Health & FitnessTechnology

Withings Steel HR Smart Watch Review


Reviewed by J Wright

I received the Withings Smart Watch a week ago to review and I wanted to really make the most of seeing how it all works before committing words to screen and I’m glad I did. I’m really impressed.

First of all you might like to know that Withings was for a short period bought by Nokia and labelled Nokia Health, now returned to the original owner and nomer and somehow, to me, it sounds a little classier.
I received the Steel HR Multisport Hybrid Smart Watch. It’s a mouthful and deservedly so because it does so much.

The main features are:
Heart rate monitoring
Activity tracking/step counter/sport monitor
Sleep monitoring
25 day battery life
Water resistant to 50m
VO2 hr sport assessment
Text and call alert paired with your mobile phone
Alarm feature

All this is clinically tested and hidden in the body of what looks like a classic watch with a circular face, hands and an analogue clock face. I really like the shape, it’s so sleek, all curves and smooth edges. Unlike my previous fitness tracker there’s no strange flick of the wrist to make the time display, no need to push a button, the time is always displayed. With a click of the single button on the side I can have a small digital display of the date and time open up on the smaller screen at the top of the watch face. This is also where call notifications and other information is displayed.

The single button moves the user through a simple and easy to navigate set of sport and other data selections and settings.

It takes only seconds to set the watch to monitor my exercise, however, swimming, walking, sleeping and running are automatically measured and constantly.

The user can add specific sports to their instant access settings, really personalising it to your own preferences.  The associated app, Health Mate, is again intuitive and deciphering it will come quickly and easily.  The dashboard shows steps, sleep, weight and average heart rate. One of the features I really like is how both the app and the screen tell me how close I am to my step goal. This can be changed to suit you via the app and it seems to synchronise very quickly and easily.

The app is also interactive with other apps such as Strava, Apple Health, My FitnessPal and many, many others, giving you a rounded experience of fitness tracking. The data can be imported and exported between Withings and your other apps, total freedom in your combined experience.
Within the app there are wellness programs such as a pregnancy tracker, meditation and competitive areas to help motivate you with leader boards for those you might want to compete with – even if they use a different device and app.

There are badges to earn as achievements and the option to securely share a health PDF of the data collected on the watch with anyone you feel might want or need it.  You can even set reminders for yourself.

Under the timeline as soon as I click on the screen there’s a time relative greeting and I’m instantly my daily step count at that point, my sleep measured in hours, yesterdays average heart rate and the average steps over the last week. It’s a quick tap on the screen to read any of that data in greater detail, breaking down steps into calories burned, distance, heart rate maximum and averages. The data regarding the sleep heart rate is interesting too as it gives data regarding your overall cardio-vascular health.

Another aspect I especially like is the accuracy. It is by far the most accurate gadget I’ve ever used. I’ve tested this, walking and counting my steps and finding that the watch matches my count, every time. This is great, not all devices can boast such accuracy.

The 25 day charge is a boon. I often would find I hadn’t realised the remaining battery on my previous tracker and would find I had walked epic miles and had no idea of how many because my watch battery had died. With a 25 day charge this is far less likely and the charge is rapid and efficient. The charger is, for this watch, a small back circular disc which fits the back of the watch into it easily. It sits in the right spot instantly and there’s zero effort.

The watch I received has a silicone strap which is really smooth and breathable with the ventilation holes, great for sports and ideal for that waterproof aspect. It’s barely noticeable on the wrist, lightweight and comfortable.

I can confirm, though only for the bath and shower, it is water resistant. So you really can have 24 hour tracking of heart rate and steps without missing a single beat or footstep.  There are a range of other straps in leather and metal along with further silicone colours. With the range of different colour watch faces and easily changed wristbands, it is easy to get a bespoke aesthetic you’ll love. Practical and sporty, luxurious or even lady-like with a lovely rose gold face if you choose.

Due to super smart technology the accelerometer along with your measured heart rate gives you a detailed breakdown of how you’ve slept. The Withings technology is calibrated with a sleep laboratory in Germany and a hospital in France using polysomnography which we are assured is the gold standard in sleep analysis. The takeaway is that the device tracks deep and light sleep cycles and disturbances and then there’s the Smart Wake-up feature which can wake you at the best time according to your sleep cycle. An easier and kinder waking process in my opinion. The alarm feature is enough to wake me without disturbing anyone else and subtle enough to wake me relatively gently.

Similarly the call notifications are subtle, no one else around me notices although I can feel the buzz on my wrist and the caller details are displayed on the embedded digital screen.

The VO2 max is a feature of the Steel HR sport and this is an intriguing feature which many dedicated exercisers will love but I feel it’ll be really useful to newcomers to exercise too. It’s a much overlooked but key piece of data regarding fitness.

Quoting from the Withings explanation for accuracy:
“VO2 max is defined as the maximum amount of oxygen an individual consumes over one minute during intense physical effort. The more oxygen consumed, the harder muscles can work, and therefore the higher the VO2 max level. A higher VO2 max level indicates a more fit individual.
Medically, VO2 max can be measured by spiroergometry, where the person exercising wears a mask designed to capture maximum oxygen absorption capacity (VO2 max). The mask is worn in front of the mouth and face when running or biking on an ergometer or treadmill.

The higher the VO2 max level is, the more oxygen can be converted in the working muscles to provide energy, the higher is the corresponding endurance capacity.

Steel HR Sport provides a VO2 max estimate based on data including heart rate, age, gender, weight, and pace from a connected GPS running session.”

That is a smart watch indeed!

Your data is secured and controlled by you at no additional cost and it is promised that this is forever. Good for long term analysis of fitness and progress.

There’s a two year warranty which is a reassurance when investing in a quality smart watch. They’ll repair or replace your device – for there are several more products than smart watches, if there’s a problem with materials or workmanship.

Free shipping if your order is over £99. Again, with the diversity of product available it’s not automatic as some items are lower priced. There’s also a 30 day returns period and they state; “No regrets: if you’re not happy with your product, you can return it within 30 days—no questions asked.”
I can’t imagine anyone would want to return the Steel HR, it truly is a smart watch.

The Steel HR is available on the Withings website with prices from £169.99. Alternative wrist bands retail at around £25.

Rating: 5/5

RRP: £

This product is available to buy from Withings website here.

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