Reviews

Basis Peak – In Depth Review – GadFit (Updated April 2016)

December 14, 2014

Update August 2016: Intel, the company that owns Basis, has initiated worldwide safety recalls of the Basis Peak trackers due to overheating issues which may cause burns or blisters. The tracker is not longer available for sale. You’re advised to return yours for refund.

When the Basis B1 was released, it was ahead of its time. Touting information such as skin temperature, perspiration and 24/7 heart rate tracking it reinvented the definition of an activity tracker. Yet companies like Fitbit and Jawbone, with trackers that track less stats, pulled ahead of Basis. A software upgrade in the form of “Body IQ” that recognises if the user is walking, running or biking, the ability to track REM sleep, and an upgraded Carbon Steel edition did little in terms of making up for its shortfalls; inaccuracy in tracking HR during exercise and aesthetically lacking. Since its purchase by Intel in March, Basis has been silent with rumours of a new activity tracker surfacing every now and then. The Basis Peak was finally announced in October. I’ve been wearing one for a week now. Read on to find out.

LOOK AND FEEL

feature basis peak

Simple, elegant, unpretentious.

close up basis peak

It has a sleek profile with no buttons.

It was as if the geek went for a makeover and gym workout. Gone are the touch nodes and funny fitting strap. The new Basis Peak boasts forged aluminum body with high contrast touch screen enabled gorilla glass 3. It is sleek, connects to smartphone devices and still very much tracks information not many people can make sense of.

close up basis peak 2

You can clearly make out the pixels on the display. I personally found the display adequate to be viewed anytime of the day.

Display is not the sharpest I’ve seen. Pixels can be observed but it gets the job done. The user can clearly see the display in the brightest of days or the darkest nights. A swipe up the right edge of the screen illuminates the display which automatically goes off after a short while.

casual walk basis peak

This is the activity screen which only start up after the Basis Peak detects activity; walking, running or biking.

There are no buttons as all functions all touch enabled. Either swipe left, right or up and down. Once the Basis Peak detects that that user is engaged in either walking, running or biking, it automatically switches to the activity screen which I’ll cover that later.

back of basis peak and watch strap

The strap has a tiny knob that allows the easy removal of the pin and the strap. Standard straps will probably come with pins without the knob.

peak_sportvent_familyshot_side copy

Sportvent straps sold seperately. From left: Ember, Firefly, Vapor, Coral,Onyx.

Strap is standard 23mm so can be changed for another watch strap should the user desire. Personally I found the packaged strap pleasing to the eye and the daily hand-scrubbing during showers keep it looking pristine. Basis also sells the sportvent replacement straps which have more ventilation holes compared to the packaged strap.

profile views basis peak

Front, back and side view of the Basis Peak worn on the wrist.

The Basis Peak is supposed to be worn behind the wrist bone. What I found is that if the user wears it like a watch, slightly loose and dangling on the wrist bone, the readings are going to be affected. Optical sensors readings can be compromised by ambient light. I wear mine a snug fit on a normal basis and go one watch notch tighter during exercise for accurate HR reading.

basis peak loose

Here I was wearing the Basis Peak like a normal watch, loose fit. This will cause the HR readings to not register.

Wearing the Basis Peak so close to the skin for prolonged hours also mean hygiene must be taken care of. I take mine out during showers and give it a good rinse daily. I suggest you do the same also.

The Basis Peak is waterproof to 5 ATM and battery supposedly lasts up to 4 days. I had slightly more than 3 days during the review, including an hour of transmitting HR data to an iOS device, so that’s about right.

basis optical sensor

Optical sensors that read heart rate (HR). Very bright.

One word of caution, the optical sensors are really bright. Should come with a warning for that.

Water and touch screens are never the best of friends. While sweaty fingers from a hard workout is still fine. Trying to swipe to the correct display screen on the Basis Peak while swimming in the pool is like trying to run in quick sand. You may succeed, but why bother.

