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Basis Peak review: This is the band to buy if you obsess over heart-rate and sleep tracking

Jon Phillips | Nov. 6, 2014
The real-time heart-rate tracking isn't perfect, but it comes close. And with automatic sleep and exercise tracking, and an improved industrial design, the Basis Peak is much better than its predecessor.

It's not heartening to see any anomalies, but at least the Peak was notably more accurate than the Microsoft Band, another wearable that claims real-time, continuous heart-rate monitoring. I tested the two wristbands together for both hikes, and the Microsoft Band's untenable heart-rate swings were much more frequent (for example: 11 times during the second hike) and much more egregious (for example: showing 109 bpm when the Basis and LG wearables were showing 156 and 157 bpm, respectively). It's worth noting that Basis says the Peak samples heart rate 32 times a second, whereas Microsoft says its band samples heart rate once every second.

But let's not give the Peak a gold star quite yet. Besides the glitches described above, the Peak also suffered a number of dropouts where it wouldn't report any heart rate at all. I didn't keep count on my first hike, but it happened three times during the second hike. Granted, if the device can't get a lock, it shouldn't outright lie by giving the user an inaccurate reading. Still, when you're depending on your wristband for feedback, you want a reading when you want it.

I also tested the Peak on an elliptical machine. It's a less physically jarring use case than an uphill hike, but I made sure to use the machine's arm workout, guaranteeing the Peak would be subjected to constant (albeit predictable) wrist motion. Here the Peak lasted throughout 15 minutes of intense exercise without any dropouts. For the first two minutes, it under-reported my heart rate (for example: 130 bpm to the earphones' 146 bpm). But after that, the Peak scaled evenly with the earphones, never varying by more than 4bpm all the way to my max of 162 bpm.

Sadly, the Microsoft Band consistently under-reported heart rates during the very same ellipitical machine test. One typical reading: 115 bpm when the Basis and LG devices were reporting 156 bpm in unison.

Best sleep tracking around
I've penetrated into heart-rate monitoring because that's the Peak's marquee feature, but the band has a few other tricks that may be more important to many users. Obviously, the Peak records step counts. Because all these devices do. The Peak's step counts looked perfectly reasonable, and well within margins of error. Example: After I completed my first Mount Davidson hike, my Jawbone UP24 reported 4,702 steps while the Peak reported 4,689. I experienced the same levels of consistency throughout five days of testing.

Step-tracking is great, but I'm much more interested in sleep reporting. This is where my quantified-self instincts kick in, and this is where Basis' technology kicks into overdrive. One of the best things about the Peak is you don't have to touch any buttons or interface menus to begin logging an activity. Using what Basis calls Body IQ, the Peak can automatically determine when you've started a walk, run, or outdoor cycling session. And it can also use Body IQ to begin and end a sleep-logging cycle.


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