Mi Band 3: Don’t Buy a Fitbit Until You’ve Seen This
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Our verdict of the Mi Band 3:
The finest budget fitness tracker around. Long battery life, waterproof, and phone notifications make this a bargain for those with basic fitness tracking needs.
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The Xiaomi Mi Band is proof that you can get a sleek fitness tracker with amazing battery life and some advanced smart features for under $50. The Mi Band 3 doesn’t break the formula, offering some significant upgrades on the previous model, and keeping it firmly as our favorite budget fitness tracker.

Read on to find out about the Xiaomi Mi Band 3, and if you can’t wait, use the coupon code makeuseof2 to get the Mi Band 3 now for just $30.99!

Design and Specs

  • 0.78″ PMOLED capacitive touchscreen
  • Continuous heart rate sensor
  • IP67 rated, waterproof to 50m
  • Black silicone band (adjustable from 155-216mm), and proprietary USB charging cable included
  • Total weight: 20g, including the standard band
  • $34.99 from GeekBuying.com

Mi Band 3: Don't Buy a Fitbit Until You've Seen This mi band 3 contents 670x377

Mi Band 3 vs Mi Band 2

The 0.78 inch PMOLED screen is quite a big upgrade from the 0.42 inch LED one on the Mi Band 2. As well as obviously being larger and able to display more information at once (more on that later), it’s a little more visible outdoors, though you’ll still need to squint or shade the device to view in the brightest of summer’s days.

Mi Band 3: Don't Buy a Fitbit Until You've Seen This mi band 3 comparison 670x486

The battery has been increased from 70 to 110 mAh, and Xiaomi claim that leads to 20 days battery life. That’s a reasonable estimate, but only if you don’t have constant notifications or very frequent heart rate monitoring. With heart rate measurements being taken every 10 minutes, I was getting through about 5% per day. When I enabled notifications for nearly everything (and that’s a lot of emails), it ate through closer to 10% per day. That’s still a solid week, even with the most energy consuming things enabled. 20 days estimate for most people is definitely possible.

Mi Band 3: Don't Buy a Fitbit Until You've Seen This mi band 3 edge design 670x377

The device itself is ever so slightly bigger to accommodate these changes. Place them side by side and you probably wouldn’t notice. However, it’s different enough that you’ll need to buy a new band, as it won’t fit in the old ones.

The physical button of the Mi Band 2 has been replaced by the fully capacitive screen. This leads to one very welcome new feature: IP67 waterproof rating, up to 50m. You can shower, swim, or hangout poolside without worry.

Mi Band 3: Don't Buy a Fitbit Until You've Seen This mi band 3 waterproof 670x422

Setup

UPDATED: Shortly after this review was scheduled, the English language firmware update was made available. The device is now fully in English, but if you buy the Original Version linked in this review, it will arrive in Chinese packaging, and will need a firmware update before transforming into English.

That said, it didn’t really matter being in Chinese. The Mi fit app is completely in English, and the Mi Band device itself is easy to understand with simple iconography.

Mi Band 3: Don't Buy a Fitbit Until You've Seen This mi band 3 connect to phone 670x377
If it wasn’t obvious, this means “connect to your phone”. Also of note: the icongraphy for “phone” shows a notch in the top and no physical buttons. A sign of things to come, perhaps?

The only daunting part of setting a device up in Chinese was the initial welcome message when we turned the device on. It translates as “connect to the app”, which means download the Mi Fit app, logging in or registering an account, then adding a device. However, even after adding our Mi Band to the app, another message asked us to “open the app and update”. Even with the aid of my Chinese speaking wife, we weren’t sure precisely what that meant given that the app was already open. It turns out we needed to force close the app, and open it again. This triggered the required firmware update. From then, all the options are set using the (English) Mi Fit app.

