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Category: Hardware

Surface 3 Starbucks

My Microsoft Surface 3 Review

A couple of weeks ago I got myself a Microsoft Surface 3 as a secondary device to my Surface Pro 3. While I am totally happy with my Surface Pro 3 as my daily driver on the road, in the office or at home, I wanted a secondary device for home tablet use and to showcase some new Windows 10 scenarios with Azure Active Directory and Office 365 integration. I got some tweets from some user who wanted to know my feedback on the device and so here is a small review:

Technical Specifications

Surface 3 Specs

  • Size 10.52″ x 7.36″ x 0.34″ (267mm x 187mm x 8.7mm)
  • Weight 1.37 lbs (622g)
  • Display 10.8” ClearType Full HD Plus Display Resolution: 1920 x 1280 Aspect ratio: 3:2 10 point multi-touch
  • Surface Pen support
  • Battery Life: Up to 10 hours of video playback
  • RAM/Storage 2GB RAM with 64GB storage & 4GB RAM with 128GB storage
  • Processor Quad Core Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor (2MB Cache, 1.6GHz with Intel Burst technology up to 2.4GHz)
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Full-size USB 3.0
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • microSD card reader
  • Micro USB charging port
  • Headset jack
  • Cover port
  • Software Windows 8.1
  • 1-year of Office 365 Personal with OneDrive cloud storage
  • 3.5 megapixel front-facing camera
  • 8.0 megapixel rear-facing camera with autofocus
  • Microphone
  • Stereo speakers with Dolby® audio
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Proximity sensor
  • Accelerometer
  • Gyroscope
  • Magnetometer

I got the smallest version with 2GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.

Design and Durability

Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3

Microsoft did it again, if you expect any sacrifices on design, quality and durability you are wrong. The Surface 3 comes, like the Surface Pro 3 with great design and great built quality. The Surface 3 comes with a 10 inch screen, the Surface Pro 3 comes with a 12 inch screen, but both have a 3:2 aspect ratio which I really like for getting stuff done. With that you can also use it in portrait mode without any problems.

The difference between the Surface 3 and the Surface Pro 3 is the size and performance. With that, the Surface 3 is designed to be used as a tablet. And you can feel that, the size and especially the weight is made for tablet usage. The Surface 3 is just 200 grams lighter than the Surface Pro 3 which is just enough to hold the tablet in one or to hands for awhile without getting tired arms. This is also handy if you are doing some writing using the Surface Pen.

Again, everything seems to be at the right place and all buttons and the whole chassis is feeling very “high-class”.

Display and Audio

If you think you get any sacrifices on display quality or audio, you are wrong again. The Surface 3 comes with a stunning display, very bright and good color quality, in some scenario, the display even feels brighter than the Surface Pro 3. Now the biggest surprise of the device was the audio quality, this is maybe the best audio quality I every had from a tablet. If you have used other tablets including the iPad or Surface 2, you know that audio quality wasn’t bad, but it was far from being good. The Surface 3 has changed this, of course it is still not somethings music enthusiast will really use, but if you want to watch House of Cards on Netflix the speakers are loud and clear.

The other big pictures here is the Surface Pen support. As the Surface Pro 3, the Surface 3 does support the Surface Pen, not like the Surface 2. This is great to take notes using OneNote and use it as a notebook, especially if you wake up in the middle of the night and have a great idea you can use the Surface Pen and the OneNote button to quickly open an new OneNote page.

Ports and Internals

The Surface Pro 3 has full-size USB 3.0, microSDXC card slot, a Headset jack, a Mini DisplayPort and at the bottom a Cover port for the Type Cover. Of course also the older covers work perfectly, but they just don’t match in size. The position of the ports have changed a little bit from the Surface 2. The Surface 3 does also have a new power port in form of a micro USB port, instead of the magnetic power port of the Surface 2 or Surface Pro 3. This is great so you can use every charger, even the one from your phone. But to be honest you don’t really want to do this, because the charging speed using a phone charger is very slow. And on the other hand you lose the magnetic adapter safety feature.

