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I tried the budget Mi Band 7, and it’s almost as good as the $150 Fitbit Charge 5.
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Lexy is an on-air presenter and award-winning producer who covers consumer tech, including the latest smartphones, wearables and emerging trends like assistive robotics. She’s won two Gold Telly Awards for her video series Beta Test. Prior to her career at CNET, she was a magazine editor, radio announcer and DJ. Lexy is based in San Francisco.
My favorite overall fitness tracker is the Fitbit Charge 5. But priced at $150 (£169, AU$270), it may not be the best option for your budget. If you’re looking for a solid fitness tracker on the cheap, let me introduce you to the $60 Xiaomi Mi Band 7. It has a big color screen, sleep tracking, blood oxygen monitoring and 24/7 heart rate monitoring just like Fitbit’s tracker. At less than half the price, can it possibly match-up to the Charge 5? Surprisingly, in many ways it does.
I love to find cheaper alternatives to big-name products and even have an entire YouTube series dedicated to the cause. The new Mi Band 7 is a viable competitor to more expensive smartwatches and trackers from brands like Fitbit and Amazon, as long as you don’t need certain health features. Even though it’s not as accurate as the Charge 5, it’s packed with plenty of workout tracking options and connectivity features to suit most people’s needs.
Watch my full comparison in the video on this page or read on for the cheat sheet.
Both bands work on iOS and Android.
Put these two trackers side by side, and you’ll notice both of them have color touchscreens. But the Mi Band 7 edges out the Charge 5 with its larger 1.62-inch screen. This means you can fit slightly more text on the screen without needing to scroll, which is helpful for reading message notifications or viewing workout stats. Both screens have an always-on setting, so you don’t need to raise your wrist to see the time. I find them both easy to see in broad daylight… as long as I remember to turn up the screen brightness to max on the Mi Band 7.
Navigation is easy on both, but I prefer the Charge 5 for usability overall since I can double-tap on any screen to get straight back to the clock face. With the Mi Band 7, I sometimes need to swipe back several pages to get back to the start.
Comfort is highly subjective, but the Mi Band 7’s slimmer design makes it more suitable for smaller wrists.
I test all trackers against a chest strap, which is considered the gold standard for consumer heart rate tracking. The Charge 5 does a great job of matching the strap after a minute or two of embarking on a cardio-based workout like a jog or run. But the Mi Band’s heart rate readings lag behind the strap significantly when doing the same exercise. I noticed this on a hike while walking up a steep incline, during which both Fitbit and the strap reflected my heart rate at around 130 beats per minute. The Mi Band remained a more subdued 95 bpm.
The Charge 5 is better at accurately capturing heart rate during vigorous exercise and workouts that involve arm movements, like dancing, running or walking. But for more stationary exercises like spin bike rides, the Mi Band 7 did just fine.
That said, the Mi Band 7 has a ridiculous number of available workout types: 120 in total. That’s not a typo. The Charge 5 only has 20 workout options, with six slots on the device itself which you can customize manually in the app.
More importantly, the Charge 5 is the only one of these trackers that has built-in GPS. This means you can leave your phone at home and still accurately track distance and route information. The Mi Band 7 only has connected GPS, which is probably my biggest disappointment with its fitness tracking features overall.
Sleep tracking differs on both bands.
Sleep tracking is also better on the Fitbit Charge 5, as I found it more accurately reflected my awake time during the night. I also felt the Charge 5’s sleep score was more in-tune with how I felt in the morning compared to the super-high score I’d get from the Mi Band 7. After 14 days of tracking your sleep in a month, Fitbit Premium subscribers get a sleep profile with deeper insights, and a so-called sleep animal that reflects your sleep style.
You’ll need to toggle on the advanced tracking option in the iOS or Android app to get more in-depth sleep tracking on the Mi Band 7 since it’s not on by default. The Charge 5 also comes with a Food and Drug Administration-cleared electrocardiogram app to detect signs of atrial fibrillation, unlike the Mi Band 7. Both also can track blood oxygen at night, but the Mi Band can also take spot readings on demand or track continuously throughout the day.
You can set alarms and timers and view phone notifications on both the Charge 5 and Mi Band 7. When paired with an Android phone you can also send and customize quick text responses on both. But only the Mi Band 7 has music playback controls for your phone and a calendar app to see your agenda.
The Mi Band 7 has way more watch faces to choose from, including third-party options. It also has a find my phone feature, a camera remote and a flashlight. The Charge 5 is more limited with only 24 watch faces, but Fitbit did just add a find my phone feature in the latest update in July 2022. It also has Fitbit Pay for NFC payments from your wrist, whereas international version of the Mi Band 7 that I have doesn’t include NFC.
Battery life is also another win for the Mi Band 7, but it’s not as long-lasting as previous models like the Mi Band 6. In my testing with daily workouts, sleep tracking and the always-on display turned off, I get four days from the Charge 5 and seven days from the Mi Band 7.
The Charge 5 is the best overall tracker if it fits in your budget. It has comprehensive sleep tracking, great heart rate accuracy during cardio-based workouts and provides valuable insights into your overall wellbeing. There’s a reason why it earned an Editor’s Choice award in 2021.
But at less than half the price, I am pleasantly surprised by the Mi Band 7, and it’s now my favorite budget-friendly alternative. The battery lasts longer than the Charge 5’s and it has a staggering array of workout tracking options. Plus it’s more of a smartwatch alternative than Fitbit’s tracker if you want a more comprehensive second screen for your phone.
Fitbit Devotees, This $60 Fitness Tracker Just May Lure You Away – CNET
Your guide to a better future