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Is Microsoft Band a better fitness tracker than Fitbit Surge?

James A. Martin | May 19, 2015
Microsoft's Band activity tracker has a ton of valuable features and a quality color display. The fitness wristband does a few things Fitbit's Surge can't, but it also has some unfortunate limitations.

I've also experienced high heart rate readings during peak exercise with other wristband sensors, including those on my Fitbit and Basis Peak. A Microsoft Band product manager said the device doesn't filter or average its heart rate readings, which could explain why I saw the high fluctuations. The company says Microsoft Band's heart rate readings are extremely accurate, especially during running, and elliptical and rowing machine workouts.

Extras

Microsoft Band has some useful extras, too, such as Guided Workouts developed by Microsoft partners Gold's Gym and Shape Magazine.

Band also includes Cortana, Microsoft's answer to Siri and Google Now. When paired with a nearby Windows 8.1 smartphone, Microsoft Band lets you ask Cortana questions and give it commands. In my tests, most of my Cortana requests via Microsoft Band were successful.

However, the virtual assistant was unable to "Set a timer for five minutes," and I had to pull out my Windows Phone to complete my request. When I asked Cortana to "set an alarm for five minutes," it asked me, "What time would you like me to set an alarm?" I repeated "five minutes," and Cortana set the alarm. In comparison, Siri handled the "set an alarm for five minutes" task with one command.

I also like how you can input your Starbucks card number and then use Microsoft Band to pay for food and drink at the coffee giant's stores by scanning a barcode displayed on the wristband screen.

Microsoft Band lacks leaderboard

There's no Microsoft Band leaderboard for competing against friends and family. The leaderboard is one of my favorite Fitbit features. A Microsoft spokesperson said the company is "continually listening to customer feedback and will take this into consideration for future updates."

Bottom line on Microsoft Band

Microsoft Band is an affordable, feature-packed and ambitious first effort from Microsoft in the activity tracking market. If you don't care about the Apple Watch and haven't committed to a fitness-tracking ecosystem such as Fitbit's, it's worth a look.

 

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