Basis Peak review

The Basis Peak is the first fitness and sleep tracker by Basis that delivers a constant heart rate reading, thanks to its built in optical heart rate monitor. It’s an interesting blend of fitness band and smartwatch, with support for notifications and a touchscreen interface. But the fitness band market is a busy and competitive market - is Basis’ latest fitness band anything to write home about? Read on and find out. 

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Basis has withdrawn the Basis Peak from sale and recalled all watches sold. It had been found that the watch can overheat, which could result in burns or blisters on the skin surface. “It is important that you stop using your watch immediately and return it,” says Basis.

See also: Best activity trackers 2015

Basis Peak review: Design and price

Even though the Basis Peak looks like a smartwatch and comes with a smartwatch-esque display, it’s defined by Basis as a fitness and sleep tracker. The body of the £170 fitness band is made from aircraft-grade aluminium and it comes in two variations; matte black or brushed metal and white. The black variation has a red stripe underneath the strap to give an injection of colour to an otherwise almost completely black device. It’s a very robust-looking fitness band that you’d feel comfortable wearing during exercise, especially thanks to its silicone strap.

If you do want to add more colour to your Peak, the option is there. Basis supply additional straps in a variety of colours including:

  • Vapour (blue with lime green highlights)
  • Coral
  • Onyx (black with yellow highlights)
  • Firefly (lime green)
  • Ember (red) 

The optional $29.99 (£20) strap may be a worthy purchase. It’s not because it’s made of a different material, as it too is made from silicone, but it instead has a perforated grid that allows your wrists to “breathe” when you’re exercising. 

Basis Peak review: Hardware and features

Its unassuming look masks some pretty impressive technology inside the device. It comes with an optical heart rate sensor that delivers a constant heart rate without the need for a chest strap, an accessory that many fitness bands require for constant heart rate measurement. It also boasts a 3-Axis Accelerometer as well as sensors that measure galvanic skin response and skin temperature, giving you a holistic and accurate view of your calories burned, steps travelled, heart rate, etc.

How does the technology work? Peak uses an “advanced optical blood flow engine” according to Basis, which shines light into your bloodstream below the surface of your skin. That light is then reflected back and measured using an optical sensor, which detects changes in light as your blood ebbs and flows. That data is combined with an algorithm that measures your heart rate. Cool stuff, right?

Let’s talk about the display. Basis chose an E-ink display to use with the Basis Peak device. Why? E-ink, unlike the LED/OLED displays that other manufacturers generally opt for, consumes a much smaller amount of battery power and performs a lot better than its counterparts in direct sunlight. The downside, of course, is that the graphics aren’t great and you’re stuck with a black and white display. But with a device that’s primarily for fitness tracking, does a high definition display really matter that much?

One saving grace of the Basis Peak is that it uses touchscreen input as opposed to physical buttons. You can navigate throughout the watch OS by swiping in different directions, much like you do with Android Wear. The display is also protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3, which means that you don’t have to worry about damaging the screen when exercising.

Basis Peak review: Fitness and sleep tracking

The Basis Peak automatically tracks three types of activity; walking, running and biking. The band uses “BodyIQ”, software developed by Basis that gives you a comprehensive view of your current exercise, including your heart rate, duration of the activity and steps taken. This information is available to view at a glance on your band, with a swipe up or down on the centre section for different metrics – such as calories burned or steps per minute. 

The good thing about the Basis Peak is that it doesn’t need to be connected to your smartphone to be able to track your activities. Granted, it doesn’t have built in GPS so it can’t track your overall distance but by measuring other metrics, such as steps taken and total calories burned, do you really need an overall distance? We feel that the breakdown that Peak gives, especially with regards to steps per minute, is enough motivation for us to try and go faster on our next jog.

Don’t worry too much about sweat damaging the Basis Peak either, as it’s water resistant up to 5ATM. This means that it should withstand water pressure down to around 50 meters (165 feet), making it a great swimming companion. The bad news is that Peak doesn’t automatically detect swimming as an activity, so the feedback isn’t as comprehensive as when jogging/cycling. You can still use the accompanying smartphone app to look at your heart rate and calories burned, so it’s not a complete write off.

Optical Heart Rate Sensor

During our testing, we found that while the heart rate monitor gave us an accurate reading during exercise, it would fail to keep a constant reading. While this may be fine for most people, it means that gaps appear on the graph when viewing your workout data on the smartphone app. While this was fixed by tightening the fitness band’s grip on our wrist, it became uncomfortable to wear after a while and had to be loosened again.

Let’s talk about the sleep tracking, a feature of the Basis Peak that we grew to love. While many fitness bands boast sleep tracking, it’s usually measured solely on movement – that’s not the case with the Peak. As well as detecting movement, it also uses your heart rate to determine the different stages of sleep that you go through. Another bonus of utilising the heart rate monitor is that the sleep-tracking mode is automatic, so you don’t have to worry about changing modes before you go to sleep. 

We generally found that the sleep tracking was quite accurate, even when it came to detecting when we fell asleep and woke up. Another great part of the sleep tracking software is that it allows you a thirty minute grace period to get back to sleep if you wake up, whereas many other bands would count it as two naps instead of a sleep.

We found that while the optical heart rate sensor is a great feature of the fitness band, it has its downfalls, mainly with regards to comfort. Unlike with the Apple Watch, which uses similar technology but is rounded off for comfort, the sensor on the Basis Peak sticks out and directly into your wrist. While Basis recommends a “snug but comfortable fit”, it got very irritating on our wrists and at times we’d take it off and see a prominent imprint of the sensor. 

