Comparing the Garmin Forerunner 235 and the Xiaomi Mi Band (Optimized Version)

One of the great things about running and exercising these days is all of the technology and analysis tools that are available. I’m not super hardcore into tons of running tech or anything, but I do appreciate a nice running watch. For nearly two months, I’ve been using the Garmin Forerunner 235 to track my runs and also as my activity tracker throughout the day. I am far more interested in tracking the data on my runs, and the activity tracking that Garmin included on the device was a nice little bonus (and an occasional motivator to get out of my chair and walk around).

I also have the Xiaomi Mi Band (the original, optimized version with no heart rate monitoring and all-white LEDs) at home and it wasn’t getting much use at the moment, so I decided to compare the two devices. Keep in mind that the Mi Band only uses an accelerometer to track movement, distance and steps, while the Forerunner 235 uses GPS (and GLONASS, if you choose) to track distance and speed during runs and other activities; otherwise satellite tracking is turned off and it uses an accelerometer to track steps.

Another major difference between the two devices is price. The Forerunner 235 retails for $330, while the original Mi Band is around $25 and the Mi Band 1S with a heart rate monitor is between $20 and $30. While the higher price of the Garmin might put off some people, the Mi Band is relatively inexpensive and is an easy introduction into the world of wearable fitness trackers.

For the comparison, I put on the Forerunner 235 and the Mi Band around 9 p.m., then went to sleep, woke up and went on a 6.6-mile run in the morning. I wanted to compare the two devices on their sleep tracking and also on the way they track steps. Here is the data that I got from the Garmin Forerunner 235 and the Xiaomi Mi Band after my run:

 

FR 235 Mi Band Difference
Total Sleep: 7:02 6:59 3 mins
Deep Sleep: 3:00 1:55 1 hr, 5 mins
Light Sleep: 3:57 5:04 1 hr, 7 mins
Steps: 11,964 11,282 682 steps
Time: 52:28 1:23:00 ~33 mins
Distance: 10.64km 10.2km 0.44km (0.27 miles)

Sleep
The two devices were very similar in estimating sleep time; only three minutes different from each other. However, Garmin and Xiaomi must use different algorithms to estimate light and deep sleep, as those numbers showed some significant differences.

Steps
Total step counts weren’t that far off from each other either. I would guess that Garmin’s step count is a little more accurate as during runs, the Forerunner is tracking cadence (e.g. the number of times that your feet strike the road per minute). However, the Mi Band seems alright, especially considering its technology and price.

With the Mi Band, you can’t press a button or anything to indicate that you are starting a run like with the Garmin. Instead, the Mi Fit software estimates your total active time and also your distance based on the information from the band. For around seven minutes or so before and after my run, I walked around to warm up and cool down, and perhaps the Mi Band was tracking this as part of my activity (and technically I was active, just not running).

Distance
When it came to distance in this activity, I am amazed that the Mi Band held its own, despite no satellite tracking technology. It was only a couple hundred yards off in estimating my running distance. Quite impressive for an unassuming little band.

Personally, I’m gonna stick with with my Garmin as my primary activity tracker for everything, but for folks who are interested in wearable fitness tracking, the Mi Band is a great device with a very low entry barrier. I’ve given several to family members as they have a great price point and provide some interesting data.