We review the Mi Band 3 Activity Tracker by Xiaomi

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The Mi Band 3 by Xiaomi

The Mi Band has been among first class performer since the day the gen 1 was released back in 2014. It was basic for a sleep- and fitness tracker but with a very long battery life and low price. Since then Xiaomi has added f an OLED screen, heart-rate scanner, app notifications and much more.

The latest reincarnation the Mi Band 3 is by far the best yet, adding an improved display, waterproofing and a large-capacity battery, as well as being able to read messages onscreen and track certain activities.

It’s still very well priced, currently available from Smartechnologies.co.uk for around £36.99, but even at this price nothing in our analysis comes close in terms of value for money.

So what does it do?

The Mi Band 3 is a fitness band with the ability to track exercise for example steps taken, distance moved, calories burned. It also monitors your sleeping patterns (deep, light and total sleep) along with heart rate (automatic or manual), over a 24 hour period, week or month. You can track fitness data in its dedicated Fitness app and the Mi Band 3 can also use Google Fit.

One of its biggest pluses apart from the price; is incredibly battery life. Though your exact mileage will vary dependent on how many notifications you receive from the110mAh battery inside. But never the less it’s a great improvement on the original 70mAh afforded the version 2, The new battery can easily last 20 days before needing a recharge. And when it does need to recharge, you can get it back up to 100 percent in just a little over an hour.

Navigation is straight forward, requiring simple swipes up, down, left and right to enter and browse the menus. A single large button can be used to return you to the main screen or select an option, such as the heart-rate scan. Whereas before it was able to count only your steps, the Mi Band 3 can now accurately differentiate between walking or running outdoors as opposed to using a treadmill or cycling, and during these activities you can configure the band to vibrate if your heart rate goes over a specified level, or if you start to run slower than you’d like.

For activities that don’t fall into these groups, such as jump rope or sit-ups, you can ‘tag’ the behaviour so that when you are later tracking progress you can understand what you were doing at that time

One popular activity not counted for here is swimming, and that’s something we hope will be resolved in a later generation. Though the Mi Band 3 won’t track your strokes, it can be worn in the swimming pool, bath or shower. Where its predecessor met IP67 waterproofing specifications, the third-gen Xiaomi fitness band builds on this with 5 ATM.

The new Mi Band also has some smart-watch-type functionality, and it’s now much easier to activate the screen by lifting your wrist than with the awkward twisting action required by past generations.

The Mi Band 3 shows you at a glance the time and date, the weather forecast, incoming messages, emails, phone calls and other notifications. The larger 0.78in OLED screen; up from the previous models 0.42in allows you to read the full message, or if it’s an email the sender and subject line.

It’s always been easy to locate the Mi Band via the app on your phone, but new in this version is the ability to find your phone via the band. Select the option on your wrist and an alarm will sound on the phone, even in silent mode.

You can set target notifications, idle alerts, alarms and event reminders, and the Mi Band 3 can offer smart analysis on your sleep cycles. There’s also a Do Not Disturb mode.

So how does it really stack up?

It’s incredible what’s on offer for such a great price, so it feels a little wrong to pick faults with it. But here we go;

The Mi Band’s has a silicon band, making it easily adjustable to the size of your wrist anywhere between 155 and 216mm. The new band adopts the same design as the hypoallergenic wristband we’ve seen on the previous versions, which means we have the same issues. While it holds the tracker snugly when new, over time we expect the band to deteriorate the same way the earlier versions did. You must take the tracker out of the band to charge it which is fine. But each time you remove it to charge, you loosen the band’s grip on the tracker.

It is possible to buy replacement bands for the Mi Band 3, and these will be available in black, orange or blue.

The tracker itself is bigger than before, which admittedly means you’re more likely to notice if it falls out its band, but it also causes it to feel more bulky on your wrist. Don’t get us wrong, this is still a much slimmer and lighter alternative to a full smartwatch, and it still weighs an incredibly light 20g – 9g of which is the tracker itself and 11g the band.

The LCD is not only larger but also brighter,  but we still found the super glossy surface made it difficult to read in direct sunlight. It also picked up fluff and dust from places we didn’t even know fluff and dust existed, so we were constantly wiping it clean.

For users in China, which is obviously the Mi Band 3’s home marketplace, the larger screen allows for more information on the display. Unfortunately for UK users much of this naturally comes in the form of Chinese characters.

