Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review: Xiaomi’s done it again

If you’re reading this Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review, there’s a good chance you’ve either heard a lot about Xiaomi’s Mi Band line and want to know what the hype is about, or you’ve already placed your Mi Band 4 order and are awaiting its arrival.

The hype surrounding Mi Band devices — and Xiaomi devices in general — is there for a reason. Xiaomi makes really good products that don’t cost a ton of money. In the age of the $1,000-plus smartphone, it’s no wonder why people are looking for low-cost alternatives to high-end products.

The Mi Band 4 might be the product that best reflects Xiaomi’s low-cost-high-quality mantra. It starts at the low-low price of just $40 in the U.S., or about half the price of competitors’ products. Read on to find out why you’d want to choose the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 over the higher-cost competition.

Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review notes:

I’ve been using the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 as my main fitness tracker for roughly six days, running firmware version 1.0.5.39. The Mi Band 4 has been connected to my Google Pixel 3 running Android 9 Pie for the duration of this review.

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Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review: The big picture

The Xiaomi Mi Band 3 was one of the best value fitness trackers of 2018, and the Mi Band 4 aims to improve on it in a few key ways. It has a better display and more activity profiles, but with those things comes a slight price bump, though the Mi Band 4 is still significantly cheaper than other fitness trackers with similar feature sets.

The question is, are you really getting anything worthwhile by spending an extra $50 on a competing product, or should everyone run out and buy the Mi Band 4 right now? That’s what we’ll answer in our Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review.

Design

Let’s be honest: None of Xiaomi’s Mi Band devices have ever been the most well-designed pieces of tech, but the Mi Band 4 is an improvement. It’s still one of the more generic-looking fitness trackers out there with its simple black band and unassuming case, but the improved display saves the Mi Band 4’s design in my opinion.

It’s a 0.95-inch RGB AMOLED display this time around — a big step up from the Mi Band 3’s smaller black-and-white display. The 120 by 240 pixel density is sharp and the 400-nit brightness means it’s easy to see in direct sunlight. It’s a touchscreen display, so you’ll do most of your on-device navigation through taps and swipes. Swipe up or down to select different modes or settings, swipe left or right from the watch face to access music controls, or swipe right to go back from a different screen. You can also tap the capacitive button underneath the display to go back. Easy.

xiaomi mi band 4 review in hand watch face

xiaomi mi band 4 review with band
xiaomi mi band 4 review heart rate sensor case
xiaomi mi band 4 review heart rate sensor case

The fitness tracker case easily detaches from the silicone band if you’d like to swap it out for another band. And don’t worry, there are already plenty of third-party Mi Band 4 bands available on Amazon. The Mi Band 4 case is compatible with Mi Band 3 bands, too.

The band that ships with the Mi Band 4 is made of silicone and feels comfortable. It’s not the highest quality rubber you’ll find on a fitness tracker — it’s a little too rigid for my taste — but it gets the job done.

The optical heart rate sensor ever-so-slightly protrudes from the bottom of the case, but not enough to leave a mark on your wrist after wearing it for a few hours.

xiaomi mi band 4 review on charger charging cable bad not good

Throughout my testing, I didn’t notice any connectivity issues between the Mi Band 4 and my Pixel 3. Perhaps that’s due to the Mi Band 4’s updated Bluetooth 5.0 support compared to the previous generation’s Bluetooth 4.2 support. 

Below the heart rate sensor sit two little pins for charging. When it’s time to charge, simply slide the Mi Band 4 case into the included charging cradle and it should be topped up in about 45 minutes. A quick note on the charging cable: I hate it. It’s about four inches long, so it’s going to dangle from any USB charging port not sitting directly on a desk.

The good news is you won’t have to charge the Mi Band 4 very often at all. With normal use, Xiaomi says the 135mAh battery will last about 20 days on a single charge. I haven’t been using mine for 20 days, but I can tell you the battery is pretty great so far. I’m currently sitting at a 70-percent charge after a full charge last Friday, and that’s after three long runs and the heart rate sensor being on in 10-minute intervals. 

Fitness and health tracking

xiaomi mi band 4 review exercises running treadmill workouts

The Mi Band 4 will keep track of all the basics: steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, resting and active heart rates, and sleep. It doesn’t have a built-in GPS, so your distance metrics won’t be very accurate if you’re going out for a run with only your fitness tracker. However, it comes with a connected GPS feature, so you can track your workouts with GPS if you don’t mind bringing your phone.

Notably, the Samsung Galaxy Fit doesn’t feature connected GPS, though the Fitbit Inspire and Inspire HR both do.

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Another area where the Mi Band 4 stands out is the number of workout modes. It can track the following exercises: treadmill, outdoor running, cycling, walking, pool swimming, and the generic “exercise” workout. That may not seem like much, but its predecessor wasn’t able to track pool swimming or generic exercises.

