Basis Band Review

Basis Band and ShineBasis Band Review

(I initially planned this post to be a comparison between the sleep tracking abilities between the Misfit Shine and the Basis Band, hence the picture on the left, but it turned out that I had a lot more to say about the Basis than I thought… so I’ll be splitting up the posts)

I picked up the Basis Band Health Tracker last October 2013 (mine is the first generation B1 band) because it seemed like it was the most comprehensive wearable tracker available at the time.  It was advertised to track heart rate, skin temperature, skin perspiration, steps walked, total calories burned, and sleep.

This is probably one of the most helpful reviews I used when making my decision to spend the $199 for this tracker at the time.  I think it’s a little outdated since there have been quite a bit of updates since then.  I was pretty excited to use it initially and kept it on all the time, but after a few months got tired of it and eventually stopped using it for a few reasons.  Here are just some brief impressions that I had:

Steps Walked

This was pretty accurate.  I tested it multiple times and found that it matched up with the amount of steps that I walked with a very small margin of error.  Having access to my step count with the flick of a wrist rather than having to go through my phone as with other trackers actually helped motivate me to get out of my seat more often.

Skin Temperature

While interesting, I wasn’t really sure what to do with this information.  I still can’t see why I’d want to change this and if I wanted to, how I would go about doing it.

Skin Perspiration

Similar to the skin temperature tracking.  Not sure what to do with this information.  I’m a sweaty guy by nature and it’s pretty much out of my control.  I sweat when I’m nervous.  I sweat when I exercise.  Sometimes I even sweat when standing or sitting.  I can’t think of a non-pharmacologic way to control my sweating except by taking off my clothes… or turning up the AC, and I don’t need a tracker to tell me when to do either of those things!

Heart Rate

They use the same technology that medical devices use to measure pulse oximetry via photodetectors.  I found this to be extremely accurate when compared to my own counting.  But like the above things, I soon found that I didn’t really know what to do with the data.  I found it helpful to know that my resting heart rate, when waking up, is in the low 50s and on nights when I get less than 5 hrs sleep, it goes up to the low 60s.  I also discovered that when walking around or doing normal activities of daily living, my pulse hangs out in the 80s.  After a few weeks of this, I noticed the pattern was stable.  This band is not supposed to be used for tracking heart rate while doing vigorous exercise, and I’ve found that with activities like jogging, it wouldn’t detect my pulse at all.


They added the functionality to keep track of whether you’re actually walking, running, or biking, and how much time was spent and calories were burned doing each.  I thought this was actually pretty clever for such a little device.  I found the walking and running parts to be very accurate, especially since you can see the icon on the watch switch between a walking stick figure and a running stick figure depending on your movement.  Since I don’t bike I can’t say much about the biking accuracy.

Total Calories Burned

At first I thought this was a good way to help me keep track of my activity and provided me a number that would help me to guide how much I could eat.  I know I know… not all calories are created equal and the hormonal effects are more important etc, it’s just so easy to fall into the that way of thinking when you have this number staring you in the face when you look at your wrist.

Having this number while at the same time tracking food on myfitnesspal makes it so natural to pretend like you have an internal accountant keeping track of everything with running balance, and that if you keep an appropriate caloric deficit, good things will happen, burning 3500 calories = to 1 lb of fat.

  • Unfortunately, it turns out that the Basis Band is actually the least accurate out of a group of 8 trackers that were tested, with an error rate of 23.5%.
  • Not only that but we also know that the nutritional info, including calorie count, on food labels can also very inaccurate, with some foods containing up to twice the amount of calories stated on the label.
  • And to top it all off, now we know that the whole 3500 calorie thing is a myth

… leaving me with as much utility in this number as with the skin temperature and skin perspiration numbers.

Battery Life

This is supposed to last up to a week, but in my experience I’ve found that it lasts a bit shorter than that, somewhere between 5-7 days.  I found it a bit annoying to have to charge it that often, especially since there were a few times I went on week long trips and forgot to bring the charger, thus losing quite a bit of data.