Mi Band 3: Don't Buy a Fitbit Until You've Seen This mi band 3 firmware updating 670x377
In the middle of a firmware update

Note: there’s also a NFC version available, which costs twice as much. Don’t buy that. It’ll only work within China using Mi Pay accounts, not Apple or Google Pay. In the US or UK, the NFC likely won’t function at all.

Navigating the Mi Band

Even in Chinese, navigating the Mi Band menu structure is really simple thanks to some obvious icongraphy, with one exception, which we’ll talk about in a moment. Here’s an overview of what you’ll find:

  • Main screen: time and date, as well as steps (if configured to show this). The Chinese characters display day of the week.
  • Status screens: steps, distance travelled, calories burned.
  • Heart rate tracking: manually initiate a reading by holding down the button.
  • Weather: today, tomorrow, and the day after. This shows high/low temperatures, and a summary icon for rain/sun etc.
  • Utilities: stopwatch, find my phone (looks like a phone with a magnifying glass), change watchface (a t-shirt, for some unimaginable reason), and model/version info.
  • Notifications: up to 5 stored which you can scroll left and right to view.

Scroll up and down to cycle through the first level screens. If the screen has more information, you can scroll left and right to access the other pages. Otherwise, selections are performed by holding down on the capacitive indent button at the bottom of the screen.

To be honest, it’s all rather obvious as long as you’re not the sort of person who will panic at the sight of a foreign language, particular one that consists largely of squiggles. The only thing I wondered about was the t-shirt icon. Clicking through to that gives you a choice of three basic “watch faces”, only one of which includes step count summary. Hold down on the button again to make your selection.

Mi Band 3: Don't Buy a Fitbit Until You've Seen This mi band 3 watchface 670x492

Fitness Tracking

Your steps and a basic classification of activity (light walking, standing, light activity) will be automatically recorded, but for any other kind of specified activity, you’ll need to use the app to initiate the session. The default activities are:

  • Outdoor running
  • Treadmill running
  • Cycling
  • Walking

All of those will record your route using the GPS in your phone (except for treadmill running); continuous heart rate monitoring (with a configurable alarm for maximum heart rate); and will give period updates through your phone’s speaker on how fast you were, how long the previous kilometer took, and how far you’ve travelled in total. Curiously for a device that’s waterproof, swimming is not one of the defaults.

A range of other activities can also be tagged, but for some reason these are accessed through your profile tab, in a section called “Behavior Tagging”, rather the standard activity tab. These include things like standing, eating, and having a bath. You can even add a custom activity, like “Wasting time playing Fornite BR”. For most people, this level of granularity is clearly far too much, but those interested in the concept of quantified self The Quantified Self: How To Track Your Life With Your iPhone The Quantified Self: How To Track Your Life With Your iPhone If you track your actions, you will be able to do them better. However, tracking can be tiresome if you don't have the right tools. Let's make it as simple as possible. Read More will find it fascinating to track their entire day.

Heart Rate Monitoring

Using an optical sensor, the Mi Band 3 will automatically track your heart rate during fitness activities and during sleep, but can also be configured for continuous heart rate monitoring at set intervals of 1, 10, or 30 minutes throughout the day. I set mine at 10 minutes to get a complete daily picture of fluctuations, as I assumed optimistically that anything strenuous I did would be for longer than 10 minutes at a time.

Mi Band 3: Don't Buy a Fitbit Until You've Seen This mi band 3 heart rate sensor 670x377

Whether the data is reliable or not is hotly debated. My only point of comparison is a cheap blood pressure monitor, which seemed to line up, but the accuracy of which could also be questioned. I’m not a doctor and I wouldn’t rely on this for serious heart problem monitoring, but the numbers obtained lined up with whatever activity I was doing, and seemed sensible.

On rare occasions, the heart rate sensor can fail. It works better if the band is on tightly, so you’re advised to tightly it up before an activity if that data is important to you. Generally I found it reliable, as you can see from the graphs above, there were only a few times when the sensor just couldn’t get a reading, probably because the band was too loose, or twisted round my arm.

