Review, Wearable

Xiaomi Mi Band 4 Quick Review: Fitness Band for the Frugal

Fitness bands, thanks to Xiaomi, have gotten considerably more affordable over the years. Of course, the Chinese company’s wearables have also gotten better with every new iteration, and the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 is easily its most impressive fitness band yet.

Retailing at only RM149, there’s no denying the value proposition of the Mi Band 4. But given its affordable price tag, does the fitness band fall short in any crucial area? Let’s find out.

What It Is

The Mi Band 4 is Xiaomi’s latest fitness band, and one of the biggest changes over its predecessor is the addition of a colour AMOLED display. It’s a 0.95-inch 240 x 120 AMOLED screen, so not only is it a bigger than the Mi Band 3’s display, it is also sharper.

Thanks to the new colour display, the Mi Band 4 is now more customisable than ever. The Mi Fit app itself already has quite a number of watchfaces to choose from, so chances are, you will find one that suits you. The Mi Band 4 housing itself can also be detached from the strap, making it easier to clean the device, or swap out the strap if you want to.

Another big selling point of the Mi Band 4 is its impressive battery life. Xiaomi claims that the fitness band’s 135mAh battery can return up to 20 days of use, which is a very lofty estimate. While I didn’t quite manage to get that level of battery life, it’s definitely a long-lasting wearable; more on that in the next section.

The Good Stuff

What took me by surprise as I started using the Mi Band 4 is its sheer longevity. As mentioned, I couldn’t achieve Xiaomi’s quoted battery life of up to 20 days, but the fitness band did manage to last through about two weeks of use before needing a charge.

See, I’m a heavy smartphone user, so I get a ton of notifications every day. Needless to say, getting so many notifications pushed to the Mi Band 4 will drain its battery quite a bit. On top of that, I set the wearable to take my heart rate every minute, compared to the default setting of only once every 30 minutes.

If you don’t get quite as many notifications as I do, and you set the Mi Band 4 to only measure your heart rate every 30 minutes, I reckon you can get close to Xiaomi’s claim of 20 days battery life.

Display quality of the Mi Band 4 is worth a mention too. It’s an AMOLED panel, so it has all the characteristics of that screen technology. These include deep, pitch blacks, vibrant colours, and good viewing angles. But if I were to nitpick, I’d say the display could be a tad sharper; you can definitely see the individual pixels if you look at it closer.

Then again, when viewed from a normal distance, it’s not an issue at all. Plus, the AMOLED screen can get really bright, so outdoor visibility is not a problem with this fitness band.

Naturally, the Mi Band 4 is also rated for 5 ATM, which allows it to be submerged up to 50m for 10 minutes. Given that this fitness band is able to track your swimming routine – and it’s meant to appeal to those with an active lifestyle – this feature is imperative.

Speaking of which, I love how the Mi Band 4 tracks my workouts. Even though it can only identity a handful of workouts, it presents the tracking data in a clean and easy to read interface. At a glance, I can see how much calories I’ve burnt, my heart rate, and what activity “zone” I’m in.

Overall, the Mi Band 4 works great as a fitness band, but it does have a couple of shortcomings in other areas, such as..

The Bad Stuff

One of the best reasons to invest in a wearable is to get notifications pushed to your wrist, but in this regard, the Mi Band 4 could do better. While notifications do get sent to the fitness band in a timely manner, it’s not arranged particularly well. The notifications themselves don’t look very flattering either.

To top it off, you cannot really interact with the notifications too. It’s as if the Mi Band 4 is only designed to show these notifications, and nothing more. Granted, this is a fitness band, and notifications are not exactly “vital” (per se) to its functionality. Still, having a better notification system would make it that much more compelling.

Besides that, the user interface of the Mi Band 4 could also use some work. In order to access other features of the wearable, I need to swipe up or down from the watchface. If I want to go back to the previous screen, I can either swipe to the left (or right) or press the capacitive button at the bottom of the display.

These gestures make it a bit of a chore to navigate around the Mi Band 4’s interface, and it doesn’t help that there is no quick way to get back to the home screen; there’s no home button to use. Instead, I’ll have to repeatedly tap on the capacitive button until I’m back to the watchface. Not a very pleasant experience.

Is It Worth It?

Despite its shortcomings, the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 is still very easy to recommend to folks who are looking for an affordable fitness band to track their daily activities. After all, it costs only RM149; not many wearables can offer the same feature set at this price point.

Yes, the Mi Band 4’s notification system and user interface could have been better, but these two factors may not matter to some users, especially if they’re buying it for the wearable’s fitness functionalities. And, again, this fitness band is only RM149 – what more can you ask for?