Amazon Halo View review: This $79 fitness tracker excels at the basics

The affordable Amazon Halo View—the second round of Amazon’s original wearable—drops the weird always-on microphones, adds a color display and comes in at a lower price tag of $79.99. But it’s also vying for control of that coveted space on your wrist, which the Fitbit Inspire 2, our top pick for a fitness tracker, might already occupy.

We spent a week putting Amazon’s latest tracker in its stride, complete with running, indoor cycles, and yoga, and tried out the $3.99-a-month subscription health service, which we eventually concluded was the real star. At $79.99, we think the color AMOLED display, sleek design, addition of video exercise and nutrition services make it worth a look—especially for those motivated to get started for less.

Partial fitness tracker, part wellness service

Amazon’s Halo View is best for anyone looking for a low-cost Fitbit alternative that can handle the basics and provide workout guides.

Who, what and how

For whom is this: The Amazon Halo View will appeal to anyone looking for a low-cost Fitbit alternative. It’s simple, effective, and boasts advanced health features with a Halo membership.

What you need to know: Halo View abandons the intimidating and controversial board microphones of the original Halo bar, and opts for a device similar to the competition’s fitness trackers. It also has all the expected features like heart rate, blood oxygen and activity tracking, and you get the membership for free for a year.

How does this compare: The Halo View resembles the Fitbit Inspire 2 or Charge 5 in a sporty-slim rectangle design, featuring a color display — an improvement over the Inspire 2’s black and white display, while Fitbit trackers have been a hit. Essential out of the box, Halo View puts body scans, tone analysis, workouts, guides, and recipes behind a paid annual membership.

Halo View doesn’t reinvent the wheel with its thin, rectangular construction and color touchscreen center. Although it’s a departure from the screenless Halo band, it’s more in line with popular Fitbit trackers. The color screen also makes the view more attractive than that black and white screen on the Fitbit 2.

The rectangular chassis contains a myriad of sensors to track activity while the back contains the main sensor array for measuring heart rate and blood oxygen. It’s also home to charging pins and two bands swap buttons. The pre-attached bracelet comes in three colors – Active Black, Lavender Dream and Sage Green.

Like the original Halo, the upgraded display is very comfortable on the wrist and again, looks a lot like the Fitbit Inspire 2. It was easy to get used to, although we had some trouble getting it to wrap around our wrist to properly locate the sensor. The unstable band resulted in some difficulties in monitoring blood oxygenation.

Battery life and durability

The projector uses a special charging clip and takes just over two hours to charge. We’ll note that sometimes it took us a few tries to dock it successfully, even though we got close to the promised full seven days of use on a single charge, running out about 12 hours. We’ll come back to this after a few more weeks of testing, although it still falls short of the Fitbit Inspire 2 which offers a groundbreaking 10 days of use on a single charge.

Cold New York City temperatures prevented us from testing the Halo View in the pool or ocean, but it’s swim-resistant and water-resistant to 50 metres. However, we wore them in the rain and even bathed in them, both of which did not result in any problems. This also matches the resistance and durability of nearly all Fitbit trackers.

Predicted activity and sleep tracking

Since we split it with Halo last year, Amazon has rolled out a points system for tracking your overall health — all now conveniently displayed on the new touchscreen. Yes, it shows you steps and heart rate along with calories burned, but it also lets you think about your overall health and body based on hitting 150 points per week (similar to the American Heart Association). This can also be adjusted based on your health and fitness goals and includes reminders to encourage you to get up and move if you’re sedentary — similar to Activity rings from the Apple Watch.

Most fitness trackers these days go beyond just steps, calories, and active minutes. Fitbit’s Sense can perform an electrocardiogram, along with blood oxygen, heart rate, and stress sensing. But Halo View sticks with mission-critical features – it’s equipped with skin temperature, heart rate and blood oxygen sensors. We’ve estimated that the heart rate is as accurate as the original Halo and compatible with other flagship devices, such as the Fitbit Inspire 2.

The blood oxygen has been hit or lost because the tape must be taut and your arm must remain still. I initially failed a few times, but the result eventually yielded a close ups to standalone pulse oximeter and other pricier fitness trackers.

You can also choose from a variety of watch faces and decide which notifications you’d like to receive, including text messages. The larger color screen also makes it easier to read notifications on the Inspire 2.

Thankfully, Halo View has dropped the included mic for analyzing your mood on the original Halo Band, but tone analysis is still part of the app and can measure your voice in real time on your smartphone. It’s not our favorite feature considering she kept insisting that we were pissed off. This editor is fun – just ask his co-workers.

Likewise, body scans are still available in the app and are completely optional. As we wrote in our previous review, Body Scan functionality looks like something outside of Black Mirror and the future of Sci-Fi. And we didn’t like the way he scans your body with minimal clothing to get a BMI number. It’s not for everyone, and luckily, it’s completely optional.

Jacob Kroll/CNN

As with the original Halo, the show shines when paired with the upgraded membership that now includes those workouts, body scans, health plans, and nutritional guides, among others. Without it, Halo View is an essential fitness tracking tool.

We only sampled a few classes. But similar to Apple Fitness+ or Peloton, we’ve found a mix of trainers and we’re particularly fond of their diverse meditation instruction that lets you dive right in, even if you’re a beginner. We also enjoyed the strength and yoga classes.

All signs also seem to point to a further expansion of the classroom, and on an even more exciting note, Amazon will be incorporating on-screen live metrics from Halo View during rehearsals in the coming months. This would be nearly identical to the Apple Watch’s integration with Fitness+ and it’s one we expect to try.

In return, a Fitbit Premium membership provides access to similar workouts and guides. But we think Halo’s approach is more personalized, and aims to suggest and align courses to suit your needs.

If you’re in the market for an affordable fitness tracker – the Halo View is worth a look at $79.99. It offers accurate tracking and comes with a compact build and a color touch screen display for displaying key data points. However, it fails to surpass the value or features of the Fitbit Inspire 2, our top pick for a fitness tracker.

Fortunately, we can say goodbye to the original onboard Halo microphones, which will allay many people’s privacy concerns, although optional tone analysis is now still in the app, along with body scans. And for $3.99 a month after a free year, we think a fitness service can help you live a healthier life.

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