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(Pocket-lint) - Xiaomi's expertise when it comes to affordable fitness trackers is no longer a matter for debate. This is the sixth iteration of its impressive Mi Band tracker, after all, and practice does tend to make (closer to) perfect.

We've been wearing it for a couple of weeks, day in and day out, to stack it up against the competition as well as its own previous versions, and we've come away without much surprise. This is a really solid band, with only minor drawbacks. 

Design 

  • 1.56-inch AMOLED display, 152 x 486 resolution
  • 5ATM water resistant
  • Weighs 62g

The Mi Band 6 isn't exactly a revolution when it comes to the design side of things - it looks much like the Mi Band 5, with some telling changes. That means that you still have a vertically-oriented display in a silicone housing and a band fastened by a punch-hole. 

It's super light and comfortable to wear, making it one of the easiest bands we've tried for overnight use, and there are plenty of holes in the strap to let you adjust the tightness of the fit when needed.

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The tracker is only available in one colour - black - although you can swap out coloured bands if you like.

The Band 6 charges with a small included cable that magnetically clips onto its underside. Nice and simple.

Where things have changed slightly is the screen, although the body of the tracker is only different by a matter of millimetres. Gone is the Mi Band 5's display, replaced with a new bigger AMOLED option that squeezes in an extra 50 per cent of real estate.

We're impressed by the change, too. The bezels around its edge are pretty tiny and the 450nit maximum brightness is impressive when cranked up, with a resolution of that's crisp enough.

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The tracker is still nice and thin, too, so it won't jut out from your wrist too far at all, further contributing to its comfort factor. Water resistance means you can feel free to keep it on in the shower, which also means it's fine for a swim if you're feeling more ambitious. 

The band might not be a real redesign, but more display on a similar-sized body is always a good equation from our point of view, and the Mi Band 6 is easy to wear for long periods, which is all it really needs to do. 

Tracking

  • SpO2 blood oxygen monitor
  • Heart rate monitoring
  • 30 sports modes
  • Sleep tracking

The Mi Band 6 isn't going to set the world alight with its design, then, but its tracking is the real reason you'll be picking one up. It's here that Xiaomi once again demonstrates that it has chops in this price bracket.

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You get heart rate tracking that you can trust to maintain solid accuracy, alongside an SpO2 blood oxygenisation monitor that, while a little finnicky when it comes to taking readings, is absent from many more expensive devices.

There's also sleep tracking if you're happy to wear it during the night, and passive stress monitoring if you want your tracker to tell you how you're feeling (no, it doesn't speak soothingly to you). The extent to which these last two features are constructive and useful might vary from person to person.

You get a whole bundle of exercise modes to pick from as well, when you decide to get a bit more active. There are 30 included, covering mainstream options like outdoor jogging and more niche choices like rowing. 

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These are easy to select and control while you're on the go, although when we left the Band 6 to its own devices and relied on auto-detection for our activities things weren't always quite as responsive as we'd want. 

Overall, though, the picture is impresive and easy to use - with data collected in week-long retrospectives and available through the companion app for more detailed assessment.

Software 

  • Mi Fit companion app
  • 14-day battery life
  • Tethered GPS

The software side of things is right down the middle of the road on the Mi Band 6. It's not exactly the smoothest and most responsive system you'll ever use, but it more than gets the job done.

Responsiveness on the touch screen is decent, while menus are fairly easy to swipe through and navigate around. A swipe in any direction from the home screen might bring up the settings menu, swipe you through more features, or bring up the main menu of options.

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It's all easy to learn, and you thankfully also don't need to worry too much about battery life. Xiaomi's stated 14-day battery life matches up to our testing, and even when we ramped up the screen's brightness there wasn't too much of a battery hit. 

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You'll need the Mi Fit app to connect to your phone for tethered GPS and synced health records, which is pretty easy to accomplish. The app itself is very much fine

Accessing your heart rate history or step counts is pretty simple, as is adding more home screen options for your band, but its layout is hardly the most intuitive, and seems to assume that you might have multiple Xiaomi products to control, muddying things a bit. 

Xiaomi also takes pains to again highlight its PAI system, a collated score to give you an idea of whether you're being active enough to maintain a healthy pattern of life.

It's a little bit opaque in terms of how the score is designated, but simple enough to provide no-frills motivation if you're in a rut, and it's satisfying to watch the numbers rise as you take the time to get a bit sweaty more often. Still, you can pretty easily ignore it, as it's far from a training plan or anything. 

Verdict

The Mi Band 6 shows that experience counts as far as fitness trackers go - and Xiaomi has plenty of it to go around. It hasn't reinvented the wheel in the Mi Band 6, but it's a solid improvement thanks to its better display.

Still, there's nothing here to force an upgrade if you've already got an older Mi Band and you're happy with it - and the slight hike in price that comes with the higher-quality screen does mean that the Band's previously stellar value is merely 'good', now. 

If you want a simple fitness tracker to start watching your lifestyle more carefully, the Xiaomi Mi Band 6 is a solid choice, much like those that came before it - but with a bigger, better screen to help everything along.

Also consider

Pocket-lintAlso consider photo 1

Fitbit Inspire 2

It's a little pricier, but if you want something similarly slim and light but with a better companion app, this Fitbit makes a solid case. You get top-class tracking, but the display is far less vibrant than the Xiaomi's - so it might come down to taste!

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Writing by Max Freeman-Mills. Editing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on 13 May 2021.