The Basis Peak is the second wearable this year out of Basis, the health wearable startup Intel acquired earlier this year. In many ways, it’s a solid improvement over its predecessor, bringing better design, better sensors, and a more comfortable fit at the exact same $199 price point.
Basis’s latest model is made from aluminum, though the matte black paint on the unit I received for testing could be mistaken for plastic if you’re not holding it in your hand. Instead of making the top and bottom of the face metal with a rectangle of glass in the middle, the Peak has a more traditional square screen inside square-ish frame. I personally think it looks much better, through perhaps a bit less distinct.
A new wristband makes the Peak more comfortable than its predecessor. It manages to feel snug rather than tight at the notch needed to maintain an accurate heart rate measurement, which was an issue I had wearing the Basis Carbon Steel Edition for extended periods of time.
It’s a good thing Basis decided to work on that, because you’re supposed to wear this thing all the time. Thanks to its focus on doing only a few tasks, the Peak gets 4-5 days of battery life if you top it off for about 15 minutes each day. That means that you can actually wear it to bed a few nights in a row and not wake up to a dead device, something that can’t be said for most smart watches on the market or slated to arrive any time soon.
That focus comes with some compromises, including a screen that can be hard and has cheap-looking backlighting. On the watch itself, the only things you can currently keep track of are your current heart rate (which is more accurate than earlier models), steps, and calories burned — though the Peak’s software can tell what kind of exercise you’re doing, and conveniently logs each separately.
That’s great for those who only care about the fitness and health aspects of wearables — which seems to be a lot of people, and I don’t want to discount what they want — but there’s a ton of $150+ smart devices, including Android Wear, Microsoft’s Band, and the Apple Watch, that will offer some fitness features along with smart notifications and even apps.
Basis is aware of the threat those devices pose and says that it will roll out firmware updates before the end of the year that bring smart features like notifications from paired iOS and Android devices. Obviously those features weren’t ready for this review, so I can’t comment on the user experience they’ll bring.
If older Basis models tickled your fancy, you’ll probably like the Peak. It’s more comfortable, to the point where you can actually forget you’re wearing it, something that definitely couldn’t be said about the Carbon Steel model I occasionally wear. If gamification tends to work on you, then you’ll also like the accompanying smartphone app, which lets you slowly add goals you’d like to hit each week so that you can actually see yourself make progress over time. For anyone who isn’t already experienced with wearables, this is the device to look at if your top priorities are battery life and tracking your workouts and sleep.