Compared to most of the other fitness trackers, this is downright bulky.  It’s the size of one of those calculator watches I used to have as a kid… but twice as thick!  I definitely noticed when I was wearing it and I found myself needing a break from it every so often because my wrist would get sweaty (like I said… I can be a pretty sweaty guy).  I can fall asleep pretty easily with it on  without it bothering me throughout the night.

One of the functions is that with a flick of the wrist, the LED light will turn on to brighten the display so that it can be read in the dark.  When I wear this to sleep and inadvertently flicked my wrist, the light would shine right in the BJJ Cavewife’s face and a pretty good job of pissing her off.  I’m not sure if this can be turned off… but I have to admit, I never got around to looking for how to do this either, after all my sleep was fine!  j/k


I plan on getting into this in my next post…

Additional Thoughts

I really liked the fact that this company was an upstart company trying it’s hand at the whole fitness tracking business, and they did a wonderful job with their first product.  They were rolling out firmware updates every few months with tweaks here and there adding functionality and improving things.  It really had the feeling of a small company really trying to make something of itself by putting out a great product.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Bulletproof Exec, Dave Asprey was a member of the basis team (he just mentioned this one one of this recent podcasts).

The company was then acquired by Intel this past March 2014, and I feared that it would be swallowed up by the corporate monolith and be lost.  I had the notion that Intel wanted to acquire it for its patents or something and would let the brand die off with the eventual goal of launching their own thing.  As of now, my fears were unfounded and my Basis Band is still well supported.

4 Responses to Basis Band Review

  1. Ash Simmonds says:

    Don’t worry, once the cholesterol lowering nonsense finally gets the last nail in the coffin of the last person trying to do it, they’ll mandate that body temperature needs to be lowered and they’ll come up with a drug to do that too.

    Then your device will be useful again!

    • NRC says:

      Good review. I actually got the latest edition Basis a few months ago and was getting a kick out of tracking and figuring out the data, . . . until I jumped in the pool with it. It actually still tells time and I think it’s tracking data, but I can no longer sync it or do much of anything else.

      Anyway, before the thing crapped out, for me the most useful aspect was, probably, the steps taken and the various “Habits” you can earn and reach each day. I sit at a desk way too much so this was a nice little motivator to get off my butt and walk more.

      I also liked the heart rate monitor inasmuch as it allowed me to calculate my average resting heart rate. That, combined with the sleep score, really opened my eyes to the fact that I need more sleep and how lack of quality sleep usually meant a spike in my resting heart rate. I used a combination of my daily sleep score and resting heart rate as a poor-man’s HRV monitor to guide when I might be due for a rest day and not to hit it hard in the gym or BJJ.

      As for all of the other functions, I guess I thought skin temp and perspiration were more novelties than revealing of anything useful. For example, I got a kick out of the fact that my heart rate, skim temp and perspiration didn’t budge during stressful times, like appearing in court (I’m a lawyer, not a criminal, ha ha). Or, maybe it released that I’m really a robot.

      With my Basis going kaput, I may try to return it (I assume diving into a pool with it voids the warranty), or may keep my eyes out for the latest and greatest. The Atlas looks pretty cool (

      Looking forward to your followup review touching on the sleep functions.

  2. Amanda says:

    So what is your bottom line… would you get the basic watch? I have the fitbit now and can us that while training BJJ but i want to know my calories lost during a training session for BJJ.

    • BJJ Caveman says:

      Bottom line for me is that I think that the Basis Band has more functionality, and at least at this point that is more important for me than the comfort of the Misfit Shine.

      The ideal situation would be for them to combine the functionality of the Basis Band with the form factor and comfort of the Misfit Shine…

      And in my experience… I can’t wear either of these while doing BJJ.

      It’s great that you’re able to use your fitbit while training!

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