What I drew from the information is that I don’t do nearly enough exercise to get my heartrate really up to aerobic levels or higher. I probably didn’t need a fitness tracker to tell me that though.

Sleep Tracking

Making use of the accelerometer and heart rate sensor, the sleep tracking provides an overview of your total sleep and attempts to classify how much deep sleep you enjoyed. Again, exactly how reliable this data is–particular the sleep classification–is debatable. The sleep and wake times lined up with reality though, and according to Xiaomi, I generally sleep better than 99% of people, which I’d tend to agree with.

Without wearing an EEG at night, the sleep tracking is about as good as you’re going to get from a fitness tracking wrist band.

App Notifications

The larger screen is certainly better at displaying notifications than the Mi Band 2, but it’s still not ideal. You can fit enough Chinese characters on here for a full sentence or two, but English words are less efficient. Slack messages, for example, displayed the fact it’s a Slack message, who it’s from, and the first five to ten words of the message. Email subject lines were cut off half way. You could scroll right to view the rest of it, but if it looks important you’ll probably just take out your phone anyway, which somewhat defeats the point.

Mi Band 3: Don't Buy a Fitbit Until You've Seen This mi band 3 app alert example 1 666x500

That said, I did find eBay notifications useful. My phone gets so many messages that I tend to just ignore the buzzing, but that means I miss the auction end. Looking at the Mi Band was a quick way to filter through notifications, and quickly ignore those that I didn’t care about. Then again: I should probably just set my phone notifications more carefully instead.

You can also enable a break reminder, which will buzz you if you’ve been sat around doing nothing for an hour. Minor feature, but I found it helpful during those long coding sessions.

Finally, you can schedule alarms or events through the Mi Fit app too, but I can’t see any reason to use this instead of your phone’s built-in apps or Google Calendar.

Apple Health Syncing

Like all good fitness trackers, the Mi Band 3 is able to sync data with Apple Health (and Google Health, though we didn’t test on Android). Your data isn’t locked away inside the app, unable to be shared because the device makers want to keep you tied into their system. Yes, I’m looking at you Fitbit.

Steps, sleep, and weight data will be automatically exported once linked. The latter obviously isn’t a feature your Mi Band supports, but you can manually enter weight into the Mi Fit app, or buy some Xiaomi Smart Scales to automate that.

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Curiously, continuous heart rate measurements are not exported to Apple Health, but manually initiated measurement are. There are third party apps that can handle this if you’d like, but you’ll to pay a few dollars extra. I hope this is just a bug that’ll be updated in future, since the app does register itself as a data source to Heart Rate, at least on iOS.

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Should You Buy the Mi Band 3?

For most people, the Xiaomi Mi Band 3 is a fantastic value fitness tracker. It offers some advanced features like app notifications, continuous heart monitoring, sleep tracking, integration with Apple Health, as well as being completely waterproof. And it’ll be at least a week before you need to recharge. That’s an awful lot of bang for your $35. For comparison, the FitBit range starts at $100.

For very active users who think manually initiating an activity is tiresome, you’ll want to look at those more expensive devices Fitbit Versa Review: Fitbit's Best Wearable Yet? Fitbit Versa Review: Fitbit's Best Wearable Yet? Read More that can classify workouts automatically.

We didn’t have a problem with setting up the device in Chinese–you could wait for the international edition, but we don’t think there’s any need to. If you do choose to purchase now, use the coupon code makeuseof2 to get the Mi Band 3 for $30.99.

Alternatively, enter our competition below to win a Mi Band 3!

 

Explore more about: Fitbit, Fitness, MakeUseOf Giveaway, Smartwatch, Xiaomi.

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  1. Cyborg Basumatary
    September 30, 2018 at 7:03 am

    What about without phone features?
    I mean, I'm sure that Mi phones can't connect to two device at the same time. I carry a Bluetooth headphone every time so not possible to stay connect to this band 3.
    Do you want to say something about that?

