Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 Review

I recently got my hands on the latest smart band from Xiaomi, the Mi Smart Band 6.  Here’s my review after spending two weekends with it.

Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6

Unboxing

The first thing I noticed about the packaging of the Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 (or simply, “Mi Band 6”) is that while it’s compact, it’s quite heavy!  And as I opened it, I realized that it was mostly because of the user manual which also took most of the space.  It’s the thickest I’ve ever seen for a smart band as it contained 20 languages.  The English part only took 14 pages and includes all the things you need to setup your smart band.  The only other item in the package aside from the smart band itself is the charging cable (USB A) which is thankfully a decent length.

Package content: the Mi Band 6 attached to its strap, charging cable, and user manual.

Charging

The cable that came with the Mi Band 6 is very compact and magnetically attaches to the underside of the band.  The cable is also generous when it comes to length but not too long that they’d be bulky to bring.  It was quite convenient that my test unit came in fully drained as I was able to measure how long it takes to fully charge.  In my case, it charged consistently at about 1% per minute and the total time to 100% was around 100 minutes (1 hour and 40 minutes).

Charging the Mi Band 6.

Companion App

While I was charging the test unit for the first time, I decided to setup and explore the companion app of the Mi Band 6.  I was surprised that the QR code in the user manual for downloading the companion app sent me to a page with two apps to choose from: Xiaomi Wear Lite and Mi Fit.  I got confused on which one to download but picked the latter as it had the photo of the Mi Band 6.  I did install the latter eventually when I confirmed it also supports the Mi Band 6 (I thought it was just for other wearables).

Mi Fit

My first impression of Mi Fit was really good as I had the option to sign in using Apple ID so I need not create another separate login account.  Other options you can use for signing up are Facebook, Google, and WeChat, but if you don’t want to use any of these, you can still create a new Mi account.  I decided to use Apple ID for convenience.

The home screen of the Mi Fit app features tabs where you can quickly start a walking, running, or cycling session.

Once you’ve signed in, the app gives you a unique numeric ID and ask you for some additional information like gender, date of birth, height, and weight.  These can be set or updated later in the process if you don’t like to set it up outright.  Once your profile is configured, you can add a device, in this case, “Band” to add a Mi Band 6, and let the app and band pair via Bluetooth.  The process can take a while the first time and I had to put the band on top of my phone for them to find each other.  I’m not sure if there’s just too many Bluetooth devices in the area at the time but I suggest getting some patience to retry if the process don’t work the first time.  The band will not be usable until it’s paired.  Thankfully, you won’t have to do this again unless you decide to pair your band with a different device.

Try getting your band and phone as close as possible when pairing the first time.

Mi Fit immediately syncs with the band as soon as you open it, and you see a simple dashboard showing various metrics for the day.  From here, you can tap on each item to get more details including historical data.  There are also additional tabs at the bottom where you can add fellow Mi Band users, updating your profile, goals, etc.

This app also lets you customize the band like how quickly you’d like it to take sample of your heart rate, configure the weather and world clock that appears on the band, etc. but my favorite part is the “Store” where you can change the band face.  There are so many options and many of them are animated!  Some of them also allow you to use your own photo as background.

There are a good number of band faces that feature popular anime characters.
Mi Fit does a great job of showing animated band faces, including their speed of animation.
This is the band face I use daily.

Perhaps the feature you’d use most often (aside from syncing the band) are the workouts.  In my case, that would be “Outdoor running” but others might use “Walking” or “Cycling” more.  I’m not sure if these items can be changed under the workout tab, but I’d say they are all identical in the sense that they all use the phone’s GPS for measurement, only differing most likely in how the speed is interpreted for computing metrics like calories burned.  If you’re jogging and confused as to what to pick between walking and running, choose the latter for simplicity’s sake.

Xiaomi Wear Lite

I was using the Mi Band 6 for days already when I decided to try the Xiaomi Wear Lite.  Unlike Mi Fit that allows third-party logins, Xiaomi Wear Lite only uses Mi account.  The steps to create a new account is not trivial but it takes some time as you must enable your account using the link in the email Xiaomi will send you.  Once signed in, you’d be asked to setup your profile and enter your details, similar to Mi Fit.

Xiaomi Wear Lite features an avatar sporting a different pose depending on which tab you are.

