Samsung Gear Fit full review
Microsoft has recently unveiled its first foray into the wearable technology market. Its called the Microsoft Band, and is a bit of a hybrid between a smartwatch and a fitness tracker, though it focuses on the latter.
Similarly, Samsung's Gear Fit is also primarily a fitness tracker but with some smartwatch functionality too, so here we've compared the two to find out how they differ.
Read next: Microsoft Band vs Apple Watch comparison
Microsoft Band vs Samsung Gear Fit comparison: UK price & availability
The Microsoft Band is currently only available in the US, and there's no word yet on when it's coming to the UK, so for those of us here in the UK that makes the choice between the Microsoft Band and the Samsung Gear Fit a bit easier if waiting isn't an option. The Samsung Gear Fit was launched in February and was then released in the UK in April.
The Microsoft Band is priced at $199, but of course there's no UK price yet. Right now $199 translates directly to £125, but you can expect to pay a bit more than that due to VAT and other factors. We expect that the Microsoft Band will cost between £150 and £199 in the UK.
The Samsung Gear Fit costs £169, so is likely to be very similar in price to the Microsoft Band.
Microsoft Band vs Samsung Gear Fit comparison: Design
Both the Microsoft Band and Samsung Gear Fit are designed to fit more into the fitness tracker category than the smartwatch category, though they both have features that bring some of the functionality you'd expect from a smartwatch (which we'll talk about more below).
The Microsoft Band's strap is plastic, and is available in three sizes: small, medium and large (for wrists of 39mm, 41mm and 49mm respectively). That strap keeps the 1.4in 320 x 106 pixel capacitive display attached firmly to your wrist. It weighs 60g.
There are two physical buttons on the Microsoft Band, too, one of which is used to turn the device on or off, and the other is used to cycle through options, make a selection, change view or speak to Cortana.
Unfortunately, it seems that the design of the Microsoft Band is what lets it down the most. Our colleague Jon Phillips has spent some time with the device, and said: "Where the best wrist wearables are pliable and unobtrusive, the Microsoft Band is bulky and rigid, and never lets you forget you have it on. Sure, it's physically large relative to competing fitness bands. But the bigger problem is its broad, inflexible display face. Factoring in the bezel around the display, it measures more than two inches long. It's also straight as a board. A more comfortable chassis would follow the gentle curves of human anatomy."
That's where the Samsung Gear Fit does well, with its curved display and much more appealing design. That curved display is a 1.85in OLED touchscreen with 128 x 432 pixels, and is surrounded by a chrome-effect bezel that manages to add to the style rather than being tacky.
It's light, too, at just 27g, so it's comfortable enough to wear all the time.
Plus, the Gear Fit's rubbery strap is removable, and is available in four colours in addition to the standard black (the Microsoft Band is only available in Black/Grey for now). It should fit any size wrist thanks to its adjustable clasp.
The Gear Fit has a single button that can be used to turn the screen on and off, but raising your arm to look at the screen automatically turns it on as well. You can also double-tap the button to jump straight to a function of your choosing.
The Microsoft Band is durable, though. It is dust-and splash-resistant, though the company hasn't specified to what rating in on its website.
But so is the Samsung Gear Fit, and possibly even more so, as Samsung has made IP67 rated water and dust resistant.
Both the Microsoft Band and Samsung Gear Fit can be worn on either wrist.
Microsoft Band vs Samsung Gear Fit comparison: Features
The Microsoft Band runs on Microsoft's new Health platform, which Windows Phone, Android and iOS users will be able to use even if they don't own a Microsoft Band. This also means that the Microsoft Band is compatible with all three of those mobile operating systems, which is a huge selling point for this wearable. Samsung's Gear Fit can only be used with Samsung smartphones. See: Best Android smartphones 2014
When used with the Microsoft Band, the Health app collects and stores data received by the device to offer up insights designed to help you live a healthier life. That data includes your heart rate, steps, calories and sleep.
The Microsoft Band also allows you to set goals that you'd like to meet, and provided guided workouts, the ability to map routes you've run, cycled or hiked using GPS and more.
Here's where the smartwatch features come in: by connecting your Microsoft Band to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth, you can get notifications such as emails, calendar alerts and text messages, which you'll be able to preview straight on your wrist. You'll also be alerted to incoming phone calls and notifications from Twitter, Facebook and more.
There's a built-in timer and alarm app on the Microsoft Band, too.
