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Xiaomi band rebounds

Xiaomi returns with its third fitness tracker, adding waterproofing and a touchscreen writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Xiaomi, the premium Chinese technology brand, has been increasing in popularity as a smartphone of choice, due to its combination of high-quality products and low purchase price. Its range of smart products includes everything from smartphones to smart home devices.

Its Mi Band fitness tracker line has offered step-counting, sleep-tracking and heart rate monitoring. The Mi Band 3, however, is a major overhaul, adding 5 ATM waterproofing (5 atmospheres of water pressure), a much larger screen and a responsive touchscreen. The Mi Band looks and feels like fitness trackers from Fitbit and Garmin, but costs far less. At a glance, people have mistaken it for a Fitbit, due to the form factor and whitish-blue OLED screen. 

The overall design of the screen is really something to appreciate, as it groups and outlines what users want to know by vertical swipes between categories (watch, fitness, heart rate, weather, notifications and more apps) and horizontal swipes within categories (in fitness: steps, distance, calories burned and battery). The sunken circle is intuitive, and acts like a home button when pressed, taking the user back to the watch face, and a function button when long-pressed. 

Apps within the Mi Band 3 are fairly standard compared to other fitness trackers, like quickly checking distance walked and three custom watch faces. A great differentiator is the notification feature, which pushes notifications from the paired phone and shows the last five items when swiping through to that section. Another great feature is “Find device”, which makes the phone ring if it is misplaced. A stopwatch is included in the “More apps” section, which is useful in quick workout situations where the phone is not available.

The materials used in the Mi Band 3’s strap are hypoallergenic and suitable for all skin types. The TPU plastic is also soft and sweat-resistant, making this one of the best bands for fitness activities. The only drawbacks are that TPU plastic wears down fairly quickly over time, as the oil from one’s skin can break down the plastic; and there is only one size of the Mi Band strap in the box, which is not ideal for those with larger wrists. That said, replacement straps range in price from R10 to R250 on GearBest, depending on whether the replacement is plastic, silicone, metal or another type of special design.

The Mi Band’s app has a minimalist layout, focusing on steps in a large circle and outlines sleep and heart rate below it in a graph. This, in conjunction with the design of the Mi Band 3, delivers a premium user experience. This data is also not garden-walled to the app, unlike other fitness tracking solutions, as it easily integrates with services like Google Fit and Apple Health. In the Mi Band’s device section, alarms can be set, notifications can be customised on an app basis, the Mi Band can be triggered to vibrate if lost, and the weather location can be set.

What is truly amazing is the firmware update frequency, which brings in stability updates and even new major features. A recent firmware update introduced a major feature to lower the Mi Band’s screen brightness at night, to save battery and reduce eyestrain. Another recent update added a smoother, easier-to-read font for notifications and checking the weather. These firmware optimising updates even pushed the battery life of the Mi Band to 23 days of light notifications and a few workouts. 

At R400, there is no similarly priced alternative for the Mi Band 3 at the quality it offers, coming in at five times cheaper than the Fitbit Charge 2. Compared to the Fitbits and Garmins, the main trade-offs are the brand name, the reliable tech support and the social challenges. Overall, the Mi Band 3 is fitness tracker that acts more like a smartwatch at a price point where nothing competes with it.

The Mi Band 3 can be bought from GearBest for under R400 during the GearBest September sale. Click here for more information.

 

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Nintendo announces Stranger Things 3 game

The Netflix Original show is set to launch a retro-style game on the Nintendo Switch.

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In collaboration with Netflix, developer BonusXP has created Stranger Things 3: The Game. It is the official companion game to Season 3 of the hit original series. The game and latest season are expected to launch on US Independence Day, the 4th of July, a date that will, of course, stick in American gamers’ memories.

This adventure game blends a distinctively retro 16-bit art style, reminiscent of games from the time when the series was set. It is claimed to have modern gameplay mechanics to deliver nostalgic fun with a fresh new twist. Players will be able to experience their favourite show through a mix of exploration, puzzles, and combat.

Just ad in the show, teamwork is at the heart of Stranger Things 3: The Game. Players can team up in a two-player local co-operative, or in single player mode alongside an AI partner. Players can choose to play as one of twelve characters from the show, each with different abilities and attributes. Together, they’ll play through familiar events from the series, while also uncovering never-before-seen Stranger Things secrets, ensuring a fun experience for those new to the world of Stranger Things as well as for those familiar with the series.

Key Features:

  • Experience the show in a new way, exploring the eerie world of Hawkins to uncover new mysteries beyond what’s seen in Season 3.
  • Jump right into the action of this pick-up-and-play adventure: gameplay mechanics that allow players from beginner to advanced skill levels to get in on the fun.
  • Take your game to a higher level by trying out different character combinations and collecting all the secrets the expansive world of Hawkins has to offer.
  • Team up with a friend, leveraging drop-in/drop-out local co-op to take on the mysterious monsters of Hawkins together. While playing solo, use a collection of “buddy commands” to control both characters and still experience all the fun.
  • Choose from 12 playable characters, each with their own unique talents and stats.

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New AirPods and iMac in iStore this weekend

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iStore has announced availability of the new second generation AirPods and iMac, unveiled this week, in store this weekend.

The AirPods are priced from R2 899 and the new iMac from R23 499. Customers can also order these new products from iStore’s website.

“AirPods revolutionised the wireless audio experience with a breakthrough design and the new AirPods build on the magical experience customers love,” said iStore in its announcement. “The new Apple-designed H1 chip, developed specifically for headphones, delivers performance efficiencies, faster connect times, more talk time and the convenience of hands-free ‘Hey Siri’.”

AirPods come with either a standard charging case or a new wireless charging case that works with Qi standard chargers. The wireless charging case can be ordered for R3 699. The case can be used with the first or second generation AirPods.

The iMac line now has up to 8-core Intel 9th-generation processors and powerful Vega graphics options, delivering dramatic increases in both compute and graphics performance. The new iMac is faster for everyday tasks, up to demanding pro workloads. It includes retina display, all-in-one design, quiet operation, fast storage and memory, modern connectivity and macOS Mojave.

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