Microsoft Band 2 review: It’s good, but it’s not the one

Price when reviewed

Microsoft Band 2: Battery life

Microsoft claims around two days of battery life for the Band 2 – exactly the same as the previous version – but it makes the proviso that “advanced functionality like GPS use will impact battery performance”. This is true: my experience of the original Band was that GPS-tracking and heart rate monitoring absolutely destroy the battery, and the Microsoft Band 2 is no different.

Two hours of commuting on the bike (one hour in the morning, one in the evening) hammered the battery from around 90% to 50%, which left me having to charge the Band 2 at the end of the first day. By comparison, the Garmin Vivoactive uses around 10% of its battery life per hour with a wireless ANT+ heart rate strap attached.

I seized the chance to take the Band 2 out for a chilly (read: absolutely bloody freezing) run with the cycle club, and – just as I suspected – it couldn’t last the course. I left the house with 95% on the dial, and it breathed its last after 3 hours 35 minutes and 58 seconds – precisely 75.5km into a 94km ride. The Garmin Vivoactive on my other wrist lasted the entire ride with battery to spare: it dropped from 58% to 13% over the four and a half hours.

Frankly, I was hoping for more from the Band 2. It’s possible that I might be able to tease out a little more longevity by changing the screen brightness from automatic to low, turning off Bluetooth completely, or even – perish the thought – disabling the heart rate monitoring, but it’s never going to be my go-to device. And I suspect the same goes for any moderately keen cyclists – circa 4 hours of GPS and heart-rate tracking is, to put it kindly, below par. 

Microsoft Band 2: Verdict

Microsoft has made some important improvements with the Band 2. It’s much, much more comfortable – so much so that I’ve been wearing this version all day, every day without noticing it. It does still get caught on shirt sleeves, far more so than the Garmin Vivoactive, but the Band 2 is now comfy enough to strap on and forget.

The inaccurate heart-rate data rules it out as a reliable training partner for me

For me, however, the Band 2 hasn’t addressed some its biggest flaws. Battery life still isn’t long enough for long-distance or all-day cycle rides, and the inaccurate heart-rate data rules it out as a reliable training partner for me. If I can’t rely on the Band 2 to tell me exactly how hard I’m pushing myself, it’s simply no use at all. I’d like to think Microsoft will rectify this with software updates, but given that this flaw hasn’t been fixed on the first Band, I don’t hold out much hope. 

What would I buy right now? Probably the Garmin Vivoactive, and you can read why in my full review. For my needs, there is no perfect device, but now that the Vivoactive is available for around £130 it’s a much more appealing package. 

I suspect, though, that I’m not the target market for the Microsoft Band 2, so that’s why I passed the Band 2 to one of my colleagues, Alan Martin, who’s more of a runner and footballer than long-distance cycling fan. For him, and many others, the Band 2 may still strike a decent balance of features, design, fit and price – and they may not be quite as picky about the data side of things. Head on over to the following page to get a feel for what Alan thought about the Band 2.

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