Hands on: Withings Steel HR review

Track your heart rate on a traditional-looking watch

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

Withings has managed to create the first fashionable fitness tracker that packs in everything you'll need to keep track of both your health and the time.

For

  • Traditional watch design
  • Heart rate tracker

Against

  • Lacks some phone notifications
  • Pricey for what it offers

Withings' latest watch, the Steel HR, is an analogue activity-tracking device that doesn't look like your average fitness tracker – but it does everything you've come to expect from a wrist-based fitness band.

The Withings Steel HR is a fashionable watch that you won't be embarrassed to wear, and you also get the benefits of your typical fitness tracker, such as the Fitbit Charge 2.

The analogue watch face means you don't have to try to focus on bouncing numbers to tell the time when running or working out, while you do get the benefits of knowing how healthy you are.

Withings Steel HR release date and price

There are two versions of the Withings Steel HR, one with a 36mm face and another with a 40mm version. In the pictures throughout this review the white face is the 36mm version and the black face is the larger watch.

Withings Steel HR

The 36mm Steel HR costs $179.95/£169.95 (about AU$300), while the 40mm model is a little more at $199.95/£179.95 (about AU$315). You'll be able to buy them direct from the Withings online store at some point in October, although exactly when isn't yet clear.

Withings Steel HR design

This is the very first tracker to look like a traditional watch and also come with a heart rate monitor, which sits on the rear of the device. It's an optical monitor, meaning that when you take the watch off you'll be greeted with an annoying flashing green light.

It doesn't make the device all that much thicker though. This just looks like slightly chunkier than your average watch.

The tracker will monitor your heart rate throughout the day to give you an average result, as well as starting up as soon as it detects that you're having an intense workout period. It'll also track you while you sleep, although a glass-faced watch isn't something you'd want to wear to bed.

Withings Steel HR

It's even waterproof up to 50 meters, so you can take it swimming with you or even wear it in the shower.

Withings Steel HR

In terms of size, whether you go for the 36mm or 40mm version will depend largely on how big your wrists are.

There are a variety of straps to choose from. The base model comes with a plastic option, and we'd recommend spending a little extra on the leather strap – it feels much more comfortable on the wrist, although it won't be suitable for those who want to go swimming with the Steel HR.

Withings Steel HR

There's a small screen, less than an inch wide, to give you notifications on your progress, while the rest of the watch is made up of an analogue face. The 36mm face is available in white or black, while the 40mm only comes in black.

Notifications also come through to the Withings Steel HR. You won't be able to interact with them from your watch, but you'll be notified of calendar alerts, SMS messages and phone calls, so you can decide whether to take your phone out of your pocket.

A Withings representative has told TechRadar that in due course notifications will also be supported for services including WhatsApp and Messenger, and for email.

Withings Steel HR

You can pair the Steel HR with your Android or iOS device using the Withings Health Mate app.

Withings claims the Steel HR will last you 25 days on a single charge, and going by Withings previous products we can believe that. After those 25 days, if you haven't recharged your watch Withings says it will enter a power-saving mode to continue tracking your steps and basic activity for another 20 days.

Withings Steel HR

If you're away from a power source for a long period of time this could come in useful.

Early verdict

On first impressions, the Withings Steel HR is a great-looking fitness tracker for those who'd like to wear something more stylish than a large rubber wristband.

Withings Steel HR

If you buy a leather strap and put it with this watch face, the Withings Steel HR will look fantastic on your wrist, and give you all the benefits of a Fitbit or other fitness tracker; a heart rate tracker was the one feature missing from the Withings Activité Steel.

Having a heart rate monitor on a watch this thin is a revelation – and if you're looking to combine style with fitness functionality, this may well be the watch for you.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.