Withings Steel HR Sport full review

Withings has gone through a big change in recent years; it was bought by Nokia for around $191 million back in 2016, before being sold back to the original co-founder earlier this year after Nokia’s failed Digital Health rebranding. What better way to celebrate new (or is that old) ownership than to release one of the best smartwatches in the Withings collection?

The Withings Steel HR Sport is the most advanced smartwatch on offer from the company, offering exercise tracking for over 30 activities, sleep tracking and an amazing companion app. Read our Withings Steel HR Sport review to find out what we think about the sporty smartwatch, and check out our selection of the best fitness trackers of 2018 to see how it compares.   

Withings Steel HR Sport: Pricing and availability

The Withings Steel HR Sport is now available to buy around the world following a late-September 2018 release. It’s not the cheapest smartwatch/fitness tracker on the market at £189.95, putting it up against the likes of the Fitbit Versa, but we think that the style and breadth of features on offer from the Steel HR Sport make it worth the price.

At the time of writing, you can only buy the Withings Steel HR Sport from the Withings website. It’ll set you back £189.95/$199.95, although you’ll have to add shipping costs if you want express delivery. You can purchase additional straps and other accessories from the site too.

Withings Steel HR Sport: Design and build

Like with other watches in the Withings collection, the Steel HR Sport is a beautiful blend of analogue and digital, offering an analogue watchface with a range of built-in smart tech.

The first thing you’ll likely notice is the digital subdial display; it’s an OLED panel that provides real-time information including smartphone notifications, heart rate, calories, step count, access to fitness tracking and more with the push of the side button. Beneath the digital subdial is a secondary analogue subdial that displays your progress towards your daily step goal, customisable via the Health Mate app.

The watch is available in both black and white, and while the white face is certainly eye-catching, it doesn’t do a great job of hiding the digital subdial when it’s not in use. The black watchface is much more conspicuous, as the black display blends with the dark watchface and is barely noticeable when not in use. No matter your choice of black or white, the watchface features red accents that give a largely black-and-white watch a much-needed pop of colour.

The watchface is housed in a durable 40mm stainless steel case with an engraved bezel, bringing a premium touch to the Sport. It comes with a soft-to-the-touch silicone watchstrap designed to be breathable and durable enough to endure the most strenuous of workouts. If that’s not your style, the Withings website allows you to customise your Steel HR Sport with a range of silicone and leather straps.

But even with a sporty silicone strap, the Steel HR Sport doesn’t look like a sporty watch. The muted colour scheme, analogue display and premium case make it just at home on your wrist at the office as it is at the gym.

It’s a slim, attractive little number too; measuring in at 13mm thick and weighing only 49g, the Steel HR Sport is barely noticeable on the wrist.

Withings Steel HR Sport: Features & App

So, what’s on offer with the Withings Steel HR Sport? As the name suggests, the watch features heart rate monitoring capabilities using a sensor on the rear. Unlike some smartwatches, your heart rate is constantly monitored when wearing the watch, and can be accessed at any time by pressing the side button on the watch.

While the watch provides live readings, you can access daily, weekly and monthly data via the Health Mate app for iOS and Android. As well as being able to see your heart rate range in any given 30-minute period, the app provides average bpm measurements for waking hours and while asleep too.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the Steel HR Sport without the ability to track exercise, and that’s an area where the watch excels. You can track a wide range of activities – over 30 in total – that range from the standard exercises you expect from a Sporty smartwatch (running, cycling, jogging) to the niche (yoga, golf, ping pong, ice skating and more). It’s water resistant up to an impressive 50m, so you can track swimming and other water-based activities without fear of water damage.

You can set a list of five ‘favourite’ activities via the app for easy activation on the watch. It really is simple to start exercise tracking on the watch; you hold the side button for a second, browse the selection of exercises and hold the button once more to activate. If you’ve got your smartphone connected via Bluetooth, it’ll use the smartphone’s GPS to get more advanced readings including elevation and pace.

Though the measurements taken vary depending on the activity you’re doing, one of the more useful readings provided is VO2 Max. When you run, the smartwatch will assess your general fitness level and provide you with a maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 Max) estimation in the form of a level. In general terms, the higher the level, the fitter you are, and this provides a great way to track overall fitness over time.

But what if you forget to turn on the exercise tracking feature? Thankfully the Steel HR Sport features automatic exercise recognition, though it’s not perfect. In our experience, it detects strenuous activities like running automatically, but it’s not the best at automatically detecting the likes of fast-paced walking or dancing. It’s probably best to activate it manually if you can!

The Withings Steel HR Sport is a great smartwatch, but that means nothing without a great app to back it up. Thankfully, that is the case; the Health Mate app for iOS and Android is one of the best companion apps we’ve come across. It’s well built, and provides more than just access to your data. Unlike similar apps, Health Mate provides information about what all the data means, and how you can act on the data to improve your fitness and wellbeing.

It's little features that enhance the experience, like explaining that a 60bpm average heart rate reading during sleep indicates good cardiovascular health, or what the different periods of sleep (light and deep) mean and how it can influence how you feel daily. It really does provide a great insight into your health, both in terms of exercise and sleep.

As mentioned, the Steel HR Sport tracks your sleep and provides data including sleep stage, interruptions, total time asleep and more, assigning you a score and colour (green for good, red for bad) allowing you to compare tracked sleep at a glance.

As well as little titbits of information alongside your data, you can sign up to a variety of wellness programs from within the app. These provide specific targets, whether it’s sleeping better or learning how to lose weight more effectively, and use data from the Steel HR Sport to coach you over the course of several weeks. For example, we’re currently enrolled in a Sleep Smarter program, with the aim of setting a consistent sleeping pattern across the week and weekend. It looks at your sleep data across the week and provides you with a ‘social jetlag’ score and information on how to improve. It’s personal, effective and provides a great user experience.

With all that going on, the battery life can’t be amazing, can it? Oh, it can. With average use, the Withings Steel HR Sport can last up to 25 days on a single charge. It drops down to five days with constant fitness tracking, but we can’t imagine many people will be tracking exercises 24 hours a day. Even once the battery runs low, the power reserve mode will provide an extra 20 days of power with time and activity tracking.

When the time comes to eventually charge the smartwatch, you simply drop it onto the magnetic wireless charger and wait. It doesn’t take too long to charge either; it’ll take around 2 hours to charge from 0-100 percent, though an hour should provide around 80 percent charge (more than enough for a few weeks of use!).

We’re really impressed with the Withings Steel HR Sport, both in terms of design and the range of features available. If you’ve been holding out for a gorgeous analogue smartwatch with smart features, it’s time to make a purchase.

Specs

Withings Steel HR Sport: Specs

  • Tracks over 30 activities
  • Heart-rate monitor
  • Water-resistant to 50m
  • Analogue watch-face with digital subdial
  • Notification support for over 100 apps
  • Health Mate app for iOS and Android
  • Silicone breathable wristband
  • Available in Black or White