Sony SmartBand Talk full review
The SmartBand Talk is one of Sony's new entries into the wearable tech market. It's more of a fitness band hybrid than a fully-fledged smartwatch, but it also allows you to make and take phone calls (hence the 'Talk' in its name). We've spent some time with the new wearable to bring you our full Sony SmartBand Talk review.
Sony SmartBand Talk review: Price and availability
The Sony SmartBand Talk became available to buy in the UK in December, at a price of £130.
That makes the SmartBand Talk fairly expensive for an activity tracker, but with the added smartwatch capabilities including hands-free calls and notifications, it's not bad value overall. We expect that, once the SmartBand Talk is a few months old, it'll begin to drop in price or be featured in deals, offers and sales around the web.
It's still more pricey than close rival Huawei TalkBand B1, though, but we think the Sony SmartBand Talk is better overall. Read our Huawei TalkBand B1 review to find out more.
It's cheaper than Samsung's Gear Fit, which is another smartwatch/activity tracker hybrid that can make and receive phone calls, but that has an OLED touchscreen display putting the cost up to £180.
There are two colours of the SmartBand Talk a vailable, Black or White, and they can be purchased in M/L or S/M sizes. There are additional wrist straps available to purchase separately if you'd prefer a more colourful option. Sony is currently offering an additional blue or red wrist strap for free.
There will be even more wrist strap designs to choose from in the future thanks to Sony's partnership with Proporta, which works with fashion houses including Ted Baker, Roxy and Barbour.
See also: Sony Smartwatch 3 review
Sony SmartBand Talk review: Design
Taking a closer look at the design, we think the SmartBand Talk is sleek and sophisticated compared to many other wearables out there. The design is simple, feels comfortable (it only weighs 26g) and is high quality – it doesn't feel cheap.
It's durable, too. It has a full IP68 rating which means it's fully dust-and-waterproof (up to 1.5m continuously) so you can wear it without worrying about rain, and you can even wear it in the shower or while swimming.
The downfall is the strap – it didn't feel very secure. It fastens easily using two prongs than squeeze into holes along the wristband, but those prongs occasionally popped out and there was one occasion when the SmartBand Talk came completely loose and could easily have been lost.
The strap is available in 255mm length (M/L) or 232mm (S/M).
Then there's the SmartBand Talk's screen. It's a 1.4in, black and white e-ink screen, which means low-power and therefore it can stay on all constantly, so you can instantly check the time and how close you are to your daily steps goal.
The text is crisp and clear thanks to its 255ppi resolution, but there's no backlight so visibility in the dark is difficult if not impossible. E-ink does, however, mean that it's easy to see under bright lights.
The SmartBand Talk's display isn't touchscreen – you can tap it (forcefully) to show a notification, but aside from that you'll need to use the buttons on the side to switch between screens/apps and to turn the volume up or down.
Sony SmartBand Talk: Features
As it's primarily a fitness device, the SmartBand Talk features a variety of integrated sensors that provide detailed exercise information. In addition to the usual accelerometer, the SmartBand Talk includes an altimeter to measure climbing and include training, which is a real boon and something that lots of cheaper fitness trackers miss out on (though many of Fitbit's trackers boast altimeters, too). This means that the SmartBand Talk can take into account variables such as hills and stairs, and makes the calorie data significantly more accurate.
What the SmartBand Talk lacks, though, is a heart-rate sensor sported by some rivals such as Samsung's Gear Fit. It also lacks GPS.
In addition to the fitness features, the SmartBand Talk allows you to make and accept calls thanks to its built-in speaker and microphone, which also supports HD Voice.
We found this feature to be very hit and miss, though. It seemed to pick and choose when it wanted to work. Sometimes, we could tap to answer but the sound would come from the smartphone, which is less than ideal when said smartphone is hidden in a bag or tucked away in a pocket.
When it did work, however, we found it to be surprisingly useful. It's not something we imagined we'd ever use, but while carrying out tasks such as housework or cooking, it was very handy to be able to answer a call without having to stop what you're doing.
Calls were reasonably clear and loud so it's also possible to take calls while driving.
Even better is the ability to quickly see notifications on the SmartBand Talk. You can see whole text messages, Facebook notifications, Tweets and more directly on the SmartBand Talk, which vibrates to alert you thanks to its haptic feedback capabilities.
You can't respond to those notifications from your SmartBand Talk, but we still found it useful to be able to check whether the notification was important before deciding whether or not to respond immediately or wait until later.
If you're concerned about getting disturbed by the SmartBand Talk during the night (as you're likely to be wearing it for its sleep tracking features) you can set a do not disturb period (between 23:00 and 7:00, for example).
Sony SmartBand Talk: Hardware specs
Inside the SmartBand Talk is an ARM Cortex-M4 32-bit processor and 2MB of internal flash memory.
In terms of connectivity, there's NFC or Bluetooth 4.0 (Low energy).
It's worth noting that the Sony SmartBand Talk only works with Android devices, so iPhone owners and Windows Phone owners are out of luck.
Sony SmartBand Talk review: Software and battery life
The SmartBand Talk isn't and Android Wear device like its Sony SmartWatch 3 sibling. Instead, it runs Android KitKat 4.4 OS.
There's a SmartBand Talk app that lets you control the device's settings, but if you want to make the most of the fitness tracking capabilities you'll want to download Sony's Lifelog app.
We found the Lifelog app quite odd. It really does log everything you do, and much of it is completely unnecessary.
In addition to logging the expected calories, steps, time spent walking, time spent running, and offering sleep information such as how long you slept for and how often you slipped into deep sleep, the Lifelog app also tracks how long you spent making/taking phone calls (and who those phone calls were with), how many photos you took, how long you spent listening to music, how long you spent watching videos on your smartphone, how long you spent playing games and more.
What's more, you can even set goals for all of those activities, which makes sense for steps and calories but not so much for playing games, watching videos or listening to music…
The app also lets you bookmark memorable occasions, and stores the data from that occasion for you to look back on in the future. Strange.
It's possible that Lifelog will make more sense once third-parties begin developing new content and services for the app, because right now it seems like there are a whole lot of a redundant features on there.
The SmartBand Talk boasts a Lithium Polymer battery that has a charge time of less than an hour and charges via microUSB.
We found that the SmartBand Talk can last for up to five days between charges unless you're making/taking lots of phone calls, which is more than the three days stated by Sony and is quite impressive. The downside is that, during that hour of charging, the SmartBand Talk won't be tracking your activity (whether it's steps or sleep).
Sony SmartBand Talk review: Verdict
Overall, we found the SmartBand Talk to be a good fitness tracker that collects lots of useful data (as well as lots that isn't useful at all). The altimeter and automatic sleep tracking put it in the same league as some of its top competitors, and when you add the smartwatch capabilities into the mix you've got an excellent little gadget here.
We'd like to see the call function get a bit more stability, and we wish the default strap was more secure, but aside from that we thoroughly enjoyed our time using the SmartBand Talk and would recommend it over the Huawei TalkBand B1 without a moment's hesitation, and think it's a solid Samsung Gear Fit rival.
Sony SmartBand Talk: Specs
- The SmartBand Talk SWR30 and Lifelog Android app are optimised for devices running Android 4.4 and later
- 1.4in black and white E ink display (296x128, 192dpi)
- waterproof to 1.5m (IP68 rated)
- Bluetooth 3.0
- 70mAh battery