Speaking of pool swimming, the Mi Band 4 can recognize five different swimming styles and record 12 different data sets, like swimming pace and stroke count. It also carries a water resistance rating of 5ATM.

xiaomi mi band 4 review status steps daily activity

I wouldn’t normally mention that you can start an activity from the Mi Band 4 itself (instead of pressing “start” from the app), but you can! All other Mi Band devices before the Mi Band 4 relied on manually starting activities from the app or from automatic activity recognition, so this small tweak is definitely a welcome one.

I took the Mi Band 4 on multiple outdoor runs and compared it with my Garmin Forerunner 245 Music and Wahoo Tickr X heart rate strap. Though it doesn’t have as many sensors as the Forerunner, the Mi Band 4 was actually quite accurate. Step counting and calories burned metrics from the Mi Band 4 were very close to the Forerunner 245 Music’s metrics. The only major outliers during my testing were distance and pace metrics, but that’s because the Mi Band 4 doesn’t have GPS and I didn’t test the connected GPS feature during those runs.

Also read: Garmin Forerunner 245 Music review: Striking the right balance

Heart rate recordings — both resting and active — with the Mi Band 4 are decent. I’ve attached a few comparison screenshots on a run I took with the Forerunner 245 Music and Wahoo Tickr X.

Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review garmin forerunner 245 heart rate readings

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music heart rate readings

Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review wahoo tickr x heart rate readings
xiaomi mi band 4 heart rate readings test

It’s a bit hard to tell from the screenshots (the Mi Fit app doesn’t display heart rate recordings very well) so I’ll walk you through it.

  • Max heart rate:
    • Wahoo Tickr X (control): 170bpm
    • Xiaomi Mi Band 4: 173bpm
    • Garmin Forerunner 245 Music: 176bpm
  • Average heart rate: 
    • Wahoo Tickr X (control): 142bpm
    • Xiaomi Mi Band 4: 155bpm
    • Garmin Forerunner 245 Music: 145bpm

The Forerunner and Mi Band 4 stayed quite close to the Tickr X chest strap throughout the workout. All three devices had a similar max heart rate, though the Mi Band 4 was on the high side in terms of averages. The Mi Band 4 actually did a better job of catching the slight dip at the ~10-minute mark, though it didn’t go nearly as low as it needed to: The Tickr X got all the way down to ~55bpm while the Mi Band only dipped down to ~150bpm.

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Both the Forerunner and Mi Band also caught the dip at the ~16-minute mark, but the Mi Band 4 clearly glitched at that point. It flatlined for a few minutes, jumped back up at ~18 minutes, only to flatline again until ~21 minutes.

We see these things happen with wrist-based heart rate sensors quite often, so it’s not surprising to see it happen to the Mi Band 4. Overall, it will give you a good idea as to where your heart rate generally is, but don’t rely on it fully for higher-intensity workouts.

Sleep tracking is another one of the Mi Band 4’s strongest areas. It’ll track your deep/light sleep and time awake, and it’ll give you a sleep score from 1-100 by comparing your data to other Mi Fit users’ data.

xiaomi mi band 4 review mi fit app sleep screenshots
xiaomi mi band 4 review mi fit app sleep screenshots
xiaomi mi band 4 review mi fit app sleep screenshots

Throughout my time with the device, I haven’t noticed any major issues with sleep tracking — the Mi Band 4 always seems to report my time asleep and time awake pretty accurately.

 Xiaomi Mi Band 4
Display.95-inch RGB AMOLED touchscreen
120 x 240 resolution
282ppi
Up to 400 nits
2.5D tempered glass with anti-fingerprint coating
MaterialsCase: polycarbonate
Band: thermoplastic polyurethane
RAM512KB
Storage16MB
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.0
Sensors3-axis accelerometer
3-axis gyroscope
PPG heart rate sensor
Capacitive proximity sensor
Battery135mAh
Lithium-polymer
Two-pin POGO pin charging
Charging time: ≤ two hours
Durability5ATM water resistance
CompatibilityAndroid 4.4 or above
iOS 9.0 or above
Dimensions and weightBand width: 18mm
Band length: 155-216mm
22.1g

Smartwatch features

xiaomi mi band 4 review weather

For a device this small and cheap, Xiaomi was able to pack quite a lot of smart features into the Mi Band 4.

Before we get too far into it, I’m using the Mi Band 4 meant for regions outside of China, so my review unit does not support contactless payments with Alipay, nor public transportation payments. It also lacks Xiaomi’s Xiao AI assistant. For more information on the Chinese model, head here.