Heat and Fan Noise

The Surface 3 comes equipped with Quad Core Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor and I had never had any issues with heat or fan noise. To be honest, I am not even sure the Surface 3 has a fan. But on the other side, the workloads you are running on the Surface 3 are not even close as powerful as the applications you run on the Surface Pro 3.

Type Cover

Surface 3 Type Cover

The Surface 3 also comes with an own Type Cover in the right size. Microsoft also improved the Type Cover from the Type Cover 3 which you got with the Surface Pro 3, even you can not really see it directly. Especially the keys feel much better, which make it a perfect typing machine. I am sure with the next release of the Surface Pro comes out, the improvements in the Type Cover for the Surface 3 will be included in that as well.

Battery life and Performance

Surface 3 IE

I think this is the most important part for most of the people reading this review. First, the performance of the Surface 3 is a lot better than the performance of the Surface 2 and the same goes for battery life. But for the same the Surface Pro 3 performance is much better compare to the Surface 3. But this was clear right? The Surface 3 is designed as a tablet with light usage for office apps and some other apps as well, and the Surface 3 handles that just fine. The Surface Pro 3 is design as a powerful notebook replacement which is a total different story, so if you are looking on a powerful machine you should go with the Surface Pro 3, if you need something thin and light to use as a tablet and Office usage, you will definitely be happy with the Surface 3. As I mentioned I got the smallest version with only 2GB of RAM, and this is my real bottleneck if you are doing multitasking. So if you are expecting to do any real multitasking you should go for the 4GB version. The other performance bottleneck is the disk speed, this is a huge difference to the Surface Pro 3 as well, but to be honest for the things I use the Surface 3 for, I don’t really care.

Camera

Microsoft also upgraded the back-facing camera to a 8 megapixel camera which is even better than the Surface Pro 3. So you can do some simple but good shots with the tablet. But of course this never comes close to your Nokia Lumia.

Software and Accessories

Surface 3

Software is where everything comes together. Windows 8.1 works perfectly on the Surface 3 and I really like the mix between touch and keyboard usage. I use it as a tablet with touch apps and can run a full desktop applications like Office to get real work done. I really love the combination of different Microsoft Services such as Skype or Skype for Business for communication. But where the real power comes together is with OneDrive and OneNote. The new Surface Pen and OneNote are already a perfect combination. You can press the OneNote button on the Surface Pen and OneNote opens instantly and you can start taking notes, even if you are not logged. The notes from OneNote get sync via OneDrive on all your devices like your phone or desktop pc. Microsoft is not only bringing software services together, they are now also integrate hardware.

After the first 2 weeks I upgraded the Surface 3 to Windows 10, and I have to say the new tablet mode works perfectly, performance of the Surface 3 with Windows 10 is great.

Microsoft also offers a lot of different accessories like display or Ethernet adapters for the Surface Pro line and they will now also work with the Surface 3. You can use the same USB Ethernet Adapter or Mini Display Port adapter as for the Surface Pro 3. Microsoft also released a new docking station for the Surface 3, which helps you make the Surface 3 also a desktop replacement.

Conclusion

Well if you have to choose between the Surface 3 and the Surface Pro 3 you really have to consider what the devices are designed for. The Surface Pro 3 can be the tablet which is your powerful laptop and desktop replacement. The Surface 3 is more your lightweight tablet which also can be your laptop if you only need it of light Office usage. So if size and weight matter to you, and you don’t need great performance you should go for the Surface 3. But if you need any performance you may want to go with the Surface Pro 3, even the i3 version has much more power than the Surface 3. Another thing here is, if you want to go with the Surface 3, I really recommend you to spend that extra money and go with the 4GB model.



Nutanix Coding Challenge Total Recode

Judge at the Nutanix Coding Challenge

Nutanix just announced the PowerShell Coding Challenge for your Nutanix environment. The challenge will be to build a script which solves a real world problem in these use cases: Provisioning/orchestration, reporting, data protection, disaster recovery and runbook automation.

Do you have what it takes to write the best script for a Nutanix environment? Find out by participating in the inaugural Total Recode challenge. This global contest gives you a platform for showcasing your best talent. May the most creative, badass coding guru win!

