Microsoft Band 2 review

Microsoft's sequel certainly impresses on paper but can we live with the design?

Microsoft officially lifted the lid on the new Microsoft Band 2 fitness tracker at its Windows 10 Devices event back in October.

The Microsoft Band 2 boasts an updated design, curved AMOLED screen and additional features. On paper, it has the specs and features to blow its activity band competition out of the water. But so did the original Microsoft Band ‚Äď and we gave that one of the lowest review scores ever on Wareable.

So does the sequel address the failings of the first Band? Read on to find out…

Microsoft Band 2: Design and comfort

It was design, not features, that let down the previous Microsoft Band. And while the new device has enjoyed a substantial rethink, it's still not the slickest, or most comfortable activity tracker to wear.

It definitely looks cooler - a kind of hybrid of the first Microsoft Band and the Samsung Gear Fit - but it's still a chunky monster and, compared to its rivals, looks a lot more 'gadget' than 'accessory'.

It's thicker than its older sibling and, while the battery compartment is now out of sight at the back, behind the clasp, it's anything but subtle. It sticks out ridiculously far and every so often digs right into your wrist.

Microsoft claimed it has listened to feedback from consumers and had attempted to eliminate rigidity in the strap for extra comfort. However, we've tried wearing the Band 2 on both the inside and outside of our writs and, even though the design isn't as solid as the original, it's not flexible enough to be comfortable for long periods of time. We're glad the straight edges are gone but we're afraid Microsoft has, again, served up somewhat of a dud in the design department.

Microsoft Band 2: Display

The curved display is nice though. It' a 32 x 18mm, 320 x 128 pixel AMOLED one covered in Gorilla Glass ‚Äď that's a ppi count of 255 and all-in-all, it's a comprehensive improvement on the TFT panel found on the original.

It's also a world away from the monochrome displays of many of its rivals and it makes the Band 2 much more of a smartwatch hybrid (more on that later) than anything offered up by Garmin, Fitbit, Jawbone and co.

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The display is responsive, easy to read in all lighting situations and, as you'd expect, simple to use, as it utilises a Windows-esque tile approach that works really well on the thin horizontal based screen.

You fire up the screen by pushing the main button underneath (a basic clock only visual is also on offer) and then swipe left for your chosen tile arrangement, that you can tinker with in the companion app. There's a few colour themes on offer and you can also personalise the metric you see next to the clock ‚Äď steps, floors, calories, heart rate, date and so on ‚Äď by pushing the secondary button.

Pushing your selected metric brings up the activity screens and again, it's just a case of swiping along to catch up on the stats. It's a simple setup but one that feels very natural, even the first time you put the Band 2 on.

Microsoft Band 2: Daily activity tracking

The Microsoft Band 2 has a feature list to make its rivals jealous but there's also basic daily lifestyle tracking on offer too. In terms of accuracy, the step counter was pretty much on the money ‚Äď if maybe a touch more generous than our Fitbit Charge HR.

As we always say though, all step counting and calorie burn calculations are estimates based on algorithms, so it doesn't really matter if it isn't exactly in line with a competitor's measurements. What's important is consistency and the Band 2 did have that ‚Äď although be sure to tell it what position and what arm you're wearing it on for added accuracy.

The sleep tracking on the Band 2 offers metrics such as duration of sleep, your efficiency percentage (time spent sleeping divided by total time), how many times you woke up, how many calories you burned while sleeping, how much of your sleep was 'restful' and what your heart rate was.

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However, as mentioned, comfort isn't of the highest order with Microsoft's sequel and, in all honesty, we just couldn't sleep while wearing it so can't really comment on the results.

For your daily activity and sleep tracking breakdown you can view them on the device itself but for more detail you'll need to fire up the Health app.

Microsoft Band 2: Running and training

Let's ignore the fact that running with the Band 2 on isn't all that pleasant as it sticks into your wrist and, instead, focus on the fact that it's super accurate and offers up a host of handy metrics on the go.

