The Xiaomi Mi Band 6 is the latest update to the budget fitness tracker range, that’s become one of the biggest selling wearable ranges in history.
The Mi Band has dominated the cheap tracker space, but with Amazfit, Samsung, Huawei and even Fitbit pushing the price down of their most affordable fitness trackers, Xiaomi has to work harder to stay in front of the pack.
The Mi Band 6 aims to stay on top by offering a bigger, higher resolution display, bolstering workout modes and jumping on the blood oxygen measuring bandwagon.
Price and competition
The global Mi Band 6 price hasn’t been confirmed by Xiaomi just yet – but it retails for 229 yuan in China. Global pricing never follows direct conversion, but the Mi Band 5 started at 189 yuan – so we could see a slight increase in price. The Mi Band 5 eventually went on sale for $49.99. We’d be surprised to see Xiaomi break the $50 barrier, so expect the same kind of price tag.
We’ve been putting the Mi Band 6 to the test to see if it’s a worthy upgrade on the Mi Band 5 and if this is still the budget fitness tracker to beat. Here’s our verdict.
Xiaomi Mi Band 6: Design and screen
Out of the box, the Mi Band 6 looks identical to the Mi Band 5. It has the same curved edge screen, same style band and thickness and weight-wise it feels the same too.
It’s made a slight jump from a 46mm case to 47mm, and it’s slightly thicker than its predecessor at 12.7mm (previously 12.45mm). However, the difference is imperceptible when worn.
Xiaomi Mi Band 6 (left ) and Xiaomi Mi Band 5 (right)
What has changed is the display, but again, it’s not that instantly noticeable. Xiaomi has maximized the screen by going right to the edge of the case, and it’s 50% bigger than the Mi Band 5.
It’s a 1.56-inch AMOLED display, with a 152 x 486 resolution that punches out at 450 nits. The real-world difference is the colors feel more punchy and sharp.
There’s still a black bezel here, but it’s more evenly distributed around the screen to offer a longer screen that can fit in more information on a single screen. Now you can view two app icons on a screen as opposed to one and it can show offer richer weather details.
The build is still a plastic module that sits inside a rubber band – which attaches with pin-type clasp you push through holes in the strap. It’s not the easiest to get a good secure fit, and it did come loose a few times. The band itself is pretty uninspiring in terms of design, although it’s inoffensive and sweat-proof.
Is that enough to warrant jumping ship? Probably not alone, but it’s a nice addition that makes the Mi Band nicer to look at and use.
We’d be inclined to say Samsung’s Galaxy Fit 2 is a better looker at this price. If you want a comfortable band with a good screen, then that’s what you’ll get here.
Xiaomi Mi Band 6: Fitness and health tracking
Fitness tracking is the Mi Band’s bread and butter, and there are plenty of competitors that offer good activity features at the same price.
How it tracks your fitness and delves into monitoring your wellness hasn’t drastically changed. For daily activity tracking, the Mi Band 6 uses the onboard accelerometer to track daily steps, distance covered and calories burned. There’s still no altimeter to measure elevation or floors climbed.
It’ll also track how many times you activated the inactivity alerts and this information along with 7-day step totals are viewable from the Band. From the Mi Fit app, you can see a breakdown of how those steps were generated, which is a nice touch.
Step tracking compared: Xiaomi Mi Band 6 (left) and Garmin Enduro (right)
There’s a bunch of Band faces that can show you this data, or you can head to the Status menu to see if all in one place.
From an accuracy point of view, we put it up to the step challenge with Fitbit’s Sense smartwatch and the fitness tracking available on the Garmin Enduro sports watch. We found step counts were as much as 2,000 steps off from Fitbit, but much closer in totals with the Garmin, as illustrated in the screens above.
Inactivity alerts aside, there’s nothing else going on here as far as motivating you to move. You can adjust step goals in the companion app, but that’s really your lot.
To shift the emphasis away from steps and onto good heart health, Xiaomi once again includes PAI. This is a single score, based on time spent in elevated heart rate zones in the last seven days.
If you go for a brisk walk, workout or run you get more points. You need to make sure you have 100 PAI to ensure you’ve met WHO guidelines of active time.
The concept is a great one, though as we’ve said before, it’s one that Xiaomi needs to do a better job of making it motivational. At the moment, it feels on the fringes of the experience and poorly explained, when it could be a great way to keep you motivated to move more and raise that heart rate on a regular basis.
Sleep tracking and accuracy
When it’s time for bed, it will automatically track that sleep time and you’ll need to head to the companion app to view your stats. There currently isn’t a way to see those sleep stats on the Band itself.
You’ll find a record of sleep duration, sleep stages including REM sleep and it’ll even pick up naps.
There’s a sleep quality analysis to let you know if you fell asleep at the right time or even got enough sleep. You’ll also generate a sleep score, see how you compare to other users and see your sleep regularity over a the last 7 days.