Want to get more familiar with the Nutanix product and test your script? Check out the Nutanix Prism APIs and our recently announced Community Edition software.

Nutanix Coding Challenge Prizes

You can win great prices:

  • Best Overall
    DJ1 Inspire 1 Drone (Valued up
    to $4000) or $4000 cash prize
  • Most Impactful
    Home Lab ($2,500 value)
    or $2,500 cash prize
  • Most Creative
    $2000 cash prize

And I am proud the be a judge in this contest with other great minds:

 

Nutanix Coding Challenge Judges

If you want to know more or join the challenge, check out the Nutantix Coding Challenge: Total Recode website.



CDN Consistent Device Naming

Cisco UCS supports Consistent Device Naming (CDN)

Yesterday I posted about Cisco UCS supporting RDMA (SMB Direct) with firmware version 2.2(4b)B. Walter Dey, former Cisco Distinguished Engineer at Cisco informed me not only about the RDMA feature he also showed me that Cisco UCS now supports Consistent Device Naming which was introduced with Windows Server 2012. Consistent Device Naming (CDN) allows Ethernet interfaces to be named in a consistent manner. This makes Ethernet interface names more persistent when adapter or other configuration changes are made. To use CDN in Cisco UCS you need to run firmware version 2.2(4b)B. This will help to make it a lot easier to identify network interfaces used with Windows Server 2012 R2 and Hyper-V.



Windows 10 Product Familiy

Windows 10 Editions and upgrade paths

Last week Microsoft announced the different editions of Windows 10. As in the past Microsoft offers Windows in different editions that are tailored for various different use cases and scenarios. Windows 10 will power an broad range of devices – everything from PCs, tablets, phones, Xbox One, Microsoft HoloLens and Surface Hub. It will also power the world around us, core to devices making up the Internet of Things, everything from elevators to ATMs to heart rate monitors to wearables.

Editions

The different Windows 10 editions address specific needs of our various customer groups, from consumers to small businesses to the largest enterprises.

  • Windows 10 Home – Windows 10 Home is the consumer-focused desktop edition.
  • Windows 10 Mobile – Windows 10 Mobile is designed to deliver the best user experience on smaller, mobile, touch-centric devices like smartphones and small tablets.
  • Windows 10 Pro – Windows 10 Pro is a desktop edition for PCs, tablets and 2-in-1s. Building upon both the familiar and innovative features of Windows 10 Home, it has many extra features to meet the diverse needs of small businesses. Windows 10 Pro will add some management capabilities to the Windows 10 and also adds Windows Update for Business.
  • Windows 10 Enterprise – Windows 10 Enterprise builds on Windows 10 Pro, adding advanced features designed to meet the demands of medium and large sized organizations. Windows 10 Enterprise will be available to Volume Licensing customers and adds some features such as Direct Access, Branch Cache and Windows Update for Business. With Windows 10 Enterprise customers will also get access to the Long Term Servicing Branch to better control deployment options for future updates.
  • Windows 10 Education – Windows 10 Education builds on Windows 10 Enterprise, and is designed to meet the needs of schools – staff, administrators, teachers and students. This edition will be available through academic Volume Licensing, and there will be paths for schools and students using Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro devices to upgrade to Windows 10 Education.
  • Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise – Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise is designed to deliver the best customer experience to business customers on smartphones and small tablets. It will be available to our Volume Licensing customers. Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise will adds a flexible ways for businesses to manage updates.
  • Windows 10 IoT  – Windows 10 will also be avaialble for different industry devices like ATMs, rteail point of sale, handheld terminals and industrial robotics and as well for IoT (Internet of Things) devices with a Windows 10 IoT Core edition.

Upgrade

As Microsoft  announced in January this year, for the first time ever, Microsoft is offering the full versions of Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 Pro as a free and easy upgrade for qualifying Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 devices that upgrade in the first year after launch. Once you upgrade, you have Windows 10 for free on that device. In the Microsoft Partner Network Microsoft published some more information about the upgrade paths.