We tested the Band 2 over seven runs between 5 and 16km, against GPS running watches from Adidas and Polar, and the biggest discrepancy was 190m on a 10km run. And that was by far the most abnormal result; on the 16km run, according to the Band 2, the Adidas miCoach SmartRun clocked 15.97km, so only 30m out. That's pretty great.

Plus, the display is so good (and you can personalise the three metrics shown) that it's easy to follow your performance on the go ‚Äď the split time buzzing alerts are also a neat addition.

After a run the metrics are broken down in the Health app and a GPS route is plotted so you can check exactly where you've been. As a activity tracker / running watch hybrid it certainly lives up to its billing ‚Äď and rivals the likes of the Polar M400 ‚Äď although the GPS connectivity does hammer the battery. You'll get a 2-hour half marathon out of it, but probably not a 4-hour full one.

Microsoft Band 2: Workouts and training

New features on the Band 2 include a barometer for measuring elevation (great for climbers and hikers) and the measurement of VO2 max for running and sports, which will enable users work out their exertion and assist you to recover properly from hard training sessions in the Microsoft Health app. It's not as scientific as wearing an oxygen mask, obviously, but it's nice to see your performance levels change over time.

Like the original it comes packed with guided workouts that are built right into the Band and you can build your own too and sync them from the app.

There are programs and workouts from the likes of Gold's Gym, Shape and Men's Fitness, and a wide range of activities and sports on offer; although it is all a bit manual and basic. Your Band doesn't talk to you, it will simply tell you that you should be doing 10 reps of burpies for example and you'll need to keep looking at it to see what you should be doing next.

Heart rate monitoring is on board and, while we found resting heart rate to be pretty accurate compared to a chest strap, during workouts it did throw up some odd readings. It wasn't inaccurate every time but it wasn't reliable enough either.

Microsoft Band 2: Golf watch

Back in June, Microsoft teamed up with TaylorMade to offer original Banders (Bandits?) GPS-powered golf features and even the most critical Band-basher had to applaud. There's no way a Fitbit or Jawbone device can offer that, after all.

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The golf features are a big part of the Microsoft Band 2 setup as well, with the Golf tile playing a prominent part of the main app line-up.

The premise is simple: like dedicated golf smartwatches, or the multi-sport Garmin Vivoactive, the golf features on the Microsoft Band 2 extend to distance to the pin (front, middle and back of the green) and scorecard keeping, which is apparently done automatically with the Band even able to tell the difference between a practice swing and a proper shot.

However, in practice it's nothing to get excited about. Firstly, you have to manually sync the course you want to the Band from the Microsoft Health app on your smartphone. Although it has access to tens of thousands of courses, it doesn't store them on the device ‚Äď as it does on most dedicated golf watches like the excellent TomTom Golfer. That's not really that big of a deal if you've got a good data signal but if you're out in the middle of a field (and most golf courses are in the middle of a field) with limited coverage, it's not a perfect scenario. You could, of course, sync before you leave home but who's that organised?

The next issue is that, unlike dedicated golf wearables, using the Band 2 on the course creates hassle, rather than being automatically and intuitively helpful. Distances to the green are only shown with a push of a button (and a 4-5 second wait) and it takes around 30 seconds to register you're on the next hole. Not ideal on a busy course.

Also, heaven forbid one of your drives strays onto a parallel fairway (as happens to 99.9% of amateur golfers on a round). If so, the Band 2 gets super confused and offers you absolutely no assistance at all. And don't expect any help with your short game or wedge selection. Once you're within 30 yards you simply get told "<30". Exactly.

The automatic shot tracking? Forget about it. It's not even close to working. We've tested it loads, using many different band to wrist positions and it just doesn't play ball.

After a round, the Health app will give you a nice scorecard and stats like calories burned and heart rate data. None of the golf data will be correct but that's by the by. If you sync up with TaylorMade's myRoundpro platform, you'll also get detailed maps of your shots, and an analysis on your performance. Which would be awesome, if the aforementioned golf data wasn't absolute nonsense.

All in all, just forget the Golf tile exists and definitely do not by the Band 2 instead of a proper golfing wearable.

