says:

    Does anyone know if the HRM is effective while swimming? I am looking for an activity tracker which is wrist-worn and can track HRM correctly while swimming. I have a feeling I'm shooting for the stars with this one...

  • Tealmarl says:

    I'm looking for a continuous monitoring watch that I can set to beep when I'm exceeding c. 105 bpm (have chronic illness, so need to keep heart rate low, rather than high). I looked at Mio Fuse for that reason, but concerned about the battery life. This battery life looks better. Does it do some kind of alarm when you exceed your preferred max heart rate? 

  • jacques4012 says:

    I don't understand why you write : "Many people have questioned the accuracy of wrist based heart rate monitors, but in our tests, we found the Peak to be fairly bulletproof. We didn't suffer any drop outs, and average heart rates matched both our chest strap and gym equipment accurately." and on the app screenshot I can see 6 heart rate drops (the red curve)!

    The sleep monitoring is not accurate. Watching tv quietly was reported as in sleep mode. Idem before waking up: you are in a relaxed mode, conscious, listening to the radio but you are considered as sleeping.

    I used the watch for one month and returned it to amazon because of the drop outs and even wrong displays: my heart rate was decreasing walking up a little hill when logically it should have increased.

    I waited for the Apple watch which has drop outs also, not always accurate heat rate values displayed and low autonomy (even with Watch OS 2.0). I'm disappointed by the Apple watch for its lack of accuracy but keep it because it's an "Apple product". I'm waiting for the next one for better health features…

    I appreciated the stimulating effect the Basis Peak had on my activity level, even better than the Apple watch does (having to walk 2000 steps in the morning and in the afternoon and in the evening for example or having to walk 2 minutes per hour is better than what Apple proposes). I appreciated the sleep reporting feature that I haven't seen anywhere else.

  • GSRennie says:

    I bought a Basis Peak and tried it out for a couple of days. Found the HR readings to be off by 50% or more compared to a Garmin watch with chest strap and a high-end blood pressure monitor. Readings seemed most accurate when you didn't move much. Also found the step counting to be off by 20-30% compared to data from IPhone 6+. The detail in the sleep monitoring mode was the most impressive feature. However one problem with its automatic activity tracking is that workouts and sleep monitoring tend to get broken up into different segments fairly easily. If you get up in the night a few times to go to the washroom, you'll have multiple packets of sleep data. Not being able to hold the watch on the HR function was another annoyance, but given the lack of accurate readings anyway this is a small gripe. Notifications took a couple of days to start working, not sure why. Settings were correct. They did a nice job on the casing, strap and charger. Battery life is impressive at four days or so. All in all, this watch needs a lot more work on the software side.

  • Pwm says:

    wanted to love this, but too many issues with software and now it won't recognize the charger. It goes back tomorrow, but I would buy again in a year or so if they fix the issues. Great build quality and materials though.

  • Kay3384 says:

    I've owned my watch for about 2 months. Very unhappy with it I have reprogrammed it several time. It doesn't track correctly I walked a mile got credit for 11 steps. Fitbit is much better.they won't refund my money.

  • mlc_customer says:

    Got one of these last week. Very disappointed with phone compatibility. 

    * iPhone   must have iphone 5S or later (as ios8 only is supported for 4S or 5) 

    * windows    not support at all  for windows phones

    * android   patchy with support for major high end handsets, as long as they are not too new & now more than 2-3years old

    As an iPhone 4S user I now have to get a new handset when mine is still functioning but choice is restricted because the list of compatible devices is fairly short

    If my insurer had nôt locked me into the device it would be going straight back

  • Bownsie says:

    Have just given up on mine after 9 months or so. Pairing issues with Android insurmountable. It just failed to pair over the weekend, despite cycle of "Forget" repair etc. Not fit for purpose. Together with problems my wife is having with her FitBit and iOS, I won't be bothering with another "wearable" in the near future.

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