If you do own a Windows Phone 8.1 device, you'll also be able to access Cortana through the Microsoft Band, enabling you to ask it to take a note, set a reminder and more without needing to get your smartphone out from your bag or pocket.
In addition, Microsoft has partnered up with companies including Starbucks, MyFitnessPal and RunKeeper to bring third-party apps to the Band.
Onto the Samsung Gear Fit now, and you'll find that the features are very similar. When it comes to fitness, there's a pedometer that tracks your steps, estimates the calories you've burned and measure s the distance you've covered.
Like the Microsoft Band, you can set daily goals, though there's no guided workout feature.
There is, however, a separate home screen icon for Exercise, which can track running, walking, cycling and hiking. The latter two require your smartphone or tablet to be connected, though, because they need a GPS receiver, which the Fit itself lacks.
You'll also fine a heart rate sensor like the one in the Microsoft Band, though it also seemed to be quite inaccurate during out testing so we don't entirely trust it. There's a stopwatch, timer and sleep monitor, too.
When it comes to the Gear Fit's smartwatch features, you'll again find that they're similar to the Microsoft Band's. You'll see notifications from your phone or tablet, you can play, pause, skip and change the volume of media on your connected device. You'll be notified of incoming calls, too, and reply to texts using a set of pre-defined templates, just like you can on the Microsoft Band.
Microsoft Band vs Samsung Gear Fit comparison: Specs
Taking a closer look at what makes these two wearables tick, you'll find that the Microsoft Band runs off an ARM Cortex M4 MCU CPU. You get a tiny 64MB of onboard storage, because most things will be stored on your smartphone that you can synch to using Bluetooth 4.0.
The Microsoft Band has built-in GPS so you don't have to carry your smartphone with you if you want to map a run or a hike, for example, and you'll also get a three-axis accelerometer and a gyrometer.
There's also an ambient light sensor, a skin temperature monitor and a UV monitor. There's an optical heart sensor on-board too, but we found that it was far from accurate during our testing.
The Samsung Gear Fit also connects to your smartphone using Bluetooth 4.0. Sensors include a heart rate sensor, accelerometer and a gyro sensor, which means it missed out on the built-in GPS which is quite a big downfall, and also the ambient light sensor, skin temperature monitor and UV monitor, which don't really matter as much.
Microsoft Band vs Samsung Gear Fit comparison: Battery life
There's nothing more annoying than having to remove your watch and pop it on charge every night, but that's what's required for some smartwatches available.
Microsoft claims that its Band will last for two days, and we found the reality to be very close to that. We got comfortably more than a day's use from the Microsoft Band, and that was even with heavy use of the GPS and full brightness on the display.
The Microsoft Band can be recharged using a magnetically-coupled connector to USB cable.
The Samsung Gear Fit's battery life is better. It should last roughly three days before needing to be recharged, which you can do so by clipping the dedicated adapter onto the back and connecting to a power source via microUSB. The downfall here is that, if you lose the adapter, you won't be able to charge the device.
Microsoft Band vs Samsung Gear Fit comparison: Verdict
The Microsoft Band and Samsung Gear Fit are very similar overall in terms of what they can help you achieve, but there are some factors that set them apart and will help you make your decision about which is right for you.
If you've got a smartphone that isn't made by Samsung then you'll have to opt for the Microsoft Band or look elsewhere (or buy a Samsung smartphone, of course).
However, we don’t know when the Microsoft Band is expected to arrive in the UK, so you may have to wait for a significant amount of time before you're able to get your hands on one if you do decide to opt for Microsoft's wearable.
The second factor is design, a factor that Samsung's offering wins without question. Microsoft's Band is bulky, heavy and uncomfortable.
The Microsoft Band has GPS built-in, though, which is an important feature that gives it a one-up over the Gear Fit in some respects but is a reason behind its shorter batter life, but is GPS enough to compensate for the design? Probably not.
For anyone with a Samsung smartphone, the Gear Fit is the best choice, but for everyone else we'd suggest looking elsewhere if you're hoping to buy a smartwatch or fitness tracker in the near future. It's a shame that the Microsoft Band's design is poor, because aside from that it's a great piece of kit that could have been worth waiting for.
Samsung Gear Fit: Specs
- 1.84in Super AMOLED (432x128 pixels) touchscreen
- Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy
- Heart rate monitor
- IP67 dust- and water-resistant
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