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Sony SmartBand Talk review - hands on with the life tracker with an eInk screen

Tom Morgan
4 Sep 2014
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We try out Sony's latest wearable, the eInk screen-equipped SmartBand Talk

When Sony announced the SmartBand at CES earlier this year, we were a little surprised; here was a very simple fitness tracker that did little else other than count your steps and (awkwardly) control your music, trying to steal the limelight away from fully featured smartwatches. Clearly Sony decided it could go one better, and has introduced the SmartBand Talk at IFA. We got the chance to try out the new model, which gains an eInk display and several new features, in order to bring you some first impressions.

There's a very good reason to use an eInk screen rather than an OLED display, like the one Samsung added to its Gear Fit wristband; battery life. The SmartBand Talk might only have a 70mAh battery, but Sony says it should last five days from a single charge. 

Any display is naturally an upgrade over no display at all, with the SmartBand Talk able to tell the time, show you how many steps you've taken, what the weather will be like later and what music you're listeing to at a glance. You change what's displayed onscreen using the buttons at the side of the device, with the typical full screen refresh we've seen from other eInk devices before the next screen is displayed. The 1.4in panel looks pretty sharp, although we noticed a few ghostly images where the screen hadn't fully refreshed every pixel after switching to a new menu.

As the display is an integral part of the SmartBand Talk, there's no removable "Core" as there was with the original SmartBand. You can still change the straps, however, should you want a different colour or something completely different from Sony's own rubberised plastic band. Naturally for a premium Sony gadget the SmartBand Talk is waterproof, so you won't have to worry about it getting damaged if you get caught in the rain, or even go for a swim.

Compared to the current crop of smartwatches, the SmartBand talk looks rather plain with a black rubber wristband and greyscale eInk display, but some people will prefer the understated appearance. It barely weighs anything at all, so can easily take the place of a dedicated fitness tracker.

Unfortunately many of the SmartBand Talk's features were disabled on Sony's stand here at IFA, so we weren't able to put them to the test. It will eventually let you measure both activity and sleeping patterns using an integrated accelerometer, make and receive calls from a paired smartphone using the integrated microphone and speaker, and keep track of your life in general with Sony's free LifeLog app. Like any wearable worth its salt you'll be able to use the SmartBand Talk with any Android device, not just Sony's own Xperia range.

Based on what we've seen, the SmartBand Talk has potential for anyone looking for a wearable they don't have to remember to charge every day, but whether it can attract those aready converted to more feature-heavy smartwatches remains to be seen.

The SmartBand Talk should be going on sale in the UK from later this year, but so far Sony hsa given no indication of a UK price. With the original SmartBand costing roughly £50, we'd expect the eInk version to cost more, but still less than the average smartwatch. Hopefully we'll be bringing you a full review a little closer to launch.

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