The Microsoft Band 2 sees the previous incarnation’s all-black look enhanced with a silvery metallic finish on its edges, rather than the plastic that was previously used. Rather than having a back metal finish on the clasp, it has a silver finish.
Appearance is further enhanced by the silver finish to the clasp, which previously had a black metal finish. Overall, the whole thing is less cumbersome and more wearable. The battery goes in one pocket at the end of the strap so that it pushes into the bottom or top of your wrist, depending on how you are wearing it,
Neither the power nor the action button have been moved, and both now match the new product’s silver edges.
While all these may seem relatively minor updates, in fact they make the new all-black model look decidedly more upmarket.
The new version is made from thermal plastic elastomer silicone vulcanite, while its predecessor is made from thermal plastic elastomer. This shouldn’t create too much noticeable difference for the wearer, as the older incarnation was pretty comfortable on the wrist anyway.
Previously, there was a design which often came over as rather stuffy, given the flat, rigid nature of the original display. The newer model seems to have come up with an answer to this by incorporating a rounded screen, which should provide a better fit, while making navigations of the various notifications more straightforward.
Equally, at 32mm by 12.8mm, the screen is bigger, too. It’s made with a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 AMOLED screen.
You can expect a full-colour display, just as there was before, with a touchscreen. The brightness and slight pixellation also remain the same.
Generally speaking, the features are pretty much the same on the second generation Microsoft Band. But the software has been, as you’d expect from Microsoft, updated.
You can look forward to having a barometer sensor, which means you will get an elevation tracker, alongside the other 11 sensors.
All 10 of the original data collectors which were originally in place, including the heart rate sensor, GPS and skin temperature monitor, among others, are there, so it’s a very comprehensive gadget.
You’ll see all the usual fitness-heavy applications, as well as an increased number of features aimed at golf players. On the back of the wearable, the heart rate monitor can still to be found, alongside GPS functionality.
Just as the old band was, the newer version will be cross-compatible on both iOS and Android phones, though of course you won’t have the benefit of Cortana, unless you have a Windows phone.
It seem as though the AI is just offered on Windows 8.1 cellphones and above, as well as Windows 10 devices, although Microsoft has yet to elaborate any further on the exact nature of those devices.
One drawback you will have to bear in mind is that this product is not fully waterproof; indeed, it is only moderately water resistant. While its official IP rating is still not known, in common with the earlier model, the wearable is only able to tolerate small splashes of water or light rain. So don’t jump on the swimming pool or shower with it on.
The majority of trackers which come with screens don’t enjoy especially long battery lives, and the earlier incarnation of this product was no exception. Averaging a two-day lifespan, this model is more or less up there with similar smart watches on the market.
Microsoft itself says that, with a fairly standard sort of usage, the watch will last for about 48 hours before it needs to be recharged.
The same magnetic USB charger is being offered this time around, albeit a minimally remodelled one to suit the shape of the new Microsoft Band.
If you don’t use Cortana, and pair it with a Samsung Galaxy Edge phone or an iPhone 65, you may find your Microsoft Band lasts a little over the two days. For some, this short battery life could be a deal breaker.
As an overall view, the curvy screen and barometer are good touches which weren’t available on the first generation Band. However, the lack of general Cortana availability and full waterproofing are definitely among its shortcomings.
If you’re looking for a reasonable fitness tracker that’s one step up from a Fitbit or Jawbone, with a pleasant little screen, this could be the product for you.
While it may not be your ideal fitness partner that’s perfect in every way, it comes much closer to realising Microsoft’s original dream for this device than the first generation product ever did.