Withings Steel HR - Activity tracking, battery life and verdict

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Withings Steel HR – Activity and Exercise Tracking

As mentioned, that subsidiary dial is there to keep you accountable for reaching your goal. That a full rotation of the dial marks 100% completion is easier to understand relative to having to decipher what different light combinations mean as seen on certain other fitness trackers.

Withings Steel HR

Turn the Steel HR over and you’ll find its headline new addition – a photoplethysmography (PPG) heart rate monitor that can take continuous and resting heart rate readings. It isn’t always taking measurements, however; rather, it will take a reading every few minutes. It will only start a continuous reading once it automatically detects you’re taking part in an activity.

Withings Steel HR
You can see in more detail your day’s activity broken down by intensity and heart rate.

The Steel HR is able to automatically detect a range of very basic activities, including walking, running or swimming. The watch is water resistant to 5 ATM (50 metres), but you lose out on heart rate monitoring when taking a dip.

Since there’s no GPS inside, nor does it use a connected GPS from your smartphone, the Steel HR has to estimate distance using the accelerometer inside.

While I didn’t expect it to be as accurate for distance as GPS, in testing it was considerably off. I ran alongside the GPS in an iPhone 6S, which recorded a distance of 10.8km, whereas the Steel HR estimated at closer to 14km.

Withings Steel HR
Heart rate data: Withings Steel HR (left), Jabra Sport Pulse via Strava (right)

While the distance measurement leaves a lot to be desired, chances are you’re not an avid runner if you’re considering the Steel HR, so the fact that it proved to be consistent will be of more importance.

Its heart rate monitoring is at least far better. In fact, when compared against the in-ear heart rate monitoring of a Jabra Sport Pulse, it matched the average heart rate perfectly and was only 2BPM higher than the maximum heart rate.

This is seriously impressive for a wrist-worn heart rate monitor. Its heart rate measurements throughout the day were similar to what I was seeing from a Fitbit Charge 2 as well.

Withings Steel HR

Sleep tracking was also very good. You get the typical breakdown of your sleep pattern into Awake, Light and Deep sleep durations, as well as your average heart rate through the night and how many times you wake.

The night heart rate information in particular can be a good indicator of your current health in terms of spotting any anomalies. I also thought the time to fall asleep measurement was useful, although I’m not entirely sure how accurate it is. Some of the times seemed shorter than I expected, as I can typically take a long time to unwind and fall asleep.

Related: Best Fitness Trackers

Withings Steel HR – Battery Life and Charging

Withings Steel HR

Not taking a constant heart rate reading does wonders for the battery life. The Steel HR can supposedly last 25 days on a single charge, at which point it will go into a low-power mode, disabling the HRM and notifications.

Activity tracking will still work and the Steel HR will last a further 20 days if, for whatever reason, you can’t find time to charge it up.

Needless to say, it shouldn’t be difficult to find time to charge the watch at some point, and this is simple a matter of sticking it on its magnetic inductive charger.

Annoyingly, though, the magnetic attachment isn’t the greatest and proves puzzlingly tricky to line up. The magnets inside are really, really weak so you’re never entirely sure it’s attached correctly. You end up having to wait for the charging icon to appear on the display and then being extra careful not to nudge the magnets out of place.

Should I buy the Withings Steel HR?

Withings Steel HR

The Steel HR is undoubtedly a stylish wearable. It exudes class and sophistication, just like its predecessors. The fact that it’s available in two sizes will broaden its appeal, and it’s fantastic that the heart rate monitor and notification display have been incorporated without a detrimental effect on battery life.

The addition of heart rate monitoring is a real positive, too, proving to be one of the most accurate I’ve seen from a wrist wearable. Unfortunately, the smart side falls a little short and isn’t really used to its full potential. It remains “a nice to have”, however.

Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a discreet activity tracker with heart rate measurement, the Steel HR gets plenty right, including its stylish design and strong companion app.

Verdict

The Withings Steel HR is a super-stylish wearable with a great heart rate monitor.

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