(Pocket-lint) - Under Armour has partnered with HTC to give us something that only the freakishly active will probably consider: UA HealthBox.
This setup (which, yes, does arrive in an actual box) consists of three physical devices: UA Band, UA Scale, and UA Heart Rate. And all of these devices work with UA Record, a mobile app that compiles data from everything in the box to deliver a unified and cohesive experience.
The idea is you'll use the Band to track your workouts, the Scale to record your weight loss (or gains), and the Heart Rate chest-strap monitor to - as you might've guessed - get an accurate readout of your heart rate during exercises. All that data ends up displayed in UA Record, with the purpose of giving you a visualisation or total picture of the current status of your health.
UA HealthBox is a potentially useful culmination of fitness gadgets and software, but is it worth £349? We think some fitness enthusiasts will give it a shot, but the average consumer who only dreams about living an active life will probably find the price tag a little tough to swallow, especially since it's for a system they might not fully utilise.
We've spent two weeks fiddling around with UA HealthBox to see if it lives up to its potential.
Under Armour HealthBox review: Setup
The UA HealthBox has everything you need, if fitness-tracking is your goal. There's no need to download several apps and buy several devices from various manufacturers. With Under Armour's box, you're all set. Or at least that's what Under Armour believes; you can purchase the different devices within its box separately, but then you'll end up spending about £18 more.
So, first thing's first: download the UA Record mobile app from Google Play or Apple App Store, and while that's installing, grab the UA Scale. You'll need to pull a tab out to wake it, then let it find your Wi-Fi network, before finally stepping on it as to create a profile. Once that's done, grab the UA Band, push the power button to turn it on, and pair it to your phone via Bluetooth.
You won't need to setup the UA Heart Rate - because it just works. It connects to UA Record from the moment you first use it. Speaking of the app, it gives some advice on pairing each device and how to use them. But really you have to figure things out yourself, which shouldn't be too difficult, although we can definitely see our grandparents not understanding what to do with all this stuff.
Under Armour HealthBox review: UA Record app
The UA Record app is the glue to this whole thing. It's been around for a while and re-tooled to work with this particular kit. Consider it a hub for collecting and displaying all your fitness data. To connect each device to the app, tap the Sync button in the UA Record app and follow the onscreen prompts. After that, you're good to go.
The app's main screen has a four-quadrant dial that shows your activity (steps taken), fitness (active time and calories burned), nutrition, and sleep. In the middle of the circle, you'll see how much you weigh. And below that there is a "How Do You Feel?" question, used to rate from 1 to 10 about how you feel that day. You can also add notes; it's like a fitness diary.
The "+" button near the bottom of the main screen allows you manually add weight, food, sleep, and workouts. So UA Record aggregates your data from Under Armour's devices, provides a visual display of that data, and keeps track of your goals.
The app also has a sidebar that lets you create a profile as well as find and challenge other users. If you use other integrated fitness apps, such as Google Fit, MyFitnessPal, or MapMyRun (Under Armour owns those last two), you can connect them to UA Record to see all your data in one place. The app even plays nice with devices from Fitbit, Garmin, Jawbone, Misfit, Polar, and Withings.
We just wish the app had a coaching feature or could somehow give you detailed insights about what all your data means. An update could easily add those features, however, and then bring UA Record to the next level.
Under Armour HealthBox review: UA Band
UA Band arrives at an interesting time for fitness products. Most smartwatches have some sort of fitness-tracking element, while there are other wearables that are totally focused on fitness. There's no shortage of options. Yet Under Armour worked with HTC, so we assume the Band is the result of the HTC Grip that failed to materialise.
The black and red colour UA Band measures 17mm wide and 11mm thick, and it's super comfortable to wear. The wearable's electronics are crammed underneath its 1.3-inch PMOLED monochrome touchscreen, allowing it to be not only thin but also light and versatile. This thing can easily be worn 24/7, and we promise you'll forget it's even there after an hour.
You can use a SIM tool to switch out the short band for the long band (they attach at the bottom) for a better fit if needed too. Oh, and the Band is water-resistant up to 20-metres - but it's not waterproof. We were able to do everything from take a shower to do the dishes with this thing; we'd call that waterproof enough for the day-to-day.
To navigate the UA Band, tap and swipe around the touch-enabled display. It has five main screens for clock, activity, sleep, heart rate, and fitness, with each one allowing you go two or three screens deeper. You can tap, for instance, on activity to see distance and calories. You can also control music from your connected device and access various settings, including brightness levels and an Airplane mode.
