Xiaomi and Honor both offer a simple and affordable fitness tracker, incorporating all the features needed to monitor physical activity, heart rate and sleep, without losing a notification. But which one of the two wearable should I buy?
Design: which strap do you prefer?
Both the Honor Band 5 and the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 focus on simplicity but differ from the design side in some small details. Xiaomi's Mi Band 4 is more curved with an oval display and a slightly more discreet body.
The rubber strap is also narrower and fastens with a popper rather than a buckle. As with the previous generation, you can easily remove the body and use your old straps on the new model too. The Mi Band 4 is only available in black but it is easy to find cheap colored straps online.
The Honor Band 5 opts for more squared design, integrating a rectangular screen. The strap is slightly wider and resembles that of a common watch, giving it a slightly more premium look and feel.
In this case, the body of the tracker is not removable but the straps can still be easily replaced by pressing the two buttons on the back. Honor has released the Band 5 in three different colors: Meteorite Black, Classic Navy Blue, and Dahlia Pink.
On the wrist, both are light and comfortable but personally I find the Honor Band 5 more secure during physical activity. Both fitness trackers are waterproof, so you can also use them in the pool.
Display: AMOLED screens for both
Both Xiaomi and Honor have integrated a 0.95-inch AMOLED color screen with a 120x240 pixel resolution on their smart bands. Both displays can be read under sunlight and offer adjustable brightness. Outdoors, the Honor Band 5 does slightly better in terms of legibility.
Both are covered with 2.5D curved glass, which is useful to protect the screen from scratches. Interaction with the touchscreen is fluid on both fitness trackers. To interact with the system you just swipe vertically and use the capacitive button to go back, but I found the Band 5 slightly more responsive. On the Band 5, the capacitive button is very evident but I prefer the more discreet design adopted for the Mi Band 4.
Customization options are not lacking on both sides: several dials are selectable directly from the wearable or through the app.
Functionality and apps
Even in terms of functionality, there are no major differences between the two. Xiaomi's Mi Band 4 offers swipe access to heart rate monitoring, training programs, weather, notifications and other settings such as alarm, music playback, stopwatch, timer, silent mode, sleep monitoring and the option to find the associated smartphone.
The Honor Band 5 offers virtually the same set of features but also adds in the monitoring of blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) and the ability to take a picture with your smartphone by tapping on the Band's display.
The latter is not a function that you will find yourself using often but it is a curious gem; the former has been integrated as a general reference and not as a real medical tool. The idea of a fitness band, in general, is to provide benchmarks. For precise monitoring, you must rely on professional tools (doctors or, in the case of monitoring sports activities, more expensive devices such as those produced by Garmin for example).
On both of these devices, you will be able to see notifications from the applications you have selected but neither of them will be able to respond to WhatsApp messages. The Honor Band 5 and the Mi Band 4 allow you to stay up to date with notifications, but to act you'll still have to rely on your smartphone. Neither offers integrated GPS, either.
For data related to the monitoring of your heart rate, sleep or physical activity, the results in both cases are approximate. They can give you an idea of distance traveled, the quality of your sleep and your heartbeat, but they are not 100 percent accurate. The Honor Band 5 convinced me more about one aspect, the reference app that offers really interesting training plans. The sleep monitoring data is also slightly more accurate, going beyond the duration of light and heavy sleep as is the case with the Xiaomi app and allowing you to monitor even an afternoon siesta.
The Xiaomi Mi Band 4 incorporates a 135 mAh battery. The Honor Band 5 has a 100 mAh cell. On paper and in everyday use, the Xiaomi has the better battery life. With the Band 5, you can get a week of autonomy under intensive use. With the Xiaomi, you can easily reach ten days, maybe even a few more. By not activating the continuous heart rate measurement you can gain a little more battery life on the Band 5 but overall, the Mi band 4 wins this category.
Everything, as always, depends on your use of the device such as active notifications, physical activity sessions, the brightness setting, etc. To charge the two wearable devices, in both cases you will need to take the small dedicated charging dock with you and then connect it via cable to a power supply. In the case of Band 5, the charging system is slightly more comfortable because you do not have to pull out the tracker from the band but simply put the wearable on the dock station.
Should you buy the Mi Band 4 or the Honor Band 5?
If until now Xiaomi with its Mi Band has always managed to snatch the title of being the best fitness tracker in terms of value for money, this year the rivalry is really tough. Honor, with its Band 5, did a really good job. Also in terms of price, it does slightly better: £29.90 against the £35.89 requested by Xiaomi. Online you can also find them at a discounted price and there will be offers for Black Friday and in view of the Christmas holidays.
Honor Band 5 costs £30 while Xiaomi Mi Band 4 costs £35
Design as always is a matter of taste, and you have seen that even in this department there are few differences. The overall user experience offered is very good on both. So how do you choose? Besides the price, what personally pushes me more towards the Honor Band 5 are not the two additional features, which I do not consider essential for what I use a fitness tracker for, but the different training plans offered by the Huawei Health app (they are really well done and well presented, as well as all other data provided within the application) and it has the best sleep monitoring. But the Mi Band 4 offers a little more battery life if that is more important to you.