Realme Band review: not the ultimate budget fitness band

No match for the Xiaomi Mi Band
Realme Band
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The Realme Band is another fitness tracker that proves there's no need to spend a lot for basic activity monitoring – and with a $20 price tag, few come cheaper. But such is the value offered by the established Xiaomi Mi Band range, there seems little reason to divert your attention to the Realme Band.

Essential reading: Best fitness trackers to buy right now

The Realme Band comes in cheaper than a Xiaomi Mi Band (around $30, and costs less than the Samsung Galaxy Fit e ($35). And it's significantly more affordable than the Fitbit Inspire HR, which costs around $89.

Along with the tracking staples, the Android-only Realme Band gets you a smattering of smartwatch features, sports modes, a heart rate monitor and a color touchscreen display.

Xiaomi has pretty much owned this end of the market since the arrival of the Mi Band, but Realme, the spinoff brand from Chinese tech outfit Oppo, is ready to play with the budget boys.

It's gone in lower than its rivals, but has it managed to deliver a good experience overall? We've been living with the Realme Band to find out. Here's our comprehensive verdict.

Realme Band: Design

Realme Band: Design

At first glance, the Realme Band doesn't necessarily break the mould as far as looks are concerned. You're getting a silicone strap with a watch-style buckle clasp that's available in black, yellow or green. That's holding in place the slightly curved tracker module and touchscreen, which definitely has a bit of the Microsoft Band look about it.

While Realme might not be doing anything daring in the design department, it has made sure this cheap fitness tracker doesn't feel cheap. The strap is pretty basic, but crucially hasn't been any cause for concern as far irritating the skin or being uncomfortable to wear at all.

The TFT display at its core, measures in at a decent 0.96-inches, dishing out an 80 x 160 resolution and 65,000 colours. It's a good quality screen and far better than what you'll find on the similarly priced Samsung Galaxy Fit e, though not quite on par with the one on the Xiaomi Mi Band.

We wouldn't say the screen really pops, but colours are generally good and it is nice to find a display like this on a device that costs less than $30.

For fitness trackers, being able to quickly glance at the display to absorb data needs to be a good experience. Indoors, the screen is certainly up to the task. Outdoors in some bright sunlight, it can be more challenging. Thankfully, you can adjust screen brightness from the companion Realme Link companion app and there's also a night brightness setting, which is worth making use of as well.

Realme Band screen

One last detail on the screen is the raise to wake support, which uses the accelerometer motion sensor like most other wearables to enable it. It worked reliably and you can set times when it's active, so it's not constantly waking you up in bed.

Below that display lies what Realme calls a virtual button. It's essentially a capacitive button a bit like the one more discreetly hidden underneath the screen on the Mi Band. A simple tap on that button lets you jump through screens and is nice and responsive.

Pressing down on that button will let you launch menus or sports tracking. As far as a navigating experience, Realme keeps things nice and simple and that's fine with us. Especially when there's not a ton of sub-menus to explore.

Normally we'd reserve talking about all things battery and charging until later in the review, but the big design highlight here is that the Realme Band doesn't come with a charging cable. The band is your charging cable. You can pull away one side of the band from the tracker body to reveal the micro USB connection. That means you can plug it straight into a USB port to power it up.

It's a great feature to have if you hate the idea of keeping hold of another charging cable, though the durability of this charging method long term is always something to be wary of.

When it comes to wearing this band 24/7, you will have to take it off when you jump in the shower. Like the Realme Watch, it carries an IP68 water resistant rating, which means it's a yes to washing the dishes with it still on, but a big no to going swimming with it.

Realme Band: Fitness tracking

Realme Band: Fitness tracking

To do its tracking business, the Realme Band has a 3-axis accelerometer and an optical heart rate monitor. That means you can record data like steps, distance, calories burned and heart rate metrics like resting heart rate and real-time measurements for exercise. There's no altimeter here though, so it won't track elevated activity like climbing a flight of stairs.

Sleep monitoring is also automatic and you'll also get the same inactivity alerts and the ability to enable water reminders you'll find on the Realme Watch.

Step and distance tracking tended to be in the same ballpark compared to a Garmin fitness tracker, but did tend to report more steps and distance covered on a few days we wore them both. On the Band itself, it's nice and easy to view that data and you can even head back into the app to adjust step goals.

Realme Band accuracy

Step tracking compared: Realme Band (left) and Garmin Fenix 6 (right)

The inactivity alerts and water reminders are not groundbreaking additions, but they are welcome nonetheless. They do the job of giving you that regular nudge to drink some water or keep moving to stick with small habits that can hopefully lead to bigger ones.

For sleep tracking, there's no data to view on the band itself, so it's over to the app when you wake up in the morning. What you'll find there is breakdown of deep and light sleep and heart rate (if monitoring is enabled). In terms of accuracy, it seemed to reliably recognise the time spent in bed, but tended to offer a very different breakdown of that sleep compared to a Withings Sleep Analyzer mat we pitted it against.