The UA Band works as a pedometer but can also actively track specific workouts as well as pair with UA Heart Rate for active heart-rate monitoring and calories burned readouts. A phone with GPS is probably more accurate, especially when it comes to running, but this is still useful in that it doesn't require your phone to be with you (handy for workouts like yoga) and can later sync your data back to UA Record.
But we really like the sleep-tracking feature. It automatically works as soon as it realises you're sleeping and monitors stuff like your total sleep duration, hours of light or deep sleep, when you woke, and your resting heart rate. Be sure to tell it stop sleep-tracking in the morning however.
Other features that standout on this £149 fitness tracker include a wrist-vibration alarm, five days of battery life (it has a 112mAh battery), and a proprietary magnetic charging cable that'll bring the Band to a full charge in about 25-minutes.
Under Armour HealthBox review: UA Scale
The Scale is our favourite part about this system - at first, anyway. It looks really awesome: it has a circular, minimal design with a sleek black scheme. It's 36mm high and measures 356mm across, so demands a chunk of floor space.
You'll want to give it a dedicated spot too, because otherwise it must recalibrate every time you move it. When you stand on the scale, you'll see digital numbers appear in the LED dot-matrix display near the top. When in use, it'll confirm you're you and bring up your personal profile. It'll then give you a weight readout (in pounds or kilograms) and your fat percentage.
The UA Scale can remember profiles for up to eight people and syncs each person's data via Bluetooth to their UA Record apps. Keep in mind the scale takes 45-seconds to serve up all your information, while the UA Record app will automatically record and track your data over time.
It sounds pretty cool, but unfortunately the readouts weren't always accurate. In our tests, UA Scale always provided different weight and body fat percentages. Sometimes we were three pounds up; sometimes we were seven pounds down. It was disappointing, to say the least.
UA Scale can offer five months of battery life with its included AA batteries, though without being able to depend on the readouts, we doubt you'll be using this £149 disc for much more than bathroom decoration.
Under Armour HealthBox: UA Heart Rate
So, the UA Band is pretty basic, and the US Scale is largely amiss, but what about this kit's last physical component, the UA Heart Rate?
We'll get to the point: it's awesome. Under Armour made a smart decision by including an accurate, chest-worn heart rate monitor, because we get the feeling the only people interested in a £349 fitness gadget suite will be hardcore fitness enthusiasts, the types who want something like UA Heart Rate.
This contraption features an adjustable elastic band with two pads. The pads must contact your chest for accurate readings (and the UA Record app recommends you get them wet for conductivity). A puck-like clip on the middle of the chest strap aggregates and delivers data to your phone or UA Band over Bluetooth. The puck is plastic and measures 38.5mm across and 15mm thick. It fits around your chest during workouts and delivers readings more accurate than wrist-based wearables can offer.
The UA Heart Rate can track calories burned with the UA Record app. It can also send heart-rate data to the UA Band during a workout, and it'll even cause the band's LED to blink various colours depending on your heart rate zone (blue is for resting, red is for peak heart rate, and so forth). UA Heart Rate auto-connects to your devices and requires no setup time - apart from looping it around your chest - before providing live heart-rate readings.
The £69 UA Heart Rate should come with a one-year battery life, so long as you use it for an hour or less each day (we didn't have long enough to verify that!). It'll provide readings for a full workout, and when you're done with it, all you have to do is set it down to turn it off.
If we had to nitpick about one thing, we'd say the chest strap is awkward to wear. It's not uncomfortable; you just won't ever forget it's there - like any chest strap, really, which is why some people prefer wrist-worn heart-rate devices.
The Under Armour HealthBox is hit and miss. Some of it is worth its weight in gold, while other bits from the box just don't pull their own weight.
Under Armour's HealthBox is a neat idea for those of you looking for a one-stop-shop kit, but don't expect consistency. We found the UA Band comfortable, but it's also pretty basic. When paired with the UA Heart Rate it's very useful however. As for the UA Scale, although it looks sleek, it's just not any good.
Our favourite part about this mashup of Under Armour-branded goodness is the UA Record app which, ironically, has been around for a while, is free to download, and works with apps and devices outside of Under Armour's own bundle.
We can't help but wonder if people should take their money and split it on various devices from various manufacturers instead. This is a £349 package with no extra benefit to using it over the many similar products available at similar prices. The Garmin Vivosmart HR and Withings Smart Body Analyzer digital scale, for instance, both sync to Under Armour's app and cost £100 each. It's definitely worth exploring all your options.