(Pocket-lint) - Misfit has long understood that an activity tracker doesn't have to look like a wrist-worn rubber band. With some of its products worn in a trainer or sock, plus a partnership with Swarovski, there are a multitude of options on its roster.
But if giant crystals aren't your thing and you just want a tracker to wear on your wrist, then the company's Shine and Flash trackers are a non-fit: their circular designs mean wearing them with a watch looks pretty ridiculous.
Enter the Misfit Ray, the company's most minimal tracker yet. Can it solve all activity tracker woes and do its job while looking half decent at the same time? Or is it a case of design over delivery?
Misfit Ray review: Design
We think the Ray is Misfit's best-looking activity tracker to date. It's simple, minimal and you might even say it's sophisticated.
The anodized aluminium tube is miles better in terms of looks than the circular nature of the Shine and Flash, even if not quite as comfortable. As the tube doesn't follow the natural form of the wrist, it does dig in a little after a while.
Importantly, though, we've been able to wear it with our normal watch, as well as with various pieces of jewellery and other smartwatches without it clashing. This review model is the Carbon Black version - but there is also a Rose Gold finish for those after a softer look.
Misfit has kept to what it knows best by offering various bands to further smarten up the Ray (additional accessories are incoming too).
Our review device featured the standard sports band, which is secured by threading one end through a loop on the other, fastened with a adjustable plastic pin that slides along the ridges of the rubber band. It's both secure and comfortable - certainly more comfortable than the tube itself - although it's not super easy to adjust the pin. Loosening the band or tightening it is tricky solo and getting it the right size first time is unlikely.
Inside the tube are hidden 8mm spring bars for the accessories, as well as three replaceable button cell batteries. To change the bands or batteries, it's simply a case of pushing in the strap and twisting. It's something that isn't immediately obvious and requires a bit of force, but it's also a mechanism that means the tube is very secure once the band is on. The Shine and Flash are renowned for popping out of their bands, making them easy to lose.
On the underside of the tube is a small Misfit logo, while the top features a small multi-coloured LED light. Tapping this activates it into showing progress in the form of red, orange and green lights.
Additionally, there is a small disc at each end of the tube that makes the Ray water-resistant up to 50 metres - something market-leader Fitbit doesn't offer on any of its eight trackers.
Misfit Ray review: Activity tracking and notifications
The Misfit Ray tracks steps taken, distance travelled and calories burned, along with sleep duration and quality. There is no heart-rate monitoring and no altimeter for elevation data. It's possible to tag specific activities such as cycling using the associated app, assuming the Ray recognises activity in the first place.
The app also offers smartphone notifications (for messages and calls only), but as there is no physical display these come in the form of a vibration and a flash of the LED light. There is no support for third-party apps such as WhatsApp, it's not possible to change the colour of the notification light, or filter notifications to just calls or texts. We'd like to see more options - although not too many, as without the visuals that would just get complicated.
The Ray also features a silent alarm function like many other activity trackers, as well as an idol alert function, called Misfit Move, that vibrates and lights-up the screen when you've not moved within a set period of time. Most trackers offer this function so it's not something new, but every company does it a little differently.
Misfit enables you to set the time period to be alerted within, such as from 9am to 6pm only, but it's also possible to set the frequency of the alert. With Misfit you have the option of 20-minute intervals (from 20-minutes up to 2-hours), while Fitbit users are simply alerted 10-minutes before the end of an hour if they haven't completed their 250 steps. Different methods, both designed to get you moving.
Misfit Ray review: Performance and accuracy
The best thing about the Misfit Ray, and other Misfit products for that matter, is that no charging is required. It means you can wear it 24-hours a day, seven days a week. A night's sleep data won't ever be missed because the Ray is charging on the bedside table, which is great for constant data.
In terms of step-counting accuracy, we found the Ray to return figures a little lower than expected. In the past we've found Fitbit to be almost spot-on in terms of steps. As a point of comparison we wore two devices together and found the Fitbit Charge HR measured 30,011 steps compared to the Misfit Ray's 27,092 measure. Now, we would rather it underestimated than overestimated, but there's a big difference there.
