Fitbit has ruled fitness trackers but the Xiaomi Mi Band is its nemesis, offering most of the same features for a far lower price.
The Mi Band 5 is the latest tracker from the Chinese tech giant, and it will be looking to eat into more sales of Fitbit's affordable Inspire series fitness band.
The two devices come in at different price points, but does spending less necessarily get you an inferior tracker?
While the Inspire is Fitbit's cheapest option, we've focused on the Inspire HR and how it matches up to the Mi Band 5.
We should mention that Fitbit has now introduced the Inspire 2, though the Inspire HR will be sticking around at least for now.
You can get a snapshot breakdown below, then read on if you want to get a better feel of what these two trackers promise.
|Xiaomi Mi Band 5||Fitbit Inspire HR|
|Screen resolution||126 x 294, 450 nits brightness, colour||128 x 72, greyscale|
|Water resistance||50 meters||50 meters|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, HR and barometer||Accelerometer, HR|
|Battery life||20 days (non NFC version)||5 days|
|Phone compatibility||Android and iOS||Android, iOS and Windows 10|
|Tracked sports||Treadmill running, outdoor running, cycling, walking, pool swimming, open workout, yoga, indoor rowing, skipping, elliptical and rowing machine|
Running, cycling, swimming, treadmill running, weights, interval workout, spinning, bootcamp, tennis, elliptical, stairclimber, hiking, golf, Pilates, yoga, circuit training, martial arts, walking, Kickboxing, workout
|GPS||No (can use smartphone)||No (can use smartphone)|
Design and comfort
Fitbit Inspire HR
The Mi Band sticks largely to the same design formula as the Mi Band 4 with that curvier look, while the Inspire HR in comparison is a noticeably skinnier-looking band that lives more discreetly on the wrist.
When it comes to interacting with these trackers, the Inspire HR finds space for a solitary physical button, while the Xiaomi hides away a capacitive button below its display.
Both use touchscreen displays, but this is one clear difference between the two trackers. The Mi Band 5 uses a 1.1-inch AMOLED colour touchscreen display with an 126 x 294 resolution and offering 450 nits of brightness.
New model: Fitbit Inspire 2 review
The Inspire HR's screen in comparison is a greyscale OLED display. We weren't glowing about the Inspire HR's screen in our time with it.
The Mi Band 5 wins the battle of the screens as it manages to go brighter than its predecessor. it also manages to accommodate more information this time to show off more of your stats and information.
When it comes to size and colour options, the Inspire HR comes in black, lilac and white options and you'll have your choice of small and large size options.
The Mi Band 5 comes in eight colours and is available in one size only. It does come in standard and NFC versions, with the latter bringing features like contactless payment. If you live in China.
Fitbit clearly wins in terms of accessories as there's a wider range of optional bands available to pair up. That includes leather and mesh bands to dress up that predominantly plastic body.
If you'd prefer to hide away your tracking, there's also an optional clip-on case to let you wear the tracker on your clothes like the waistband of a pair of trousers.
The trackers match in terms of water resistance, promising the same protection up to 50 metres depth. As well as being able to take them for a dip, both offer swim tracking too.
Fitness tracking features
Xiaomi Mi Band 5
Both use an accelerometer to track distance and rely on their own heart rate monitor sensor technology for exercise, on the spot measurements and to power other additional features.
Xiaomi does manage to find room for a barometer, which is a big deal if you want to see elevation data. So, climbing up some stairs.
Fitbit and Xiaomi both automatically track sleep and promise to offer rich sleep metrics and insights into things like sleep quality and offering a better breakdown of your sleep. We found the Mi Band 5 a solid sleep companion and it was a similar story for the Inspire HR.
The presence of a heart rate monitor as mentioned, is able to power additional features on these trackers. In the case of the Mi Band 5, you're getting guided breathing exercises, the ability to detect abnormalities in heart rate and new PAI fitness scores. These scores are designed to rate your weekly activity based on how regularly you get the heart pumping.
Fitbit's heart rate monitor unlocks plenty as well too. So there's also guided breathing exercises, the ability to track heart rate over time and the ability to view heart rate zones. While Xiaomi says it has improved the heart rate monitoring from its previous Mi Band by 50%.
We found Fitbit's heart rate sensor was generally very solid accuracy-wise, and the Mi Band 5's sensor was well suited for continuous monitoring and steady workouts. Like a lot of sensors though, it struggled when put to the high intensity test against a chest strap.
In terms of overall fitness tracking performance, the Mi Band 5 delivered reliable step tracking, while sleep tracking was insightful albeit it did offer some some high sleep scores. The Inspire HR in comparison offers solid step tracking and some of the richest sleep tracking you can find on a wearable platform. Especially with the addition of the heart rate sensor.
It's also good to see that both Fitbit and Xiaomi also include women's health tracking features here too. All of those features though live inside of the companion apps with nothing really available to view on the devices themselves.
