Withings has built quite a name for itself since launching its first Wi-Fi Body Scale in 2009, and the new Withings Smart Body Scale is perhaps the biggest update yet released for its original connected scale tech. The new hardware monitors and tracks not only weight, but also body fat percentage, blood pressure and environmental air quality. I tested the Smart Body Analyzer over the course of the past week, so if you’re looking to invest in one of the newly available scales, here’s how it performs.
The Withings Smart Body Analyser (or WS-50, as it’s known more technically) is a very attractive piece of hardware as far as scales go, which is good because Withings wants you to keep it in the bedroom for maximum effectiveness. That’s because of the new air quality monitor, which works best when it’s placed somewhere where you actually spend a lot of time. The air quality meter, combined with the body fat and heart rate measurement are the big selling points here, since they provide the reasons to spend $50 more vs. the standard WS-30 Withings wireless scale.
As mentioned, it’s a good looking scale. It’s glass-topped, which is also necessary for the sensors to connect with your bare feet to deliver accurate readings. But it also feels very solidly constructed, and the readout is legible and bright, opting for low-res output that’s probably easier on battery life (the scale should get a full year on just four AAA alkalines) and on the eyes from the distance you’ll be viewing it at when standing. The bottom line is that the Withings Smart Body Analyzer inspires confidence with its construction, and looks like the type of scale Apple might make were it to produce such a gadget.
The Smart Analyzer is pretty simple to set up. There’s a button on the back (actually more like a pressure sensitive groove) and you hold that down to pair it with your smart phone. A second button controls what units your weight is displayed in on the scale itself (settings within an app control readouts there). The pairing process went smoothly for me on an iPhone 5, and I was then able to transfer Wi-Fi network settings for my home network from the phone, meaning I didn’t have to reenter (or even remember) my complicated password.
The pairing process will also prompt you to install the Withings Health Mate app on your device. It’s here that you’ll create a profile to track your statistics from the scale (and any other Withings devices associated with your account). You can very quickly get up and running with the app, after entering your initial height, weight and age, and you can also set up multiple people to track under a single account if you’re sharing the scale in the household.
The Withings Analyzer does a great job measuring weight, and communicates with the app seamlessly via Wi-Fi (the Bluetooth connection isn’t required after your initial setup). And air quality tracking appears to be fairly accurate, in so far as it definitely saw marked increases in CO2 levels when the room was occupied versus when it wasn’t, and a lot less when no one was home versus when they were.
With body fat percentage and heart rate tracking, I saw some variances since I was lucky enough to be able to test against outside measures. The Withings Smart Analyzer reported both as high compared to tests done on professional measurement tools owned by my local gym. The higher numbers were, however, consistently higher, which means that although they might not have been as accurate as expensive pro-grade hardware, they’re still very useful as a relative measure over time, which is really the important thing from a home health monitoring device like this anyways. And the convenience of having it right there in your own home for daily measurement outweighs the downsides of it delivering slightly inflated readings.
The Smart Body Analyzer is an impressive piece of hardware, and builds on the already useful Withings line. Its data can be used by an increasing pool of apps (now at over 80, according to Withings) in addition to the company’s own, and at $150, you’re not paying too much of a premium for the added metrics of body fat percentage, resting heart rate and air quality. Data reported may not be 100 percent accurate, but I feel it’s plenty accurate enough to meet the needs of the vast majority of consumers.