Razer has joined the cheap wearable fray with the Nabu X, a $50 smart wristband that counts steps, tracks sleep and provides basic notification alerts.
Compared to Razer’s $100 Nabu—which was announced a year ago but still hasn’t been gone on sale to the general public—the Nabu X nixes the OLED display and instead uses a trio of lights to indicate step progress and incoming notifications. Those lights are now meant to sit on top of the wrist, while a new one-size-fits-all clasp sits underneath. The sensor module is also no longer built into the soft touch silicone wristband, so users can easily pop it out and switch to a different band color.
I got a demo of the Nabu X during CES, and while we shouldn’t expect the world from a $50 fitness tracker, it’s missing a few features that should be possible, even on such low-end hardware.
The Nabu X has three lights that an illuminate in either red, green, or blue, and tapping on them at any time gives a rough approximation of your step goals—measured in thirds. The lights will also illuminate when you receive a notification, and you can customize the color for each notification type through Razer’s companion app.
The problem is that the alerts aren’t customizable enough. You can’t tell the band to light up only for certain contacts, or set up distinct vibration patterns for your favorite people. The Nabu X also doesn’t let you filter out specific app notifications without completely disabling them on your phone. So if you want to get Facebook and WhatsApp alerts on your phone, but only Facebook vibrations on the watch, you’re out of luck. These omissions will severely limit the Nabu X’s usefulness in deciding whether to take your phone out of your pocket.
Razer also likes to talk about the band’s proximity-sensing features that can tell when other Nabu or Nabu X users are nearby. For instance, you could slap five with a Facebook user to send a friend request, or see the game library of another Steam user when he or she passes by. I haven’t seen either of these features demonstrated, however, and the opportunities to use them will be rare unless Razer starts selling these bands by the million.
I don’t mean to judge the Nabu X too harshly, as it’s ultimately a low-cost fitness tracker that avoids the circular watch-like appearance of a Misfit Flash or Jawbone Up Move. But if vibration alerts are going to be the standout feature, they ought to be a little more flexible.
Razer says both the Nabu and Nabu X should become widely available around the end of the month.
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Jared Newman has been helping folks make sense of technology for over a decade, writing for PCWorld, TechHive, and elsewhere. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for straightforward tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for saving money on TV service.