Microsoft Band 2: Smartwatch skills

Back to the Band 2's strengths now and, unlike the likes of the UP3 or the Charge HR, the Band 2 holds its own quite well in the smartwatch stakes.

There's no extra apps like Tizen, Android Wear or watchOS ‚Äď what you see is what you get ‚Äď but you can play around with what tiles you see on the display and the order that they are shown.

You'll get incoming call alerts, text notifications, email and calendar updates and social media alerts from Facebook and Twitter. However, like the first Band, there's no third-party support as such so all of your notifications ‚Äď apart from those listed above ‚Äď get lumped into the Notifications tile, which is a bit annoying.

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Cortana is on board for workout reminders, guided workouts and smartphone notifications (emails, texts, calendar alerts and so on) on the wrist ‚Äď but only if you're paired with a Windows phone.

Microsoft Band 2: Microsoft Health

Another area where the Band 2 excels is the ever-improving Microsoft Health platform. The desktop version, available through your browser, is particularly impressive offering a ridiculous amount of data based on the Band's recordings.

Similar to the Apple Health and Google Fit, Microsoft's platform wants to be a one-stop-shop for all your health and fitness data; drawing in information from not only from Microsoft wearables and phones, but from third-party hardware and apps as well.

Microsoft Band 2
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Partners such as RunKeeper, MapMyFitness, Strava, Jawbone and MyFitnessPal are already signed up and the company is planning further collaborations.

Within Microsoft Health you can search for, build, and sync workouts, check out trends (day, week, month) based on your recordings, take a look at your personal bests and check out your GPS routes. You can also compare your own metrics to other people in your age / BMI / and activity level bands.

It's still very much a work in progress but it's streets ahead of what we've seen from Mountain View and Cupertino.

Microsoft Band 2: Battery life

Battery life for the Band 2 is touted at 48 hours of 'regular' use and we found that to be about right - although it will take a pounding if you tap into the GPS features.

A typical use case is: remove from charger in the morning before work, wear all day checking notifications and then go for an hour run in the evening with GPS on. That'd use about 70% of the juice. Basically, you're charging daily if you want to use it as a run assistant.

The new Band is water resistant but not water proof - so rain running is ok, showering is not.

Microsoft Band 2
By Microsoft
The Microsoft Band 2 is miles better than the Redmond company's first effort. But that's not saying much. Again, it's the design that lets it down again. Yes, it looks nicer and yes, it is a little bit comfier but you still feel like you've been handcuffed while wearing it. The feature list is impressive and many aspects work really well though not everything is as it should be (we're looking at you Golf tile). The battery life also scuppers you a little bit for anything above 'casual' tracking. We applaud Microsoft for trying, it really is trying to be innovative in the activity tracker space, and the Health suite is coming along nicely, but its wearable is still not entirely wearable. Third time lucky?

  • Impressive feature list and app
  • Smartwatch skills
  • Great display
  • Multi-sport support and GPS
  • Uncomfortable design
  • Golf features are terrible
  • Battery life is mediocre
  • Not waterproof

What do you think?

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  • GarthBrown·

    I purchased the Band 2 from the new Sydney Microsoft store on the opening day and have been wearing it ever since. I have to strongly disagree with the reviewer with regards to a few points:-

    1. Design and Comfort - design and looks are in the eye of the beholder (I personally like the industrial style look) but this Band is not uncomfortable to wear. I wear it all day and night with the display on the inside of my wrist and experience no discomfort. I generally forget that it is there. 

    2. Battery Life - I have played golf and and used gps for regular 5km runs plus have my calls and message notifications, heart rate always on. I easily get through a day and night and charge for approx 30 - 40 minutes each morning after waking while eating breakfast and showering etc.

    3. Sport Functions - I played a round of Golf and found it easy and intuitive to use. It automatically detected approx 80% of my shots and it is simple to add or subtract a shot if necessary. It is way better than trying to keep score with your smartphone etc At the end of the round I have a great set of data about my game and can see where I need to improve (everywhere). I have used a smartphone and a pebble smartwatch previously and this is my preferred device. Syncing a course in advance is not hard. I agree with the reviewer and find the running features easy and accurate with great information available during the run and afterwards via Microsoft Health.