Microsoft will offer a free upgrade to Windows 10 for qualified Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.1 devices in the first year. After the first year, upgrades will be paid via boxed product and VL Upgrades.

  • Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 7 Home Basic and Home Premium devices upgrade to Windows 10 Home
  • Windows 8/8.1 Pro and Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate devices upgrade to Windows 10 Pro
  • If upgraded within the first 12 months following launch, the device will receive ongoing Windows 10 updates for free for the life of that device
  • Excludes Windows Enterprise and RT devices
  • The free Windows 10 upgrade is delivered through Windows Update; domain-joined machines can manually get the update via Windows Update. The upgrade cannot be deployed through WSUS.

Windows Update for Business

At Ignite, Microsoft  announced the free Windows Update for Business service, available for all Windows Pro and Windows Enterprise devices, designed to help organisations keep their Windows devices always up to date with the latest security and features. In case you missed it, check out the blog, Announcing Windows Update for Business for what the service will provide.



What is in my bag for Microsoft Ignite

What’s in my bag for Microsoft Ignite 2015

In a couple of hours I will catch my flight to Chicago with the rest of the itnetx team to join Microsoft Ignite 2015. I am really looking forward to it and meet other enthusiast around Microsoft Cloud solutions and of course meeting with members of the Microsoft Product Group.

What is in my bag for Microsoft Ignite

  • My main devices is of course the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 which I use as my 3-in-1 device, replacing my notebook, tablet and desktop using the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station. Of course it is running the latest Microsoft Windows 10 Insider Preview. Battery life I get is around 8 hours depending on what I am doing I get even some more.
  • As my day to day phone I use the Nokia Lumia 930, which is just a perfect device with a great camera to take picture from the place I travel to and listen to music.
  • Even I like the track pad of the new Surface Pro 3 Type Cover I think I am more productive using a mouse. For that I got the Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse Surface Edition.
  • I also got some Bose Quiet Comfort 25 Audio Headphones to listen to music. I really like them because the audio is great and they are really light and comfortable to wear and the active noise canceling works just great, especially on long flights. The integrated microphone is also pretty important to to Lync or Skype for Business calls.
  • When I am at a hotel and I am working or writing some blog post I love to listen to music. For that I use the Nokia MD-12 wireless Bluetooth speaker.
  • To get some extra power if I need it I use the Nokia DC-18 portable Micro USB Charger and a Microsoft Portable Power DC-21.
  • Of course I am also carrying the Microsoft Band which helps me tracks the steps I walk during Microsoft Ignite and the limited sleep I get during this event.
  • For presentations I got a Microsoft Mini-DisplayPort to HDMI and VGA adapter as well as the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter which acts as a Miracast Receiver and is great for presentations.
  • I also carry a USB 3.0, but I don’t use a portable hard drive anymore, since I got unlimited storage space on my OneDrive using Office 365.
  • You might think to charge all these devices I need a lot of different power adapters, well that’s not really true. I just use power adapter of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 which also has a USB port for charging the phone, speaker and other stuff.

I am really looking forward to Ignite and meet some of you in Chicago.



Scale Windows Server Storage Spaces

System Center Operations Manager Management Pack for Windows Server Storage Spaces

Microsoft just released the System Center Operations Manager Management Pack for Windows Server Storage Spaces 2012 R2 to the public. This allows you to monitor your Storage Spaces deployments with Operations Manager.

You can download the Management Pack for Storage Spaces from the Microsoft Download Site.

Monitoring Scenarios

This Management Pack contains rules to monitor physical disk and enclosure state in storage spaces.
Health is calculated by the storage service and is passed to Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) using the Storage Management API (SM-API), and is in turn passed to Operations Manager (OM) through the OM connector for VMM.

Supported Configurations

This management pack requires System Center Operations Manager 2012 SP1 or later. A dedicated Operations Manager management group is not required.