When it comes to distance accuracy, we were even more disappointed because, frankly, the Ray is terrible here. We've done two 16-mile walks and a 20-mile walk during testing, which we measured using MapMyWalk and the GPS from our smartphone. The Ray recorded 10.3-miles for the first 16-miler, 9.9 miles for the second 16-miler and 11.2-miles for the 20-miler. Even if the GPS was slightly out, it wouldn't have been this far out and after you've walked 20-miles you at least want your fitness tracker to recognise most of it - that's the point of the product after all.
Calories burned accuracy is a little harder to determine, not that such data should be taken as gospel on any activity tracker. As the Ray doesn't offer heart-rate monitoring, it is unlikely to offer a particularly accurate measurement, but it will give you a ballpark figure. For the first 16-mile walk, we wore the Fitbit Charge HR on our other wrist, which does record heart rate, even if not as accurately as a chest strap would. The Fitbit Charge HR recorded 3235 calories burned, while the Misfit Ray recorded 2834 - which probably comes down to 3000 fewer steps it recorded anyway.
The Ray is pretty good at picking up activity in general, though, allowing you to tag activities as swimming, cycling, basketball, soccer, tennis, running or simply keeping it as default. It doesn't have a flawless track record though, nor as wide a variety of options as Fitbit. The biggest downer is that it's not possible to instruct the device that you're about to commence an activity: we took several yoga classes while wearing the Ray and after an hour-and-a-half of blood, sweat and tears, it gave us nothing. Absolutely nada, which was pretty annoying. It can be added manually but we would rather these things were automatic or user-triggered.
However, the Ray's sleep tracking ability is good from what we can gather. That's a few points back on side. We aren't especially keen sleeping while wearing an activity tracker on our wrist, as it's not the most comfortable experience, but if you want the data that's what you'll have to do. Each morning the data correlated with our sleep experience and the times we woke up and looked at the clock. It isn't as comprehensive as the Jawbone Up3, as one example, but the Ray will present time awake, time in light sleep, and time in restful sleep in an easy-to-understand graph.
Misfit Ray review: App
Misfit has been in the activity tracking game for a while but its app would suggest otherwise. Compared to Fitbit, Withings and Jawbone, the Misfit effort just isn't as enticing - and it's points system is well, pointless really. However, the app is easy to navigate across its four tabs - Home, Social, Devices and Me - so all is not lost.
The Home tab shows your activity points and progress in the surrounding circle, with the option to flick between activity and sleep info. Under activity, you can see distance travelled, calories burned and steps taken, followed by the story of your day - a selection of data from activity performed, to food consumed, pulling in data from various third-party apps like MyFitnessPal if they have been linked up. The points circle can be switched for a graph by tapping the icon in the top right of the app, or a weekly and monthly view by tapping the top left icon.
The plus symbol in the bottom right corner of the Home tab allows you to manually add sleep, weight, food and activity, while activities can be edited by tapping "edit" under whichever activity needs changing. All pretty simple with no hidden agendas.
The Social tab is all about the Misfit community, something that is offered across all platforms. It allows you to compete with other Misfit users, whether for fun or a bit of friendly competition to keep you motivated.
The Devices tab is where you can set various preferences, such as wearing position, as well as the Misfit Move idol alert that we mentioned earlier. This section is also where the call and text notifications can be toggled on or off, and where silent alarms can be set. There is no way to determine things like stride length or which wrist you are wearing your Ray on though, both of which you can do with Fitbit.
The final tab, Me, offers a few more settings, accessed via the cog wheel in the top right-hand corner. Tapping this brings up three options: Account Info, Goals and Apps - all of which have their own deeper settings to tweak, such as linking-up to third-party apps such as MyFitnessPal, Nest Thermostat and RunKeeper, among others. Having goals in here feels a bit more tucked away than it should be though.
The Misfit Ray is a good-looking and affordable activity tracker. Its subtle design means it can be worn alongside a traditional watch without looking like you're doubling-down to placate your time-telling OCD. No need to constantly recharge it is a big plus point too.
The problem, however, is that the Ray doesn't bring that much to the table. Its activity tracking is basic and not hugely accurate from our experience, while the app platform is not nearly as comprehensive as some competitors. That tube design isn't the most comfortable to wear either.
Misfit does have price on its side, the incoming customised accessories might add more appeal too, but right now it's design over delivery - when what we want is the accuracy to match.