Hands on: Razer Nabu SmartBand review

A smartband that features a discreet screen

What is a hands on review?
Razer Nabu review
Won't reveal an ex is calling in front of your current date

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Two is better than one in the eyes of peripherals-maker Razer, and that's why it's showing off the Razer Nabu wearable smartband with dual screens.

Having two OLEDs isn't meant to be overkill, as we found out by going wrist-on with the Nabu prototype at CES 2014. It actually solves a privacy dilemma wrist intrinsic in all smartwatches.

It's tiny Public Icon Screen on the top of the wrist is home to notification icons that are safe to see in public. Emails take the form of an envelope, incoming calls show up as an old-school phone and SMS texts appear as a chat bubble.

The Public Icon Screen is purposely vague and plan. Its purpose is to alert you of an expanded notification that is located on the bottom of the wrist. This wider Private Message Screen adds more information like who is calling, the SMS or email sender and the beginning of their message.

Splitting up the notification icon from the more detailed information allows Razer Nabu smartband to keep you up to date, but do it in a discrete fashion. That's something that the more larger, more showy Samsung Galaxy Gear AMOLED touchscreen fails to hide.

Discrete top screen on the Razer Nabu

The less discrete top screen shows more information

Razer Nabu vs Nike FuelBand

The Razer Nabu looks and feels like the Nike FuelBand SE - it's a little thinner and has those two informative screens instead of just one. The similarities don't stop there.

This water-resistant band is filled with sensors to track metrics like steps walked and distance traveled. It also steps foot into Fitbit Force territory, calculating stairs climbed and sleep quality throughout the night.

The Razer Nabu smartband dons a stiff rubber bracelet design that matches the Nike FuelBand. In contrast, the Fitbit Force has a flexible rubber watch-like band that's a little more comfortable, but that may come down to personal preference.

It's expected to fit a variety of wrists with three different sizes. Nike did the same with small, medium and large-sized FuelBands. Its Lithium-polymer battery is supposed to be equally as good, lasting about seven days between charges.

The real advantage to the Razer Nabu system is the stairs and sleep tracking features and its smartwatch-like notifications that FuelBand SE fitness tracker is unable to do. The downside is that neither of the screens are as flash as Nike's dot-matrix LED screen.

Razer Nabu vs Nike FuelBand vs Fitbit Force

Razer Nabu vs Nike FuelBand vs Fitbit Force

Self Analysis gets social

Razer is touting the Nabu as "the first truly social wearable" thanks to unique band-to-band communication for social discovery. Compared to its smartwatch and activity tracking features, its opt-in social interaction ideas seem to be a work-in-progress.

So far, this feature means that you can use the smartband to find nearby Nabu-wearing friends, shake a stranger's hand to start following each other on Twitter and discover mutual likes. The ability to find friends with a phone's accompany map software could be an incredibly useful alternative to the iOS Find My Friends feature. After all, Razer is making its wearable compatible with both iOS and Android devices. Apple's Find My Friends app is, well, restricted to iPhones and iPads.

Nabu's collected data, pre-configured apps and gestures capabilities are going to available on an open development platform. This will enable both first and third-party developers to build modify and apps for the smartband.

Razer Nabu review

Bottom screen reveals the caller's just in case it's an ex

Early verdict

The Razer Nabu isn't ready to graduate from prototype form just yet and the company, mostly known for gaming peripherals, seems to be heavily relying on third-party developers to push its software to new and better places. That means the best is yet to come and up to the creative community if it catches on to enough wrists.

Springing for a smartband shouldn't be too difficult as the Razer Nabu developer price is an affordable $49 (about £30, AU$55). That's one third of the price of other fitness wearables out there and this one includes smartwatch-like notifications to boot.

Matt Swider

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.