The following table details the supported configurations for the Management Pack for Storage Spaces:

Configuration Support
Virtual Machine Manager 2012 R2 with Update Rollup 4 or later installed
Windows Server File Servers 2012 R2 with KB 3000850 (November 2014 update rollup) or later
Clustered servers Yes

Management Pack Scope

This management pack supports up to:

  • 16 Storage Nodes
  • 12 Storage Pools
  • 120 File Shares

Prerequisites

The following requirements must be met to run this management pack:

  • Operations Manager Connector for Virtual Machine Manager installed and configured.
    https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh427287.aspx
  • Configuring this connection will install the required VMM Management Packs.
  • Storage Spaces managed by Virtual Machine Manager
  • KB2913766 “Hotfix improves storage enclosure management for Storage Spaces” must be installed on the VMM server and file server nodes


Microsoft Band

My Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health User Review

Back in November I finally got my Microsoft Band after spending a lot of time try to find one in different stores in the US. Since then I have used my Microsoft Band every day and I was waiting for the first big update and the release of the Microsoft Health Dashboard to write my first review on the Microsoft Band since the web dashboard was one of the most critical and most important feature for the Microsoft Health platform. Yesterday Microsoft finally released the first major update to the Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health with a lot of improvements such as the new Health Dashboard and a Developer SDK Preview.

I was reading a lot of reviews from different only magazines which were trying to review the device, but in my opinion have never really used it or are just wearing some Apple glasses. Let me try to review some of the features of the Microsoft Band and how I use them a little bit differently from the professional reviewers. Of course since I am focusing a lot on the Microsoft platform I am not really neutral, as Swiss people normally are, but I try to give you a good review on the product.

What is the Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health

Microsoft Health Cloud

When I was reading some of the reviews done by professionals, I really saw that they didn’t really get the point of the device. Microsoft is advertising the Microsoft Band a fitness band and not as a smartwatch, even the Microsoft Band got a lot of smartwatch features, which by the way are really good, it is a fitness tracker which helps you to collected more and more health data about yourself. The devices was made my some “fitness geeks” inside the Xbox division and what they in my opinion did, was creating a device for themselves. And this is why the Microsoft Band actually an absolutely great device, because it is made from people with passion and not from a marketing research team. As mentioned this is a fitness tracker but of course with some really great smartphone features.

The Microsoft Health platform on the other site is where all your health information collected come together. The platform is not only made for the Microsoft Band but for other vendors as well which can integrate into the Microsoft Health platform. Since I am using the Microsoft Band I started wondering why I didn’t use a device or service like this earlier. We collect so much data about our environments but we do not really measure our health data and try to understand it. With Microsoft Health and the sync to the Microsoft HealthVault you can now get all your health data in one place. I also bought a Fitbit Aria smart scale which sends information about my daily weight to the Microsoft HealthVault. With the Microsoft Band and the Microsoft Health platform as well as the HealthVault I can now collect all my Health information and analyze them in one place.

Fitness Tracker and Workouts

Microsoft Health Dashboard Calories Observations

The most important feature of the Microsoft Band is to measure your fitness and health. The Microsoft Band comes with a lot of sensors and functionality to measure your health, and it shows you have active you were. With the Microsoft Band you can keep track of different kinds of workouts such as running, cycling or just general workouts. I use it a lot when I play badminton to keep track of my heart rate and calories burned. All the data gets synced to the Microsoft Health platform so you can review it on your Microsoft Health apps on Windows Phone, Apple iOS, Android or on the new Microsoft Health Dashboard.

  • 24-hour heart rate monitor: Gives you a better understanding of your calorie burn, sleep patterns, and peak and resting heart rate so you can perform at your best.
  • Run: Whether you’re on the treadmill at the gym or outdoors in the rain or sun, you can view your run summary on your band with personalized metrics in the phone app including pace splits and heart rate.
  • Cycling: With the latest update Microsoft supports now a specific mode for cycling, which not only keeps track of your heart rate and calories but also on speed and your route using GPS.
  • Steps: Set a goal and track your progress. Microsoft Band calculates the calories you’ve burned and the distance you’ve traveled each day.
  • Built-in GPS: Measures the distance you’ve run and tracks your pace and route. Save your favorites to retrace your steps and challenge yourself later.
  • Calorie tracking: Count the calories you burn each day. View daily or weekly stats, set goals, and receive a virtual “high-five” when you reach them.
  • Guided Workouts: Fun and challenging workouts from fitness partners like Gold’s Gym, Shape, and Men’s Fitness with exercise prompts on the band and much more in the app.
  • Goal setting: Challenge yourself by setting daily step and calorie goals. Microsoft Band notifies you when you meet them so that you can stay motivated.
  • UV monitor: Get a quick read of the UV Index while you’re out and about.