Though you can work out what’s going on even without understanding the language thanks to the accompanying icons, there is no way to switch this off. It seems almost petty of us to criticise it just for this, but in our review targeting an English speaking audience we thought it worth mentioning.

One way in which the Mi Band 3 cannot compare to the likes of Fitbit is with regards to competitive analysis and sharing between friends

Xiaomi Mi Band 3: Specs

  • Pedometer and sleep tracker
  • 0.78in OLED touchscreen
  • 24.7cm wristband, wearable length 155-216mm
  • Waterproof to 5ATM
  • heart-rate scanner
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • 110mAh battery (20-day life)
  • 20g (11g band, 9g tracker)
  • compatible with Android 4.4+/iOS 9.0+

We take a look at the Amazon Echo

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Amazon Echo  

Is this the answer for you and your smart home?

The Amazon Echo is much more than a wireless speaker. In fact, playing music isn’t its number one feature.

The main theme for this device is the Amazon Alexa voice-assistant – and Amazon’s desire to be a permanent fixture within your home.

Alexa is designed to answer your every whim. Whether providing information such as the news and weather, adjusting you’re heating, or controlling your audio visual system, Amazon’s Echo speaker promises to do it all. After launching in the US last year, the Echo is now widely available. But does it deliver on its cloud computing promises and what about its wireless speaker?

Aesthetics

The Echo is a straightforward upright, cylindrical speaker, available in black or white, and while not exactly screaming top-end desirability, it looks good enough to merit a place in the average home. And it feels robust and solidly built for a £90 wireless speaker.  (The Alternative is the Echo Dot with no speaker at under £50)

Inside are seven microphones, alongside its voice technology to make sure your commands are heard, it also allows multiple speakers to work out which is nearer to you.

Also inside are a dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a couple of speaker drivers, a 6 cm woofer and a 5 cm tweeter.

Amazon is keen to emphasise that this is a first class speaker as well as a clever personal assistant, and it also promises 360-degree sound to give you plenty of flexibility in terms of placement.

Functionality

On top of the device you’ll find the ‘volume ring’ as well as the mute and action buttons. LED lights around the ring will show you when Alexa is listening, though you can mute the assistant entirely.

Getting started is simple. Plug in the speaker, download the Alexa app and you can be in command seconds later. Once up and running, it’s all about your voice.

But you do have the option of adjusting the volume on the Echo itself, while opening up the Alexa app will also give you some more control options. There’s also an optional Amazon Voice Remote for £20.

Operation

‘Alexa’ is the word used to activate the system, after which you can ask the speaker to play or pause music, read the news, weather, football scores. Both the success of these voice commands and the number of available services is crucial.

Alexa is learning all the time and Amazon is aiming to add new partners at an equally rapid rate.

Providing you speak clearly and use the systems recommended phrasing, Alexa is pretty impressive. A change in the tone of your voice can cause a little confusion, and while the Echo doesn’t find every singer songwriter we asked for, it has a fairly good strike rate.

Amazon makes a great play of how well Echo can hear its name, even in busy rooms or when there is more than one device.

But it’s not just about finding and listening to music; Alexa has many talents and skills, which are enabled through its various partnerships with content providers, including Sky Sports, The Guardian, Telegraph, National Rail, EDF Energy to name a few.

Getting locally based news and weather updates is easy enough, while some other skills require simple linking of accounts. Add an Uber account and you can ask Alexa to find a cab. A notification will arrive on your Uber app to confirm it’s on the way.

For some apps, the lack of a screen on the Echo means it may just be simpler to use your phone app.

However, the more compatible products you have, the more you will get out of Alexa, so it’s down to Amazon to keep adding ‘skills’ and partners.

Alexa’s other skill is connecting and controlling hardware, with Amazon aiming to give you complete control of your smart home.

We’re talking lights, switches and thermostats. Commanding the lights to turn on as you walk in the door is no longer the preserve of the rich and famous. This works.

On the Audio Visual side, custom installers already have Crestron support, allowing you to add voice control to a complete home cinema system.

Sonos and Amazon have also announced a deal to bring Alexa voice control to Sonos gear. We hope to see more Audio Visual brands getting involved.

We should also mention Amazon’s Echo Dot, a puck-sized unit that’s designed to be connected to your existing speakers, systems or even headphones.

The Echo Dot has the same Alexa voice assistant and skills, and looks like the top of an Echo speaker, complete with control buttons and volume ring – plus added volume up and down buttons. It also has seven microphones inside as on the featured Echo, so it can hear all your commands.

