BASIS PEAK WATCH REVIEW
Updated: July 31, 2015
The Basis Peak fitness watch moves beyond the company's first generation product by offering continuous 24/7 heart rate monitoring from the wrist -- including during exercise. With a much sleeker profile, some of the most advanced sleep tracking on the market, a bevy of sensors, and an app geared towards helping you establish healthy habits, the Basis Peak has potential to "pique" the interest of many fitness fanatics...
The Basis Peak
The Basis Peak is the company's fresh take on the previous Basis B1 Watch, adding a more capable heart rate sensor, a sleeker design, more powerful hardware, better waterproofing, vibrating smartphone updates, stopwatch functionality, and a silent wakeup alarm to the suite of features the Basis B1 already offers.
How does the Basis Peak improve on the previous version of the Basis Watch?
Minor upgrades that are considerable, but less earth-shaking:
App upgrades (iOS and Android):
Aside from that, its many other features are similar to the Basis B1. Which is not to say that those other features are insignificant: wireless Bluetooth Smart syncing; 24/7 wearability; advanced sleep tracking that auto-recognizes when you fall asleep and awaken and includes a variety of sleep events and sleep cycles include REM light and deep sleep; auto-recognition of walking/running/biking via BodyIQ; and an app that reinforces healthy habits and displays your stats. It also tracks steps, body temperature and perspiration levels, and estimates calories burned.
I own my Basis Peak
I purchased my own Basis Peak in order to enrich this review with my own first hand experiences. (But frankly also because I really wanted one and couldn't wait to check out the 24/7 heart rate data). My thoughts below are also based on my extensive experience using my first generation Basis B1 watch (what it did well, what it was missing, and how many of these areas are addressed in the new Basis Peak software features). My reaction to the Basis Peak's new form factor is informed by experience not only wearing my Basis Peak, but also by my experience using the Basis B1 (what worked esthetically and physically, and whether the latest changes in the Basis Peak design address areas of concern).
Slimmer, Sleeker Design
The new Basis Peak design has an appreciably slimmer profile than the previous Basis B1. I found the B1 to be a bit bulky, and its thickness sometimes was uncomfortable when trying to sleep. For this reason, the Basis Peak's thinner profile is a welcome update and may have positive user implications for light sleepers.
Having put the watch on my wrist and kept it there for some time, I have a few reflections. First, while it is definitely slimmer and sleeker, it does still look bulky and may not appeal to some because of that. Second, it is way more comfortable than the previous version. The band is seems like a super high quality plastic (if that's not an oxymoron...) and feels almost like leather. I don't notice the watch at all when I'm asleep.
The updated watch also features a crisper display with white and black screen that aims to provide higher contrast than the previous B1's screen when viewing your stats. Making a fitness watch screen that's highly visible even in the brightest sunlight is a difficult task, so while the move is in the right direction, only first hand experience will prove its effectiveness -- there haven't been enough super sunny days (it's winter and snowless) for me to really weigh in yet. There's also a backlight. To turn it on, you swipe up in the right hand edge of the touchscreen.
A magnetic charging cradle improves on the Basis B1's cradle which required a somewhat confusing action to snap the watch into place manually.
Higher quality material upgrades -- a touch-sensitive Gorilla Glass 3 screen, aircraft-grade aluminum body with contoured edges, and softer, stain-resistant breathable silicone straps adjustable to small wrists -- help the Basis feel more like the high quality product that it is. Bands come in several colors: the basic band it comes with is available in black, white, or in brown leather. Additional bands can also be purchased: the SportVent athletic straps come in red, green, blue, pink, and black, and leather straps are available in black, grey, cream and pink. All straps are designed to be easily interchangeable.
In short, these updates make the Basis Peak look and feel on par with other high quality fitness trackers and fitness watches, as opposed to the more "first generation product" feel of the original black plastic Basis B1.
Wrist-based Heart Rate 24/7, Including During Exercise
The Basis B1's previous optical heart rate sensor did a good job of tracking resting heart rate any time I was reasonably stationary: sleeping, sitting, standing still. It didn't drop out completely when I was active, either -- it would occasionally grab a stream of accurate values in the midst of walks, runs, and other activity, even though it wasn't advertised for that purpose.
Of all the features in the Basis B1, the heart rate data was the most compelling to me, and I've been pining for the same level and quality of data when I was out on running and cycling adventures.
