A Week With The Sync Burn, A Battery-Powered Fitness Band

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Fitness bands are a dime a dozen these days. Everyone has one, it seems, from audio manufacturers like Jawbone to upstarts like Fitbit and Basis. Now the EB Sports Group, a company that makes fitness devices under a number of brands including Everlast and Men’s Health. I’ve historically been wary of “no name” bands like this one – bands that are created to cash in on a trend rather than from an effort to create a software/hardware ecosystem, but I’ll give this unit a pass for a few reasons.

The most interesting aspect of the Burn is its 1-year battery life. As a regular Fitbit user, I would kill for a device with a fully readable screen that can last longer than two weeks, let alone 365 days. The device is basically a digital watch and is about the size of the Pebble smart watch. The button on the top right controls the readout – you can tag workouts, see your hourly energy expenditure, and see exercise history. The lower right button activates the sync features which, in turn, activates a low energy Bluetooth transmitter.

There is a central button on the bottom of the watch that doubles as a read-out control and heart rate monitor. You can scroll through calories burned, steps taken, and miles walked. If you press and hold the button, however, the watch measures your heart rate. This, in turn, helps estimate calories burned. It’s a wonky system and you have to press fairly hard with your thumb to get a reading but – and this is important – it works 99% of the time and helps conserve the battery.

The Burn is a product of trade-offs. It is a unique product – a quick visit to Alibaba didn’t turn up any similar, unbadged watches – and I’m pleased with the battery life and simplicity of use. To really get the most out of the device, however, you can sync it with an app called MapMyFitness, a free app (with a $29.99/hear training add-on that comes free with the watch for six months) that tracks your runs. By syncing with the app you can simply add your daily walks to the MapMyFitness database. You essentially get a screen like this:

Obviously this isn’t much better than any similar pedometer product but the heartrate monitor built in puts it on par with more expensive devices, like the Basis, and the lower-priced, $99 Withings Pulse. At $130, however, I’m hard pressed to recommend this over, say, a Fitbit Flex or the Pulse. Because of the odd choice to support only MapMyFitness, a popular but not particularly well-integrated piece of software, and the weird method for actually measuring the heart rate, the watch could end up being more trouble than its worth.

I used this primarily as a pedometer, checking my heartrate rarely during the day. To sit there and press and hold a thumb on the sensor is unfortunately too distracting while, say, taking or a walk or going to the gym. I far preferred the Basis’ always-on sensor or even the Fitbit’s overall passivity.

In terms of styling the Burn looks like any other sports watch with a nice red and black color scheme. The screen is a bit dark and unreadable at acute angles but I always enjoyed being able to read my steps taken with a simple direct glance at the watch, something almost none of the other fitness devices offer.

What’s the bottom line? If you’re a fan of MapMyFitness, this could be a solid addition to your regimen. If you’re a fan of a more developed ecosystem I’d recommend the Basis, Nike+, or Fitbit over this device. It’s a clever, nicely built sport-watch/fitness band but it just doesn’t have the depth of data and support afforded by other devices.