Razer Nabu SmartBand £30

15th Jun 2014 | 11:16

Razer Nabu SmartBand

A smartband that features a discreet screen

TechRadar rating:

The top public-facing display may be gone, but Nabu's private message screen on the bottom and serious drive for third-party apps makes it one to look out for this year.

Like:

Bottom screen for private info; Works with iOS, Android; Really inexpensive dev version;

Dislike:

Still in beta form; Screen lacks color; Lots of competition;

E3 2014 hands-on

Updated: We tested a new Razer Nabu Smartband prototype at E3 2014 and talked with CEO Min-Liang Tan in a video interview.

The Razer Nabu is rolling out to early developers right now and then to beta testers on July 10, but it's a little different from the smartband we went hands-on with at CES 2014.

Razer has dropped the device's top, public-facing OLED in the five months leading up to E3 2014, but it has kept the more secretive screen that sits on the underside of wearers' wrists.

This is Nabu's all-important "private message screen." It keeps notifications like calls, text messages and emails away from prying eyes while you still stay informed with the flick of your wrist.

Contrast that to the Moto 360. As eye-catching as its circular watch face looks, Motorola's smartwatch design is likely to invite unwanted glances at your intimate chats.

With Nabu, Razer has a solution for a problem that hasn't been invented yet but will be realized when Android Wear, the iWatch and more wearables go mainstream this year.

Razer Nabu release date

If it weren't for this year's Fitbit Force recall, then the Razer Nabu might have been available to buy right now through its developer program.

However, skin irritation fears among wearable makers delayed the first quarter beta launch date. Razer wanted to make sure the Nabu was "fully certified hypoallergenic."

Razer Nabu screen

With those tests out of the way, limited quantities are heading to the earliest of the 30,000 developers who signed up for the program. The beta officially begins on July 10.

Like the Google Glass Explorer Edition beta program in its first year, Razer is trying to recruit experienced app developers who are going to put the smartband to good use instead of the general public.

That way, a more robust Razer Nabu consumer version with several months of real-world testing will be available later this year.

Razer Nabu price

The Razer Nabu Developer Edition is going to be rather inexpensive for all that it can do, costing just $49.99 (about £30, AU$53) in beta form.

On top of that, 500 lucky "hardcore Razer fans" from the 30,000 developer pool will be given the chance to buy an almost-free Nabu in exchange for more feedback. It'll be just $1.

Later this year, the consumer version is expected to launch for $99 (about £58, AU$105), which is still a cheap price compared to Nabu's smartband competition.

Razer Nabu consumer version

Razer Nabu features and specs

The Razer Nabu isn't meant to be the most flashy wrist-worn wearable. It's being designed so that users can discreetly check important notifications and almost forget about it.

The band simply vibrates whenever a call, text, email or social media notification is beamed to your wrist from a compatible iOS or Android device.

With an intuitive wrist turn, the 128 x 32 pixel private message screen displays the monochrome-colored notification, and pressing its single button or shaking your arm allows you to easily dismiss it.

Nabu also tracks fitness metrics that make use of its built-in accelerometer and altimeter. This includes calories burned, steps taken, floors climbed, distance traveled, hours slept and other personal goals.

With an IP54 water resistant rating, it's not quite waterproof, but the band resilient enough to be sweat and splash proof. You won't need to take it off during most exercise.

Razer Nabu battery life

Razer Nabu battery life

You should be able to keep Nabu on for a week straight. Wearables have become another gadget to plug in, but this one is poised to last a seven days between charges.

We'll test this in our final Razer Nabu review, but we liked the fact that, in an effort to conserve battery life, the private message screen automatically turns off when it faces down.

This gesture-based wrist rotation toggle should keep you from having to bring out the included USB charging cable sooner than the suggested seven days.

Of course, Razer Nabu battery life will vary depending on how popular you are and how many notifications you get on a daily basis.

Razer Nabu screen

Open platform benefits

There's certainly more coming thanks to the open platform Razer is putting together for the Nabu. It's both iOS and Android compatible and seeking help from the app-creating community.

That means everything from media playback controls to smart home triggers to band-to-band contact exchanges with a handshake are going to be possible in the end.

We expect to go hands-on with the Razer Nabu Developer Edition again in a few weeks as the beta version starts and developers' crucial app-making phase gets underway.

CES 2014 hands-on

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

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

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

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.

Razer Nabu Razer Nabu fitness E3 E3 2014 fitness band wearable tech
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