Misfit Ray review: Fitness trackers never looked so good

Price when reviewed

Search for a fitness tracker that’s fashionable, stylish, accurate and truly unisex, and you’ll land on the Misfit Ray. Misfit, recently acquired by Fossil Group, has been at the head of the fitness-tracker pack in terms of design ever since its first product, the Misfit Shine, was released in 2013. The Ray is the first product in the Misfit line to break away from the signature coin shape.

A tiny metal cylinder, in either black or rose gold, secures to your choice of a strap or chain to create a rather stunning piece of jewellery for women and men alike. It’s an elegant and sexy conversation starter. I also love that it vibrates and flashes for smartphone notifications.

The Misfit Ray uses the same app as the other Misfit devices, and it syncs just as reliably. The data is accurate. It’s waterproof, not just splash-resistant, and can track swimming. As a bonus, it even works as a remote control for smart lightbulbs and your smartphone. And at $100, it won’t break the bank. Affordable, gorgeous, and versatile – what’s not to like?

The Ray’s one big shortcoming is that it has no display. It won’t replace your timepiece, and you need to look at your phone to see activity stats. Don’t mistake it for a runner’s watch or heart-rate monitor, either. The Ray is a much simpler device, and it shows in the price. If you don’t mind relying on the mobile app, the Ray is an excellent mid-priced device, and easily the best-looking fitness tracker on the market.

Misfit Ray review: What’s In The Box?

When you buy a Misfit Ray, you have a few options. The anodised aluminum body comes in black or rose gold. The latter, which I chose, is stunning, resembling brushed copper. You also have a choice of a strap – either a black silicone one, which you’ll want if you swim, or a leather one, which bumps up the price to $120. If you go for leather, you’ll get black on black, or rose gold on grey.Misfit Ray in hand

The bands are swappable, but as with most watch straps, removing and installing them from spring-loaded pins takes some effort – these aren’t cheap bands that snap on and off. Misfit will have more wristbands and necklace chain options soon.

You won’t find a charging cable in the box because the Ray doesn’t need one. It runs on three 393 button cell batteries, which are included and should last about six months. Nimble fingers are required for setup. The batteries are tiny, and it takes patience to drop them right side up into the 38mm cylinder with a 12mm diameter. The payoff, however, is that Ray is featherlight. The device itself weighs just 8g.

Misfit Ray review: Setup and use

You need either a compatible iOS or Android device for setup and to use the Ray at all. I initially dropped the batteries into my Ray, logged in to my Misfit account, and connected the device via Bluetooth. Only, I couldn’t tell whether it was successful. Later I realised that the Ray doesn’t start tracking activity until you select how you wear it in the app. Once I chose “wrist”, everything else was a breeze.Misfit Ray app setup

As mentioned, the Misfit Ray doesn’t have a proper display, so it won’t show you at a glance how many steps you’ve taken or calories you’ve burned, much less the time, the way the Fitbit Alta and Blaze do. Instead, it relies on a single indicator light and vibration. When you tap the Ray, a light flashes different colours to tell you whether you are under 25% of your goal (red), between 25% and 50% (red then orange), between 50% and 75% (red, orange, green), and so forth. Although I’ve been teaching myself these color codes, I find them more confusing than useful. I’d rather look at the app and see how much of a 360-degree dial is filled in.

There are idle alerts for when you’ve been sitting too long, and silent alarm options as well. They’re slightly less confusing because they use vibration in addition to flashing colors. Plus, if the band starts vibrating and you’ve been at your desk for the last hour, it’s probably the idle alert. You can customise the idle alert to be longer or shorter than an hour if you like.

Push notifications from iOS and Android devices make use of the vibration feature as well. The band buzzes and an indicator light flashes whenever you get a call, text message or any other kind of notification. You can’t reply from the Ray the way you can with smartwatches, but it’s still an excellent feature. I love that I never miss a ringing phone, even if the phone is on silent or buried in my bag. Vibrations on the skin are hard to miss.Misfit Ray next to watch

Misfit Ray review: Activity tracking and software

The Misfit Ray tracks a wide range of activity, although it focuses more on overall activity than steps per se. When you sync the Ray to the mobile app, you’ll see a score based on how active you’ve been. The original Nike FuelBand tried something similar, hubristically I might add. Nike wanted to create a new unit of measure for activity, the same way Weight Watchers wanted to replace calories with “points”. Needless to say, people still count calories, and no-one has any idea what the hell a NikeFuel point is.Misfit Ray app activity tracking

Thankfully, with Misfit’s app, you can still see your raw step count and ignore the points if you want. The app also does a fantastic job of overlaying multiple data points on a line graph so that you can easily spot correlations. For example, I can clearly see that when I get less activity in a day, I tend to get less sleep that night, too. If you track your weight in the app, it will also appear on the graph. It’s one of the most insightful views you’ll find in any activity-tracking app.

Based on my testing, the sleep assessments were accurate and aligned with data captured by my Garmin Vivoactive, which I wore simultaneously. In fact, the Misfit Ray was slightly more accurate at guessing my waking times. When I woke up but stayed in bed for an extra few minutes, the Ray marked my waking time appropriately, where the Vivoactive marked it from the time I actually left bed. The Misfit Ray analyses sleep data for light and deep periods, which is very helpful if you believe you slept enough hours but don’t feel well rested the next day. You can view your cycles of light and deep sleep and see the total cumulative hours and minutes for each type.Misfit Ray app graphs

When the Ray notices a burst of activity, it records for how long you were more active than normal and lets you classify exactly what activity you were doing later. For example, after a treadmill run, the Misfit app noted I had been doing “vigorous activity” for 30 minutes. I was able to reclassify it as running. And Misfit gives you plenty of options, including swimming. The Ray is water-resistant to 50m, which means you can swim, shower and surf while wearing it. Just be sure to rinse it in fresh water after a dip in the pool.

Note that the Ray is not a runner’s watch. It doesn’t have a timer or GPS. You won’t see your pace or distance, either. So while it does technically track running, it only does so in the sense that it notices when you were moving more vigorously for however many minutes. Only later can you mark that activity as running. If you want a tracker that also works as a runner’s watch, the Fitbit Blaze, Garmin Vivoactive and Garmin Vivoactive HR are all better options.Misfit Ray app setting up alerts

Misfit Ray review: Verdict

One bonus feature is a second companion app, Misfit Link. This lets you turn the Misfit Ray into a remote control for the Misfit Bolt lightbulb or your phone for, say, taking selfies or controlling music. Even if you don’t own the Bolt, the options are still worth exploring. I set it up so a triple-tap on the Ray triggers a phone ring – handy if you’ve lost your phone in the house somewhere.

I’m still head over heels about the look of the Misfit Ray. It’s easily the most beautiful tracker that’s come out in 2016. It’s also completely affordable. If you see it as a moderately priced, stylish, waterproof fitness and sleep tracker with an excellent app, you’ll be pleased as punch.

If you were hoping it would do more, such as record your heart rate or use GPS to track outdoor activity, you’re in the wrong category of fitness trackers – you’ll need to spend about twice as much to get something worthwhile.

READ NEXT: Want to know which smartwatches are best? Check out our favourites for 2016

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