Xiaomi Wear Lite is functionally identical to the Mi Fit app—everything in one app is present in the other—just with the former looking a bit better than the latter.  The only significant difference I saw was the Xiaomi Wear Lite store having band faces not found in Mi Fit.  Strangely, the same band face is much bigger in size in Xiaomi Wear Lite than in Mi Fit so you can only store one band face on the device using it.  Unless that band face is found only in Xiaomi Wear Lite, better use Mi Fit to get a new band face.

Warning: Once paired with Mi Fit, you’ll need to perform a factory reset of the Mi Band 6 to pair it with Xiaomi Wear Lite.

Which one to install?

Mi Fit.  It looks plain compared to Xiaomi Wear Lite, but everything just works!  Once you’ve paired the Mi Band 6 with it, it automatically syncs whenever you open the app with no issues.  Making pairing work every time with Xiaomi Wear Lite is a buggy process that I won’t recommend anyone go through with.  I’m not sure if this is an iOS or an app thing but my attempt to pair the band with Xiaomi Wear Lite in an Android phone was also technically challenging.

The Band

Mi Band 6 is gorgeous.  Hands down, it’s the best-looking smart band I’ve ever seen personally.  Despite being about the same size as other similar smart bands, its screen is just huge!  And more than the size, it is a high-density colored AMOLED screen so it’s a delight to look at.  I think it’s even good enough to watch videos on.  At first glance, it reminded me of the screen on my old iPhone 5, and it turned out that they really do have an identical 326PPI.

The default band face of the Mi Band 6.  Each section can further be customized.

The 1.56” screen has a resolution of 152 × 486 pixels and goes up to 450 nits.  It is bright enough to be legible outdoors except when it’s really bright.  You could set it up in such a way that it automatically turns on when you turn the band face towards you but by default you have to tap the screen to wake it up.  The curved tempered glass screen is also a delight to the touch—akin to touching smartphone screens so doing the gestures felt natural.

This is approximately how the screen looks like outdoors on a cloudy day.

The strap that comes with Mi Band 6 comes in different colors.  The one I got is black so it easily blends with anything I wear.  There are a lot of third-party straps already available in the market so you can customize it to fit your taste.

Xiaomi offers the Mi Band 6 with various color options for the strap.

In the sensors department, Mi Band 6 can easily compete with much more expensive fitness products as it has an accelerometer and gyroscope, apart from the heart rate sensor that can check blood oxygen saturation (SpO2).  You can specify using the app how often you’d like the band to read your heart rate (from every minute to 30) and the SpO2 is taken on-demand.

Needless to say, I love how symmetric the design is.  Without any external buttons, it’s basically just all screen.  And that rounded top and bottom screen edges really sets it apart from the competition.  On its own, you won’t be able to tell which side is up unless the screen is turned on!  And without the bands, it’s just like a big black pill.

Interface

The software on the band itself is well-designed.  Once you get familiar with the gestures (swiping to navigate, tap to select, etc.), using the band becomes intuitive.  All screens and apps consistently follow the expected behavior of the gestures so you can always go back to the previous screen or app by swiping from the left (like in iOS or Android) and swiping from the right always take you to the next screen, and so on.

From the home screen, you can configure the apps that would appear on the next screens using the companion app of your choice (Mi Fit or Xiaomi Wear Lite).  For practical reasons, this is limited to six (excluding the home screen) and it cycles back to the home screen upon reaching the end.  Rearranging them also happens in the app and even the home screen can be moved from its default first position.  All the other apps are still accessible from the band by swiping down on the home screen.  The apps are also not limited to fitness but I haven’t seen an option to add third-party ones, if at all possible.  Some of the more unique apps I thought worth mentioning are the flashlight, camera shutter, and music control.

Testing

I tested the Mi Band 6 using a few scenarios: doing a brisk walk without tinkering with the band, walking, and running.  I would’ve loved to test its water resistance and swim tracking but unfortunately pools are still closed as of the time I’m testing it so for now I’m sticking what I do well as a runner.