Initially we had some issues with sleep not recording – but once the issue settled down it was a solid experience.
We put it against a Fitbit Sense – one of our favorite sleep trackers – and generally sleep duration was higher on the Xiaomi Mi Band 6, although tracking of light and deep periods was in the same ball park.
Minor wake-ups aren’t as reliably tracked on the Mi Band, but overall the data is well laid-out and explained.
You can see an overview of light and deep sleep cycles, although there was no REM sleep detected.
Sleep breathing was also tracked – and we got 99/100 – matching flawless blood oxygen levels on the Fitbit.
And the Xiaomi also tries to make sense of your data, flagging things like falling asleep late, not getting enough sleep and a lack of deep sleep.
You also get an overall sleep score. While having all of the above flagged, we still got extremely high scores for quite poor sleep sessions. The pictured example was the closest matched sleep duration of any night with the Mi Band 6 (generally the Band 6 would measure an hour more), yet the sleep scores
It also seem illogical that Xiaomi would flag three serious issues with sleep quality, yet still give us an 8/10.
This leads us to summarise that while the Mi Band 6 is a capable sleep monitor, if you’re looking for quality insights and assessments as a basis of making changes to your sleep quality, it lags Fitbit.
However, for casual users with a passing interest in sleep quality, there’s plenty to like about the Mi Band 6.
Stress tracking and mindfulness
There’s some mindfulness and other health monitoring features that make the cut here. There’s female health tracking some pretty standard fare breathing exercises and there’s stress tracking. This uses heart rate variability measurements to generate that stress data.
You can perform on the spot measurements or continuously monitor stress. Both of those measurements are stored in the Mi Fit app where a colour coded system is used to identify stressed and relaxed moments.
Our stress data seemed very bare on most days, with one or two spikes of those colours usually indicating mild stress or relaxed moments. It didn’t feel hugely useful with the graphs usually very sparse.
If you’re expecting a rich fitness and health tracking performance, it didn’t quite add up to that for us. Especially with that broken sleep tracking.
Xiaomi Mi Band 6: Smartwatch features
Nothing has really changed on the smartwatch features front, though that bigger display does mean it can show you more information and make things feel a little less cramped.
It works with Android phones and iPhones and you can view native and third party app notifications, as well as get nudged about messages and calls. You can set up reminders and alerts, view weather forecasts, control music playing on your phone and use it to remotely take photos with your phone’s camera.
There’s no NFC in this version, so no payment support. It’s also worth mentioning that the Amazfit Band 5, which is a very similar device at a similar price, also offers Amazon Alexa. The Mi Band 6 doesn’t get any Alexa love.
Does that bigger display radically alter the experience? We’d say not. But data filled screens can show more information, so it’s a welcome step forward.
Notification support works in much the same way. You can’t respond to notifications or view images, but you can clear them when you’re done reading them. That skinny, display is always going to make things feel cramped, but at least you can quickly establish where notifications are coming from.
Xiaomi does a really good job of offering plenty in the way of Band faces here too. You can press and hold on your current one to pick from 3 different options and then venture into the Mi Fit app where you’ll find a whole lot more in its dedicated store.
There’s nothing to pay and it’s largely a painless process to get them downloaded and synced over to the Band. There’s a nice collection here and you do get some animated options as well, though those are likely to knock the battery life a little more. However, we love the stock Xiaomi watch face that shows core fitness metrics in each corner.
The smartwatch experience on whole is good given the compromises you have to make with the amount of screen available. Even if it’s bigger than the previous Band. We used it paired with an Android phone and didn’t really have any major problems to report.
Things like notifications, music controls, weather updates work without any issues and on the whole it offers a basic, but largely reliable set of smartwatch skills here.
Xiaomi Mi Band 6: Sports tracking
When you’re ready to start exercising with the 6, you’ll be happy to hear there’s now 30 sports profiles instead of the 11 on the Mi Band 5. So you’ve got those core sports covered like running, cycling and swimming (pool only) and then things like jump rope, HIIT, core training, Pilates, basketball and cricket.
It’s not going to track your three pointers, but it will at least tag your time on the court and heart rate as well instead of tagging it as a general workout.
In addition to manual tracking, there is also automatic exercise tracking here too and that covers running, walking, treadmill, cycling, rowing, elliptical. We largely focused our time on how it performed on the manual tracking front.
There’s accelerometer and gyroscope sensors to track movement and outdoor activities get a mapping and accuracy boost thanks to the connected GPS support. That means piggybacking off your phone’s GPS to still get that desirable route data.
That being said, it wasn’t the best experience making use of that connected GPS support. In our outdoor runs, distance tracked was significantly off from a the Garmin Enduro, which meant other metrics weren’t that useful either.
