Xiaomi entered the wearable market four years ago, emulating a similar strategy as its phone business that saw the brand edge out its Chinese rivals. The key takeaway from the first-gen Mi Band was its affordability: costing just $15, it was much cheaper than any other product that offered a similar set of features.
It's no wonder, then, that the Mi Band turned out to be one of the most popular products for Xiaomi. The company introduced an updated variant — the Mi Band 2 — back in 2016 with an OLED display and heart rate monitoring, all for under $25.
With the Mi Band 3, Xiaomi is offering a larger OLED screen, better heart rate, activity monitoring features, and water resistance up to 50 meters. The Mi Band 3 is just as affordable as earlier models in the series, retailing for the equivalent of $25 in China. There's even a model with NFC connectivity that is available for just $30.
You'll have to shell out over $100 to get a fitness tracker from the likes of Fitbit that offers heart rate monitoring, but with the Mi Band available for a quarter of the cost, it's easy to see why Xiaomi is the second-largest wearable manufacturer in the world.
Xiaomi sold over 3.7 million Mi Bands in the first quarter of 2018, and the Mi Band 3 saw over one million sales in the first two weeks of its availability in China. The Mi Band 3 definitely ticks all the boxes if you're looking to get started with a fitness band, but what's it like to use on a day-to-day basis? Let's find out.
Bottom line: The Mi Band 3 is a great way to get started with wearables. At $30, the barrier to entry is low enough to make the Mi Band 3 accessible to a wider audience, and the features on offer make it one of the best budget fitness trackers available today.
- Large OLED panel
- Water resistance up to 50m
- Heart rate monitoring
- Automatic activity tracking
- Incredible battery life
- Plain design
- Tracking isn't always accurate
- Screen visibility isn't great outdoors
Xiaomi Mi Band 3 What I like
Interest in wearables has plateaued in recent years, but Xiaomi's offerings have always fared well because they lower the barrier to entry. That's the main draw with the Mi Band 3 as well — at its core, it is an affordable way to measure your daily activity, sleep pattern, and mirror notifications from your phone to your wrist.
The larger 0.78-inch OLED panel (with a resolution of 128x80) is particularly useful for things like notifications and weather updates, as the Mi Band 3 is able to fit more information on the screen. The touchscreen isn't the most responsive, but it isn't any worse than the one on the Fitbit Alta HR.
When it comes to value, there's nothing in the market that comes close to the Mi Band 3.
In fact, the Mi Band 3 is largely similar to the Alta HR in terms of dimensions, although the larger screen means it is a tad wider. It comes in at 20g — just under the Alta HR's 22g — so you won't feel any discomfort wearing it over the course of the day.
Like its predecessor, the Mi Band 3 does a great job utilizing the screen size to the fullest. You'll be able to scroll through various screens on the band itself, including the steps taken, weather information, and incoming notifications, and there's also the option to select from a variety of watch faces.
The Mi Band 3 also has a button at the bottom of the panel that lets you go back to the home screen. Like the Alta HR — which automatically measures your heart rate over the course of a day — the Mi Band 3 logs your resting heart rate, and you can trigger a measurement by long-pressing the home button.
The hardware itself is just one half of the story — you'll need an app that breaks down all the information in an easy-to-use format. That's where Mi Fit comes in. Xiaomi added new features into Mi Fit with every new generation of Mi Band, and it offers an easy way to view your activity details, calories burned, and sleep data. The app itself is basic and doesn't offer quite as many insights as Fitbit or Garmin, but you're getting what you par for in this regard.
As for battery life, the Mi Band 3 easily delivers over a week's worth of usage from the 110mAh battery. In just under three weeks of usage, I've had to charge the Mi Band 3 just once. It takes a smidgen under three hours to fully charge the band, and the one issue I have on this front is that it's easy to lose the charging cradle.
Xiaomi Mi Band 3 What needs work
While the Mi Band 3 has no dearth of features, it is lacking in overall refinement. The display, for instance, doesn't get bright enough for outdoor use, so you have to cover it with your hand to see the information on the screen. I've only had to do this a few times under intense sunlight, but the panel is lacking in this regard.
The Mi Band 3 isn't as refined as a Fitbit, and that's okay.
While the silicone strap is serviceable for daily usage, it feels cheap (which it is). Thankfully, there's a quick fix if you're not a fan of the band, as there are plenty of third-party options available for under $10.
The main issue with the Mi Band 3 is that it isn't quite as accurate as the likes of Fitbit or Garmin. I used the Mi Band 3 alongside my Alta HR, and in general it was off by 5% in terms of counting steps, and 5-7BPM for heart rate readings. That's the tradeoff for affordability, but overall the Mi Band 3 managed to do a decent enough job automatically tracking (and logging) workouts.
There's also the fact that the Mi Band 3 doesn't offer a lot of reminders to meet your daily goals. You can set up an inactivity reminder if you've been idle for a few hours, but aside from that, there isn't a whole lot going on. One of the reasons I was able to get more active using the Alta HR is because of its challenges feature that lets you go up against a friend or family member that also has a Fitbit device.
Xiaomi Mi Band 3 Review
There's very little to fault when talking about the Mi Band 3. Xiaomi has done a masterful job offering a vast array of features while retaining the $30 price point. Sure, it doesn't offer the specialized features of Garmin or Fitbit's software refinement, but for $30 you're getting a lot of value for your money.
With the Mi Band 3 now available in India, Xiaomi is set to continue its dominant position in the market. The fitness band is now up for sale in the country for just ₹1,999 ($28), making it a very enticing option.
If you're interested in trying out a fitness band, the Mi Band 3 is an ideal starting point. You're not going to be wowed by the design, but the range of features on offer makes it a great budget wearable.
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