All Hands on Tech: Review of the Under Armour HealthBox

This week, we’re looking at the Under Armour and HTC connected Health Box, which is actually three pieces of hardware in one.

First up, the fitness band.

Let’s start with the good stuff: Design-wise, it looks good on your wrist, isn’t too bulky, and doesn’t draw a tonne of attention. It also comes with two different sizes of wrist band that are easy to switch between.

The band’s battery life was OK; without recharging, it will last around four or five days.

Like most wearables, the band offers heart rate monitoring, synced notifications, distance tracking, sleep tracking and step counting – pretty much the bare minimum for any activity tracker on the market today.

The band’s heart rate monitor is designed to only measure resting heart rate, but since the numbers the device gave me varied more than they should, it’s hard to know which reading to believe.

I’m not a fan of how the band feels on my wrist: its shape makes it uncomfortable to wear and difficult to adjust. The orientation of its screen makes it tricky to read, and when paired with the complex menu, I had a hard time navigating this wearable.

The charging cable is also tiny, and it’s hard to keep the device connected. For some reason, there’s no wall adapter included.

The sleep tracking feature turns on automatically when you go to bed, but I found it much too easy to disrupt the tracking. Just rolling over during the night could mess it up.

Buying Under Armour’s fitness band individually will cost you $199 Canadian.

The next item in Under Armour’s Health Box is the heart rate monitor. Like the fitness band, it certainly looks attractive and won’t bulge from underneath your clothing.

However, there’s too much syncing going on with this device. It needs to sync with both your fitness band and the smartphone app to work properly. Admittedly, when it does work, it’s great – just look at your wrist to see your active heart rate, and the app records it for you.

The problem – in my experience, at least – is that it rarely worked. Whenever I had the monitor all set up and ready to go, it had mysteriously shut down by the time I arrived at the gym. And this device is hard to troubleshoot.

As any athlete can tell you, wearing so many devices during a workout becomes very annoying very quickly. I felt like a bionic person. It didn’t help that I couldn’t get the heart rate monitor to fit as tightly as I would have liked: the strap needs to be more adjustable.

Under Armour’s heart rate monitor is available on its own for $99 Canadian.

Last up is the digital scale. Again – great design, although more than one person asked me why I was standing on a Roomba.

One of the biggest selling points of the digital scale is that you can allegedly measure your body fat percentage, but I’m skeptical. According to that scale, my weight is 35 per cent body fat, which – well, watch the video. The problem is that my height was saved incorrectly in the Record app, and I couldn’t update it because the scale and app wouldn’t sync.

And really, should one wrong metric truly mess up the percentage that much?

It’s exciting to have a device that recognizes you by name as you step on it, but I found the scale’s menu difficult to navigate. To confirm that you have the right profile, the device will instruct you to step on either the left or right side of the unit – think Dance Dance Revolution, except not as fun. The scale is also not rechargeable, so be ready to purchase some more spare batteries.

On its own, the scale will set you back a hefty $229 Canadian.

Finally, there’s the Record app, which is supposed to bring these devices together. The interface is good and simple to navigate, but I had a hard time keeping the devices connected with my phone. In the end, I gave up trying to sync them with my Samsung Galaxy S5, and instead resorted to an iPad Pro.

To be honest, I had so many issues syncing the devices with the app that I barely even got to use it. The moment I solved one problem, another one seemed to arise. Maybe I just had a lemon, but this device gave me more headaches than insights into my fitness level.

In case you can’t tell, I was underwhelmed by the contents of this box – and considering its total price tag of $449 Canadian, there’s just no way I’d buy it.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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