The Xiaomi Mi Band 3 fitness tracker only has one truly unique selling point: its price. For around $25, you can get a fitness tracker capable of pretty much everything a casual user could need. Its feature set rivals Fitbits that cost significantly more, to the point that they risk becoming almost obsolete. Unlike other budget options, this tracker doesn’t feel cheap or poorly made either.

Design
Design

However, there are still some compromises. In this Xiaomi Mi Band 3 review, let’s take a look at how well the tracker keeps pace with its pricier rivals.

Xiaomi Mi Band 3 review

Design
The Xiaomi Mi Band 3 has a fairly by-the-numbers design, but it gets the job done. Like more affordable Fitbits, the device itself is separate from the band and can be popped out for charging, and the straps can be swapped out for different colors. Xiaomi sells blue and red straps directly, and third-party alternatives will undoubtedly appear in the near future as well.

Mi Band 3 strap

The band that comes with the device is rubbery and somewhat plain. Bailey was understandably concerned about the latching mechanism degrading over time. It’s made from the same material as the previous two Mi Bands, both of which had this same problem. So far it’s done just fine and replacing it is easy if something does goes wrong. It’s comfortable to wear too, thanks to its slim profile and light weight. There are ample size settings available, so it should fit most wrists.

Usage
Usage

Compared to previous Mi Bands, the 3 is a looker. The face is made entirely of curved glass, which gives it a very premium feel given the price point. The OLED display sits in the middle of the screen’s glass panel with invisible bezels. This look works well, and it feels nice to swipe and touch. It’s also very responsive. The screen didn’t pick up any scratches during my testing, but only time will tell if this remains the case.

Mi Band 3 outdoors

Other than swipes and scrolling, the only other interactive element is the small indent at the bottom of the screen, which works like a back key.

The one downside with regards to this display is the severe lack of sunlight visibility. Bailey says this is an upgrade from the Mi Band 2, but that’s more an indictment of that device than praise for this one. It’s very hard to make out what’s going on in direct sunlight. However, since most interaction is handled on the phone (more on this in a moment), that’s not as big a problem as it could be.

The one downside with regards to this display is the severe lack of sunlight visibility.

As an added bonus, the device is water resistant, meaning you can wear it in the shower or pool without worrying about ruining your new toy.

Xiaomi Mi Band 3 front

Features and performance
The real question is whether the Mi Band 3 can do everything you need. The answer depends very much on who you are and what you need.

As a basic health tracker, the Mi Band 3 can do a lot. It can track calories, count steps, monitor your heart rate, and register sleep. It does all of these things well for the most part. The heart rate monitoring seems fairly accurate and consistent with what I’d expect throughout the day, corroborating what devices like the Garmin Vivoactive 3 and Motiv Ring have told me when worn simultaneously. You can decide in the app how frequently it checks your heart rate, allowing you to better balance the completeness of the data with the device’s battery life.

Mi Fit
Mi Fit

Mi Band 3 heartrate monitor

You can choose between one, 10, and 30-minute intervals for heart rate monitoring. This is a very welcome feature we wish more trackers offered — getting your heart rate checked every minute provides much more detailed and granular insight into your day. It lets you do fun things like observe how your heart rate goes through the roof during a date, or after a strong coffee. This is something a lot of trackers just can’t offer, even at the more expensive end of the spectrum.

With one minute tracking, the battery life is roughly two days. That’s still impressive, but certainly something to keep in mind if you’re switching from previous Mi Bands, which consistently offer weeks of battery life. With 30-minute tracking, it can impressively last for a couple weeks — more than enough juice for most people.

Mi Band 3 Battery

The sleep tracking is basic but accurate. You basically just get the total time spent sleeping, along with how that time was divided between light and deep sleep. Being told you aren’t getting enough deep sleep is a useful nudge to change some habits and it’s encouraging to see how smart sleep hygiene changes can benefit you in this regard. Sleep detection is also automatic, so you won’t need to remember to tell the Mi Band you’re going to bed. Again, this was accurate in my time with it — it even identified brief periods of wakefulness during the early hours of the morning.

Bailey mentioned he wished it worked for shorter naps, but this is less of a problem for those of us no longer in school (it wouldn’t hurt to have the option to manually begin sleep tracking — especially for those working night shifts or other unusual hours which will currently go untracked). The Mi Band falls short of the far more in-depth feedback offered by Fitbit’s more expensive trackers, but that is par for the course with a device this inexpensive.

Mi Fit App Sleep Tracking

Step counting is likewise very good, so you should be able to calculate your calories with reasonable accuracy, minus the caveats and limitations inherent to all such devices I’ve discussed previously.

Activity tracking
Activity tracking is less impressive. The Mi Band 3 only has four activity profiles: running, treadmill running, walking, and cycling. If you plan to lift some weights and monitor your heart rate during that workout — or even just log it for posterity — you will be sorely disappointed. The same goes for swimming, playing sports, or engaging in pretty much any other kind of activity. All Xiaomi had to do was to create a “misc” profile to avoid this, and perhaps give us the opportunity to rename workouts after-the-fact.

Mi Band 3 activity tracking

I know I’ve talked about this glaring oversight before, but it’s a common gripe I have with trackers. In my experience, more people go to the gym to lift weights than those that run, and yet it seems running is the top priority of 99 percent of devices. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The only way to start a run is through the app. So not only do you need the app with you to track said activity, but you also need to get your phone out of your pocket to trigger or even pause it. It’s a bit of a nuisance.

Mi Band 3 health tracking

For what it’s worth, you get a fairly decent amount of detail after a run, including average speed, pace, stride, total steps, uphill, and more. You can also see your heart rate, pace, and other information over time in convenient charts. The app will also use your phone’s GPS to map out where you’ve been, and when running in completely random directions I’ve been unable to fool it. Although this is better than you might expect (and more detailed than some comparable devices from Fitbit), it won’t challenge any serious running watches or higher-end fitness trackers.

Software
The software experience with the Mi Band 3 is in keeping with the rest of its barebones approach.

Mi Band 3 software

Setting up the Mi Fit app is easy enough and navigation is fairly straightforward once you learn where everything is (not always where you expect it). Information on the home page is presented in a vertical list which lets you view paired devices, your sleep, your heart rate, weight, and goals. At the top of the page is a graphic showing your overall step count and calories at a glance. Tapping that symbol will give you a more detailed breakdown of your day, with autodetected elements like walks and “light activity.” These activities aren’t shown elsewhere in the app, and you can’t expand on them for more detail. This is where you might be able to see something like a workout appear, or a quick walk to the shops. It’s nice to have some record of your activity outside of runs, but it could be expanded on and made a lot clearer.

Mi Band 3 Fitness Tracking

There are some elements lacking here too. There’s no way to directly synchronize with MyFitnessPal, which a lot of dieters rely on. Thankfully, you can do this via Google Fit, which is a fortunate saving grace. Social features are limited to adding friends via QR codes, and you don’t get any of the “insights” or suggestions you get with some similar apps. The app presents the data, but you’ll have to draw your own conclusions about it.

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