There are small speakers, so you can hear Alexa, but for music playback the aim is to connect to your existing system. It has a 3.5mm stereo audio output for this purpose, as well as wireless Bluetooth connectivity.

The Amazon Echo Dot could prove to be a clever addition to any array of existing audio and video products that would benefit from its voice control.

If you want the voice-controlled music experience, you will need to use Amazon Prime Music, Spotify or Tune In radio.

You can stream music from any source – as you would a standard Bluetooth speaker – but remember apps that aren’t associated won’t have voice control function.

Amazon wants to integrate Alexa with more devices, but for now Amazon Music is the default service, though that can be changed to Spotify. Whichever service you use, you can see the track playing on the Alexa app.

You can also ask Alexa what track is playing and other voice commands include playing by song, artist, genre or even playlist, and pause, shuffle and volume controls.

 The success rate isn’t quite 100 per cent. Less known bands with may take a few attempts to connect, but there are no issues getting commands to work from a reasonable distance.

But the Echo’s sound quality is a different story. Listening to music via Spotify, the Echo speaker plays it safe at both ends of the sound spectrum to avoid any unwanted harshness in the treble, but you don’t get a whole lot of bass depth either.

The speaker can play reasonably loud, but turn it up too high and you’re more likely to get the speaker itself shaking than any room-shaking bass.

The Echo is perfectly listen able, but for more discerning listeners, you can get a whole lot more detail from some of the alternatives in the market.

Of course, the Echo is much more than just a wireless speaker. If you simply want a Bluetooth speaker to listen to music, you should look for alternatives.

But by adding voice control to the equation, and bringing some futuristic functionality into play, the Echo is a satisfyingly clever little speaker.

The Echo demonstrates that Alexa is a slick, useful voice assistant, and one that should improve over time.

And while Alexa isn’t the only one – Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant spring to mind – it’s currently most likely to make a real impact throughout your home, and not just on your phone.

The more compatible apps, and devices you own, the more you will get out of the Echo. So we look forward to seeing more Audio Visual brands offering Alexa support.

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The Rise of the Electric Auto, Tesla overtakes Ford by market capitalisation.

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 Tesla has overtaken Ford to become the second-largest US car maker by market capitalisation, behind General Motors.

 The electric car maker’s stock has surged 7.4% to an all-time high after reporting better than expected first quarter sales.

 At the close of trading, Tesla had a market value of $49 billion dollars, compared with Ford’s value of $46 billion.

 Ford’s sales have fallen behind amid concerns about the ability of the US market to keep growing.

 Elon Musk has seen Tesla take the electric car to new heights in terms of desirability, with the introduction of the model 3. 

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The new Jaguar I-Pace revealed, a first with Smartechnologies

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  • First picture of the Jaguar I-Pace being road-readied on route around Stratford
  • The Tesla-rivalling I-Pace is out on test ahead of its launch next year 
  • The £60,000 ‘supercar inspired’ SUV, will be put on sale next year
  • Jaguar promises a range of 310 mile and Zero to 62 mph in less than 4 seconds
  • More spacious than the current F-Pace 4×4, despite being smaller.

 

Jaguar is powering ahead with preparations for the launch of its first ever electric car the I-Pace next year. 

So much so, that a preview car has already been pictured driving on London’s roads without its disguise and long before the production model is officially unveiled.

Jaguar’s I-Pace is an all-electric SUV that’s due to go on sale in 2018, priced from around £60,000 and aimed at challenging Tesla and others.

And the I-Pace could come with Tesla-rivalling performance too. It will be powered by a pair of electric motors; one at each axle delivering 396 bhp and a 0 to 62 mph time of less than four seconds. Range is claimed to be around 310 miles.

The iconic British car manufacturer says its pictures show the I-Pace hitting the streets for the first time, using a route around Olympic Park in Stratford, East London.

And if it can repeat even some of the success of Jaguar’s first SUV, the F-Pace, then the Coventry-based car maker could be on to a winner. Jaguar’s figures show strong sales for the F-Pace since launch and its sales people have told us that it’s the vehicle that’s pulling new 17-plate buyers into the showrooms.

The I-Pace concept vehicle in this current state of development was shown in Europe for the first time last week at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show. 

At 4.6 metres long and 1.9 metres wide, the overall footprint is smaller than the F-Pace and also Tesla’s Model X electric SUV.

