As the weather warms up in the Northern Hemisphere, you might finally be in the market for a fitness tracker to quantify all the walking and running you hope to accomplish in the coming months. But which one to buy? There are so many options to choose from, and Apple still has yet to announce their seemingly incomparable, but fanciful iWatch! In an increasingly crowded fitness wearables market, San Francisco based Basis has a couple reasons why their band should be on your wrist this summer. First, their product goes beyond most competitors on the market by incorporating additional sensors that monitor your heart rate, skin temperature, and perspiration. Second, they were recently acquired by Intel, which will hopefully give the company more resources for future development and more clout being part of a tech giant.
While it’s too early to say whether Intel has had a significant impact on Basis as a company, they were kind enough to send us their Carbon Steel Edition band to consider. We’ve spent the past few weeks with it on our wrist as it fashionably counted our steps, as well as our sleep and our stress levels. But do extra sensors make this advanced fitness wearable the best pick for the summer? Read on to find out…
Design and Hardware
Compared to other fitness trackers on the market, the Basis band won’t take first place in the size category. Clocking in at 1.42 inches in width, 1.06 inches in height, and 1.05 oz in weight, it’s fairly hefty for even a plain old sports watch. However, Basis did a great job at designing the band to be stylish to wear. The chrome accents that complement the black glossy polyurethane face and the silicone strap make it something we’d be comfortable wearing to a more formal affair. We liked the four stainless steel “rivets” on the face of the band, and we liked them even more when we discovered that they were actually touch-sensitive pins that are used to cycle through the various screens of information that can be displayed.
Flip the band over and you get a view of the band’s cool, high-tech side. In the middle of its underbelly is a green light used to sense your pulse rate. Surrounding the light are six stainless steel electrodes that touch your skin to measure temperature and perspiration.
We were less than thrilled with the display, however. Having just come off of wearing the OLED illuminated FItbit Force on one wrist and the high-contrast, E-Ink Pebble smartwatch on the other, the Basis band’s LCD display seemed dated in comparison. The glossy face reflects a lot of glare, and the low-contrast LCD is just plain difficult to see. The screen can be backlit by pressing one of the four buttons on the face or by moving your wrist, but the backlight really doesn’t make the display any more readable, and there’s a significant delay in the automatic backlight turning on in comparison to the Pebble’s similar automatic backlight.
We were also a little disappointed by the battery life. We understand that the constantly running heart rate LED and other additional sensors require considerably more power than other devices, but after using a Fitbit that would be plugged in once a week at the most, charging the Basis band every few days seemed like a step backward.
Finally, we were a bit puzzled by the prominent size and position of the lesser used physical button of the right side of the band that is used for syncing and resetting the band. For a number of our friends that we showed the band to, it was their first instinct to press this button to see what information was displayed, only to find out they had caused the band to try and sync itself.
So how did the Basis band with its additional features work out for us? For starters, the heart rate sensor was kind of a mixed bag. It worked well at rest, but was not meant to be used during exercise, which was kind of when we were most curious about our heart rate. Checking our heart rate during a gym session would give anywhere between 110-150 bpm when our chest strap was measuring a consistent 130 bpm. Also, the automatic heart rate feature was hit or miss: there were a number of days where our resting heart rate was completely missing from our daily activity reports. The perspiration and skin temperature sensors seemed to work well, however; a look at an activity report following a gym workout showed a corresponding increase as we upped our workout intensity.
Step counting was as on par with most of the other fitness trackers we’ve tested, which all varied by 1000 steps or so. However, with fitness trackers like the Basis band, it’s probably most helpful to use this number (as well as your skin temperature and perspiration measurements) more as a baseline for establishing your goals and comparing your performance day to day.
The sleep analysis feature had recently been added when we received our Basis band, and we were excited to try it out. Unlike some of the other fitness trackers with sleep analysis features, the Basis band doesn’t require you to push any buttons to enter a sleep mode. It actually uses the heart rate sensor together with the accelerometer to determine if you’re asleep and how deep into sleep that you are. This means there’s no need to remember to activate sleep mode before you turn in for the night, and you won’t be able to cheat by taking off the band and leaving it on your nightstand. The sleep analysis reports are some of the best we’ve seen and show when you were in light, deep, and REM sleep. If only the Basis band was a little more comfortable to wear to sleep…
Syncing the Basis band was easy; you either plug the band into the proprietary combination syncing and charging cable, or sync over Bluetooth to your iOS or Android device. We loaded the iOS Basis app on our phone, and while syncing was straightforward, it took over a minute and a half to finish the process.
Once our data was off the band and on our Basis profile, that’s when things got really interesting. For those of you who are goal-oriented, Basis uses tasks called “habits”, such as wearing the band for a certain number of hours each day, getting up and taking a brief walk every hour, or waking up at a consistent time every morning. By fulfilling the requirements for each habit, you gain points that can be used to add a new habit. The habits available are a little limited, but each habit is customizable and gives you a pretty detailed summary about how close you were to reaching your daily goal.
If you enjoy reading charts and graphs, you’ll love the Activity Details and Patterns reports the Basis generates. On a single graph you can view all the data that the Basis band receives for each day. It can show, down to the minute, when you’re doing exercise, what your heart rate, skin temperature, and perspiration are measuring, as well as your estimated caloric expenditure. Out of all the fitness trackers we’ve tested, Basis certainly gives you the most comprehensive data.
- The device does more than count steps with a built-in heart rate and skin temperature/perspiration sensors
- Attractive design and a wristband that isn’t frustrating to put on!
- Web and mobile apps give you the most detailed reports that we’ve seen in a fitness tracker
- Sleep analysis feature is completely automatic
- The device itself is bulkier than most wearables currently out
- Mediocre battery life
- Low-res display is difficult to read
- Heart rate sensors only work when you’re not exercising
Conclusion: The Basis band is touted as the “world’s most advanced health tracker”. That’s certainly true in its features and biometrics, but some of its shortcomings as well as its $199 price tag would make us want to wait and see how other companies try and catch up in the following months. Summer doesn’t wait though, so the Basis may be the best option for you this season.
More information: Basis website…