The sixth generation of Mi Smart Band activity sensors is enriched with new sports modes and gains a larger screen and an SpO2 sensor. This makes it a new reference in the segment of low-cost connected bracelets.
Very attractive because of a selling price below 50$ and functions nevertheless complete, the activity sensor Mi Smart Band of Xiaomi evolves with the democratization of technological advances. Its sixth iteration thus gains the famous SpO2 sensor (pulsed oxygen saturation) which is increasingly talked about in a context of epidemic Covid-19. The pulse oximetry function enabled by this sensor is indeed aimed at measuring the oxygen saturation of the blood, one of the indicators that can warn of a possible respiratory problem, among others. However, in this case, the SpO2 measurement is only used to analyze breathing during sleep.
The Mi Smart Band 6 also gains a screen 49% larger than its predecessor - for better readability of messages - without affecting its autonomy, still announced at 14 days maximum, according to Xiaomi.
Ergonomics and design
The Mi Smart Band 6 has the same design as its predecessor. Oblong in shape (1.8 cm wide by 4.7 cm long) and completely black, the body of the sensor is made of matte black plastic topped by a tempered glass occupying almost its entire front. This small sensor of 12,8 g fits perfectly in a TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) bracelet of 11,6 g, which it is possible to replace if you want to enjoy another color than black (yellow, orange, blue, olive or ivory for the official bracelets).
If it is not as elegant as a connected watch, the Mi Smart Band 6 has the merit of being sober and well finished. Its low weight allows it to be forgotten on the wrist, especially since it is easy to adjust the length of the bracelet (from 155 to 219 mm) thanks to the 13 holes it offers.
The closing system remains basic, but effective. We would have simply appreciated a little more finesse, even if it means increasing the width of the bracelet a little to avoid penalizing the autonomy.
The Mi Smart Band 6 nevertheless manages to improve its ergonomics without changing its design, thanks to a screen that is 49% larger than that of the Smart Band 5. 1.1" to 1.56", while the definition goes from 126 x 294 px to 152 x 486 px. The resolution makes a leap forward, reaching 326 dpi. We gain in fineness and readability of texts, although the very narrow format of the screen limits the number of characters displayed simultaneously on the width of the screen to 12.
The brightness announced at 450 nits allows a good readability in outside, in spite of very present reflections which can disturb under certain angles. We still appreciate the Amoled technology used, which offers a very appreciable almost infinite contrast and perfectly black.
For charging, there is a proprietary magnetic connector on the back of the bracelet. Xiaomi provides only the corresponding cable, to plug into any USB-A port (computer, smartphone charger ...). This one is unfortunately a bit short (45 cm approximately).
Note that the Mi Smart Band 6, like its predecessors, is devoid of any other connector and even buttons, relying solely on its touch interface. A way to simplify its waterproofing in passing, guaranteed 5 ATM (50 m) by Xiaomi, which translates into a resistance sufficient to take a shower or swim in a pool with this sensor (not diving).
No revolution in the interface, the Mi Smart Band 6 still relies on its touch screen to scroll through its various displays. A horizontal swipe gives access to the widgets: weather information and audio player (music played from the smartphone) in initial configuration, but you can choose others via the Mi Fit application (activities, heart rate monitor, etc.).
By default, the main screen displays the time and date, weather and heart rate. Four gauges show the number of steps taken and calories burned during the day, the PAI (Personal activity intelligence) score and finally the sensor autonomy. It is possible to choose another presentation to highlight certain information that you consider a priority or simply to enjoy another design, Xiaomi offers several downloadable from the Mi Fit application.
On the other hand, the functions of the Mi Smart Band 6 are arranged in a tiered menu. You can access them by simply swiping the screen vertically. The following functions appear successively: general status (number of steps taken and calories burned), PAI, heart rate, SpO2, sleep, notifications, training, training history, stress, breathing, events, alarm, weather, music, world clock, settings and "more" (flashlight functions, timer, camera shutter, stopwatch, timer and smartphone location).
