Atlas Wristband hands-on: An activity tracker for everything, but running

Most activity trackers today count your steps, measure your heart rate, and calculate your active life. The Atlas Wristband is focused on rep counting for weights and body weight sessions.

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I've tested a lot of wearables over the years and have seen them evolve and improve to the point where most track your steps, measure your heart rate, plot your route, and more with decent accuracy. The new Atlas Wristband is designed to track your gym workout with rep counts, heart rate monitoring, and exercise guidance.

While the Atlas Wristband has a major focus on weight lifting, I spend most of my non-running time performing body weight exercises. Thus, my experiences here are focused primarily on the body weight experience so I recommend reading other reviews to find out more about exercises with weights.

Hardware

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The Atlas Wristband is available with a green or yellow band, I was sent a yellow one to test out, with a retail price of $199. It is comprised of two main elements, the sensor module and the wristband. The module slides into an opening in the band and strong magnets hold it securely in place. You need to remove the module from the band to charge it up via a microUSB cable.

The band is an inch wide and made of a durable dual color material. The central top part of the band is plastic and houses the sensor module. The watch clasp holds the band securely in place and is adjustable so one size fits all.

The Atlas Wristband is designed to be worn on your left wrist only. As you can see in my image gallery, the module extends out more than another inch beyond the band further up your wrist.

The has the magnets and microUSB port on one end with a single small power button on the other end. A heart rate sensor is found on the bottom with a 128x64 pixels resolution plastic OLED touchscreen display on top. The display works well indoors, but at times was hard to read when performing exercises outside. Given the gym focus for this device, the majority of time people will be using it inside the gym so this outdoor readability may not be that important to most people.

The touchscreen works well, but the plastic appears fairly easy to scratch so try not to rub it against the weights or other gym equipment. The module is a bit thick at almsot half an inch, but when I was doing my exercises it never was an issue or caused any interference.

There are two 32-bit ARM M4 processors powering the device with a 120 mAh battery. Atlas states that the battery should last up to a week when used each day for an hour. It is not a device designed for all-day wear, but for the hour or so you are in a gym a few times a week. Make sure to turn it off when you are not using it though as I found it died on me a few times when I just left it on between days of exercise. There is a power save mode available and I highly recommend you use that as well.

The sensor module contains a tri-axis accelerometer, tri-axis gyroscope, and inertial sensors to try to count the reps and determine the type of exercise you are performing. It also has an optical heart rate sensor. Bluetooth LE is also present since you setup and sync all of your data to an Android or iOS smartphone. The band is water resistant to 30 meters, but swimming is not one of the exercises it tracks so this really just means it will survive even the sweatiest person, like myself.

Band software and UI

After you turn on the Atlas Wristband you will be able to swipe through the following: watch face with date and time, coach mode, freestyle mode, heart rate mode, help page, and device power. Tap on a coach mode, freestyle, or heart rate to perform more actions and get started.

You can always press the power button once to perform a back action. Thus, you use taps, swipes, and the power button to navigate around the Atlas Wristband. If you ever need to edit the reps or weight amount then you simply tap the underlined number and make your corrections.

By default, a preinstalled first workout is ready in the coach mode to get you going. As explained below, you can fully customize and choose other workouts to have loaded on the Atlas Wristband through the smartphone application. The preloaded first workout gives you the choice to select quick start, bodyweight, time trials, and dumbbells routines to perform. I enjoyed the quick start and bodyweight routines since I do not have access to weights at home and have no gym membership. These are good options for the beginning or someone just looking to maintain a basic level of strength activity.

The freestyle option is one of the more unique aspects of the Atlas Wristband since you simple choose it and start moving. As long as you maintain proper form for your exercise, then the Atlas Wristband will count your reps while measuring your heart rate and then sync that back to your smartphone when you are done. There are no directions provided by the band and movement is completely up to you.

There is an option to add in missed exercises if the band doesn't properly detect everything. In my experiences, the band does a solid job of capturing my exercise movement and adding in missed exercises can be a bit of a pain on a small display that slows down the flow of exercise. I used freestyle most of the time with my bodyweight exercises and it captured all of the correct exercises, but missed a few reps. Adding in more reps to the automatic tracking was quick and easy though.

In the heart rate mode, the Atlas band is just tracking duration and your heart rate so that the exercise and reps are not being counted. I understand that some people use this while running in the gym and for other exercises where reps don't matter.

Smartphone software

Even if you don't yet have an Atlas Wristband, you can download and install the application on your iOS or Android smartphone and check out what is available. The home screen is where you will see your most recent workouts, with the ability to move through them to view workout history. Another tab on the homescreen lets you plan your workouts that are then synced to the Atlas band and appear in coach mode.

There are many workouts already developed by the folks at Atlas for your use or you can create your own custom workout. For those who enjoy freestyle workouts without strict coaching, you can choose freestyle and then select from up to 15 exercises from the long list of more than 50 available within the application.

When you create a custom workout, you give the workout a name, choose the different routines and name them, assign exercises using a drop down list of supported exercises with sets, reps, and weights detailed by you. When you are done creating the workout, you simple tap the create workout button and can then sync to the Atlas Wristband. While smartphone displays are large and setting them up on your phone is fine I would like to see the ability to create workouts on a website and then sync to your phone.

Tapping your profile icon in the upper right of the home screen gives you access to a menu where you can edit your profile, jump to selecting up to 15 freestyle exercises, view the exercise guide, or view user tips.

The exercise guide is awesome and through the guide I learned about a few more bodyweight exercises that I have no incorporated into my exercise regime. As you look through the vast list of exercises you simply tap a name to learn more. Atlas provides you with a video showing the exercise in practice and lets you swipe from right to left to see a word description of the exercise and then a graphical body representation of where the muscle focus is for that exercise. With this information, you can create full body workouts or create workouts focused on areas where you need improvement.

After you have performed some workouts, it's very interesting to view your workouts on the home page to see calories burned, average heart rate, and duration in the summary with the number of reps completed for each exercise. You can view cardio and velocity details as well. The graphical body muscle focus lets you quickly see where you have focused in your completed workout.

Experiences and conclusion

I was hesitant to agree to try out the Atlas Wristband at first because I don't currently workout with weights. When I played college footbal l and rugby I spent a lot of time with barbells and dumbbells, but have a lot going on in my life at the moment so have focused on running and bodyweight exercises just to maintain a level of fitness without bulking up or building serious muscle mass.

However, I am glad I did test the Atlas and for $199 I think it is worthwhile even for those of us who perform bodyweight exercises. For those who do workout with weights at the gym, it seems the Atlas may be a perfect way to capture data and then work to improve your fitness. In the past, I used to write down reps and weights and while that is still valuable to many people, the ability to have that captured accurately and quickly in an automatic fashion should save you time while providing even more vital info. This is especially true when you consider the Atlas band captures heart rate data that is often not captured with weight workouts in the gym.

The Atlas Wristband is comfortable and I like the yellow inside highlight of the band. It accurately tracks my reps and exercises with a focus on proper form. Form is important for both the beginner and experienced athlete as it helps prevent injury and work the intended muscle group.

The Atlas Wristband won't replace your Fitbit, Apple Watch, or other daily activity tracker, but is a good supplement for gym weight and bodyweight workouts.

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