Sleep Tracker

Microsoft Health Dashboard Sleep Summary

I think one of the coolest and most interesting features is the sleep tracker. When you are going so sleep you just start the “sleep mode” and the Microsoft Band will check how long it took you to fall asleep, who long you slept, how many times and when you did wake up, how your heart rate was during that time, if you were in restful or just light sleep. So you can really find out how good or bad you sleep and probably can try different things to change your sleep behavior.

Smartwatch features

Microsoft Band Smartwatch

As I wrote before, Microsoft is advertising the Microsoft Band as a fitness band and not really as a Smartwatch, but it really is a Smartwatch and I think was one of the smartest moves in the whole campaign. When I hear the word smartwatch I always think about gadgets which will replace our old school watches and I don’t think this will happen in the short term. Probably this is because I am Swiss but I think watches are not just some gadgets to show you some time, they are more kind of personal jewelry. Don’t get me wrong I am not just talking about expensive watches, even cheap watches can be jewelry and help express yourself. I am not saying that we won’t use smartwatches, because for some scenarios they really make your life easier, but I think they will be more of an addition to our watches we already have, instead of replacing them. For example on my right arm I wear a normal Swiss watch and on the left arm I wear the Microsoft Band where I had my Nike Fuelband before. So form a marketing perspective I like the word and the concept of additional “bands” a lot more, than thinking about smartwatches replacing our existing watches. But this is just my personal opinion.

The Microsoft Band comes with a lot of smartwatch features:

  • Text Messaging: Get your text messages right on your wrist.
  • Calls: See incoming call and voicemail notifications on your band.
  • Calendar: Microsoft Band stays in sync with the calendar on your phone, reminding you of important events throughout the day so you can be where you need to be.
  • Email: Monitor and preview email activity right on your band, so you don’t have to pull out your phone in the middle of your lunch date.
  • Smart notifications: Choose which alerts you get on your wrist. Change the notification settings on your phone and your Microsoft Band will match.
  • Watch mode: Turn on “Watch Mode” to always display today’s time and date without pressing any buttons.
  • Facebook & Facebook Messenger: Stay up to date on Facebook without having to check your phone. Get the latest posts, comments, photo notifications, and personal messages on your band.
  • Twitter: Tweets, mentions, retweets, messages, new followers. Set your preferences on your phone and see it all on your wrist.
  • Cortana: If you’re using Windows Phone 8.1, you can take notes and set reminders with your voice using Cortana personal assistant.
  • Weather: Get real-time weather conditions and a 5-day forecast to plan your week.
  • Finance: Create a watch list for select stocks in your Microsoft Health app. View the latest ticker activity right on your wrist.
  • Starbucks: No need to reach for your wallet. Enjoy coffee on the go with your Starbucks card ready to scan at arm’s length.
  • Timer & Stopwatch: Time your laps or your entire workout with the stopwatch. Set alarms to wake up silently or remind you to go for a run.
  • Do-not-disturb mode: Tap the icon on your band to turn all notifications off.

The features are great and they are not just here, they are well optimized for a device on your arm wrist. In my daily life I only use some of the features which are integrated. For example I really like the notifications you get from calls, messengers and text messages. For example if I receive a call during a meeting with a client, I can quickly check my wrist and see if the call is important or not and I can quickly answer it with a text message for example “I will call you back”, or just press it away, without having to take the smartphone out of my pocket. Another feature I like is the Cortana integration. Cortana on your Windows Phone knows when your next meeting or flight is and helps you keep track of that by reminding you to leave to catch the flight or meeting. Another use case I use the Microsoft Band a lot is when I login to somewhere using Two-factor authentication, where I get a security code send as text message, which I can now see on my wrist without using my smartphone.

