The Xiaomi Mi Band 6 is an extremely affordable fitness tracker with a solid range of health and workout monitoring tools. The most significant advancement this time around is the AMOLED display, which is bigger and sharper than before, making for a more pleasant heads-up experience.
- Extremely good value
- Strong battery life
- Excellent display
- Sleep tracking isn’t great
- Clunky app
- UKRRP: £45.99
- USARRP: $45
- TrackingThere are 30 workout modes
- DisplayFantastic 1.56-inch AMOLED display
- WaterproofThere’s a 5ATM (or 50m) rating for swimming or showering
Xiaomi is on to something with its Mi Smart Band range, offering solid fitness tracking for a much cheaper price than we’ve become accustomed to paying. Not surprisingly, the range has been immensely popular.
The trouble with offering a comprehensive range of features at such a very low price, of course, is that there aren’t many places you can go. Now the Xiaomi Mi Band 6 is here with the promise of an improved display for a still scarcely believable price.
Design and Screen
- Same stealthy Mi Band design
- Fiddly strap system won’t be for everyone
- Larger, sharper, more useful AMOLED display
Xiaomi takes the Porsche approach to its fitness tracker design. That is, each successive generation of the Mi Smart Band looks much like the last.
This is certainly the case with the Xiaomi Mi Band 6. It’s pretty much the same lozenge-shaped unit as before, albeit a slightly thicker 12.7mm, housed in the same unbroken rubber strap system.
This is fine in the case of the main unit, as I’m a fan of its low-key vibe. It’s hardly stylish or fashionable, but it’s sufficiently stealthy (especially in all-black), even when you’re wearing something a little smarter than a sweaty T-shirt.
But at the risk of stating the obvious, this ‘if it ain’t broke…’ approach is only acceptable when it ain’t broke. And the strap system, to my mind at least, is patently broken. I constantly struggle to secure a good fit, because pulling the strap taut through the loop whilst simultaneously securing the pin in its mooring feels like an exercise in futility. They’re mutually exclusive.
Add to this the fact that, as a rather hirsute chap, the pin system very often grabs onto one of my arm hairs, and you have a system that’s a bit of a pain in more ways than one. I much prefer the traditional watch strap system of the Fitbit Inspire 2, although perhaps this is one of the corners that had to be cut to secure such a low price.
I’m willing to concede that this is purely a matter of personal preference, as my decidedly less hairy and more nimble-fingered partner feels quite strongly the opposite way. Just know that the Xiaomi strap system is a real love-it-or-hate-it affair.
The highlight of the Xiaomi Mi Band 6 – and the area in which it’s noticeably improved over the Mi Smart Band 5 – is undoubtedly its 1.56-inch display. With its vibrant OLED technology, 152 x 486 resolution (for a very respectable 326 ppi), and 450-nits peak brightness, it’s streets ahead of both its predecessor and the competition.
It’s more than a mere gimmick, too, since you can clearly see your progress and steps, calories and the like, depending on which colourful watch face you choose to download and use. Most of your interaction with this data will still come through the free Xiaomi Wear app, but it’s nice to have some immediate heads-up feedback. You can also customise elements of certain watch faces, which is a nice touch.
This larger, sharper display also means that the Mi Band 6 fulfils its smartwatch tasks relatively well for a tracker of its size and price. Short messages are easy to read, if impossible to interact with. The music control shortcuts work seamlessly with your chosen service – or at least they did with YouTube Music. And the added burst of colour and clarity makes the weather widget a decent one-glance tool.
From a pure design perspective, the display fills out the front of the device way more than before. As was the case with smartphones, the edging back of the bezels makes the Mi Smart Band 6 look and feel more modern and sophisticated.
Indeed, my test spell with the Mi Smart Band 6 overlapped my time with the Fitbit Inspire 2, and in comparing the two displays, it’s easy to forget which one is half the price of the other.
From another perspective, it’s a good job that the Mi Band 6 has such a strong display, because the Xiaomi Wear app is quite ugly and unintuitive. From the bizarrely prominent (and completely useless) avatar to the confusing scramble of menus, the software simply isn’t up to the standard of rivals such as Fitbit.
- Solid step and heart rate tracking
- No GPS or altimeter
- Sleep tracking isn’t as strong as Fitbit’s
The Xiaomi Mi Band 6 covers most of the bases when it comes to basic fitness tracking.
It will track your steps, your calories burned, your distance travelled, your heart rate, and your sleep should you wear it overnight – all detected through a three-axis accelerometer and a three-axis gyroscope.
This will also be used to trigger inactivity alerts, should you choose to activate them in the Settings menu. After an hour of not moving, you’ll receive a little notification to get up; but there isn’t the same level of encouragement/nannying as you’ll experience with Fitbit’s relentlessly motivational approach.