For my first test, I started a 30-minute brisk walk without doing anything on the band.  I was curious if it would automatically detect I was doing something and what it would do.  On the Mi Fit app, it indicates that it can automatically detect workouts and increase heart rate monitoring, but my setting is to take samples every minute so I wasn’t sure if it can go any further.  Mi Band 6 takes heart rate in intervals (not continuous) and it maxes out at every minute.  At the end of the session, the app did not record any specific workouts capturing my walk and it did not indicate if there were any further increase in heart rate sampling (since I already maxed it out).  It may be more obvious if my sampling rate was longer but I didn’t want to revert it to default as I was also testing how long the batteries would last in this setting.  Overall, I won’t say that this is a failure but it would be a nice software update if it does track it separately into its own workout so you’ll know why you have an elevated heart rate sometime in the day.

After realizing that it’s not tracking my walk automatically, I purposely started “Walking” in the band itself.  Upon pressing the option, the band asked to “Open app and turn on GPS on your phone”.  After opening the app (Mi Fit), the band showed “Positioned successfully” and the phone showed an indicator that it’s using the GPS.  Pressing the “GO” button started the tracking which automatically pauses whenever you stop.  You may monitor your progress in the phone if you prefer more than statistics from the band’s screen.  Stopping the workout can be done both in the band and phone.

Running is a similar experience, differing only in the option that you have to select in the band: “Outdoor running”.  A few more separate running sessions that day, I realized that during any GPS-tracked activity, it’s the phone app that’s doing the tracking and the band is only used as a heart rate monitor.  This means that you can initiate an outdoor workout in the phone and the results would be the same if you initiated it from the band.  Make sure though that the band started tracking before you lock the phone or switch apps.  During testing, I had other tracking apps opened at the same time and Mi Fit app was in the background while I run.  At the end of the session, all apps were able to capture my run except for the Mi Fit which never started.  Note that the band can still work without a phone, but the metrics it would capture will be less.

In terms results, the distances were derived from the GPS of the phone so it’s as accurate as any app running on the phone.  The steps counted and heart rate both seem to be around expected values and I did not notice any discrepancies.  You can share your workout afterwards in social media as a short or long photo (see below).

Verdict

After about two weeks of daily usage, here are my thoughts about the Mi Band 6:

Pros

  • Screen.  Big, high-density, colored, curved, and rounded.  This for me is the best screen on any similarly-sized device!
  • Price.  At an SRP of ₱1,990, this is really a steal!
  • Light and compact.  You can comfortably wear it all day (and night) without noticing it.
  • SpO2 monitoring.  I’m not sure how common this sensor is at the moment but my more expensive trackers don’t even have this.  It’s something you won’t always use but it’s there if you need it and can be a useful tool for those training.
  • Customizable.  From the band face that you see on the screen to the selection of straps, you have a lot of freedom to make it your own.
  • Band apps.  They really extended the functionality of the band beyond merely tracking your heart rate and steps.
  • Battery life.  The band is rated for 14-days of normal use, but in my case (with heart rate sampling every minute instead of 30 by default) I still had 6% remaining after 11 days.  Considering that it only has a 125mAh battery, it’s impressive!
  • Water resistance.  The Mi Band 6 is certified to 5 ATM water resistance so you can wear it while swimming, snorkeling, and even showering—just don’t bring it to the sauna or hot tub!
  • Strong vibration motor.  The band would make for a good alarm as you’d really feel it when it vibrates for notifications.  Definitely the strongest one in all the bands I’ve tried.
  • Interface.  It’s very intuitive to use once you get familiar with the gestures.
  • Backwards compatibility.  The charging cable and straps are backward compatible (as per users who have older versions) so you can use your old ones as backup or replacement.
  • Support for third-party accounts (Mi Fit).  Apple (iOS device only), Facebook, Google, and WeChat can be used to sign-in.

Cons

  • Pairing.  Once the band is paired to a phone to a specific app, other apps in the same phone would not be able to connect with the band.  You also can’t pair the band with a different phone unless you do a factory reset.  It seems like the band can only pair with one device and app at a time.