Sport tracking features
Let's start with the Mi Band 5, which has dedicated modes for running (indoor and outdoors), cycling, pool swimming, walking and a general workout mode for everything else. All those activities are recorded using the accelerometer motion sensor, though you can lean on your smartphone's GPS to map outdoor activities like running and cycling.
With the Fitbit Inspire HR, it takes a similar approach to the way it track activities, but those activities are more plentiful. You can record running, cycling, swimming, treadmill running, weights, interval workouts, spinning, bootcamp, tennis, elliptical, stairclimber, hiking, golf, Pilates, yoga, circuit training, martial arts, walking, kickboxing and a general workout mode.
Fitbit additionally offers automatic activity recognition to identify the likes of walking, running, swimming and cycling, which you won't find on Xiaomi's Mi Band. There's no built-in GPS here either like the Fitbit Charge 4 or its latest Versa smartwatch. Like Xiaomi, it does let you piggyback off your phone's signal to record activities like running and cycling more accurately.
In our testing, we found Mi Band 5 offered largely accurate run tracking when putting the connected GPS to use. Though getting that connected GPS set up can be a slightly fiddly process. You get a detailed breakdown in the app of your stats and you can share data to apps like Strava. We also found that rowing machine and swim tracking was reliable too, and the latter was a notable improvement from what we experienced on the last Mi Band.
Fitbit in comparison offered decent run tracking accuracy too, though came up a little short on distance compared to a dedicated running watch. Swim tracking is a bit more limited than what you get on the Mi Band, while Fitbit's automatic recognition tech is generally reliable in recognising different activities.
Fitbit does seem to offer more in the way of support, but we think the addition of the color touchscreen on the Mi Band and its richer data on offer for core sports swing it for us.
With the Mi Band 5, it's compatible with Android and iPhones offering features like viewing notifications, music controls and showing off weather information. Thanks to that color touchscreen display, you also get themes/watch faces, some of which are animated including ones featuring Nickelodeon favourite Spongebob. Though those more high profile faces are missing in action on the global version of the Mi Band 5.
With the NFC Mi Band 5, you do also get payment and transport card support, though this is only for the Mi Band model available in China.
Over to the Inspire HR and it can be paired to Android, iPhone and Windows 10 devices to review data away from the wrist. That gives you notifications and the ability to change clock faces, though there's a smaller number to choose from.
If you're looking for a fitness tracker that best doubles up as a smartwatch, we'd be inclined to say the Mi Band. The screen is the main factor here. While displaying some notifications can feel a bit squashed in, they are in general nicer to read. You get a good range of watch faces here too to liven things up, and the addition of music playback controls and weather forecasts gives it the upper hand.
The Inspire HR offers more limited smartwatch features, simply because of that lack of screen estate to support anything beyond notifications and switching up watch faces.
Battery life and price
There's a clear winner when it comes to battery based on the numbers.
The Inspire HR will deliver up to 5 days wearing it day and night. The Mi Band 5 goes a fair bit further with the promise of 20 days on the standard version and 14 days on the NFC Mi Band 5.
We tended to get that 5 days on the Inspire HR with all of the key features enabled including continuous heart rate monitoring and notification support. The Mi Band 5 served up generally around 10-14 days. Features like heart rate monitoring and stress tracking clearly have a noticeable impact on performance. Thankfully that can be disabled if you want to get longer.
In terms of pricing, the Mi Band 5 comes in at around ¬£21 and ¬£26 for the Mi Band 5 NFC edition. The Inspire HR in comparison costs ¬£89.99, so that's a decent chunk more than Xiaomi's tracker.
There is also the Fitbit Inspire, that comes without a heart rate monitor and costs ¬£69.99. The new Inspire 2 is priced at ¬£89.95, which is basically the same price as the Inspire HR and offers improvements like up to 10 days battery life and an improved screen.
That's still more expensive than the Mi Band 5 and offers less features than its budget tracker rival.
In the case of the Mi Band 5, you've got an infinitely better display, a bit more on offer in the way of smartwatch features and the promise of longer battery life between charges. We also think it offers a better sports tracking experience too.
The Inspire HR has a slimmer and more versatile look, some of the most reliable fitness tracking available and more variety in sports tracking modes. Though many of those modes will dish out tracking data basics like duration and heart rate.
Then there's the price. Xiaomi offers a lot of what the Inspire HR offers for considerably less money. Our criticisms in the past have been levelled at design and software, but those things have improved drastically.
Software is a big thing to consider here too. While Xiaomi's companion app has improved over the years, Fitbit's app is motivating, big on analysis and extra features. And its Premium service to help you gain more insights and access more features.
If you care about having a great screen to review your stats, more smartwatch features and bigger battery life, the Mi Band 5 is one to go for. If you want a fitness tracker that packages the best of Fitbit into a slim design, the Inspire HR is worth the price tag. Though you may want to cast your eye on the new Inspire 2 to get better value for your money.