You don’t get advanced tracking features such as an altimeter here, and there’s still no built-in GPS. But, remember: this is a very cheap wearable, and that this isn’t a common inclusion at such a price. Even the Fitbit Inspire 2 asks that you hook up to your smartphone for pinpoint location tracking, which is the method here.
One major thing the Fitbit Inspire 2 does better than the Mi Smart Band 6, however, is automatic fitness tracking. Being able to set off on a quick run without fiddling around with your wrist is a huge convenience, and the Mi Smart Band 6 doesn’t appear to do it very well.
You can set it to detect up to five basic exercises, including walking, running, cycling, elliptical, and the rowing machine, but I found that it didn’t work anywhere near as reliably as its rival.
In the absence of a reliable auto-tracker, the method of kicking off a workout feels mystifyingly fiddly here. The option isn’t present on any of the four watch face-adjacent widgets by default, although it is possible to set a Workout widget to be accessible with a lateral swipe.
Otherwise, you’ll have to swipe up or down three or four times to get to the appropriate Workout option. Once there, it’s an easy enough task to kick-off one of the 30 fitness modes on offer. Ending said workout is a reassuringly deliberate process, too, requiring a couple of extended press-and-holds to stop altogether.
Going back to those fitness modes for a second, there are some strange omissions for a Western user. For example, why include badminton and table tennis, but not tennis or squash?
In terms of the tracking itself, I took the Xiaomi Mi Band 6 out for a run alongside the trusty Fitbit Inspire 2 and the Amazfit GTS 2 Mini, and found all of their step and heart rate counts to be roughly equal. None of these cheap trackers are precision instruments, but if extreme accuracy is what you’re after, then you’ll need to spend a lot more – and you might as well get something with built-in GPS, such as the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar or the Polar Vantage V2.
Xiaomi also enables you to activate PAI, which ups the heart rate tracking rate and rates you on the amount of time spent doing activities that elevate your heart rate. It’s essentially a HUNT Fitness Study-backed algorithmic approach to maintaining a healthy heart – score more than 100 PAI points per day to increase life expectancy.
It’s a shame Xiaomi doesn’t push this front-and-centre, as the Fitbit does with its Active Zone Minutes, since it seems like a worthwhile approach. Perhaps it’s because of the effect the extra heart rate polling has on battery life.
As touched upon, the Mi Band 6 also does sleep tracking. The band isn’t quite as comfortable to wear in bed as the Fitbit Inspire 2, owing to that rather thick body, but you’ll soon grow accustomed to it.
The sleep tracking itself breaks down your sleeping pattern into the relevant phases, and awards you a sleep score the following morning – along with a helpful line on what that means.
It seems a solid effort in general, although I did observe that it failed to pick up on any REM sleep whatsoever throughout testing, so it perhaps isn’t as well attuned as a device such as the Fitbit Inspire 2.
- Battery is a 125mAh unit
- Claimed 14 days, more than a week of intensive use in practice
- Two hours’ charging time
Xiaomi claims that you’ll get an extra-long 14 days of battery life out of a single charge of the Mi Band 6’s 125mAh battery.
That’s quite conceivable, although you’ll see that number lower dramatically if you make use of features such as PAI, which increases the degree of heart rate monitoring. To be fair to Xiaomi, though, it does warn that battery life will be halved before you flip that switch.
Naturally, the more exercise you do, the more the Mi Band 6’s stamina will take a hit too. I also found that the default screen brightness was a notch or two dimmer than I’d like, so bumping that up will obviously eat into that 14-day target.
Ultimately, even when testing the Mi Band 6’s more advanced features and increasing that display brightness, I was able to get through more than a week on a single charge, which is a strong result.
Xiaomi supplies a magnetic charging cable that’s far more intuitive to attach than the equivalent Fitbit Inspire 2 provision. It’s capable of getting you from 0 to 100% in the same kind of two-hour window.
Should you buy it?
You’re buying your first fitness tracker: At £40, and with a reasonably comprehensive range of basic fitness tools, the Xiaomi Mi Band 6 is the ideal first fitness tracker
You want advanced fitness tracking: There’s no GPS or altimeter built into the Mi Band 6, and it isn’t what you’d call a precision instrument
The Xiaomi Mi Band 6 is another excellent-value fitness tracker from a brand that’s on a bit of a roll right now. It’s a tried-and-tested offering, with an adequate suite of tracking tools and a much-improved AMOLED display. We’d have welcomed some more upgrades to the design, which is starting to look ever so slightly stale and clunky next to the competition. Similarly, the Xiaomi Wear app is in need of an overhaul, and some of the features such as sleep tracking and PAI need work on their implementation.
How we test
We thoroughly test every fitness band we review. We use industry standard testing to compare features properly and we use the watch as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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No, you have to interact with the screen for it to turn on
No, there’s no NFC for mobile payments here
Yes, it works fine with an iPhone