Related: The best smartwatches you can buy | The best Wear OS watches you can buy

The Mi Band 4 can relay call, text, email, and just about any other notification you receive on your smartphone. Notifications come through to the Mi Band 4 right away. You can’t reply to any of them, and due to the little display some messages can be hard to read, but it’s still a nice feature to have.

xiaomi mi band 4 review notifications text message sms

I’m surprised at how many customization options Xiaomi included in the Mi Fit app. You can’t find some of these little conveniences in every fitness tracker:

  • Vibration pattern: Each notification type can be programmed with a custom vibration pattern so you can tell the difference without even looking at the screen.
  • Schedule for auto screen wake up: You can set the Mi Band 4’s display to activate when you lift your wrist at certain hours of the day. That means the device won’t burn your eyes by accident when you’re trying to fall asleep.
  • Night mode: After sunset (or at your preferred time), your Mi Band 4’s screen brightness will be lowered.
  • Do not disturb: Many fitness trackers have built-in DND modes, but the Mi Band 4’s can be turned on even without your phone nearby. If you’re getting bombarded with notifications and need them to stop, switching to DND mode can be done in only a few taps.

The Mi Band 4 also supports different watch faces. There are a fair amount of watch face options available in the Mi Fit app. Roughly half of them are colorful digital faces, while the other half feature cute, big-eyed cartoon animals. To each their own.

xiaomi mi band 4 review xiaomi mi fit app google pixel 3 watch faces

There are also built-in vibration alarms, a “find my Mi Band” feature if you misplace it, on-device weather, and the ability to control your smartphones music from your wrist. I’ve found music controls to be particularly handy when walking around the house and listening to podcasts.

The Xiaomi Mi Fit app

xiaomi mi band 4 review xiaomi mi fit app google pixel 3

Xiaomi’s Mi Fit app is what you’ll use to pair the Mi Band 4 to your phone and view all your activity stats, unlike the Galaxy Fit which uses multiple apps for device settings and health tracking.

There are three sections of the Mi Fit app — workout, friends, and profile — which are all pretty straightforward. Friends is where you can connect with other Mi Fit users to see their activity and health info, and the profile section contains all your personal info, goals, and settings.

The workout section contains four sub-sections: status, walking, running, and swimming. Walking, running, and swimming are only used for manually starting those types of activities from your phone. The status section is where you’ll find the current day’s activities and goals.

xiaomi mi band 4 review mi fit app screenshots home screen
xiaomi mi band 4 review mi fit app screenshots running
xiaomi mi band 4 review mi fit app screenshots history
xiaomi mi band 4 review mi fit app screenshots sleep
xiaomi mi band 4 review mi fit app screenshots
xiaomi mi band 4 review mi fit app screenshots my device settings

Further reading

I don’t like how difficult it is to check into your workout or activity history. There’s no button for it, so you may find yourself tapping around until you stumble across it. You can access your history by tapping the activity card in the status tab, swiping over to my workouts, tapping steps today, then history on the bottom of the screen. As someone who constantly checks into workout progression over time, this is a little cumbersome. 

Once you’re there, the Mi Fit app will display tons of information, even down to the small five-minute activities it records throughout the day. 

xiaomi mi band 4 review mi fit app history
xiaomi mi band 4 review mi fit app history
xiaomi mi band 4 review mi fit app history

If you’re a diehard Google Fit user and can’t give up the app for anything, good news: You can sync your Mi Fit data with Google Fit. Once you connect your accounts in the Mi Fit settings menu, all activities recorded by the Mi Band 4 will be sent over to Google Fit. Personally, I haven’t experienced any of the recent Google Fit issues others have, so just know that your experience with syncing Mi Band 4 data to Google Fit might vary.

Don’t miss: Google Fit guide: Everything you need to know about Google’s fitness platform

Mi Fit is also compatible with WeChat for those who want to sync their fitness data with WeRun.

For the most part, the Mi Fit app is a well-rounded, easy-to-use fitness platform (aside from the ease of checking workout history). The app could benefit from even more social features and compatibility with other fitness applications, and I did notice a few bugs in the app throughout my time using it. Overall though, it’s perfectly serviceable in its current form.

Value for the money & the competition

Here’s where the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 really shines. It’s available in the U.S. for just $40, less than half the price of the Fitbit Inspire HR and Samsung Galaxy Fit, which are the Mi Band 4’s main competitors. This is an incredible asking price for what you get, and I have no problem recommending the Mi Band 4 to anyone looking for a basic activity tracker.

Buy from Amazon (U.S.)
Buy from Amazon (U.K.)
Buy from Mi.com (U.K.)

If you’re not a fan of the Mi Fit app, maybe keep an eye on the Inspire HR instead. The Fitbit app is one of the best out there and provides a more refined experience overall. Also, the Inspire HR’s feature set is comparable to the Mi Band 4’s, so it really depends on which brand and ecosystem you’d like to buy into.

Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review: The verdict

xiaomi mi band 4 review watch face clock google home mini

Each year, Xiaomi adds more features to its Mi Band lineup and keeps the price hikes to a minimum. With an improved display, more exercise profiles, and a rock-bottom price, the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 squares itself away as one of the best cheap fitness trackers of 2019. If you called it the best cheap fitness tracker, I don’t know if I’d argue with you.

If you need a cheap fitness tracker or simply want to upgrade from a previous Mi Band device, you should seriously consider the Xiaomi Mi Band 4. What do you have to lose?

Next: Best Fitbit alternatives: Garmin, Misfit, Samsung, and more

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