Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 4 impressions: All the fitness tracker you need

Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 4
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 4 is one of the best value sport-tech products available, and one of the only fitness bands you should consider buying. Why? I question whether the fitness tracking band still has its place in the world of wearables at all, since many phones will count steps, and all smartwatches do that and plenty more. If you really want one, why splash out on anything more than a basic version, when spending more will bring you closer to the cost of a decent smartwatch?

Xiaomi’s latest fitness band is 35 British pounds, or about $40 if you import one to the U.S., where it’s not officially available. The Fitbit Inspire HR and the Samsung Galaxy Fit both cost $100, yet have the same level of functionality and the same general design. Let’s talk about that first, as design is perhaps a word that doesn’t really apple to the Mi Smart Band 4 or its competitors.

Design

Like almost every fitness band, the Mi Smart Band 4 has a main module wrapped up on a silicone band that’s held on your wrist using a pin-and-hole fastener. The style isn’t too attractive, and is best hidden away from sight under a sleeve, unlike a watch. It’s slim and lightweight, at only 22 grams. I’ve worn this one for several weeks, during the day and night, often alongside a watch and I didn’t really notice it was there. The module pops out of the band, so you can change it for one in a different color, or to charge it when the battery runs out.

The Mi Smart Band 4 sadly doesn’t have wireless charging, and instead has one of those annoying proprietary charging pods it clips in to. Lose it, and you can’t recharge the band. The good news is the battery lasts for at least 20 days, so you don’t have to fiddle around with it very often. The black version is stealthy and inconspicuous and isn’t high maintenance when it comes to charging, unlike the majority of smartwatches. If you’re not settled on a smartwatch, then the Mi Smart Band 4 is a great compromise.

Screen and software

The tiny 0.95-inch color AMOLED is the main upgrade over the Mi Band 3, and it’s also one of the primary reasons you should consider buying the Mi Smart Band 4. It’s flatter than the curved Mi Band 3’s screen for a cleaner, more modern look. The colors are glorious, and even though it’s small, all the benefits of an AMOLED screen — great contrast and deep blacks — are still obvious. It’s bright enough to be seen in daylight, but strong sunlight does make it hard to see. The touch system is responsive, but it’s annoying to have to tap under the screen to wake it up, rather than anywhere on the face.

Xiaomi has added a degree of customization, letting you choose from several different faces pre-installed on the band, or download others. It’s fun, and personalization is rare on low-cost fitness wearables. Swipe up and down the screen to access different features, including the chance to display notifications. It was a pain to set this up at first on the Huawei P30 Pro, as EMUI demanded various deep permission alterations before it would work. Once running, alerts arrived in a timely manner. Setting up notifications on other phones will likely be different.

The rest of the operating system is great, as it only needs a few swipes and taps to navigate to the function you want. Despite the small size, the Mi Smart Band 4’s screen is easy to read and responds as you want it to, while the software is pleasingly smooth and simple to use, without ever looking ugly.

Fitness and sleep tracking

You need the Xiaomi Mi Fit app installed on your phone to sync the Mi Smart Band 4. It’s available for Android and iOS. It has been consistently reliable, and connects quickly and easily to the band using Bluetooth 5.0. The band does not have GPS and relies on the phone, but I like the maps the app produces for walking, running, and cycling. Sadly, it’s not always easy to find your historical data. It takes random taps to dig deep enough in the app to locate data stored over time, and when you do find it, dates are not very clear.

Track a workout — there are only a few basic pre-loaded plans, including walking, cycling, and swimming — and the report given is comprehensive. The Mi Smart Band 4 has a heart rate sensor, and it breaks the metrics down into relaxed, light, and intensive sections, plus it will provide a calorie burn, exercise time, and maximum heart rate data too. Best of all, Mi Fit and the Mi Smart Band 4 operate with Google Fit and Apple Health.

Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 4
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The step count was in-line with the number recorded by my P30 Pro, and the heart rate sensor returned a similar result to the Apple Watch Series 4. I take this as an indication the Mi Smart Band 4 is accurate, at least compared to the competition. The band is light and comfortable so it’s no problem to wear it at night. It automatically activates sleep mode, and turns it off again when it notices you’re moving around. I found this to be acceptable, although I’d take the band off to shower after getting up, which it often recognized as me going back to bed (I wish), resulting in skewed times.

If all you want is data, then the Mi Smart Band 4 and the Mi Fit app deliver. It doesn’t overwhelm and shows what you need to know, although it may require a little work in the app to find it. What it doesn’t do is motivate or offer any advice on where to improve. You can add friends in the app, which could be motivational, but you need to have friends who also own a Mi Band, and are active enough to make friendship in the app worthwhile. If you’re happy with getting data, and not much else, the Mi Smart Band 4 will satisfy your needs.

If you want much more, like onboard GPS, further integration with your phone, or comprehensive fitness tracking plans and motivational tools, you’ll have to spend more. The Apple Watch Series 4, which does all the above and more, will cost at least $400. The Galaxy Watch Active brings the price point down to a respectable $200. Really think about what you want from a fitness tracker before splashing out though.

Conclusion

The Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 4 counts your steps, tracks your sleep, monitors your heart rate, works with your phone’s GPS, has good software, and a battery that lasts at least 20 days. That’s all the basics and a little more covered, plus a lovely color AMOLED screen — all for about $40.

Aside from a desire to stay with a certain brand, there is no reason to spend more on another simple fitness tracker, when the Mi Smart Band 4 does everything you could want. If it’s not quite enough, then the logical next step is not a competitor’s fitness band, it’s a smartwatch or a more focused fitness-orientated smartwatch. For everyone else, the Mi Smart Band 4 is more than enough.

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