The Peak is primed to deliver, thanks to a variety of technology upgrades. The Basis Peak's new optical heart rate sensor pictured above shows off the company's super-bright LEDs, whereas the Basis B1's LEDs were much dimmer, a key improvement that explains the watches new ability to track heart rate during exercise: An LED beams into your wrist and a light sensor measures changes in the LED's ability to penetrate the skin; this provides info about the blood volume passing beneath the skin with each heart beat, and from that, the heart rate can be inferred. Brighter LEDs mean that other light is less likely to interfere with the reading.
In addition to brighter LEDs, the corresponding photo sensor that receives the optical information has been improved. Finally, the Peak watch is lighter than the previous B1 was, which means fewer inertial jostling motions of the watch shifting against the skin -- resulting in a more stable reading even when you're in motion. These three improvements work together to allow the watch to obtain enough information to accurately estimate heart rate even during exercise.
The heart rate data from my Basis B1 seemed quite accurate in the use cases it was advertised for, so I can only imagine that this new iteration will be an improvement in all respects. So far, I've been pleased. The heart rate data is not perfect -- it does briefly drop out sometimes, but the data points average out over the minutes to give an accurate-enough picture of my time spent in each heart rate zone.
Basis Heart Rate vs LifeBeam Heart Rate
For comparison, I used the Polar Beat app to gather heart rate data from the LifeBeam helmet and the Basis Peak. This data is from two different exercise sessions. But the point of showing the two charts here is to illustrate how the LifeBeam Helmet takes more frequent readings and with super high accuracy. This is visible by how jumpy the line chart on the left is, which shows the Lifebeam data, indicating very frequent data sampling. On the right is the chart of the Basis Peak data. You can see that the chart shows fewer little ups and downs -- and that seems to be because it takes slightly less frequent readings. Nevertheless, the readings are still very frequent, and provide more than enough data to provide an accurate heart rate chart over time and time spent in different heart rate zones.
PC World also provides a promising review of the Basis Peak's heart rate capabilities as compared to a chest strap heart rate monitor and LG's heart rate headphones -- it wasn't 100% perfect, but was still quite good. This corresponds to my own experience.
The Basis Peak does not show simplified heart rate zones on the watch display. You'll have to know your heart rate zone cutoffs and keep them in mind of you're using the watch for heart rate zone training. You can also pair it with the Polar Beat app while working out. Polar Beat will track and chart the real-time heart rate data from the Basis Peak and automatically tally how much time you spent in each heart rate zone. I've used this method and like it.
In addition to the improved heart rate sensor, the Basis Peak will contain Basis' other standard sensors for tracking motion, skin temperature, and perspiration. Sensors involved include galvanic skin response sensor, skin temperature sensor, and 3-axis accelerometer.
Advanced Sleep Analysis
Compared to other fitness trackers, the Basis offers some of the most advanced sleep data, and for that reason, I'll devote some space to describing it in this section. (Check out the comparison chart to see how it compares to other health trackers on a variety of metrics). The Basis Peak sleep data includes time spent in REM sleep, deep sleep, and light sleep, number of "Toss & Turns" and how many sleep interruptions occurred over the course of the night, a "sleep quality" score, sleep duration, the time of night you fell asleep bed, and time of day you awoke. The watch automatically detects when you fall asleep and when you awake.
It also includes a "personal sleep analysis", which is a weekly sleep report sent to you via email that summarizes your sleep over the past week and benchmarking that shows a rolling average of your sleep data (sleep score, Toss & Turn, and sleep interruptions). This data can help you keep track of your progress toward higher quality sleep.
In May 2014, Basis announced that, with the help of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center (SFVAMC), and the Northern California Institute of Research and Education (NCIRE), they've been testing the accuracy of their sleep detection against professional sleep detection equipment that's considered the best in the field. The preliminary results of this work are promising, showing that excellent correlation (r = 0.92) between the Basis estimates and the measurements from professional equipment for sleep duration and amount of time spent in each sleep stage.
I have one major gripe about the sleep data, which is that it sometimes is reported at several different sleep sessions over a single night, and sometimes incorrectly estimates the start and end times of a sleep session without allowing the user to manually overwrite the data with the correct start and end times.