DATA PRESENTATION AND FUNCTIONS

I won’t be covering the smartphone connection portion as that function has yet to be enabled. During review, the Basis Peak was connected to a LG Nexus 5 running stock Android version. Where iOS functions was to be tested, a iPhone 4S running iOS 8.1.2 was used.

basis peak watch face with date controls

Left: Watch display. Right: A tap on the watch display brings up the date on the top left hand corner.

In normal mode, users can swipe left and right to access watch functions, view time and date, heart rate and tracked activity in terms of step count for the day.

basis peak settings display

The list of Basis Peak functions.

The list of functions include a “Do not disturb” setting will instruct the Basis Peak not to display smart phone notification. (during sleep or rest)

smartphone-notifications

The Basis Peak will also display smart watch notifications with the release of a new firmware. Text messages, emails and even calls will be displayed on the screen coupled with vibrations. I had the joy of declining calls right from my wrist 🙂 Read more here.

A simple swipe up and down the right edge of the display screen activates or dims the screen illumination with a slight vibration.

various modes during IQ track basis peak

Clockwise from top left: Current HR, steps accumulated during this activity session, calories burned, steps per minute.

When the user starts walking or running, Body IQ kicks in to identify that activity and displays that on the Basis Peak. During prolonged bouts of activity, the activity display pops up with the third display doing a black letters on white base. Here, users can swipe up or down to access more information like HR, steps, calories in per minute format.

Activity and sleep tracking are automatic with Body IQ.

basis peak REM sleep

Basis Peak sleep tracking data presentation.

The other function which I absolutely love is the sleep tracking. Basis Peak is the only tracker I’ve reviewed to date that managed to track me taking a siesta in the afternoon. And it’s been spot on in sleep tracking thus far. And the best part? Auto detection of sleep. Users will also receive a weekly summary of sleep from Basis which I found pretty useful. You can read more about Basis’ advanced sleep tracking here. 

endomondo basis peak

Basis Peak transmits HR data to Strava on iPhone 4S.

strava basis peak hr

Basis Peak transmits HR data to Endomondo on iPhone 4S.

Since Basis Peak is able to transmit HR data to 3rd party apps on the iOS, I removed pairing on my Android phone and connected the Basis Peak to an iPhone4S. It was easy and seamless. 3rd party apps like Strava and Endomondo took longer to detect the HR from the Basis Peak than I liked but when it finally did, boy was I happy. There’s not need for extra steps, just start the app and search for bluetooth HR devices.

Wearing the Polar H7 chest strap HRM connected to a Strava account and the Basis Peak connected to another smartphone also on a Strava account, I brought the 2 phones on a run with my trusty Flipbelt. It was a 48 minutes run, about 9.5km thereabouts.

Blue coloured Polar H7 line. Average HR on Polar H7 is 166,maximum heart rate is 186.

Red coloured Basis Peak line. Average HR on Basis Peak is 165, maximum HR is 185.

polar H7 vs Basis Peak strava HR data split comparison copy

For ease of comparison, I moved the 2 HR trend lines apart. Blue coloured line is Polar H7 HR trend. Red coloured line is Basis Peak HR trend. This line graph is from Strava mobile app screen capture.

polar H7 vs basis peak from strava web account screen capture

Strava web account HR trend from the same workout. Blue coloured line is Polar H7 HR trend. Red coloured line is Basis Peak HR trend.

When viewed on the Strava web account, the differences becomes more prominent. The chest worn polar H7 HRM registers more details. I would think if you need a general idea of the intensity of your training, the Basis Peak is a very good option to consider. If you’re looking for specifics and details, then stick to a chest strap HRM.

basis peak dashboard views

Left: Main dashboard view. Center: Tapping on the recent activity icon on the main dashboard opens up a more detailed view. Right: Tapping on the graph icon seen in the center screen capture opens up a chart view of the recent activity. Essentially, a lot of information.

The entire Basis Peak mobile app contains many ways to view your tracked stats. Through trial and error, I was tapping just about everything on the screen to see if it expands to more information. There’s a lot going on in the app and it can take a while to thoroughly know where to get a specific view or tracked stat.

basis peak chart vewi comparison

It got a bit overwhelming after a while. For example, it made little difference to me as a user whether I perspired more at noon where it’s warmer versus 9pm in the evening when I’m running.

