Hands-on: Nike FuelBand SE review

Nike has announced a new version of its FuelBand that brings with it several new features including hourly goals, sessions, and the ability to track your wrist movements more precisely, but is it any good and should you upgrade? We spent a morning with Nike doing all manner of things before the official release date to find out.

On first glance the band looks the same. It's roughly the same size and features the same OLED display, but it now adds a hint of colour to the proceedings although that is mostly hidden. But it's what's inside that has changed, Nike claims. 

Our first task was to get on a tandem and cycle across London, risking all for the love of a good review. Well, the last bit's not that true, but it's all about being active so that's what we did.

Of course, the more astute among you, who are perhaps already wearing the first version of the activity monitor, will realise the big problem here. You don't move your arm that much while cycling. It's one of the big problems of a band you wear on your wrist, but that's okay, because Nike now has an answer to solve this.

Rather than creating a device that monitors movement elsewhere in your body, Nike's response to those who cycle, do yoga, or other activities that involve lots of exercise but not with your arms is that you can now create Sessions. These sessions are set blocks of time (you start and finish it) that you can then manually edit and correct accordingly, depending on your workout and regardless of what the FuelBand says.

In the case of cycling, you can say that you worked out at medium strength and it gives you a set number of Fuel points which it thinks you've earned based on historical information it has on record and your previous activity. Helpful, although possibly open to cheating.

It's easy to start a session, either by holding the single button on the device itself or through the accompanying iOS app.

Off the bike and we realise our testing journey has only just begun with a drumming and boxing session, followed by some weird french modern art painting session that involved water and LED lights, and finished off with three minutes of intense skipping.

In the space of an 45 minutes we've racked up almost 1,000 Fuel points and we are still going strong.

Back on the bike and we head over to a kitchen of sorts that sees us whisking up pancakes. Yum.

It's here that we are able to see the new algorithm in action, two minutes of whisking delivers a paltry 34 fuel points, something we know could have delivered double that with the old model.

Nike tell us the new band has the ability to have a greater sense on when your whole body is moving rather than just your wrist, hence the lower score.

By the end we've being wearing the FuelBand SE for well over an hour and have knocked up our first hourly win. Result.

Noticing that people are perhaps very active for a set discipline such as a 5km run and then not for the rest of the day, Nike has introduced hourly goals to make sure you keep getting up off the sofa.

The hourly goals can be set - for example between 9am and 5pm - and as long as you reach your target each hour you win a point. The idea is to get as many as you can a day and, if you noticed that after a week you average only two a day, to start doing something about it.

Having cycled, boxed, drummed, skipped, painted and whisked, we are on to the final challenge - blending a juice by cycling, no really. We start and again instantly see the power of Sessions feature which details the Fuel points per minute, elapsed time and finally, total earned.

It also gives us a chance to check out the app as it's working with the Session page going from red to green depending on how hard your effort.

Connected to your Apple device via Bluetooth LE the idea is that the app is constantly connected to your band allowing you to see Fuel points earned in real time, connect with friends with a new photo-sharing tool, and check the all important leaderboards - Nike says those with friends tend to gun for more points to save looking like a wimp.

The morning and event is drawing to an end we've learnt a fair bit about the new Nike FuelBand SE, but not everything - more of that in a full review once we've had a chance to really put the new wearable device through its paces.

The key thing here is that the new FuelBand SE appears to be a confident leap forward for Nike in the activity band space and one that offers a consistent and tightly knitted experience with an iPhone or iPod touch.

From what we've seen in our active morning it is going to be harder to earn points in the future. We love the hourly challenge feature and think this will add a new element to those who upgrade or new users trying it for the first time.

We know ourselves that even though we like to run, making sure we do something every hour is hard. This should help a lot.

The new Nike FuelBand SE is out on the 6 November and costs £129.