The Xiaomi Mi Band 6 isn’t perfect, but it offers tremendous value for money
- Improved display
- Nice band faces
- Solid for daily activity tracking
- No altimeter
- Inconsistent sleep tracking
- PAI Health scores not well integrated
Over the years, the Xiaomi Mi Band has proved that you don’t need to spend big to pick up a really strong fitness tracker outside of what the likes of Fitbit, Samsung and others have to offer.
The Xiaomi Mi Band 6 sticks largely to the same formula as the Mi Band 5 but adds an improved colour display, more dedicated sports modes and blood-oxygen monitoring. Impressive for a wearable that sits below the £40 mark.
Xiaomi MI Band 6 review: What do you get for your money?
Like the Mi Band 5, you’re getting a fitness tracker that works with both Android and iOS handsets, serving up a similar experience across both platforms. Features such as notification support and music control for native and third-party apps such as Spotify are present regardless of which you use.
You’re still getting a black plastic case, which can be subbed out for one of four more brightly coloured straps that can be purchased separately. The standout hardware feature you’re getting here is the display. It’s a 1.56in AMOLED touchscreen sporting a 152 x 486 resolution and 450 nits of brightness, which can be adjusted if you’re concerned about battery drain.
The Mi Band 5 offered a smaller 1.1in screen with a 126 x 294 resolution and the same maximum brightness. The new design is sharper, more colourful and does a better job of stretching to the edge of the casing to display even more data at a glance.
The motion sensors that track movement during activity and enable features such as sleep monitoring remain the same. There’s a 3-axis accelerometer and 3-axis gyroscope just like the Mi Band 5. You’re also getting a PPG optical heart-rate monitor that not only lets you take on-the-spot measurements but also lets you track heart rate during exercise or all day continuously if you like.
Xiaomi has also added the ability to measure blood oxygen during sleep and for on the spot measurements too. This uses the optical heart-rate sensor to generate readings that are displayed inside of Xiaomi’s Mi Fit companion phone app.
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In terms of what you’ll be able to track, Xiaomi covers the basics of letting you count daily steps, distance covered and an estimated calorie burn from your movement. There are also inactivity alerts that flash up when you’ve not been moving around enough during the day. Automatic sleep monitoring breaks down sleep stages, duration and offers sleep analysis. It will also track breathing quality thanks to the onboard SpO2 sensor.
On the health front, that heart-rate monitor unlocks stress tracking through heart-rate variability measurements, and there are breathing exercises on the band to help you get back to a more relaxed state during stressful periods in your day.
Xiaomi includes its PAI Health Assessment scores that are generated based on how regularly you raise your heart rate as an indication of a good state of health. There are also women’s health tracking features such as monitoring patterns of cycles, logging periods and tracking ovulation. Crucially, while these features are tagged as health functions, they haven’t been cleared or approved to offer serious health insights and should always be seen as guidance.
When you step up from counting steps to tracking exercise, Xiaomi offers core sports modes such as running (both outdoor and on the treadmill), pool swimming, skipping and rowing, where you’ll get additional exercise metrics beyond workout duration and heart-rate data. In total, Xiaomi has jumped from 11 sports modes to 30, including activities such as ice skating, cricket, badminton, boxing and Pilates. These will give metrics for duration and heart rate only, though.
The Mi Band 6 has smartwatch features too, though not that different from what was available on the Mi Band 5. You can view notifications from your phone, check the weather, and control music playing on your handset. You can also use the Band 6 as a shutter button for your phone’s camera, and compatible devices can even be unlocked from the wrist, too. There’s an extensive range of Band faces to pick from here, which need to be downloaded on the phone app and synced to the fitness tracker after.
Battery life is another reason to have the Mi Band 6 on your radar. It offers the same 14 days of battery life as the Mi Band 5 and even uses the same charging cable. When it hits 0%, it will take around two hours to get back up to 100%.
Xiaomi MI Band 6 review: What does it do well?
You’ll want the Mi Band 6 on your wrist because it does the fitness tracking basics well for starters. Daily step counts were within 500 steps of a Garmin Forerunner 55 running watch, while against a Fitbit Versa 3 there was a larger difference of 500-1,000 steps.
Progress is easy to view on the device from dedicated screens or band faces and on your phone via the accompanying app. That’s where you can dig into trends and see the activities that contributed the most steps over that day.