    I really wanted the original Band but was difficult to get in Australia. I am very happy with the Band 2 and highly recommend it to anyone who would use a smartwatch/running watch/activity tracker.

  • thatguy·

    I don't know how this reviewer can think the golf functionality is lacking; I have the Band 1 and the golf functionality is great, so I would assume it's even better on the Band 2.  It even successfully ignores my practice swings while registering my actual shot, which I think is very impressive.

  • phissith·

    I have question about the band 2, I have had to return it once before because it was not performing right, I had woken up with 720 calories consistently every morning not doing any activity. The band was charging over night on the table and were not worn.  Was it by design that this is how much people burned calories while sleeping?   

    I have issue with this because it is throwing the whole point of calories counting out the window.  I now must subtract any totaled calories burn for the day with morning calories.  

    • fb_12035974·

      We all burn calories while asleep, the heavier you are, the more calories burned. A 200 pound person burns approx 86 calories per hour while sleeping. If you weren't wearing the band while sleeping, it would then seem like the calories are estimated from your weight and hours of sleep. It seems reasonable to assume that the calorie count will change if you wear the band during the night.

    • funny·

      That's because you had very intimate dreams and you impregnated your mattress. 

  • cvvh·

    Once again, another fitness tracker\smartwatch that doesn't think swimmers are a worthwhile market.

    • Goflorp·

      Pretty much every one of them,

      Mio Fuse

      Misfit (the round with dots)

      Garmin VivoSmart HR

      is exceptions.

  • Patrick-78·

    I have had the Band 2 since getting it as an Xmas present.

    My issues are with syncing and bluetooth.

    The device indicates bluetooth is on but the symbol to the left of the " time" generaly shows that it is not functioning , i.e. the indication is in a faded light.

    The band does not appear visible to other bluetooth devices. I was however able to sync with a laptop and a pc via usb until that link went dead a few days ago.

    Since getting the band I have had to do two factory resets.

    I love the data but the functionality reminds me of early smart watches and the difficulties of syncing

    I am wondering what to do next?

    • CPANinjaDoug·

      I'd go to a Microsoft store if there's one nearby to ask them about it. I've had no problems with the Bluetooth sync. It doesn't sync if my phone is on "quiet hours" or if it thinks I'm sleeping. Otherwise it works just fine.

  • Woefiet·

    I got the band2 for over a month now, I had a lot of doubts before due to the remarks like "feeling like a handcuff".  I can tell you, to my opinion this is absolutely not the case.

    At 44 now, I've been wearing many sorts of watches, and this one is my absolute favourite.

    Yes, it has some downfalls, the syncing with my Windows phone (950XL) is not always reliable, the battery life is poor.. But than again, all those sensors working..

    I compared it to anything and I bought it because I am (still) convinced you will not find anything like it.  And yeah, I like it, I even think it looks great (and many people who saw it with me).  The quality of the screen is real nice (did you know you can upload full colour photo's on it?  I have a nice background of my partner and my dog :-)).

    And the price?  The Band2 is unavailable in Belgium.. So I ordered it and payed more than 350$.  

    I love it. 

  • Sasha·

    I have the Band 2. Just bought it. I like it, but the heart monitor does not work well at all at exercise. It records resting heart rate whether I am resting or exercising. Is there a trick to this? When I contacted Microsoft, I got a guy in Philippines who told me to just get a new one, which I did. Same problem.

    • CPANinjaDoug·

      Are you turning on the exercise app? When you do the Band is much more proactive and accurate at tracking stats. If it's still not accurate you might try wearing it in another position (under / over the wrist or other arm). Just be sure you tell the Band which way you have it on. Also make sure you don't have it on too tight or too loose.

