Fitness trackers come in a great range of shapes and sizes, with many offering a complete package at a much more complete price. Xiaomi is most definitely one of the brands that we associate with affordability and that continues with the Mi Band 3.
While the Xiaomi Mi Band 3 has been available via unofficial outlets for some time, it was recently formally announced here in the UK at the Xiaomi London launch.
That meant that I could finally get a properly supported review unit and give it a thorough test drive having been interested in the fitness band since the first model was posted on many of the Chinese Amazon clones online. Luckily, the English version of the Mi Band 3 has been officially available in the United States for some time via online retailers such as Amazon, so there are no compatibility issues to worry about Stateside.
Before we delve into the wider review, I have to be completely honest and say that this might be the very best companion to Google Fit available on the market right now.
Don’t expect anything earth-shattering, the Xiaomi Mi Band 3 is literally that: a silicone band with a removable watch face. The removable face is required to charge the battery, although that won’t be necessary too often due to the insanely good battery.
For anyone wanting a ‘proper’ smartwatch experience, then I’d say look elsewhere as this is a barebones affair that would definitely be considered minimal. The display is tiny but provides just enough information in a monochrome format that you’ll have all you need at a glance.
The 0.78-inch OLED touchscreen only has a resolution of 128 x 80 pixels but don’t let that put you off. It responds well to touches and swipes, and the single capacitive button is the only other point of interaction you’ll have with this smart wearable. Everything else is pretty darn sleek and feels very much like a refinement of previous models.
With a silicone band, you get what you pay for — comfort at the expense of style. However, it is possible to swap out the band if you’d like to. There are plenty of cheap silicone bands on eBay and Amazon that give you the option of a different color device without having to spend a fortune.
I personally like a silicone band as it’s much more comfortable than any other type of strap, though it isn’t perfect as the clip will no doubt become slack after a long period of wear. It’s kind of a good thing that these devices are so cheap.
Waterproofing is guaranteed up to 50 meters or 5 atmospheres which means the Mi Band 3 is the perfect swimming companion. Overall, this entire package reminds me very much of Fitbit Alta, albeit slightly less angular, though that device costs nearly triple the price of the Mi Band 3.
Software + Ecosystem
I mentioned at the top of the review that this is the best companion fitness tracker for Google Fit, and that is thanks to the ability to plug directly into Google Fit via the Mi Fit app.
All you have to do is toggle the option within the Mi Fit app and it automatically syncs data with your Google account. The Xiaomi app is arguably much better for keeping tabs on your daily activity as it tracks steps, calories burned and even your sleeping habits.
In usage, the menu is very basic with dot-matrix style icons denoting your menu choice and just pressing and holding the capacitive button enters submenus and activates the extra modes. Those modes include heart rate monitoring, basic step counters, distance tracking, calories burned, weather and workout tracking.
Using the workout tracker you can get a better handle on your daily exercises and it works well and, in my opinion, pretty accurately. I wear the band almost all the time rather than a normal watch and it doesn’t impact my comfort, especially when I play soccer or if I head to the gym.
The biggest downside is the inability to track anything more than running and outdoor cycling workouts, so you may have to use a combination of devices if you want to work out just how many calories you burned after completing a 5×5 deadlift session.
Beyond the exercise management and tracking, you can get basic push notifications to your wrist. These are simply pushed from your device to the Mi Band 3 and need to be setup to do so, otherwise, you’ll be left waiting for non-existent buzzes on your band when your phone gets a message.
Mi Fit is actually a nice little fitness application that, as I mentioned, goes much more in-depth than Google Fit. That said, it will need a third-party application such as Notify & Fitness for Mi Band to transfer heart rate data across — although I have yet to do this.
As a companion it’s nice to see breakdowns of this data in presentable graphs and bar charts, it really gives you a sense of accomplishment when reaching your daily goals.
This is one area that the Mi Band 3 beats out all of the competition even with its 110mAh battery. It can easily last up to 20 days and I can confirm that this really is the case, the battery is simply superb. Avoid setting heart rate tracking to every minute as this reduces battery life to under 3 days.
The tiny OLED only powers on when you tap the display or the capacitive button, so there is some serious power saving there too. I’ve charged my device a grand total of once — that was over a week ago — I still have over 70% battery. If battery life was a concern to you, rest assured you’ll have no issues with this device.
In no way is the Xiaomi Mi Band 3 entirely flawless,\\ but with pricing so low it doesn’t need to be the greatest device on the market. It doesn’t even need to be the best, the pricing helps the Mi Band 3 get away with being more than good enough — which it most definitely is — for under $35.
For rudimentary workout tracking and everyday comfort, I’m not sure there is anything that can compete with the Mi Band 3. Especially when you factor in just how well this plays with Google Fit.
Excellent as an entry into the fitness tracker market, by no means is this a dedicated smartwatch replacement. Instead, it works more like a superb starting-point into smart wearables and is a great inconspicuous and comfortable way to simply get more data about your everyday health.