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August SWB200 review: A decent budget fitness tracker

Pete Clark
11 Feb 2019
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
30
inc VAT

It's wonderfully cheap and has long battery life, but the SWB200 needs further improvement

Pros 
Cheap
Excellent battery life
Cons 
Some features feel unnecessary
Display can be hard to read
Smartphone app needs improvement
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August, a small tech company founded in Cambridge in 2005, originally specialised in the production of TV receivers. In recent years, though, the company has branched out to manufacture speakers, headphones and, as with the SWB200, wearable electronics.

August’s first attempt at a fitness tracker came in the form of the SWB100 – a simple but effective smart fitness wristband that counts your steps, monitors your sleep and pairs with your smartphone to enable rudimentary notification support.

The imaginatively titled SWB200 is, then, the difficult second album. At first glance, the SWB200 is cheaper, better looking and packed with loads more features than its predecessor. So how does it shape up? Let’s find out.

August SWB200 review: Price and competition

Starting at the more-than-palatable price of £30, the SWB200 sits snugly in the realm of the budget fitness tracker. It costs around £5 more than the excellent Xiaomi Mi Band 3, which offers very similar features.

Other options for less than £100 include the £45 Amazfit Bip and the £80 Fitbit Alta HR, which is arguably the best-known affordable fitness tracker with a screen. Alternatively, if your budget can stretch to £120, the Garmin Vivosmart 4 is currently our favourite tracker that doesn’t have an integrated GPS.

August SWB200 review: What you need to know

Like the Xiaomi Mi Band, the SWB200 tracks your steps, distance covered and calories burned. On top of that, it features an integrated heart-rate monitor and, rather amazingly, blood pressure and blood oxygen level monitors – two features rarely seen on a device this cheap.

It functions in a similar way to most fitness trackers. Simply connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone and the accompanying “August Pulse” app will let you keep track of all your health-related data. It also notifies you when you receive phone calls and SMS messages (although you can’t read them) and acts as a remote photo trigger for your smartphone.

August SWB200 review: Design and display

The SWB200’s design is remarkably unremarkable. Available only in black, it features little-to-no embellishments or other stylistic touches. It’s nowhere near as aesthetically-pleasing as pricier trackers such as the gorgeous Fitbit Alta.

However, at this price practicality easily takes precedence over style. The SWB200 is light and discrete enough that you almost forget it’s there, which is just what you want from a £30 fitness tracker.

It has a reasonably-sized monochrome OLED panel which works perfectly well in the most part, even if it is considerably more difficult to read in bright sunshine. It’s not the most scratch or scuff-resistant, either.

The tracker’s touch button enables you to quickly scroll through its various functions, so you can check how many steps you’ve taken that day, how many calories you’ve burnt and more. It’s not always the most responsive but, for the most part, it does the job.

As for charging, accessing the SWB200’s port is a little tricky. You have to remove half the strap to locate it at the bottom of the main unit. It usually feels as though you’re about to break your new tracker in two before it comes loose, but eventually it gives in.

The SWB200 opts for a stud clasp, which makes adjusting and re-adjusting the device a suitably simple task. Having said that, even the loosest setting still feels quite tight around my average-sized wrist. You might want to be a little wary of the one-size-fits-all label, then, if you have larger wrists.

August SWB200 review: Features and performance

The SWB200 is unique in that it costs only £30 but has many features you’d only usually find on much pricier trackers.

Basic functions such as the distance, step and calorie counters all work well. The former aligned almost perfectly when I tested them on multiple 5km runs, with the latter two functions following suit and giving consistent readings.

It's a similar story with the heart-rate (BPM) monitor, which gives readings that were largely on par with a dedicated optical sensor – which costs more than double the fitness tracker – both at rest and when walking.

Although the tracker boasts blood pressure among its feature set – and it delivered consistently plausible results on this front – I’m not convinced of its necessity on a budget wearable like the SWB200. Indeed, something that’s inherently medical in nature is probably best left to qualified professionals, unless it can be consistently delivered with scientific credibility.

It’s the same story with the SWB200’s blood oxygen monitor. SpO2 readings can help in identifying conditions such as sleep apnoea and can also be useful during altitude training, but it’s difficult to see how the feature is useful in day-to-day life. Having said that, the SpO2 monitor has consistently given me readings of over 95%, which does seem accurate.

One area where the SWB200 delivers in spades, however, is battery life. It may not always reach the quoted 30 days, but I regularly achieved up to 20 days between charges, much longer than some more expensive trackers such as the Fitbit Charge 3. It also outruns even the Xiaomi Mi Band 3, which until now is the best we’ve seen from a tracker with a display.

Elsewhere, the SWB200 offers a stopwatch function, albeit with an utterly bemusing interface that displays minutes, seconds and milliseconds in three separate rows.

Its sleep tracking works well, though. You can view your total sleep time, including separate readings for deep and light sleep, and also see how many times you woke up in the night, which could help you to decide whether you would benefit from a new mattress.

Should you misplace the tracker, there’s a function that helps you find it by setting it to vibrate from the mobile app – useful for those annoying moments when it’s slipped down the back of the sofa. And, last but not least, one little feature that I really like: the camera trigger. One flick of the wrist and you can take a photo from afar. This is particularly handy if you want to trigger a group photograph without using a self-timer.

August SWB200 review: August Pulse app

The Pulse app’s homescreen gives you a handy breakdown of your current daily step count, last night’s sleep and your most recent heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen readings. All this info is then factored into a current fatigue summary shown at the bottom of the list.

So far, so good, but unfortunately it’s all downhill from there, at least in terms of the iOS version I tested. When I tried to analyse my health stats in more detail, the app’s interface quickly became more and more difficult to decipher. ‘Weekly report’ graphs are poorly labelled, rendering them almost impossible to make sense of, and random health tips dotted around the app seem vague and repetitive.

Since the SWB200 doesn’t have a Connected GPS, the Pulse app’s Run mode seems somewhat superfluous. Indeed, with no option to start a workout from your wrist, you’re probably better off installing a popular fitness app such as Strava or Nike Run Club, which both offer much more in-depth analysis as well as larger user communities.

August SWB200 review: Verdict

Giving the August SWB200 three stars feels a little bit harsh. If I could give it 3.5, I probably would. It’s a solid budget fitness tracker from a company that’s much less established than most of its rivals.

Unfortunately, though, it just simply isn’t as good as the 5-star Xiaomi Mi Band 3. Above all, it fails to deliver the basics in the way the Mi Band 3 does. With an improved display, a more refined app and by dropping some of the superfluous features, its successor might just be a fitness tracker to rival the very best.

Key specifications
Display0.96in OLED, 128 x 64 pixels
ChipsetNordic NRF51822
BatteryLi-polymer battery, 1,280mAh
Battery life30 days
Charging time2 hours
Protection levelIP67
Weight30g
Dimensions258 x 22 x 13.8mm
Price£30

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