I’ve tried a lot of fitness trackers, and this under-$50 one is truly great

Mi Band 6

Lexi Savides/CNET

The best cheap fitness tracker you can buy is $47 Mi Band 6. It’s hard to miss if you’re on a budget but still want features like automatic exercise detection, a blood oxygen sensor, sleep tracking, and 24/7 heart rate monitoring. Bonus: It’s compatible with Android and iOS.

There is no shortage of fitness teams and Smart watches under $100. $70 Amazfit Babe S The newer Bip U are some of our favorite budget watches, but if you’re after something smaller, with very similar health and fitness tracking and a nicer screen, the Mi Band 6 is a great choice. I’m a big advocate of finding cheaper alternatives to big-name products, and I even make an entire YouTube series dedicated to the issue. Here’s why I think Mi Band 6 is a viable competitor to similar products from popular brands like Fitbit and the new Amazon Hello View.


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The bright screen makes Mi Band a joy to use

This thing is so light, I often forget it’s on my wrist. Which is fine in the middle of a workout when I’m trying to focus on my next rep, or at night when I don’t want to feel like a chunky smartwatch under you on my pillow.

The 1.56-inch AMOLED display may seem small, but with a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch, Mi Band 6 text and graphics look incredibly clear. I never feel like I need to pull out a magnifying glass or stare to see what a text is saying. Most importantly, the screen is easy to see in bright sunlight.

The screen and interface are also responsive and I haven’t had any performance issues or lags. One thing I’d add to my wishlist for the next generation is the automatic brightness sensor so it can detect ambient light and adjust screen intensity on its own.

Miband 6

The screen is easy to see.

Lexi Savides/CNET

Here is the laundry list of smart features you get on Mi Band 6:

  • Music playback control
  • App notifications from your phone, as well as call and message alerts
  • find my phone
  • Phone mute option (Android only)
  • Calendar and events reminder
  • remote camera shutter

As you can see, there is no shortage of tools on board and they work even better than Fitbit Shipping $180 5 By having a Find-my-phone app and a camera remote control. While I would like a speaker and microphone so I can take quick calls off my wrist, for the price, I can’t expect much.

Mi Fit is the weakest part of the whole experience. Compared to the great experience and icons you see when navigating the scale itself, the app seems like an afterthought. Even weeks later, I’m still scrolling to see exactly where each feature lives, like my sleep metrics and exercise stats.

On the plus side, many third-party apps can take advantage of the Mi Band 6 to customize just about every aspect, from watch faces to the reset actions of the Music Control app. My favorite is AmazTools because it allows me to export exercise data with GPS and map details to services like Strava.

The exercise tracking on Mi Band 6 is affordable for the price

Gymnastics

Just some of the stats that Mi Band gives you after your workout.

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides / CNET

One of my main criticisms of Earlier Mi Bands It was the limited range of exercise tracking options. If you wanted to record a Pilates or yoga session for example, there was only a general “exercise” type that wasn’t particularly accurate in calculating the total effort. Now, Mi Band 6 gives you 30 fitness modes ranging from regular running and cycling to Zumba, HIIT and indoor snowboarding. It can also automatically detect activities such as running, walking, and cycling if you forget to manually start recording your workout.

You also get sleep tracking and a blood oxygen sensor that can take an instant reading, or check it during the day and night in the background.

For the price, I’m happy with how the Mi Band records workouts. You can get a breakdown of your pace, splits and heart rate zones after a workout in the app. The band also tracks a physiological activity index or PAI score for you. It measures how much moderate to intense physical activity you do each day, similar to Fitbit’s Active Zone Minute Scale. The PAI score is a bit vague and difficult to understand from the Fitbit score, but I like how she recommends the exercise I should do if I’m late in my score that day.

But if you are looking for the most accurate heart rate tracker for cardio based exercises like running and walking, then this will not be the one for you. During a pleasant walk outdoors with a few small hills, the Mi Band said my heart rate peaked at 180 beats per minute — well above the figure my chest strap said. There’s also no GPS onboard, which isn’t a surprise since this costs $45, so you’ll need to take your phone with you on workouts to log distance and route information. But this phone-assisted tracking is still a step forward from the new $80 Amazon Hello View, which lacks any kind of distance tracking. I also needed to manually sync the band in the Mi Fit app every time I started a workout to get GPS tracking, which is a bit annoying.

Mi Band 6 battery life takes it to the next level

I used to wear smartwatches and trackers that barely lasted two days between charges. That’s why when I read about the Mi Band’s 14-day battery life, I had to do a double take. Surely, this could not be true? It turns out there is a bit of a catch. If you do a lot of exercise, using your blood oxygen and heart rate sensors frequently, as well as keeping your screen brightness high, you’ll likely hit the need to charge after five days. This is still good compared to some alternatives and I can regularly go a week and change before I need to renew it again. I’m pretty sure I could push it up to 14 days if I only use this to get notifications from my phone and keep track of steps.

Mi Band 6 is my favorite fitness tracker of the year, especially if you’re just looking to dip your toes into the world of wearable fitness devices and want something you won’t need to charge much.

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