‘Basis Peak’ Activity, Fitness and Heart Rate Monitor Review

basic peakBasis Peak is a sports and fitness watch with built-in activity monitor and heart rate monitor. The watch comes in both black and white, and the model I tested (black) has a very subtle white-on-black display, that’s very easy to read, yet not super glaring and in your face.  If that beautiful display has a downside, it’s that it’s completely invisible in the dark.  The watches are large, particularly for a woman, so that’s something to keep in mind when choosing one, and because of the built-in heart rate monitor, they are also quite thick.  With that said, it is fairly light and easy to wear, and I got used to it fairly quickly. The watch uses an external (and rather bulky) charger to recharge the built in battery, which lasts about 4 days.

Specs:

  • 24/7 automatic fitness and sleep tracking
  • Heart rate during exercise—no chest strap needed
  • Automatically tracks walks, runs and rides
  • Automatic sleep detection with sleep stage insights
  • Smartwatch notifications for text, email, call on your wrist

Set Up
IMG_1977Setting up the Basis Peak was not the easiest task. I ended up setting it up twice, both to check out the process in detail, and becacuse I had problems with the app that forced a reinstall.
The first time, right out of the box, was definitely much easier.  You download the app and set up an account, which was simple enough.  Then you strap on the watch and start moving. Sort of.
I didn’t really realize it, and it wasn’t quite clear, but not only do you have to get the app up and running, you need to pair the Peak watch with the app, and your phone. It took me a couple of days to realize the app was not updating with info from the watch. So I did some further reading and research, and realized the two devices were not actually connected; they needed to be paired.
In my initial set up, I had connected the app to the watch, but as it turns out I also needed to connect the watch to the phone.  I needed to also go to the watch’s main menu, and select “Pair” with the phone and app. Once that was done, I started getting info, though not immiediately.
The watch itself is quite easy to operate, with a fairly simplified menu. There are four basic screens on the watch itself: The time (main default screen), your heart rate, and the main menu, and then sometimes a fourth screen which most often has showed me a random graphic of a fox. Sometimes this will also display messages that come in via your phone. You navigate between the screens using simple swipe gestures.IMG_1979

The second time around, re-setting up the Peak was a huge problem.  I had to uninstall the app, as it had completely stopped functioning.  I reinstalled it, and had to repair the watch, but it took about 8-9 attempts before it would find the watch.   Once I had repaired the app and the Peak, there was still no data coming in.  The watch would say ‘syncing’, but nothing was happening.  After about 35 minutes, data finally appeared in the app, but that was well after I’d left the gym and my treadmill testing behind. Suffice to say, if you’re having trouble re-pairing your Peak and your phone, keep trying, it’ll work eventually.

Message Notifications
One great feature I found myself enjoying about the Basis Peak, was the fact that text messages, phone calls, and Twitter notifications all came into my wrist, with a very subtle vibration. I did not get emails, and I don’t know if that’s a setting i can turn on and off, or it’s just not supported.  (Either way, I’d rather not read  along email on a 1″ screen on my wrist anyway, so I didn’t dig too deeply into this.)  While the font is rather small to read, and long messages must be scrolled through, it was easy enough to read them, and decide if I needed to stop what I was doing to respond to them on the phone, since I wasn’t able to respond to them via the watch/device itself. The watch (I keep calling it a ‘watch’ because that’s what it looks most like, though Basis calls it a ‘Fitness and Sleep Tracker’) also has a do not disturb function which is helpful if you are needing to focus and want to turn your alerts off.
basis peak
Heart Rate Monitor
I will say this about most wrist-based fitness and activity monitors or heart rate monitors; They are not scientific devices, and I certainly wouldn’t call the information absolutely accurate, especially in a medical sense. But what makes many of these devices great is that they give you the best possible idea of what’s going on with your fitness and activity. So with that caveat I can say the heart rate monitor on the Basis Peak was quite accurate for me. Especially since the only other heart rate notification I would be able to compare it to is the one I use on the treadmill at my gym. In as much as that one is accurate, so is the Basis Peak. It gave me basically a matching heart rate so I had confidence it was about as accurate as anything else I would use. I did like that when I was running, or my heart rate was high, the Peak displayed it constantly, allowing me to check it at a glance.