However, because there’s no engine up front, Jaguar has taken advantage by extending the cabin – and front wheels – further forward making it more spacious inside than the compact dimensions suggest. 

That electrified thrust won’t be available in just short bursts, Jaguar promises. It says the 90 kWh lithium ion batteries can cover 310 miles on a full charge, however that’s when driving the European test cycle for measuring emissions and fuel economy – a fairly unrealistic interpretation of real world driving that certainly doesn’t include four second sprints to 62 mph. Expect a shorter range in reality.

That said, charging the I-Pace shouldn’t take long – Jaguar says it will reach 80 per cent charge in 90 minutes using a 50kW DC charger. 

With the SUV sector continuing to grow in the UK, Jaguar is entering the best market space to launch an all-electric model. The looks will certainly make it appealing, though we’ll have to wait for the production car to arrive if the range meets expectations, Smartech believes Jaguar is onto a winner.

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Smartechnologies review the Mi Band 2 Fitness Tracker by Xiaomi

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The Xiaomi Mi Band 2 is probably one of the best value Fitness Trackers around today. With a 1.0668cm OLED display it lets you monitor your steps and pulse as well as the time, without you ever having to pick up your phone.

With a class leading 20 days use between charges from a 70 mAh battery, Xiaomi’s lack of a battery indicator on the screen really doesn’t matter.  The only real down side here is the fact the Mi Band 2 still uses a proprietary cable for recharging, so you’ll need to be careful not to misplace it.

In order to scroll through options the Xiaomi has a button. This anodised button lies flush with the display, and is activated with a simple touch rather than a press. It’s large in comparison to the tracker itself, but we don’t think that detracts from the overall design which looks cool. In fact, we think the Mi Band 2 looks much more like a premium device than many of the others in its price range

While you might pay more than the RRP due to the fact Xiaomi products are not officially sold in the UK, you can pick up the Mi Band 2 from just £29.99. That’s from smartechnologies which supplied our Mi Band 2 for appraisal. Okay, so the price is a little more than the original Mi Band which, costs around £21. But even at this price the Mi Band 2 offers fantastic value for money. More so when you consider that Xiaomi has within this budget managed to add an OLED screen.

As a Fitness Tracker the Mi Band 2 retains the optical heart-rate scanner and can also track your sleep quality and duration. While we can’t vouch for the quality of our sleep, its timings do seem to be very much in line with when we think we dropped off to sleep or indeed woke up.

The Mi Band 2 remains an incredibly lightweight Fitness Tracker. The removable tracker itself weighs just 7g and comes with a 155- to 210mm adjustable hypo-allergenic band. As before, the entire thing is waterproof (rated IP67), and lifting it to your face (as you would a watch) returns a status update.

The Mi Band 2 has introduced a new polycarbonate band which is a lot tougher than those supplied on its predecessor. Even if you have issues, it’s relatively easy to get hold of spare bands, and these come in various colours should you not fancy the standard black version!    Mi says it has upgraded the pedometer algorithm for the Mi Band 2, and much to our delight it has also tweaked the accompanying Mi Fit app. Not before time.

As before Mi Fit syncs data with the band as soon as you launch the app. It offers the usual step-, sleep-, pulse-, distance and calories burned counters, and you can track your activity, sleep and heart-rate by day, week or month. The Mi Band 2 also lets you set alarms, idle alerts and have the Mi Band 2 warn you of incoming calls and texts by gently vibrating on your arm.

With the Mi Band 2 (as with the original 1S) you can also add app notifications: you can choose up to five apps for which the Xiaomi will vibrate to alert you to new notifications. Do bear in mind, though, that the more you use this feature the lower the battery life will be.

Setting up app notifications isn’t easy since there is no order to the list of apps you can choose, and Mi Fit lists every service running, but you do this once.  Of more concern is the fact Xiaomi hasn’t better utilised the new screen for alerts. We accept that the display is too small for printing even just the subject line of a notification, but we’d like to see the icon of the app the notification relates to rather than the word ‘app’ when a notification is received.

The one place the Mi Band 2 continues to fall down unfortunately, is third-party app integration – particularly within the UK. Though it does now tie in with Google Fit. One of the most attractive aspects of Fitbits and other popular fitness Trackers is their ability to allow you to compete with friends when desired.

You can, of course, set your own activity and weight goals using Mi Fit, and by default you’ll get notifications when you achieve these each day. In Summary this is a cracking piece of kit and scores highly in terms of value for money.

 

You can find the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 at Smartechnologies priced at £29.99