Overall I like the smartwatch features which are integrated but they are not my primary use case for the Microsoft Band or any smartwatch, since there are a lot of things a lot easier to do when you are using your smartphone.

Design and Hardware

Microsoft Band

Let’s talk hardware and design. Well Microsoft did a great job fitting all these sensors inside the Microsoft Band, but of course adding so many sensors make the thing look bulky and the flat screen should be probably replaced with a curved screen. But basically that is all the criticism I have for the hardware design. The weight is absolutely okay and if you have used other fitness tracker before it makes not a difference. Microsoft promises around two days of battery life, for me it is most of the time even more. This is okay but of course I have used the first version of the Nike Fuelband which I had to charge every 4 weeks in average, and I thought charging my band every two days would be hard, but it wasn’t. Since the Microsoft Band only takes a couple of minutes to charge the first 80% this is enough, so I charge it during the time I take a shower.

Software

Microsoft Band Windows Phone App

With software comes all the beauty to the platform. Microsoft offers the Microsoft Health App to sync your Microsoft Band with your phone and with the Microsoft Health Cloud for Windows Phone, Android and iOS. In my opinion the app is great and helps you quickly find things. Of course the app wasn’t the best place to make long term analytics, but for this you have the new released Microsoft Health Dashboard in the web.

Microsoft Health Dashboard

Microsoft Health Dashboard Steps Summary

We had to wait for that, but Microsoft finally released the Microsoft Health Dashboard yesterday. The Microsoft Health Dashboard app is a web console if you will, where you get all the information coming from the Microsoft Band. You have different kind of views to view a specific day, week or month and compare your data. You can get a simple view of the steps and workouts you made or even an overview about your sleep behavior.

Microsoft HealthVault

As mentioned the Microsoft HealthVault is where all your health information comes together. Microsoft HealthVault is a trusted place for people to gather, store, use, and share health information online. Since the latest update you can now setup Microsoft Health to sync data directly to the HealthVault. For me the HealthVault becomes more and more interesting especially if I try to get more data in there such was weight information. For this I bought a Fitbit Aria Smartscale which uploads data to the HealthVault.

Availability

The Microsoft did lunch the Microsoft Band back in November 2014 without a big announcement. Microsoft just released it and made it available in the Microsoft stores months before the Apple Watch will be available. Unfortunately there are two problems, first of all the Microsoft Band is only available in the US and even there it is still hard to get since it is most of the time out of stock. You have to get on some waiting lists and wait to finally get it. One the software site Microsoft released the Microsoft Health app for basically all the mayor smartphone platforms such as Windows Phone, iOS and Android.

Feature Requests

I am pretty happy with the Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health, but of course I have some ideas and wishes for future releases.

  • Platforms – Microsoft has now several Health Platforms and apps, such as Microsoft Health, MSN Health, HealthVault and Xbox fitness, to just count a few. It would be great if they would move MSN Health and Xbox Fitness to the Microsoft Health platform.
  • Xbox integration – As mentioned, on your Xbox One you get Xbox Fitness, which is btw great especially if you are using Kinect. Microsoft should make Microsoft Health available over all platforms and integrate the in a single data store.
  • Friends – It would be great if you could add friends using the Microsoft Health to compete with them in workouts or other goals.
  • Badges and Competitions – Would be great if Microsoft would build something like an award system for the Health platform, so you get awarded for workouts and more.
  • Hardware – Even I like my first version Microsoft Band, it would be cool to have a v2 which has kind of a more improved design.
  • More Hardware – It would also be great if Microsoft also offers other products, such as smartscale and other health related gadgets.

Conclusion

Microsoft did a great job with the Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health. They not just created a cool gadget, they really created a product which helps people tracking their health and get more productive. I have used other trackers before like the first version of the Nike Fuelband and I also bought some Fitbit stuff for my parents, since Fitbit is available in German language. I have to say that I totally get the best experience in features and usability with the Microsoft Band, it is easy to use and configure and it shows you the information you need in optimized way.