The App
IMG_1994If there was one thing I did not particularly care for about the Basis Peak, it’s their app. I found it difficult and complicated to read, hard to navigate, and generally just a pain in the butt. Compared to some other devices where all the info you need is on your main screen at a glance, I thought there was too much going on with the Peak app.  It does this bizarre thing where, if I were to go for a 50 minute run and then walk after, it breaks the activity up and shows it to you based on what your heart rate was. So if my heart rate was high for 20 minutes it will display that differently than what the heart rate was when I walked for 40 minutes. It took a while to figure out what the device was displaying, and how it was relevant.  The tiny horizontal bar graph it uses to display this info is also very confusing, and too tiny to be of any relevance.
I also found a significant lag between when I completed the activities, and when they appeared in the app. More often than not I would have to do a manual sync several times, to get the information to update, and even then it wouldn’t show up for about 30 minutes or so. I found that particularly frustrating when I was at the gym, doing a run, and wanted an instant update on my status and progress. At least I was getting instant heart rate readings on the watch itself.
The app’s main dashboard is also a very confusing display of what it calls ‘habits’ plus some other info like your recent sleep or activity, except most often the app would display mine as “Get moving to see your activity”.IMG_1991
Oddly, during testing, the watch also counted a 45 minute time span one evening where I was sitting watching TV, as sleep, and I couldn’t find a way to delete or modify that info.  That tells me this device’s app needs some work.
I do like the idea of the Peak ‘habits’, as kind of a game. You can choose several ‘habits” to get into, and completing them will give you digital badges; things like getting in a few thousand steps before noon, or meeting your sleep goal, or even wearing the watch for a certain number of hours per day. You get the idea.
The app also has what it calls a ‘charting’ feature which will display your movement and activity over the course of the day. A great idea to see when you are most and least active, except when I was testing it, it was only available for the current day. I found no way I was able to go back and get historical data for comparison, or even to compare day over day month over month while using Charting. You, however, can find historical data in the “Activity Feed” tab, then click on the activity for the day to get your chart, but it took me days to figure that out. Even then, if you want to look at different days you cant swipe through a calendar, you have to go in and out of the Activity Feed and click on individual days.  Doing that was clunky and tedious.

The Fox

basis peak cat foxRandomly sometimes a fox would pop up on the fourth screen, whether I was at home or on the golf course.  So what is it?  I had no idea, and I didn’t get any clues from the Basis website.  Searching the web, I found out it’s a sleeping cat, and a place holder for your activity notes.  It’s supposed to be a reminder to get up and get active so there’s something to show.  Cute idea, except how is it supposed to motivate me if it I have no idea what it is? I’d love it more if when you tapped it,  you got a message that says, “Cat-napping?  Get up and move!”.  Then I’d feel it was helping me.
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The Verdict
While I very much like the Peak itself, and would probably wear it just as a cool watch, with built-in heart rate monitor at the gym, I don’t think that using it with the app is something I would do. It’s just too much data that I don’t need and too hard to pour through it and figure out what’s going on, or which screen it’s been squirreled away in. I did also particularly like the notification functions on the watch; it’s a nice added feature which as it turns out comes in rather handy.
I’d certainly look at re-evaluating my thoughts on the app, if it were to undergo some kind of simplification and or redesign. But for now it’s just too much.

Get this watch if you want a watch and heart rate monitor.  Don’t get it for the confusing and clunky metrics.

Basis Peak is $199 on the company’s website, and is also available in Canada at Future Shop for $349.  Why the price discrepancy?  You’ve got me!

I recently demonstrated the Basis Peak and several other Wearables on CTV Morning Live. Watch it here.

tech talk feb

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