Withings Steel HR review

Many might be waiting for the launch of Android Wear 2.0 but sometimes what we call a semi-smartwatch is a better choice. Now owned by Nokia, Withings is becoming a master of the hybrid wearable and here’s our Withings Steel HR review. See also: Best smartwatches 2017.

Withings Steel HR review: Price

Withings first launched the luxurious Activité at £320 and although it released cheaper watches subsequently, we imagined the Steel HR with its additional features might drive a higher price. However, it can be yours for just £169 or £179 for the slightly larger model we looked at.

That’s a reasonable price for a stylish and well-built watch with smart features. Let’s not forget that you can easily spend over £300 on a smartwatch like the Apple Watch 2.

Withings Steel HR smartwatch

Withings Steel HR review: Design and build

A high bar was set by the Activité and Withings has done a great job of maintaining a high level of build quality with its watches at lower price points.

The main body of the Steel HR is, well, made from steel and looks a lot like the original Steel although it comes with a heart rate monitor that we’ll talk about later. It also comes in two sizes – 36mm and 40mm – and we took a look at the latter which has a wider bezel around the edge with engraved numbers.

The 40mm model only comes with a black watch face so if you want white, you’ll need to opt for the smaller option. Each comes with a smooth silicone strap – 18- and 20mm respectively - and they use a quick release mechanism so you can change it easily. A leather strap from Withings is £70 although will not fit the 40mm model.

There are two major differences when compared with the regular Withings Steel – aside from the heart rate monitor on the back.

For starters, the activity tracking dial – which goes from 0- to 100 percent of your target – now goes full circle instead of 12 o’clock to 9 o’clock and sits centred. The other is a small digital screen which provides information and notifications. This is slightly hidden when not in use on the black model but stands out on the white watch face. A lone button on the side operates the digital screen.

As with previous Withings watches, the Steel HR is waterproof up to a depth of 50m but the firm says it can’t be used for snorkelling or diving.

Withings Steel HR design

Withings Steel HR review: Specs and features

Activity tracking

Activity tracking is one of the main features of the Steel HR and on top of things like walking, running and swimming the gadget can now do new activities like dancing, volleyball and ping-pong. Sadly, we haven’t been able to test them all.

In its most basic form, you tell the device what your goal is for daily steps (10k is the default) and the additional dial will let you know how you’re doing. You can also get detailed information via the Health Mate app which is easy to use or the information can be shared with plenty of other popular fitness apps.

If you’re happy to wear the Steel HR at night, it offers automatic sleep tracking and the ability to wake you up with a silent alarm using the vibration motor inside..

See also: The Best Activity Trackers.

Withings Steel HR heart rate monitor

Heart rate monitor

The reason to buy the Steel HR in terms of tracking is the heart rate monitor which sits on the rear and measures your pulse with green LEDs. You get a nice break down of your heart rate throughout the day split into light, moderate and intense.

It takes a reading every few minutes but the watch will start continuously reading your heart beat when you’re doing a work out. It does a great job and although it might seem like it’s mostly about the looks and step counting, the Steel HR is a legitimate option for those into fitness in a more serious way.

You can also take a reading when you like by clicking the button on the side, however we found this the most inconsistent with the reading jumping around quite a lot.

Withings Steel HR digital screen

Digital screen

We were always a bit miffed as to why Withings didn’t use the vibration motor in previous devices to alert you to a phone call or a text message. Well it’s gone one further with the Steel HR and its useful screen.

It’s easy to use; just push the button on the side repeatedly to cycle through the different modes. You can get basic information such as the date and battery percentage but there are more useful things on offer. Namely you get notifications for phone calls and text messages, although you don’t get a preview of what a message says even though a calendar reminder provides scrolling text.

Battery life

In terms of battery life, we’ve been using the Steel HR for almost two weeks and it has 53 percent left in the tank so is certainly on track for the firm’s quote of 25 days. We do which the watch came with a nicer charging stand rather than a basic cable supplied, which doesn’t always connect properly via magnets.

At around that 25 day mark, the watch will enter into a power saving mode giving you an additional 20 days battery life with basic activity tracking.

Withings Steel HR: Specs

  • 36mm or 40mm models
  • 316L stainless steel
  • Tracks steps, runs, swims, sleep and calories burned
  • Sleep tracking
  • Silent alarm
  • Digital display and analogue hands
  • Incoming call and app notifications
  • 25-day battery life
  • Bluetooth LE
  • Waterproof to 50m
  • 13mm thick
  • 39/49g
  • Compatible iOS and Android
  • 36mm or 40mm models
  • 316L stainless steel
  • Tracks steps, runs, swims, sleep and calories burned
  • Sleep tracking
  • Silent alarm
  • Digital display and analogue hands
  • Incoming call and app notifications
  • 25-day battery life
  • Bluetooth LE
  • Waterproof to 50m
  • 13mm thick
  • 39/49g
  • Compatible iOS and Android

OUR VERDICT

If you’re not fussed about a full on touchscreen smartwatch, the Withings Steel HR is stylish, well-made and offers excellent battery life. We’re glad to see the addition of the heart rate monitor and the screen for smart features, even if they are basic. A great semi-smartwatch for the price.