The Mi Smart Band 6 is also capable of displaying notifications from the smartphone to which it is connected: messages and email, calendar, social networks ... It's up to each user to decide which ones deserve to trigger a vibration - customizable - on their wrist. Although the narrow format of the screen is not very conducive to reading messages, the readability is correct and sufficient to quickly take note of information and determine whether they deserve to make us take out our smartphone.
The Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 works closely with the Mi Fit smartphone app (Android or iOS). You just need to pair it via Bluetooth and associate it in the app and then the syncing will happen automatically. It is necessary to create a Mi account beforehand.
Modernized in 2019 when the Mi Smart Band 4 was released, the Mi Fit app continues to evolve, but its interface has changed little since then. There is a home page named "Workouts" that summarizes the latest recorded activities, including number of steps taken, IAP score, stress level, sleep duration and recent sports activities.
A second screen "Friends" brings a social dimension for those who would like to compare their activities and sleep - if you want to play who sleeps the least during the week? The community being limited to Mi Fit users, the interest seems limited.
As for the third and last "Profile" screen, it is mainly used for the settings of the application and the sensor and would therefore deserve to have another name. In general, if the use of Mi Fit is quite simple, its organization leaves us a little confused.
Uses and accuracy
From 11 activities on the Mi Smart Band 5, we go to no less than 30 on this sixth iteration. Team sports (soccer is missing...) and racquet sports (no tennis!) make their entry alongside other less common sports such as bowling, cricket, ice skating, street dancing...
These are all activities for which the bracelet will be used to measure heart rate and oxygen saturation (SpO2). The counting of lengths is nevertheless managed in swimming, as well as the frequency in rowing or the number of jumps in jumping rope, but not the number of repetitions during an abdominal training, for example. The large number of activities is mainly used to monitor performance for each one, so as not to mix everything up. In this regard, we note that the sensor is able to automatically detect that you have started an activity, although this sometimes takes several minutes.
Of course, an activity such as cycling or running will display more data, such as average speed and distance traveled, as well as graphics to better realize the pace of the output, for example. However, such outdoor activities require you to take your smartphone with you, as the Mi Smart Band 6 does not include a GPS chip.
No ECG sensor on this Mi Smart Band 6, but a PPG heart rate sensor. This one provides relatively relevant measurements on endurance-type activities, despite a margin of error of 4% during our tests compared to the readings provided by the Polar H10 chest belt that we use as a reference. We measure an equally high margin during a split run where heart rate variations are numerous and sudden. The heart rate monitor of the Mi Smart Band 6 lacks in this case of precision and reactivity, struggling to detect the drops in rhythm, unlike the chest belt with which the heart rate reading follows well the variations of pace of the race.
On the other hand, the SpO2 sensor is only used during sleep, to control the quality of breathing. A functionality still in "beta" phase during this test, but which must allow to detect respiratory failures, notably sleep apnea. Like the cardiac readings, let's remember that these measurements have no medical value and therefore do not replace a medical examination. Nevertheless, they have an interesting indicative value that can alert of a potential health problem.
Over nearly 3 weeks of testing, we found the sleep tracking to be consistent, detecting both sleep onset and wake-up phases. However, it is difficult to verify the relevance of the numerous light and REM sleep phases detected by the Mi Smart Band 6.
Despite its larger screen, its unchanged format and a battery with the same capacity (125 mAh) as its predecessor, the Mi Smart Band 6 would not lose in autonomy, according to Xiaomi, which still announces up to 14 days of operation. A duration that corresponds to our experience with this sensor.
However, if you activate the notifications and especially the health monitoring options - stress measurement and monitoring of breathing during sleep in particular - you can easily divide this autonomy by two. Intensive users who practice sports activities daily can nevertheless count on a small week of autonomy and it is easy to exceed the week with more moderate use. The Mi Smart Band 6 takes 1 hour and 18 minutes to fully charge.
Without changing its design, the Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 gains in readability thanks to its larger screen. Even more complete with its SpO2 sensor, it delivers sufficiently convincing general performance for classic activity monitoring and occasional sports. On the other hand, regular sportsmen will always pass their way because of the lack of precision of its heart rate monitor and the absence of integrated GPS.