  • racheldsilva91·

    Microsoft band is now on sale only on SmartwatchOffers:com

  • diehard66·

    I have the Band 2, got it when it went on sale for $175.  I find the band very comfortable as much as any watch is.  I wear mine all day except when I am charging it or in the shower. I even sleep with it on.  I'm not a runner, so I don't burn the battery down as some might using the GPS.  This was a step up from my Withings Pulse which I used for two years and I think the only real limitation I find is the lack of app connectivity.  I don't want to use the Health App exclusively, I'd like to get data from and to other apps.  I have mine paired with my iPhone and have had no issues with it Bluetooth or otherwise.  Even the music feature works.  My only complaint:  heart rate data, while collected, is not easily displayed as a graph or statistic... or at least I have not found a way to see it.  You can get it to show up on the main screen which is nice, or during a work out, also nice, but as an overall trends analysis, I have not seen a way to view that.

  • Rachaelkicks·

    It takes some time to get use to on your arm. After a month with it now I feel naked without it. The battery life is its one and only negative. I love it, even the look of it.

    • TGreen·

      I hated how it felt at first until I found out you can wear it on either the inside or outside of your wrist. Ever since I started wearing it on the inside, it's been much more comfortable.

  • Jordan·

    Under no circumstances, should you buy this device as your fitness tracker/smartwatch. The software is great but the hardware is poor at best. I purchased My Microsoft band in December of 2015 to use for running, biking, golf and the guided workouts(which I thought were great) but I quickly learned I had just thrown away $250. About a month into using the band, everything was going great until the band would no longer charge. I tried charging in multiple outlets, direct to my computer‚Äôs usb, bought a second charger, everything. It would not work. I was barely within my return policy at Best Buy so I exchanged it for a new one. No problem. Well about a month and a half later, here we go again but with a new issue. There was the slightest crack in the physical ‚Äúband‚ÄĚ of Microsoft band which was fine until it slowly grew bigger and bigger. I contacted Microsoft Customer Support which was a nightmare, received a shipping label, mailed it in and received a new band under warranty about two weeks later. Other than being without my band for two weeks I was ready to chalk it up to bad luck and move on until yet again, about a month and half later I run into another issue. This time the metal plate that covers the charging port fell off in the middle of a run. It caused the clasp to come undone so immediately noticed and picked it up. I again contacted customer support, the emailed me a shipping label and I sent it off. This time however, I received a box 10 days later only to find out that Microsoft would not repair or replace the product due to ‚Äúabuse‚ÄĚ. I took amazing care of this band. I never showered with it, hit it on things. As a matter of fact, I ‚Äúbabied‚ÄĚ this thing only to be told that I had abused it and voided the warranty. This is a poorly made product. It looks great in most of the reviews but I‚Äôm warning you, if your experience is anything like mine, you will be truly disappointed. Take it from me, and skip this one. Do some more research on the Garmin or Fitbit products.

    • Bfricka·

      Both my girlfriend and myself have had this exact experience. Both of our MS Band 2 have been riddled with bugs. It's a terrible quality product. On the surface everything looks wonderful, and when it fits work, it's pretty excellent, but we've had so many problems it's been a mess overall. 

      Currently, my  GPS stopped working. This is about a month after receiving a new one, as the previous one stopped charging. Complete garbage 

  • Miko·

    I read on another review that the band only records heart rate once every minute which makes it useless for HR while working out. 

  • zaza14·

    Customer/Tech support is horrible.  I had a Band 2 and after less than 6 months, the wrist band began to tear.  I contacted support and they acknowledged this being an issue and said that it would be covered under the warranty.  Other than the tear, the band was functioning just fine and I was enjoying it.  I sent it in with the charger and two weeks later, I get a band 2 in 3 pieces (torn apart rendering it useless) along with a denial letter of coverage. The charger that was returned was not mine because it was in tatters and the only piece that was mine was the wrist band that had my serial number on the clasp. It was like they had parts in a bucket and they just pulled from it and sent it back, after they committed to replace it. I've been in contact with support 4 times and have been getting the run around.  Further research on other sites revealed that this has been happening to many others for the same reason.  I have been a loyal MIcrosoft customer going on my third WIndows Phone, second Surface Pro, not to mention software subscription for my business.  Completely disenchanted and would not recommend anyone to purchase this device due to the hardware not being sturdy enough for daily use and for the fact that service is non existant.

  • Amirarsalan·

    Does it wrist tear tear after a while???

  • diaconu13·