Users can also access the chart view where lines and graphs of the tracked stats are plotted for ease of viewing…or not. While I appreciate the efforts of the Basis team to present all the tracked stats to the user, it honestly made little sense after a while. If the app was able to make sense of the data, now that’s something else altogether.

basis peak habits versus notifications

Left: Habits view on the mobile app. Right: Notifications settings on the mobile app.

Basis peddles a unique system of goal setting; habits. Every time a user successfully commits and finishes a habit, points are awarded which goes towards unlocking even more habits. For example, be active for 30 minutes for 2 days a week or wearing the Basis Peak for 12 hours 2 days a week. Simple things like that. Users can also tweak their goals. I set my step count to 15k steps instead of the pre-set 10k steps.

Basis allows users to pause on a habit and unlock another one in place of it. Thus allowing users to try more realistic habits if the current one doesn’t work out as expected.

basis peak activity details on the web

An example of the activity view on the Basis web account detailing HR, steps, calories, skin temperature and perspiration. Plus a tracked run.

There is a trove of data on the user’s Basis web account which users can access. There are details like perspiration and skin temperature which users can access and make sense of.

basis peak patterns

This is a patterns view of calories burned on a daily basis for the past 8 days.

Users can also choose the patterns view which I found easier to understand. Choose to display steps, calories, HR, skin temperature and perspiration. And knock yourself out over the data.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Transmitting of HR data is a function I loved. Unfortunately that is restricted to iOS devices only. Basis has stated that there is due to fragmentation of the Android system.

As with most wrist worn activity trackers, there’s bound to be some addition of steps during hand based activities like typing. I’ve found the margin acceptable when compared to 3 other hip worn trackers I wear on a daily basis.

While Basis has done a good job with the Basis Peak, there is much room for it to become great. While Basis has taken steps to include smart phone notifications and silent alarm, the mobile app presentation could use an overhaul. It’s unnecessarily complex and aesthetically painful to view.

Data presentation could have been better. The current UI allows users to see details rather than the big picture and can be confusing to navigate.  I.e. Data summarys of weeks or months becomes more important over time. There’s a copius amount of information and very little analysis except for sleep data. I would have loved for a weekly summary of activities and perhaps some snippets of health tips or suggestions based on where I stand among the general Basis users.

An update in April 2016 has given the Basis Peak music controls right from the fitness watch. Users can now manually edit and add type and duration of workout. While the improvements are great, it makes you wonder what took Basis so long to implement these features. In all honesty, Basis Peak could’ve been great back in early 2015 and not play catch up now with the other new trackers on the block.

IN A NUTSHELL

Pros:

  • Tracks steps, calories, sleep, 24/7 HR tracking, perspiration, skin temperature
  • Auto detection of activity and sleep
  • Up to 4 days battery life.
  • Vibration
  • Display visible in day and night
  • Water proof to 5 ATM
  • Wireless syncing via Bluetooth
  • iOS and Android compatible
  • Wrist worn heart rate tracking
  • Transmitting HR data to 3rd party apps like Strava or Endomondo on iOS
  • Changeable watch strap
  • Weekly sleep summary
  • Smart phone notifications (enabled end Jan 2015)
  • Touch screen enabled.
  • Data can be exported
  • Silent alarm (enabled July 2015)
  • Music Control (enabled April 2016)
  • Manual activity editing (enabled April 2016)

Cons:

  • Data presentation raw
  • Lack of friends connection
  • Lack of data analysis

The Basis Peak is a quantum leap over its predecessors in terms of hardware and appearance. The addition of HR data transmitting to iOS devices effectively renders wrist worn HRMS for the layman unnecessary. The announced smartphone connection, when it comes, is really icing on the cake.

If you’re in the market for an activity tracker that doubles up as a wrist worn HR monitor with some smart phone connection functions, the Basis Peak is a solid buy.

I’m not a watch person but I believe I might have found the right one for my wrist. For now. If you’re interested to buy the Basis Peak off Amazon where there’s usually a small discount and free delivery, click here.

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