When bedtime rolls around, it’s a light and comfortable tracker to track sleep and you get some rich metrics and analysis to look over the next day. In general, sleep duration, sleep stages and sleep scores generated were in line with Fitbit’s sleep tracking features. You also have those additional breathing quality insights thanks to the onboard SpO2 sensor and the ability to measure heart rate during sleep, giving you a bigger picture of what’s happening overnight.
If you’re turning to it for tracking your exercise, then we’d say it fares better indoors than outdoors based on our experience. For pool swims and activities like indoor rowing, the Mi Band 6 offers solid tracking accuracy, particularly if you’re sticking to shorter periods of exercise time of between 20 and 30 minutes. During these periods, it was able to reliably capture the distance covered for pool swims and strokes during indoor rows. As soon as you take things longer, that tracking accuracy starts to falter.
With such a small screen to play with, it’s always going to be a challenge to offer a great smartwatch-style experience. Fortunately, Xiaomi handles those features well on the Mi Band 6. The larger display means you can fit in more data such as weather forecasts, and you’ll need to scroll less to view notifications. You can’t respond to messages, but the vibrant display makes them easy enough to absorb and read on the move.
Music controls are well optimised, too, and the collection of Band faces you have to pick from here gives you plenty of strong options. While you’re not getting a bucketload of smartwatch features, what is here works well.
Battery life on the Xiaomi Mi Band 6 is as solid as it was on the Mi Band 5, depending on how you use it. You can get the promised two weeks, but you can increase the chances of that by disabling advanced sleep monitoring features and adjusting the sampling rate for continuously monitoring heart rate. With all features in play and screen brightness kept high, it’s a tracker that’s good for a solid week’s worth of tracking, with the potential to go a little further.
Xiaomi MI Band 6 review: How could it be improved?
When you’re paying less than £40, you’ll have to make some compromises, and looks are one area that could do with improvement. While that screen is sharp and bright, what surrounds it is plastic. It’s also a plastic band that hasn’t changed all that much from previous Mi Bands, and while it’s a comfortable enough tracker to wear, it’s not exactly the prettiest.
The fitness and health tracking features on the whole are solid on the Mi Band 6, but the introduction of the PAI Health Assessment Scores feels like a bit of a missed trick here and a bit disconnected from everything else that Xiaomi offers. The idea of shifting the emphasis slightly away from step counts and raising heart rate through exercise is a positive move, but these scores don’t feel greatly integrated into creating an overall picture of your current state of fitness.
Staying on the heart rate theme, the tracker on the Mi Band 6 doesn’t feel hugely reliable for monitoring effort levels during exercise, especially during high-intensity sessions. In tests against a heart-rate monitor chest strap, maximum heart-rate readings were high enough to push us up by two heart-rate zones. It feels like there’s a couple of factors at play here. The strap just doesn’t seem to sit snugly enough even on its tightest clasp, and wrist movement seems to throw the tracker off a bit.
While it was a positive experience for sports tracking indoors, it wasn’t exactly the same story outside. Xiaomi does offer connected GPS, which means you can use your phone’s GPS signal to map outdoor activities, but it doesn’t do it well, with outdoor runs tending to lose connection. It struggled to capture routes in their entirety and was often as much as 3-4km off a Garmin GPS watch for distance tracking, though this could be a problem with the phone rather than the wearable, given it relies on connected GPS.
Xiaomi’s Mi Fit companion app could do with some love, too. It’s not the sleekest-looking interface and, while it offers scope to tinker with a lot that this fitness tracker is capable of, it just doesn’t feel as inviting or as user friendly as apps from Fitbit for comparison.
Xiaomi MI Band 6 review: Should I buy it?
You should buy the Xiaomi Mi Band 6 if you’re after an inexpensive fitness tracker that offers a strong collection of features, a great display to view those features and the promise of two weeks of battery life.
If you already own a Xiaomi Mi Band 5, there aren’t many reasons to upgrade, however. You still get a good-quality screen, similar fitness, health and sports tracking performance and near-identical battery life from the older Band, after all.
Looking around at what else similar money will get you, the Samsung Galaxy Fit 2 can currently be picked up for £42 and gets you a nicer look, but doesn’t necessarily offer much in the way of additional features. The Amazfit Band 5, which offers a similar design and features to the Mi Band 6, comes in at £29. The most notable addition here is Amazon Alexa to offer more in the smartwatch skills department.
You do have to make some compromises with the Mi Band 6, but on the whole, you get a really solid fitness tracking experience from something that you can wear 24/7. Sports tracking features are best suited to casual fitness fans, but with its light smartwatch features, it remains an appealing option that still costs less than most of the competition.