My wife and I recently got fitness trackers to help us get into better shape. I went with the $18 Mi band (affiliate link) while my wife bought the $130 Fitbit Charge HR. (affiliate link) In this review, we look at which is a better deal.
Your probably familiar with the Fitbit and know several people who wear one. The Mi Band you might not have heard of. It is a cheap Chinese knockoff of the Fitbit made by the Xiaomi cell phone company that is apparently well known in China.
I had heard good things about the Mi Band, but had bad luck with cheap Chinese knockoffs before. I decided I needed to give the Mi Band a try to see if it really is a cheap alternative to much more expensive fitness trackers.
The Fitbit is a better device, let’s just get that out of the way right now. Is it $112 better? That is a more interesting question, let’s take a look.
What they do
Both devices are worn around your wrist like a watch or a bracelet. They count your steps to tell you how far you have walked today to let you know how much exercise you have gotten. Then they sync all that information to your smartphone over bluetooth so you can track your activity.
They do a couple other things, too. They track your sleep to let you know how many hours of sleep you have gotten and the quality of that sleep. Both devices have an alarm function that wakes you up by vibrating on your wrist. They also both have a setting where they can silently alert you that your smart phone is receiving a call by vibrating on your wrist.
With the Mi Band, that is pretty much all you get. It can also take your heart rate through the app on your smartphone.
Here is a screenshot of the Mi fit app. There are a couple of different views, but this is pretty much all the information it gives you. How many steps you walked and how many you ran. Apparently I don’t run fast enough, because my jogging doesn’t even register as running all the time.
This morning I worked hard for a couple hours in the yard. After a couple hours digging, pruning, pulling weeds, and sawing I was really tired. I felt like I got quite a workout, but that really didn’t register on my Mi Band. Since all the Mi Band measures is steps, it just shows I took a short walk over a 2 hour period. If your primary exercise is running and walking, the Mi Band is great. If you do a lot of weight lifting or other activities then all that stuff probably won’t register very well.
Fitbit Charge HR
You can see from this screenshot of the Fitbit app that it records quite a bit more information. The Fitbit not only works as a pedometer, but it also works by taking your heart rate throughout the day. By doing this, it is able to see how active you are and get a more accurate count of your calories.
On the day this screenshot was taken, but wife not only walked 8,000 steps, she also did a dance video. Even though the dance video didn’t register a huge number of steps, the Fitbit recorded that my wife burned over 3,000 calories for the day.
Advantage: Fitbit. If you mostly just run and walk, the Mi Band is fine. If you do a bunch of other exercises also then the Fitbit will more accurately track them for you.
The Mi Band basically has no display. There are 3 LED lights that are supposed to indicate what percentage of your daily goal you have achieved, but for all intents and purposes they are non functional. The strange thing is there is no way to get them to light up. Over the 2 months I have been wearing the Mi Band it has randomly lighten up about 3 times. Basically useless.
If you want to know how many steps you have taken you need to check the app on your smart phone. This isn’t a big problem, because checking the app is easy to do, but why would Xiaomi even bother putting the lights on the device if they don’t really do anything?
Fitbit Charge HR
The display is another area where the Fitbit has a big advantage over the cheap Chinese knockoff. The Fitbit Charge HR functions like a watch with a display that tells you the time, steps, heart rate, distance walked, calories burned, and flights of stairs you have gone up and down.
The better display of the Fitbit comes at a price and that price is battery life. My Mi Band goes about a month before it needs to be charged again.
My wife’s fitbit needs to be charged every 3-4 days. When my wife first got her Fitbit it needed to be charged almost every day until my wife figured out that if she left the bluetooth on her phone on all the time that her Fitbit was constantly synching and zapping her battery life. She found out if she only turns her bluetooth on when needed the device lasts much longer.
Advantage: Mi Band
Both devices seem to be reasonably accurate. I haven’t counted all the steps I take in a day to see just how accurate it is, but when my wife and I walk a mile both devices register about a mile walked.
My wife was annoyed when she found out the devices only work if you swing your arms while you walk. If she is pushing a stroller or a shopping cart then the steps don’t count. The workaround is to put the fitness tracker on your ankle if you are going to be walking while pushing something.
Fitbit Charge HR
The Fitbit Charge HR an be found for under $150. At the time this article was written, it is available for $130 on Amazon. (affiliate link).
Did I pay $130? Of course not. Fitness trackers fall under the category of fitness equipment, and for every person wanting to buy fitness equipment there is another person giving up on that same piece of equipment. Because there are so many people giving up a used Fitbit isn’t too hard to find on Craigslist if you are willing to be patient.
The Mi Band is only $18 on Amazon (affiliate link) at the time this article was written. I’ll add a couple notes to that. If you look at the ratings on Amazon you will see a lot of low ratings. If you look a little closer, all of these low ratings are from people complaining that they didn’t get a genuine Xiaomi Mi Band, but they got a knockoff. A knockoff of the knockoff.
To combat this, I bought from the Xiaomi professional store on Amazon(from the link above) to make sure I got the real knockoff and not the knockoff of the knockoff. I wasn’t worried too much about getting a fake Mi Band because I know Amazon has a great return policy in case I got cheated. You can tell if you get fake Mi Band because the instructions won’t ask you to download the Xiaomi Mi Fit app, but some other app from another company.
If your a little more adventurous than me you can find a Mi Band for an even cheaper price from a Chinese website such as aliexpress.com or gearbest.com. One major problem with these Chinese sites is even though you save a little money it may take around 6 weeks to arrive.
While I played it safe on the Mi Band and ordered from Amazon, I did buy a couple extra bands in different colors from aliexpress at a cost of about $0.70 per band. If you like different colors besides the basic black band, the metal tracker in the Mi Band can easily be pulled out of the black bracelet it comes with and inserted into another one. With the Fitbit, you are stuck with the color you bought.
One more note. I bought my Mi Band in January. Huge mistake. They jacked the price up in January up to $30 to take advantage of all the people making New Years resolutions. Grrrrrr. The lesson here is never buy fitness equipment in January.
Advantage: Mi Band
So which is the better deal?
Occasionally in life the old saying “you get what you pay for” turns out to be correct and this is one of those times. The Fitbit does a lot more stuff the Mi Band just doesn’t do. The Fitbit is a better device, but is it $100 better? For my money, the Mi Band is good enough. It does a great job of telling me how much exercise I have gotten in a day, and that is all I really need it to do.