New Basis Peak App
Basis has comE out with a new app for the Basis Peak with fresh views and more ways to see your data. A little preview:
The new app provides the data-packed charts that Basis is known for. The charts are still "pretty" and user-friendly, but they are not dumbed down and information is not glossed over. Despite this, they take pity on us busy wearers and do some of the analysis for us by presenting bigger-picture insights and summaries. The app will also still feature the company's signature "habit cards" which help you build customizable healthy habits into your daily and weekly routine.
It's possible that this new app will address some of my concerns about digital experience: ability to correct or delete information when BodyIQ categorizes it incorrectly and adding improved historical chart formats. I also wish that the Basis app provided charts like the FitBit Charge HR provides, showing, on a daily and historical basis, your resting heart rate by day and the minutes you spent in each heart rate zone each day.
Data, Data, Data
Basis has been working hard to address user's wants, and this includes access to raw data. For those of you who really care about exporting your data, it's time to rejoice: You can now export your Basis data to see minute-by-minute heart rate, calories, steps, perspiration and skin temperature. Basis B1 and Carbon Steel Edition owners can also export their data, though they must do so via the Basis Peak app.
Basis also offers data integration with Apple Health and Google Fit.
Finally, they've added something called "Playground": an experimental training ground where users can test new prototype features, provide feedback, and help shape the future features of the Basis Peak. Some of the latest test features have included "Location", which tags your workouts with a location to serve as a memory jog when you're reviewing past workouts, and "Photo Finish," which is a way to track your post-activity mood with a photo and a note.
Overall Reaction to the Basis Peak
In short, my opinion is that if you're excited about having 24/7 heart rate collected from your wrist including during exercise, then this is definitely an interesting watch to consider, because you'll get that along with a host of other features. Now that Basis has been acquired by Intel, I don't think they're going away any time soon, and they do seem to care about maintaining and improving a high quality product. Other fitness trackers to consider for 24/7 heart rate from the wrist include the FitBit Charge HR and FitBit Surge.
If you're on the fence, you could wait until there are reviews of the watch for the specific features and use conditions that you care about. For example, if you're a crossfitter who's interested in heart rate data, you may want to search for specific reviews of from people who use the watch in that capacity to see whether they've had good results -- I'm guessing that the watch's heart rate data may be more accurate in some applications than others. After I've had the chance to wear my Basis Peak in a few different situations (weight lifting, running, bumpy cycling, ice skating, sledding, etc), I'll do my best to update this page with how well it performed in different use cases.
LET'S BREAK IT DOWN
Features & Added Benefits
Basis Peak has five sensors that work together to track steps, continuous heart rate even during exercise, activity level, calories burned, sleep (duration, deep sleep, light sleep, REM, times woken, quality of sleep), body temperature, and perspiration levels. As you walk, run, or bike, the watch's BodyIQ feature auto-tallies your minutes spent in each activity. The Basis Peak does have a watch face that tells the time as well as a stopwatch feature. An accompanying app lets you view your historical data and includes "habit cards" that aim to help you establish daily healthy habits. The watch and app now offer smartphone notifications, too: texts, calls, emails, calendar events, and habit alerts.
Hardware & Wearing
The Basis Peak has the form factor of a watch with a traditional adjustable notch-based band. Color options: matte black watch with black and red-accented straps; brushed silver watch with white and gray-accented straps; or brown leather strap with "Titanium Edition" watch body. Additional bands can also be purchased: the SportVent athletic straps come in red, green, blue, pink, and black; Leather straps are available in black, grey, cream and pink. All straps are designed to be easily interchangeable. A watch-like display face displays various information that you can toggle through including steps, time, heart rate, and more. It is waterproof up to 5ATM (50 meters), which means it can be used while swimming.
Battery Life & Charging
The Basis Peak watch has a rechargeable battery that can be charged via a magnetic charging cradle that comes with the device. The charge lasts approximately 4 days. So far, my own Basis Peak's battery life has lasted the full 4 days on a single full charge.
The Basis Peak is Bluetooth Smart enabled, allowing it to sync wirelessly with your smartphone. It will also sync automatically in the background. I've also been able to pair it with the Polar Beat app in order to chart live heart rate and heart rate zones during a run.
You can view your data via mobile apps on most Android and iOS devices (list of supported devices here). You can export your data to see minute-by-minute heart rate, calories, steps, perspiration and skin temperature, and the app supports integration with Apple Health and Google Fit.