Realme Band sleep

Sleep tracking compared: Realme Band (left) and Withings Sleep Analyzer (right)

In addition to steps and sleep, you can also track heart rate continuously to monitor resting heart rate along with average, maximum and minimum heart rate insights over a day and view trends over longer periods. As far as reliability though, we found that it tended to report a higher resting heart rate on average, some times at more than 20bpm compared to another heart rate monitor.

We have a very good idea of what our resting heart rate is typically, and the Band seemed quite wide off the mark off. On the spot measurements did seem more in line, but for trends, it didn't feel all that insightful.

Realme Band: Sports tracking

Realme Band Sports tracking

Despite the lack of GPS or connected GPS support, Realme has still included nine sports modes that rely on the accelerometer and the optical PPG heart rate monitor to provide the exercise data. Those modes are running, walking, trail hiking, mountain hiking, climbing, cycling, spinning, fitness and cricket.

Realme once again made a big deal of that cricket mode, yet it doesn't track any cricket-unique elements. The same can be applied to the likes of hiking and climbing. You're not getting any extra metrics to dig into.

Of those nine activities, only three can live on the band at any one time. As far as how useful those modes are, tracking is pretty much in line with what we found with Realme's Watch. You're not going to get super accurate results.

Realme Band Sports tracking accuracy

Running mode tested: Realme Band (left) versus Garmin Fenix 6 (centre and right)

Above is a sample 5km treadmill run compared to a Garmin running watch paired up with a Stryd footpod and a Polar H9 chest strap. The Band suggested more distance was covered in the session and our average pace was significantly quicker too. Heart rate data though did seem a bit more reliable. In our high intensity tests, it was a similar story to what we found with the Realme Watch. It's not massively reliable.

Realme Band review

Auto tracking tested: Realme Band (left) versus manually tracked run on Garmin Fenix 6 (right)

Realme, also offers automatic exercise recognition for both walking and running, though we seemed to encounter quite a big problem with it. It takes what seems like around 10-15 minutes to kick in during a workout. There doesn't be a way to adjust the time it takes to recognise an activity like you can with Fitbit's trackers. Also, when we decided to manually log a workout, it appeared to override it, leaving us with missing data as shown in the screenshot of a 5k run above.

All of your data lives in the phone app where, you get a pretty basic breakdown of your session in the exercise log. Like its Watch, Realme does offer the ability to push data to Google Fit, though that's as far as the third party support goes. It's ambitious to think this is going to double up as a reliable replacement for a sports watch based on our experience.

Realme Band: Smartwatch features

Realme Band: Smartwatch features

Realme finds room to squeeze in a decent handful of features that make it more useful to wear outside of getting all sweaty.

As already mentioned up in the intro, the Band can only be paired to Android smartphones. Once you've paired it up over Bluetooth, you'll find the option in the companion app to enable call reminders and receive notifications from first and third party apps.

There also custom functions, which include weather updates, a stopwatch, music playback controls and a Find your phone feature. Only two of those custom functions can live on the device at one time. We opted for music controls and weather as they proved the most useful and didn't feel horribly cramped or badly optimised for the display. Music controls are a bit longwinded to use however, where you need to hold down the virtual button to switch between the individual buttons in the controls.

Realme Band media controls

Viewing notifications however is a different story. The support isn't that useful simply down to the way messages are displayed on the screen. You can't act on those notifications either, though that's hardly surprising given the size of the screen and limited controls.

If you care about watch faces, you do have the option here to switch things up. There's five faces in total, most with digital-style looks and the ability to feature data like steps and battery status. They're a nice bunch to pick from at least, and do make good use of the tracker's display.

As a fitness tracker with smartwatch skills, it does an okay hob overall. Features work without issue, though if you were hoping for something with good notification support, you certainly don't get that here.

Realme Band: Battery life

The Realme Band promises to give you up to 10 days battery life or 7-10 days, if you're making regular use of the heart rate monitor.

Much like its budget smartwatch, we think Realme has slightly over estimated those numbers. We tended to get 4-5 days in our time with it. That was while having continuous heart rate monitoring enabled and the screen up to full brightness, which Realme does suggest does have an impact on battery life.

If you are more conservative with that screen brightness and you turn off the continuous heart rate monitoring, then you'd comfortably get a week with it before whipping off the strap and plugging it straight into to a USB port.

Charging from 0-100% takes around an hour and 30 minutes, which is a pretty standard charging time. We will say the USB connector can be a bit temperamental fit-wise getting it securely plugged into a USB port. We tried on a laptop and a few different charging banks and it didn't always sit properly on the first attempt.


Realme Band
By Realme
The Realme Band offers a good basic fitness tracking experience and does it from a design that looks far from budget. Sports tracking however is pretty lacklustre, while smartwatch features do a decent job, notification support aside. Ultimately though, if you can stretch to spending just a little more, you could get a Xiaomi Mi Band and get a superior device. It's a solid enough debut for Realme, but we'd like to see it push the boundaries of what a budget wearable is capable of just like its rival if it gives things another go.

Hit
  • Decent fitness tracking performance
  • Nice design for the price
  • Charging cable built into band
Miss
  • Sports tracking not great
  • Iffy heart rate monitoring
  • Displaying notifications is cramped