Review: Atlas Wristband 2 makes some improvements, but not enough

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 2016
Atlas' first Wristband was an ambitious but ultimately failed attempt to build a fitness tracker geared toward strength training, instead of just cardio-oriented activities like running and cycling. The second-generation model makes some modest improvements, but doesn't solve some of the fundamental complaints we had.




This review will probably be shorter than some, for the simple reason that there isn't a lot new. Check out our first-gen review for reference.

Despite being called the Wristband 2, there aren't many hardware upgrades here. The screen is more durable, there's three times the onboard memory, and it's now waterproof to a depth of 30 meters, which means that you can wear it swimming and in the shower. That memory boost lets you store more exercises, so in Freestyle mode for instance you can sync as many as you'd possibly need.




Improvements are mainly on the software side. One of the key faults of the original Wristband was its limited library of activities, and its demand that you match form perfectly to get reps counted. Atlas has worked around this (to a degree) by letting you teach the software new exercises, or customize existing ones to match your form. You can even teach it swim strokes, although the data the Wristband generates isn't terribly useful for swimmers.

This learning tech is certainly welcome and necessary, but doesn't address the accuracy -- or leeway, sometimes -- the device should have out of the box. While its recognition abilities can sometimes seem like magic, it still often adds or subtracts reps in each set, and can misidentify exercises in Freestyle mode. When we were doing deep lunges for example our review unit interpreted them as barbell squats, two things that should be almost impossible to mix up. In fact, after trying to teach the device our own interpretation of lunges, it then recorded them as dumbbell bench presses. At least you can still edit workout details after the fact.

Elsewhere Atlas has added the ability to create workouts with custom rest times, and "Smart Weight," meaning that your Wristband will remember the last-used weight for any particular exercise. This second item fixes a major annoyance of using a Wristband at the gym.




The company's companion iOS app has been upgraded with touches like more in-depth analytics, but keeps some significant flaws -- above all a lack of HealthKit support, and a deficient collection of built-in exercises and workouts. Many standard exercises remain absent, and the guided workouts are all short ones oriented towards beginners, less than 30 minutes each. Some are even less than 10 minutes.




Finally, some practical hardware issues haven't been dealt with. The strap is tough, but uncomfortable to wear for much longer than the duration of a single workout. Which may be just as well, because the Wristband 2's battery won't last a full day. Of course, the device isn't meant to be a smartwatch -- it's something you strap on when you're ready to hit the weights.

Conclusions



Polishing off some of the rough edges makes the Wristband 2 a better product, especially with a cheaper $199 pricetag. Our verdict remains the same, though: the only real audience here is novices, who might benefit from the guided workouts. Those people might still be better off hiring a trainer for a few sessions, or buying an armband phone case along with an app like StrongLifts 5x5.

Score: 2.5 out of 5



Pros:
  • Strength training features still unique in industry
  • Good heartrate tracking
  • Improved mobile app
  • Can be customized with new exercises
  • Waterproof


Cons:
  • Motion tracking/recognition not accurate enough
  • Gaps in built-in exercises & workouts
  • Strap not comfortable for long stretches
  • Short battery life
  • No HealthKit support


Where to buy:



The Atlas Wristband 2 is $199 direct from Atlas, or $199.99 from Amazon.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 3
    levilevi Posts: 283member
    I suspect we're a few years away, but hopeful Apple or a developer figures this out on the Watch. We have a glut of cardio focused exercise apps - that's great if you're a runner, but not so much for other things.
  • Reply 2 of 3
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    i found this article interesting, as my workouts are one of the main reasons i got an AW. for strength training i use the StrongLifts 5x5 app on my iphone which is in my pocket, and have its rest-end notifications pushed to my AW. this works fairly well, and the SL app now syncs its workout data (session & calories) to HealthKit. since i still have an AW "Workout" session going in order to track my HR and close the green ring, im not sure if this results in duplicated calorie counting for the session; it may.

    the ability for a wrist-worn device to identify strength training exercises and count reps is an appealing one. i do hope either AW learns it or app providers can implement it...tho i dont think its a minor bit of functionality to implement. i doubt the iOS app programmers working for SL (it's a small operation) have the biomechanic technical know-how to do it.
  • Reply 3 of 3
    mac fanmac fan Posts: 87member
    Interesting article, absolutely unattractive device.
    edited July 2016
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