Hands-on review: CES 2016: UA Band

UA Band

In the past few years, just about every major tech company has entered the wearables sector in some form. Except for HTC, that is. When we finally got a peek of the HTC Grip at last year’s Mobile World Congress, we liked what we saw, but it quickly disappeared. Now, it’s back, though not without a few changes.

Made in a collaboration between HTC, smartphone juggernaut and co-creator of the upcoming Vive VR headset, and Under Armour, one of the biggest names in performance sporting goods, the UA Band has your well-being in focus. That’s the claim of all wearables, but this one’s companion app, called UA Record, could help it to achieve this lofty goal.

But is the $180 UA Band the fitness tracker for you? Read on for our early impressions and stay tuned for the full review in a few weeks.

UA Band

Design

The UA Band isn’t a reimagining of the modern wearable. Still, once wrapped around your wrist, it feels rather refined and unobtrusive. Its design is lightweight and seamless, perfect for a wearable that gets better the more you wear it.

Looking at the UA Band for the first time, you might not guess that it has a screen at all: the rectangular PMOLED screen blends in almost too well with the black body. Giving its red button a press brings the touch-sensitive display to life. The first screen that it displays is the time, but you can swipe to the left or right to check out your daily step counter, current heart rate, track your sleep or to log some exercise. The touch controls baked into the UA Band are intuitive and the transition animation between functions is smooth.

UA Band

Putting the UA Band on is easy. Just wrap it around your wrist and feed the excess slack of the strap through the loop, then secure it to whichever holes feel the most comfortable. Inside the UA Healthbox, there’s an additional wrist strap for smaller wrist sizes. We’re not sure yet if it will be included with the Band as a standalone product.

On the Band’s underside, the smooth texture that’s found on its top is swapped out for a tougher plastic in a shade of bold red. This side, which hugs your wrist when the Band is on, is where the heart rate sensor and battery charging port are located.

UA Band

The Band includes a proprietary charger which connects via USB. Latching said charger to the UA Band requires a bit of practice and finesse, but once it’s secure, its magnetic clasp is tough enough to let it dangle while charging.

Performance

The UA Band offers a user-friendly experience, even for those who are new to wearables. From the initial setup to everyday operation, getting the most out of the band and app doesn’t require a huge time commitment. Once you input your height and weight into the UA Record app and get your phone synced up with the Band, there isn’t much more to fiddle with.

UA Band

As mentioned, each of the features that you can swipe between on the wearable mirrors what you’ll find in the app. But, whereas the Band only shows the current day’s metrics, the UA Record app contains more in-depth statistics to let you look at, say a week, or a month’s worth of data at a glance. It tracks the amount of steps you take with the UA Band. It works just the same for your sleep patterns and heart rate trends. After a few days of recording your stats, it’s fun to look back and see the ways in which you can improve.

Early verdict

Stay tuned for global pricing and availability of the UA Band. We’ll have in-depth tests of the UA Band’s battery and software in our final review later in the month. We’ll also be diving into more detail on how it stacks up against the competition in terms of its feature-set and device compatibility. But, even with an early look at the UA Band, HTC’s inaugural splash onto the wearable scene is off to a good start with a solid design and reliable app performance. We’ve contacted HTC and UA in regards to global pricing and availability.

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