Review: Xiaomi Mi Band 3 - Great for Your Wallet

- Not so Much for serious Fitness Tracking

The Mi Band 3 marketing and user enthusiasm drew me in, and as you know I was happy with the first impressions. If you are looking for a step tracker with the ability to measure your heart-rate that you can shower with, the Mi Band 3 is a great little companion. It will also measure your sleep and tell you how long you've slept, give you sleep-stages in the form of "deep sleep" and "light sleep" and compare you to others. It also supports notifications for every app installed on your phone, text messages and phone calls.

The general rule, however, "you get what you pay for" still applies if you purchase an activity tracker for higher levels of fitness tracking. 

Design, comfort and the User Experience

Both I and my Fiancée were happy with the Mi Band 3s design. The simple yet elegant and small glass display fits comfortably on our wrists and if you compare it to a Fitbit Charge 2 or Garmin Vivosmart 3 it's a lot slimmer. As I previously mentioned (in the first impression) the screen is 0.78" large with monochrome support only. It is a touch display so you swipe up and down to go between different stages, left and right to see more information. The touch button below it works as a back and home button if you tap it and a confirmation button if you hold it. If you scroll to specific items like the heart rate sensor you hold it to activate. It's simple and it gets the job done. The display is however very dim in sunlight so you'll have to shade it with your hand to see anything.

The silicone band feels high quality and can be set to several sizes. It should fit most wrists, large or small. The device is supposed to be placed one cm above the wrist bone to get the best measurements. According to the app.

Application

Mi Fit which is the app developed by Xiaomi for wearables and fitness tracking is a very pleasant app. In several regards, the UI is simpler to use than say, the Nokia Health Mate app.

You have everything clearly lined up on the first page. Daily steps, latest heart rate, latest logged weight, last night's sleep and a goal streak. All of this can be tapped for more detailed information and previously logged stats. The app also has a great statistics page for viewing the weeks or months average steps, average active minutes, average distance and calories burned.

Then there's the activity tab where you can initiate running, treadmill exercise, cycling, and walking. The Mi Fit app enables you to use your phones GPS to log these activities using Google maps or Amap (you can let the app chose for you) kind of like Fitbits "Connected GPS". To start an activity with the Mi Band 3 you need to do so on your phone though. Also, you won't get any stats displayed on the band itself during your workout.

On the third page called Profile, you get your settings for both your profile, goals and your wearable itself. Here you can customize notifications etc. and other features as well as which arm you wear it on. You can, for example, activate find my phone which will make your phone ring. If you dropped your band you can also activate find my band but I have a hard time identifying when this would be necessary. There's a friends function as well but for some reason, we couldn't add each other. 

Features

The Mi Band 3 has the ability to calculate your heart rate every 1, 10 or 30 minute(s) and/or while you sleep. This will of course affect battery life. I found the Bands indication to pretty much agree with my Fitbit when I compared them. 

As mentioned in the First Impressions the Mi Band 3 can give you notifications for every app. It'll vibrate and show you the most recent one. You swipe to the left to read more. I wouldn't recommend reading e-mails on the Bands screen, but it's nice to be able to tell if something is important or not. The same goes for text messages, chats and phone calls. It's a nice overview. If you have more than the normal English alphabet it'll display weird letters like "ä, ö, å" as crossed squares, the same goes for most emoji's. 

But as you can see, the Mi Band 3 comes with a lot of features for $39.99 (350 sek).

Language

Now one thing that bothered me is that you can't set your language in the app. The Mi Band 3s language is instead bound to your phones system language and the Chinese version automatically gives you Chinese unless your phone is set to English. This means that a phone on Swedish sets the tracker display to Chinese. A global release is expected in September, maybe we'll be able to flash the global software to fix this. As a last resort, I found a guide on Geekdoing.com, thanks guys, which lets you flash a modified firmware to the device. This way I managed to get everything but the weather in English letters. After completing the installation I impulsively removed the app without un-pairing it. A few skipped heartbeats later it all still worked with the stock app and I've unpaired the Band 3 since then to make sure that it won't restore itself. Come another update, you might need to flash the unofficial firmware again though. 

Instructions:

  • In the Mi Fit app, you need to enable the so-called "Discoverable Mode" in the Mi Band 3's settings.
  • Download the Gadget Bridge Application.
  • While you are at it, download the English firmware with you chosen date-format.
  • Connect the Mi Band 3 to the Gadget Bridge app, this might take a minute and can even fail on occasion. If so, try again.
  • After pairing you can install the English firmware by locating the file in your downloaded files. It should open Gadget Bridge by default otherwise, select the app to open.
  • Approve the installation, this might take a few minutes.
  • When it is done you have the English Firmware installed on the Band and you can try and change your phones' system language. If all worked your Band will still display in English and you can un-pair the Gadget Bridge app.

This is a relatively simple process, but before the global release it also makes it harder for me to recommend the Mi Band 3 to you if you are uncomfortable flashing third-party software.

Step-Counting

But here goes: We have decided against keeping the Mi Band 3 as our daily drivers for fitness and activity tracking. Here's the run-down.

As a simple step tracker, the Mi Band 3 does a great job most of the time, and it'll most likely satisfy a lot of users despite the dim display. We were happy with them mostly as well, but it turns out that the tracker ignores steps if you walk with your bike, or a stroller, or a shopping cart. While other trackers like the Sony Smartband 2, Samsung Galaxy Gear s2 or the Fitbit Ionic/Versa might miss a few steps during these walks they still record activity. The Mi Band 3 skipped them all together. Now it's important to keep in mind that there's a huge price difference, but it's also important to be aware that there might be compromises. It is waterproof which is great, however, it cannot track swimming.

The Mi Band 3 might be a gateway drug to activity trackers. I was interested immediately after the announcement, and Xiaomi knows how to sell stuff. 

Battery Life - Special Mention.

This is where the Xiaomi Mi Band 3 shines. If you ever pick up another tracker after this you might experience battery-life fatigue and stress-related symptoms. The Band 3 is rated to last for up to 20 days. One week in without continuous heart rate except for at night I still had 67% left. That's with a lot of notifications btw. The charger is proprietary, which didn't bother me btw but, the cable is way too short. Xiaomi probably hopes that you charge it from a table positioned laptop. 

In other words, you never have to take it off except for once every 2 weeks + and, thanks to water resistance not even when you shower. 

CONCLUSION

The Mi Band 3 is, especially for the price, well worth it if you want something simple. Something that will count your steps, give you an overview of your heart rate and some simple sleep statistics. There's support for runners or bikers to track exercise and thanks to the "Connected GPS"-like feature even with map. Thing is if you track runs or bike rides you probably already use a third party app like Runkeeper and Strava and, they're not supported on the Mi Fit app. Actually, the only app you can connect to is the Google Fit app.

So while it's a competent enough activity tracker for day to day usage, it's probably not enough for more serious fitness oriented people. We are getting more into fitness by the day, making us feel like we might need, or want, more.

With a nice and user-friendly app, long-lasting battery life and a nice fit the Mi Band 3 is absolutely a good product. For the right person.

Are you that person?
I'll post a link to HonorBuy as well as GearBest which both exports the Mi Band 3 and other products from Xiaomi across the Globe:

Aching for a Purchase?

DisclaimerThese are affiliate links - By using these I will receive a small commission and you'll help me maintain the page.