Xiaomi Mi Band 3 Review: best budget fitness tracker

By | 15th September 2018

There’s no shortage of competition in the smartwatch and fitness band market these days, but most options will set you back at least $150. Depending on what you are using the device for, this might seem like a lot to spend. If your primary concern is simple health and fitness and you are on a budget, the Xiaomi Mi Band 3 offers many of the features of its competitors at less than $30.

Obviously, some tradeoffs were made to keep the price this low, but Xiaomi seems to have cut the right corners to deliver a well-rounded fitness tracker while saving you more than $100.

The Good

The value has to be the most compelling aspect of the Xiaomi Mi Band 3, but the fitness tracker’s low price point isn’t the whole story.  Xiaomi has managed to cram 80% of the functionality of many high-end smartwatches and fitness bands into this tiny device. It’s shocking that a fitness band in this price range offered heart rate monitoring. The results were reliable in my test runs, within 5 beats per minute (BPM) of a Fitbit Versa and Jabra Sports Elite earbuds. Xiaomi even lets you set a BPM alert that will vibrate your Mi Band 3 if you go above a set threshold.

The rest of the fitness tracking worked well in my testing as well, steps are obviously table stakes and again, compared to my far more expensive Fitbit Versa, everything lined up well. When I triggered the activity tracking for a run or bike ride the app then utilized the GPS from my phone to create a map of my route and more accurately track my speed and distance.

Water resistant at up (or down) to 50m means you don’t have to worry about taking off the band if you are swimming or taking a shower. The tracker doesn’t have specific support for tracking your swims, so your mileage may vary on this if you are looking to get credit for your laps.

Battery life on the Xiaomi Mi Band 3 is excellent at a full 7 days between charges in my testing, thanks to its small OLED display. Throughout my testing, all notification settings were turned on and heart rate sensing turned up to its most frequent interval at once per minute. It’s worth noting that Xiaomi claims 20 days of battery life for the Mi Band 3, it’s possible that turning down all the settings and with minimal GPS connected exercise you could get to that, but regardless I don’t have any complaints with a week of battery life under heavy usage.

Swappable bands have been a big hit in the wearables market as users love to be able to easily change the look of their watch with their activity and the Mi Band 3 has you covered. The main unit simply pops in and out of the band thanks to a recessed cavity that wraps around the full device. I was concerned initially that it may fall out, but after over a week of use, including a number of outdoor runs, bike rides, and the ultimate torture test of playing with my children, it never fell out of the band. A silicon band comes with the device and is comfortable for everyday use and exercise, but you can find dozens of replacement options in different styles and materials to meet your needs.

While I’m on the subject of the band, the Xiaomi Mi Band 3 standard band style is incredibly comfortable as it is extremely lightweight so ultimately not really noticeable. It would be nice if they could shave a little of the height off of it, but after about an hour I didn’t notice that anymore either.

The Bad

My primary complaint with the Xiaomi Mi Band 3 is that the screen is extremely difficult to read in direct sunlight. The screen on the Mi Band 3 is a 0.78 inch high-resolution OLED display and while it works perfectly fine indoors or in an overcast environment, it simply cannot hold up to a sunny day. This was an issue with early OLED smartphones which has been overcome in recent years, but unfortunately, the Xiaomi Mi Band 3 hasn’t caught up to this standard yet. IN direct sunlight, you’ll find yourself staring at what may as well be a blank screen unless you cover it with your other hand. If you are using this primarily as a fitness tracker, this isn’t a deal breaker, but if you are relying on it for notifications or as a watch, it could be frustrating.

My secondary complaint is one that Xiaomi could easily address and that is regarding the Mi Fit app. A couple features are missing that I’ve grown accustomed to with other wearables. An alarm clock feature would be nice since I wake up earlier than the rest of my family and having my watch or band vibrate for an alarm rather than a blaring sound from my phone or Google Home Mini is a much friendlier option. I would also love for the app to automatically shift over to activity tracking for at least some simple activities like running or cycling. As I mentioned earlier, the tracking works great when triggering workouts manually, but being able to just hop on the trail and go without having to fiddle with the Mi Band 3 to start a workout session would be great.

Finally, it would be nice to have a couple more functions that you can control on the band itself. Most of the fitness tracker’s functions are handled through the app. This is understandable for changing settings, but opening the app to start a workout is quite annoying.

Conclusion

As we covered at the outset, there are unquestionably things you are giving up by going with the Xiaomi Mi Band 3. But if this is your first wearable or you simply want something that you can set up and forget about, the Xiaomi Mi Band 3 may be the perfect option for you. While some Fitbit and Android Wear (Wear OS) devices may offer a more complete package for power users, there is no better value in the fitness tracker market than the $26 Xiaomi Mi Band 3.

BUY THE XIAOMI MI BAND 3