Room for improvement

  • Screen locking.  As the screen is quite sizable, it’s fairly easy for it to be inadvertently in contact with your skin without you noticing.  This registers as a long tap which is one of the gestures supported in some apps like the home screen.  I had a band face accidentally deleted from the band after I accidentally rested my arm on my leg, not realizing that the band face was touching my skin for quite a while.  If there could be a way to lock the screen (like in phones) or disabling the long tap, it would avoid these accidental operations.
  • Steps calibration.  For some reason, my test unit isn’t registering as many steps as I expected.  For instance, I went up and down the stairs and it was only able to register 9 steps.  It may just be my unit being not as sensitive or I’m very light on my feet for the band to detect.  Nonetheless, intentional walking and running seem to be working fine as all my tracked workouts yielded the expected number of steps.
  • Heart rate and SpO2 tracking.  This might be due to hardware constraints but it would be nice if future versions support continuous heart rate monitoring, not just interval sampling, and for the SpO2 checking to work even if you’re not completely stationary.
  • Too many phone apps.  I think it’s better to have one good companion app than have several that does the same thing only differing in the looks.  It’s confusing for first time users on which one to use, and the other apps don’t bring anything new.  They also don’t work once the app is paired in a phone with an app already.
  • Third-party apps.  I did not find any easy way of importing third-party apps for the band and inversely, of exporting workout data!  Searching online, I found recommendations of installing another app, Zepp, that can link your Mi account with Strava, but as of the moment I haven’t been able to make syncing to Strava work.

Specs

Display

  • 1.56’’ AMOLED display
  • 152 × 486 pixels (326PPI)
  • Up to 450 nits, adjustable
  • Tempered glass with anti-fingerprint coating

Function

  • 30 fitness modes: Treadmill, Freestyle, Outdoor running, Cycling, Walking, Pool swimming, Rowing machine, Elliptical, Indoor cycling, Yoga, Jump rope, Dance, Indoor fitness, Gymnastics, HIIT, Core training, Stretching, Bowling, Badminton, Boxing, Stepper, Pilates, Basketball, Volleyball, Table tennis, Cricket, Ice skating, Kickboxing, Street dance, Zumba
  • 6 auto detection modes: walking, treadmill, cycling, rowing machine (ergometer), elliptical
  • SpO2 tracking
  • Sleep tracking (Sleep breathing quality, REM, and naps)
  • Breathe exercise
  • Stress monitoring
  • Female health tracking
  • PAI (Personal Activity Intelligence)
  • Idle alerts
  • Camera remote shutter

Health

  • Heart rate monitoring: Whole-day heart rate manual heart rate, resting heart rate and heart rate curve
  • Sleep monitoring: Deep sleep, light sleep, rapid eye movement (REM), naps
  • Women’s health tracking: Provides recording and reminders for the menstrual cycle and ovulation phases
  • Stress monitoring, breathing exercises, PAI vitality index assessment, idle alerts, step counter, goal setting

Sensors

  • PPG heart rate sensor
  • 3-axis accelerometer sensor
  • 3-axis gyroscope sensor

Dimensions

  • Body net weight: 12.8 g
  • Body dimensions: 47.4 × 18.6 × 12.7 mm
  • Waterproof rating: 5 ATM
  • Adjustable length: 155–219 mm

Battery

  • Magnetic charging
  • 125mAh Lithium-ion polymer
  • ≤ 2 hours charging time
  • ≥ 14 days of standby time

Connectivity & Compatibility

  • Apps: Mi Wear, Mi Fit
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Android 5.0 and above, iOS 10 and above

Package Inclusion

  • Mi Smart Band 6
  • Strap
  • User manual
  • Charging cable

Summary

Overall, I really like the Mi Band 6, especially when you consider that it’s only ₱1,990!  Sure, there are things that didn’t go as expected but none of them are dealbreakers.  Most of them are software-related so they could be fixed in future updates.  The hardware itself combined with that price is practically unbeatable.  Even the list of functionalities is at par with much more expensive devices.

I think the only people I would not recommend the Mi Band 6 are those that need of in-device GPS, medical grade heart rate or SpO2 tracking, heavily dependent on ecosystems other than Xiaomi’s, or simply want a bigger screen.  I see value in it for everyone else, from beginners to seasoned athletes, as Xiaomi really put in a lot of features in this small band.  It also helps that it doesn’t break the bank even if you simply like it as a watch (because the screen is just gorgeous and the band faces are cute to borderline crazy!).

If you’re looking for a smart band that is inexpensive and may help you monitor your workouts, the Mi Smart Band 6 is definitely high on my recommended list.

Full Disclosure
Review unit provided by Xiaomi Philippines via ComCo Southeast Asia.  This does not, in any way, affect the outcome of this review which is based solely on my personal experience after two weeks of product usage.

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