    • James Bruce
      September 30, 2018 at 8:26 am

      You can connect to multiple Bluetooth devices, just not multiple audio output devices.

      • Cyborg Basumatary
        September 30, 2018 at 9:51 am

        Thanks a lot. It's helps. I was about to cancel my order about "Band 3".

  2. Sanjay B
    September 4, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    Thanks for the review. Did you test the step counter? I have been using a mi band 3 for 5 days now and the step counter seems to be massively over counting. It counted 70 steps while I was at my pc for 30mns, 100 steps while watching TV for 1 hour and 1000 steps after driving for 45mns! Faulty product?

    • Johan
      November 6, 2018 at 9:23 pm

      Mine is reliable, and I saw a video review where the band was extremely reliable (various step pattern, tested against a "clicker"). It did better than the Fitbit and Garmin trackers which were also tested.

  3. Steven Toribio
    August 31, 2018 at 2:07 am

    Does it support notifications on iOS? Are there any Android-specific features?

    • James Bruce
      September 1, 2018 at 5:33 am

      I'm not sure about Android specific features, but it supports all kinds of notifications on iOS. A few apps have specific support, and there's a generic notification format for everything else.

  4. Tarun Kumar
    August 23, 2018 at 9:42 am

    Bought two but both fell offf since its wrist holder is not strong or grip is not enough. 4000 down the drain. let them make it physically hold onto the wrsit strap properly or make steel wrist band?

    • James Bruce
      August 23, 2018 at 9:43 am

      I don't think you've put it in correctly then - I have a hard time pulling mine out. Not a chance it would randomly fall off.

      • Tarun Kumar
        August 23, 2018 at 11:00 am

        It is Mi BAND 2 . i AM TECHIE IT GUY WITH ELECTRONICS background. I had tried all tricks ....reverse too.....maybe their quality for indian market is such.

        • James Bruce
          August 23, 2018 at 11:05 am

          Perhaps you should've included that pertinent bit of information in your original comment then. This is a review of the MiBand 3. Not 2. The design is different, and it's quite solidly held inside the wrist band.

        • iFX
          October 3, 2018 at 12:34 am

          also, depending on where you bought it from, it may not have been an original band... I've heard of some cheap bands being sold by some eBay and AliExpress sellers that don't fit very well.

  5. Yoga
    August 8, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    Does the "other" on/off button under App alerts refer to all other apps on IOS ?

    • James Bruce
      August 8, 2018 at 5:26 pm

      Yes, as in - generic notifications from everything else.

  6. Keith
    July 24, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    I ordered the Mi Band 3 package with an extra wristband and was pleasantly surprised that I could track shipping all the way from China. Delivery took about 3 weeks. Unfortunately, they sent the wrong package--I did not get the spare wristband. Also, I was not able to set up an account using my phone number, so I used my Google account. After that, setup went pretty smoothly: the app connected to my device and immediately updated the firmware. So far it seems to work pretty well.

  7. Paul Robertson
    July 11, 2018 at 8:23 pm

    Best feature of the Mi Bands is that they act as a trusted device to unlock my phone.

  8. Fatma nur Tür
    July 3, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    Mi band is not enough to sleep traking. Because i sleep at 06:00 am sometimes but it shows the sleep time after 10:00 pm. I hope they fix this so i can buy a new one :)

  9. Fatma nur Tür
    July 3, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    But sleep tracking is not enough. Because i am sleep at 06:00 am three times of a week but mi band only shows the sleep time that begins after 10:00 pm. I hope they fix this so i can buy the new one :)

  10. Lamar Trotter
    July 3, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    The updated English firmware is now out. My Mi Band 3 updated last night.

    • James Bruce
      July 3, 2018 at 1:14 pm

      Ahh, that timing is astounding. Probably should have delayed the review by a day. Thanks - updating now.