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Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 review: small yet significant upgrade

Xiaomi recently emerged as the world’s largest wearable band vendor in the second quarter of the year according to Canalys. According to the report, Xiaomi managed to grab the top spot in the April-June quarter because of the launch of the Mi Smart Band 6 in the global market. The new fitness band was recently launched in India with a price tag of Rs 3,499.

Also read: OnePlus Band vs Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 5: which is the better budget fitness tracker?

While Mi Smart Band 5 arrived as a significant update over the Mi Smart Band 4 (review)  in terms of features, the Smart Band 6 is just an iterative upgrade in comparison. With the latest launch, Xiaomi has retained the same formula as the Mi Smart Band 5 but with an improved display, added SpO2 monitor, and additionally activity modes. While Mi Smart Band 5 users have very little initiative to upgrade, Mi Smart Band 6 is a solid option for first-time users. I have been using the wearable for more than a week and here’s what I think about it.

Design and display

When I first laid eyes on the Mi Smart Band 6, I was a tad disappointed to see the same old design that the brand has been following for the last two generations. It has the standard pill-shaped core cupped in a TPU strap housing with a pin-hole clasp mechanism. Despite the same design, I am not complaining because the Mi Smart Band 6 continues to be one of the most comfortable budget wearables.

I have been wearing the Mi Smart Band 6 almost 24/7 over the last couple of weeks and never felt the need to adjust or take it off due to discomfort. What I particularly like is that the straps are made using soft TPU material, which doesn’t bite into your skin and doesn’t itch when you’re sweaty, making Mi Smart Band 6 ideal for a workout session. Moreover, the curved strap design molds perfectly around your wrist.

Bonus points for retaining the same magnetic charger from the Mi Smart Band 5, which doesn’t require users to yank out the pill from the strap to charge it. Plus, it supports Mi Smart Band 5 straps.

While the design and dimensions of the new Mi Smart Band 6 might be the same as that of its previous generation, Xiaomi did up the ante with the new launch. There’s no capacitive button on the display anymore and instead, the screen on the latest generation fitness tracker has been stretched to 1.56-inches, up from 1.1-inches on the previous model. During my time with the fitness tracker, I loved interacting with the all-touch AMOLED screen. The panel is vivid, sharp, quite responsive, and displays more content. However, I would have loved to see automatic brightness adjustment and always-on display on this iteration.

You will find the SpO2 and heart rate sensor on the back of the wearable. The two-pin magnetic charging pins are located towards the bottom of the core, whereas on top you’ll find the Mi branding. The fitness tracker is 5ATM certified, which means it is water-resistant up to 50m in fresh water.

Software and features

Coming to the software, the Mi Smart Band 6 can connect to any Android or iOS smartphone through either the usual Mi Fit or Xiaomi Wear apps. I chose to go with the Xiaomi Wear app because of its clean interface. In case you already have your fitness data synced with the Mi Fit app from earlier Mi Bands, you can import the data to Xiaomi Wear from Mi Fit. I didn’t face any issue in pairing the Mi Smart Band 6 to my Xiaomi Mi 10i and data syncing was quite fast as well.

The app has three tabs, namely – Status, Workouts, and Profile. The first option shows the current data like workout history, sleep monitor data, heart rate, and much more. In the workout section, users can turn on a specific workout mode from the 30 available. The new Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 can automatically detect six fitness modes including walking, outdoor running, treadmill, cycling, elliptical, and rowing machine. Lastly, the profile section lists all the devices connected and tweak settings. From here you can set a personalised SMS to decline calls with, enable app notifications and alerts, set goals and alarms, turn on continuous heart rate monitoring, and control camera shutter and raise to wake, among others.

Coming to the on-device interface, you can swipe left and right on the display to switch between widgets. You can set a total of six widgets to be displayed through the Xiaomi wear app with Weather and Music Control enabled by default. I had weather, music, sleep, stress, heart rate, and SpO2 widgets set on my review unit. Swiping up and down gives you access to the whole suite of apps on the device e like PAI, workouts, settings, and more. In terms of watch faces, Xiaomi is offering 80+ watch faces to choose from but most of them are Chinese anime and cartoon-inspired. There are some decent generic ones as well.

The Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 is packed with features when it comes to health and fitness. The fitness tracker now supports 30 fitness modes including treadmill, freestyle, outdoor running, cycling, walking, swimming, rowing machine, elliptical, indoor cycling, yoga, jump rope, dance, indoor fitness, gymnastics, HIIT, core training, pilates, zumba, street dancing and stretching. There are also some dedicated sports modes like cricket, bowling, badminton, boxing, basketball, volleyball, table tennis, ice skating, and kickboxing. Additionally, there are features like stress monitoring, sleep tracker, SpO2, women’s health,  PAI (personal activity intelligence), and more.

Performance and battery

Considering I’ve been confined to my home like most of us, I didn’t get the opportunity to test workout modes as extensively as I would have liked to. However, from whatever little walk I did around the house, the step counter appeared to be correct and the automatic workout detection was able to detect when I was walking and when I started running. As for sleep detection, the tracker does an excellent job of tracking REM, and sleep data was neatly laid out in the app. However, during my stint at one point during the weekend, I binge-watched an entire season of The Newsroom in one go, lying still on my couch and the tracker documented it as light sleep. This could be accredited to the fact that I was lying still with my phone on a tripod system and no wrist movement. Apart from that, I faced no issues at all.

Coming to the heart rate monitor and SpO2 tracker, I tested Mi Smart Band 6 alongside the trusted Dr MorePen pulse oximeter. Both heart rate and blood oxygen levels shown by the fitness tracker were almost plus-minus five points compared to the oximeter. Considering how critical a difference of five points can make when it comes to blood oxygen levels, therefore it is best to stick to a proper device when you need to monitor blood oxygen levels for a corona patient for instance. The Mi Smart Band 6 is a good alternative to get an idea of heart rate and blood oxygen after a workout session when it’s not critical.

As for the activity modes, while six of them are automatically detected, the remaining 24 need manual activation either from the watch itself or the Xiaomi Wear app. You get information like step count, calories burnt, heart rate, distance travelled, and time spent. Now, for the stress and breath tracking, I found the former to be slightly gimmicky but the latter works as advertised and calms you down properly. I also like the feature where you can set up the fitness tracker to unlock your phone when nearby without a passcode or security lock.

The Mi Smart Band 6 comes with the same 125mAh battery as the Smart Band 5 and is rated for 14 days backup. In my experience with the device, I had the continuous heart rate monitoring set to every five minutes, and sleep breathing monitoring also turned on. I also had notifications turned on from my primary smartphone with 50+ notifications every hour and walked for 30 minutes every day. At this usage, I managed to squeeze seven days of backup from the battery. Once I limited the app notifications and turned off advanced features, the Mi Smart Band 6 lasted me 12-13 days on average. The band takes around two hours to charge fully.

Verdict

There’s a reason why the Mi Band series has been extremely popular in the country over the years and why the latest Mi Smart Band 6 catapulted Xiaomi to the world’s largest wearable band vendor position in the Q2 of 2021. For its asking price of Rs 3,499, the fitness tracker is packed to the brim with useful features. This time around you get a larger display, SpO2 tracker, additional workout modes, and more.

As for the competition, the Mi Smart Band 6 goes up against the OnePlus Band (review) priced at Rs 2,499. It comes with a similar design but has a more accurate SpO2 sensor, heart rate, and sleep monitoring. Moreover, the OnePlus Band also charges quickly in just one hour, which is a plus compared to Mi Smart Band 6. However, you’ll need to pop out the core of the OnePlus Band in order to charge.

If the Mi Smart Band 6 price is outside your budget, the Mi Smart Band 5 (review) at Rs 2,499 is still a compelling option. It features a slightly smaller display and lacks SpO2 sensor and as many workout modes, but is still an excellent fitness band for the price.

Pricebaba’s rating: 8 / 10

What works:

  • Large AMOLED display
  • Comfortable fit
  • Easy to use interface
  • Advanced health monitoring features

What doesn’t

  • No automatic brightness
  • SpO2 sensor isn’t very accurate
  • Battery drains faster with all features turned on
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Abhiman Biswas

Abhiman has over 8 years of experience in content development. He is a Senior Writer and Social Media Manager at Pricebaba. He covers technology news, feature articles, and tech reviews, apart from managing the official Facebook and Instagram handles. Despite a degree in marketing, his love for latest gadgets and technology steered him towards consumer technology coverage.