While Xiaomi’s Mi Band series remains the top-selling Chinese wearable device, there’s a lot of other homegrown companies looking to cash in on the action.
MGCOOL is a recent crop-up, and a rather ambitious one. MGCOOL have launched an array of products in the recent couple of months, with the MGCOOL Band 2 wearable being one of them. It’s a budget OLED-display powered fitness tracker that MGCOOL want you to purchase instead of other big-brand gadgets.
We took one for a nice long spin, and here’s what we think. Keep reading for the full MGCOOL Band 2 review!
MGCOOL Band 2 Review
Starting with the experience of taking the band out of its box, the Band 2 leaves a rather nice feel. It does try to imitate the Mi Band retail box a bit, but that part (of being inspired) is a bit tough to remove from the Chinese DNA.
The latching process on the MGCOOL Band is not the prettiest, and nor the most practical. Unlike the Mi Band 2 (there’s going to be a lot of comparisons throughout the review), the MGCOOL Band 2 does not have a modular design. And thus, there’s no ‘capsule’ you can take out from the strap.
Like I’ve maintained since a good couple of years, basic wearables like this one are all about the algorithms. Unlike smartphones, beefing up hardware on a wearable will not make up for badly-optimised software (assume in case of poor memory management, the addition of a couple of GBs of RAM can make it slightly better).
In this specific case, the companion app is as important as the algorithms running in the tiny little CPU of the band. I’m sad to say that MGCOOL don’t do a very good job with the app; it’s rather shabby for now. For starters, you’re required to “sync to device” manually each time you make a change, for example when you set an alarm.
Also, the data requires syncing manually (by hitting the ‘synchronize’ button). While I’m surprised positively with the battery life the band has returned, it certainly doesn’t compensate for the lack of a beautifully-functioning app.
MGCOOL Band 2 Review: App Screenshots
As part of their branding, the MGCOOL app is also made in orange, which may or may not be to your taste.
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In the activity view, you can choose between Day, Week, Month and Year tabs. Sadly, it’s a really poor implementation — for instance, when you’re in the Day view, you can only see activity from the current day; you cannot swipe left (or right) to view activity from previous days. And the same applies to the Week, Month and Year tabs as well. This, for me, has been the biggest bummer.
The MGCOOL Band 2 also features a sleep tracking function. I got myself used to wearing the Band 2 while sleeping (not exactly the most convenient thing to do, especially with the hear rate sensor hardware bulging out), but sadly sleep tracking was way off the mark. Also, the sleep reporting in the app in unusable, MGCOOL need to get a real UX designer to help them out here.
What is good about the sleep tracking is that the app will ask you for your habits, which I really like. This is one feature that’s missing on the Mi Band; there’s no way you can ‘tell’ the app that X pm to Z am is when you usually sleep between. It only records sleep during usual night time. I’m quiet a nocturnal animal, and thus, it doesn’t quite work well with me in most cases.
Where the MGCOOL Band 2 suffers yet again is with the gesture wake feature. There is none, and you can only tap on the display to wake the band. Pretty much kills the time display feature of the band, because it does not replace a traditional watch (or another smart band with a gesture-wake feature).
Like most other gadgets from small-to-mid sized Chinese brands, the MGCOOL Band 2 does come with some gimmicky features. This includes the ability to control music and camera shutter (opens in the same MGCOOL app, sadly).
The hear rate sensor works well, and as per my experience with it, is fairly accurate and in line with the Mi Band 2 or other wearables.
All in all, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag but with the cons outweighing the pros… and that should answer the question that whether it’s something I recommend buying or not. Especially when there’s a behemoth in the Mi Band 2 sitting, waiting to be bought.