Smartwatches have been around for a while now. There are countless shapes and sizes, all offering different abilities and delivering a range of features. But while there is something to be said about the scope the Apple Watch can do, sometimes you want a classic timepiece while still tracking steps, sleep, and heart rate. This is the niche the Withings Steel HR falls into, and while it does lack some of the more advanced features seen on competing devices, it should satisfy the fans of a good timepiece for the most part.
The Withings Steel HR feels somewhere in the middle of what you could find on a standard watch, a fitness tracker, and an actual smart watch. The Steel HR is an elegant yet simple timepiece offering a very minimal face, with an hour and minute hand and the obligatory tick marks delineating the different hours in the day. But unlike a standard watch, you will find two other areas on the face, one being an analog activity tracker, with the other being a small circular LED that will blend into the face of the watch while not in use.
This little LED screen can display a range of information, but the key things you will use it for are step count, distance, heart rate, and time and date. You can also activate a workout mode when you long press the side button, and this will show a continuous heart rate as you get a timed workout going.
The Steel HR, like most modern fitness trackers, will track your heart rate and steps automatically just by setting up the watch. There is also the option to track swimming if you are so inclined, I sadly could not test this out at the time of review due to the rules currently in place for public facilities, although past Withings devices had this feature and it worked well.
The big selling point of the Withings Steel HR is the heart rate tracking, and all in all, it seemed to work well, if not amazing.”
The big selling point of the Withings Steel HR is the heart rate tracking, and all in all, it seemed to work well, if not amazing. During my day, it would see sudden spikes at odd hours, but none of the other trackers I have tested recently detected anything of this nature. It is an optical monitor, so this could just be a bug in the tech or any one of several issues.
Beyond these random spikes and dips, the watch was good at getting a general take on my wellness and gave enough detail to let me know if I was working out. Although for anyone seriously working out, I would suggest a non-optical device to get a much more accurate reading.
When using the watch, the small LED screen will give you a general idea of your heart rate and any other fitness related details based on the screen you are on. It was hard to see while moving and the dark screen I found difficult to see in direct sunlight at times due to glare. This little screen can also get basic notifications. But again, due to the size, you will be hard-pressed to get any useful information out of it, and it is best used as a “check your phone” style alert then real readable messages. But it works in a pinch and a welcome addition, even if it has limited use.
But even though the smart features on the watch can be limited at times, the battery life more than makes up for it. The Steel HR comes with a rechargeable battery, so that while it may not last months on a single charge, you can safely get over three weeks without issue. It can be stretched beyond that with the LED and heart rate features turned off, lasting well over another week or so beyond even that. I may not have loved the charger that comes in the box, and it could have been a bit easier to snap in, but all in all, due to not needing it daily, this is a minor trade off.
“The Steel HR strikes a good balance here, giving just enough features while still making this a watch you can wear and forget most days.”
Chargers have always been one of the areas I have been most disappointed by with modern smart wearables. While I do enjoy a little computer on my wrist, the need to carry around another charger while travelling or to need to plug it in most nights is another annoyance many don’t want. The Steel HR strikes a good balance here, giving just enough features while still making this a watch you can wear and forget most days.
Withings have made a watch that is easy to recommend to my non-smart family members. It is just smart enough to give a level of excitement the first time they unbox it, while not losing that iconic watch look and feel. While I wish there was a bit more “smart” in this smartwatch, it has quickly become my daily watch and gives just enough feedback to keep me motivated. If you are a serious fitness enthusiast, or someone who needs the most advanced tech, you may want to look elsewhere, for everyone else, give the Withings Steel HR a try, you won’t be disappointed.