Also see: Wearable tech reviews

Basis Peak review: Fitness band software

So, after finding out about what the Basis Peak can do, you’re wondering how to control it, right? As we’ve mentioned, you interact with the fitness band itself via touchscreen controls that remind us of Android Wear.

Swipe left from the watch face to access your heart rate and swipe left again to see your activity summaries. Swiping down on the heart rate menu will give you an overview of your calories burned and steps taken for the day, and swiping down on the activity summary will give you a breakdown of all individual activities throughout the day. It’s fairly easy to use and once we’d been using it for a day or two, we were able to navigate around the bands menus seamlessly.

It also has handy swipe gestures, like swiping up on the right hand side of the screen to turn on the backlit display, and swiping down to turn it off again. If you ever get lost navigating around the bands menus, double tapping the display will take you back to the watch face. 

Basis Peak review: Smartphone app

The smartphone app, available for both iPhone and Android gives you a holistic overview of your fitness and sleep activity. Once you connect the Basis Peak to your smartphone via Bluetooth, the band will sync with the app to give you the latest fitness and sleep tracking data. During testing we found that the syncing process can be quite slow at times, especially when you haven’t synced with the app for a while. 

One interesting feature of the app are “Habits”, which are goals that you can set for yourself, such as getting eight hours sleep each night, or biking for half an hour twice a week – don’t worry, you can tweak the habit to fit your own goals. You start off with one habit, then when you complete it you’re awarded points, which go towards unlocking a new habit, and so on. It’s a great way to motivate yourself and the Peak gives you a little reminder if you haven’t completed any habits and congratulates you when you have.

The activity feed is where you get an overview of your recent activities, broken down on a day-to-day basis. It’ll display the overall steps taken, calories burned and average heart rate as well as each activity undertaken, both fitness and sleep wise for each day that you wear the Basis Peak. Tapping on a fitness activity will open the Charting menu, which displays more in-depth statistics in the form of a bar graph.

We love the idea of seeing the raw data broken down in front of us. You’re given a bar graph that breaks down your activity into blocks, overlaying your heart rate, steps taken and calories burned. By pinching to zoom in, you can get a minute-by-minute breakdown of your exercise, including information like steps per minute and your heart rate. There’s also the option to display additional data, such as your body temperature – the only issue is that with additional data to display, the graph becomes harder to decipher.

From the activity feed, you can get an in-depth look at your sleeping pattern. On occasion, it even helped us identify why we were feeling tired the next day – it was usually down tossing and turning, which the Basis Peak also measures, or the amount of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep that we had.

It breaks down the various stages of sleep and helps you understand the benefits of getting enough sleep in each stage. For example, Peak informed us that we spent around 20 percent of our sleep in REM sleep on one particular night – without any more information, that statistic wouldn’t mean much. But, with a tap on the statistic, the app explains that around 20-30 percent of an average nights sleep is spent in REM sleep, which helps your brain strengthen memories and replenishes the feel good hormones that boost your mood during the day.

Basis Peak review: Notifications

Even though the Basis Peak is marketed as a fitness and sleep tracker and not a smartwatch, it does bring some smartwatch-esque features to the table, namely notifications. The Basis Peak won’t display every annoying Facebook request and spam email however, it’ll only give you the most urgent notifications: calls, texts and calendar events.

We understand the logic behind this, as no one wants to be constantly badgered by annoying notifications when they’re half way through a workout, but what about when you’re not exercising? We’ve worn the Basis Peak constantly and we would’ve liked the option to enable system wide notification alerts when we’re not exercising. Unfortunately, that’s not possible at the moment. Whether Basis will add this functionality via a software update in the future is anyone’s guess!

The initial setup of the notifications isn’t very clear either. We expected notifications to be displayed on the Basis Peak once we connected it to our phone, but instead we had to manually enable each type of notification we wanted to receive in the app’s settings menu. 

See also: Which Fitbit is best?

Basis Peak review: Battery life

Basis claims that the Basis Peak can last around four days on a single charge, and while some manufacturers battery life expectations aren’t true to real life, the Basis Peak does indeed last four days on a single charge. Charging is done via a micro USB cable that plugs into a magnetic dock, which the Basis Peak snaps into when placed near it. It’s an easy process and a nice change from fumbling around with cables and awkwardly shaped charging docks.

If a 4 day battery life still seems disappointing, there’s a way that you can make it last indefinitely. How? If you charge your Basis Peak for around 10-20 minutes a day, we found that it didn’t run out of battery at any point. That’s a pretty impressive feature to have, and one we haven’t seen on many other fitness bands.

Basis Peak: Specs

  • Forged aircraft-grade aluminum case
  • Optical Heart Rate monitor
  • Gorilla Glass 3 touch screen display
  • Water-resistant up to 5ATM
  • Battery life up to 4 days
  • Includes silicone strap and magnetic charger
  • Forged aircraft-grade aluminum case
  • Optical Heart Rate monitor
  • Gorilla Glass 3 touch screen display
  • Water-resistant up to 5ATM
  • Battery life up to 4 days
  • Includes silicone strap and magnetic charger

OUR VERDICT

Overall, we think that the Basis Peak is a great fitness and sleep tracker. The amount of data it processes provides you with a holistic overview of your fitness and sleeping habits. The accuracy of the tracker itself is great – we tried to fool it into thinking we were walking by shaking our wrists, which is a trick that many fitness trackers fall for, but not the Basis Peak! Note: the Basis Peak has been withdrawn from sale for safety reasons. Sure, the optical heart rate sensor can become a bit irritating at times but that’s one small drop in an ocean of good features. If you’re looking for a comprehensive fitness and sleep tracker, the Basis Peak is a good – even if slightly expensive – option to take.

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