Run tracking compared: Xiaomi Mi Band 6 (left) and Garmin Enduro (right)
It also struggled to fully capture the route as well. it seems as if carrying your phone in a running belt may contribute to the far from great performance. So if you’re planning to make use of this feature, we’d suggest using your phone in an armband is the way to go.
Moving back indoors, we used it for general strength workouts, HIIT sessions and indoor rowing sessions. The data on screen is a little easier to absorb than it is outdoors, though in general Xiaomi perhaps needs to consider a larger font option to let you view one or two metrics at a time on screen.
Indoor rowing tracking: Xiaomi Mi Band 6 (left) and Garmin Enduro (right)
For indoor rowing, you can track average stroke rate and fastest stroke along with workout duration and heart rate. That stroke data actually matched up with Garmin’s indoor rowing tracking, so it actually performed pretty well on this front.
When it comes to reviewing data, you can do that from the Band itself from the Workout History screen or delve deeper into the exercise records on the phone app. The layout of the data is actually done really nicely on both device and app. There’s also Strava support here too if you want to fire data over to the third party app and it did it with no problem for us.
If you can get the right setup here, then the Mi Band 6 can do a competent job as a sports tracker. It’s definitely better suited to fitness tracking, but there are some sports modes here that work well given how cheap this device is.
Xiaomi Mi Band 6: Heart rate accuracy and SpO2
The optical heart rate monitor on the Mi Band is built for offering on the spot measurements, continuously monitoring heart rate to give your your maximum and minimum resting heart rate measurements and the heart rate zones you’ve spent your time in. It will also monitor that heart rate during exercise.
The frequency that your heart rate is monitored continuously can range from every one minute to every 30 minutes, with the former giving you more accurate data but also demanding more of the battery.
That heart rate monitor also powers PAI scores and the advanced sleep monitoring assistant, which increases heart rate measurements during sleep and is used to power HRV measurements for all-day stress tracking.
In terms of accuracy, measurements were generally in line with Fitbit’s – although the Mi Band 6 doesn’t record resting heart rate so like-for-like comparisons are tough.
However, during exercise we did notice bigger disparity.
Running heart rate: Xiaomi Mi Band 6 (left) and Garmin chest strap monitor (right)
We put this inaccuracy largely down to the fit of the Band. It felt impossible to get the kind of snug fit with the strap on our slim wrist to ensure those readings were more reliable. The strap clearly needs a few more holes added into get a more reliable fit.
Indoor rowing heart rate: Xiaomi Mi Band 6 (left) and Garmin chest strap monitor (right)
That inevitably had an impact on monitoring heart rate during exercise as well. On indoor rowing sessions, average heart rate was generally within 1bpm of Garmin’s HRM Pro chest strap monitor. Max heart rate though was 10bpm higher the chest strap.
For steady running, average heart rate was 10bpm higher than a chest strap and maximum heart rate readings were 10bpm and sometimes even higher than the HRM Pro. Even without upping the intensity, it struggled to cut it.
A big feature and a very on trend one that you don’t get on the Mi Band 5 is the SpO2 sensor. That means you can measure blood oxygen levels on the spot, with readings recorded in the Mi Fit app. It doesn’t continuously monitor blood oxygen levels, but does use it for sleep monitoring features explained earlier.
We compared on the spot measurements with an iHealth pulse oximeter and percentage matched up pretty much on most occasions. Xiaomi like others that include it, says this isn’t one for medical use and there’s no real effort to put into context with your other data. It seems accurate, just not that useful at the moment.
Xiaomi Mi Band 6: Battery life
The Mi Band 6 packs in the same 125mAh capacity battery as the Mi Band 5, which Xiaomi again says is capable of getting you 14 days of battery life.
Much like its predecessor though, this entirely depends on what settings and features you make regular use of. So having the screen nice and bright, turning on continuous heart rate monitoring and advanced sleep tracking features and regularly tracking exercise will dent the battery performance.
In our experience, with the screen nice and bright, notifications enabled, those advanced health and sleep monitoring features and continuous stress tracking enabled and tracking an indoor or outdoor exercise once a day, we saw a daily drop-off of about 15%, which worked out to around 7 days.
Of course, if you prefer more staying power, you can turn some of these off for 10 days of charge.
The Mi Band 6 does give the cheap fitness tracker a higher quality (and larger) display, but other than that, it all feels very familiar. It’s a solid fitness tracker that offers some good smartwatch features and is a mix bag for proper sports tracking. It doesn’t feel like Mi Band 5 owners should rush to upgrade, but the bigger problem is the competition. As that price creeps up, it’s putting it up against the likes of Samsung and Huawei, who are arguably now making much better cheap, feature-rich trackers that may well end up knocking Xiaomi off its perch.
- Brighter, bigger screen
- Solid fitness tracking
- Easy to use
- Mi Fit app a bit messy looking
- Heart rate accuracy at high intensity
- That price is creeping up