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Nokia Steel HR Review: A smartwatch with sheer class

The Good

  • Bags of style
  • Superb battery life
  • Full tracking
  • Strong value

The Bad

  • Limited notifications

The Nokia Steel HR (a rebrand of the Withings watch of the same name) is a best-of-both-worlds smartwatch: the activity tracking of a Fitbit, coupled with the classic stylings of a designer timepiece. But how does it compare with other fitness trackers and smart devices?

Nokia Steel HR review: Design

As much as we love smartwatches, the majority of them don’t exactly set our loins afire when it comes to the design. They’re usually quite chunky and resemble digital watches of yesteryear, thanks to their various sensors and need for massive batteries to power those big, colourful displays.

Thankfully the Nokia Steel HR doesn’t so much buck that trend as take it out ‘round the back of the barn and blast it in the face with a shotgun. This watch places style first and foremost, with a sleek and relatively slender build that’s quite traditional in nature. You get a proper analogue face for one, with that digital display reduced to a compact window up top.

You can pick up the Steel HR with a white or black face, and in both cases the minimalist design works well for all occasions. It’s certainly smart enough for a night out, while still tracking your activities during the day. You can snap off the 36 or 40mm straps at any point too and attach some different ones to suit your mood, which is definitely a good idea. While the silicon strap that comes bundled is fine for sporty use and everyday wearing, a snazzy leather band will work better for night wear.

Good news if you like a swim as well, because the Steel HR is water resistant to 50m. Nokia recommends not taking it into salt water wherever possible, but you can use the device to track your pulse and calorie burn when smashing out a few lengths in the pool. Or simply leave it on while you’re doing the dishes.

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Nokia Steel HR review: Setup and features

To setup the Nokia Steel HR, you just need to download the free Health Mate app. This pairs with the watch wirelessly in no time at all, while signing up for an account takes only a few minutes. This helps you to track your daily motions via the app, recording your total steps, calories burned and distance covered each day. You’ll also get a continuous readout of your pulse, thanks to the always-on heart rate sensor.

As far as the activity tracking goes, the Steel HR holds its own against the Fitbit line-up. Every time you spring into action and go for a walk or jog or indulge in some other form of exercise, your stats are recorded and shared with your phone. And while you don’t get any kind of trainer features or guidance, the Steel will certainly appease casual fitness enthusiasts.

The dinky digital display can reveal your current heart rate, steps count, distance covered and calories burned, as well as the date and remaining battery power. Just a tap of the watch’s side button cycles through these options. You can remove any you don’t wish to see using the app, as well as changing up the order in which they appear.

It’s a powerfully bright little panel, complete with an auto-brightness option to help preserve the battery; not that this is really needed, as we’ll touch on in a bit. It’s also more than sharp enough, although the tiny dimensions means any long-sighted users might struggle a bit.

As this is a smartwatch, you also get some basic notification support. Any texts, calls or calendar entries detected on your phone will be beamed to that digital display, which then scrolls the basic info for you to check out. The likes of emails and social media notifications aren’t supported, although given the small stature of the screen, that’s no big deal.

You can check out the setup process and our hands-on tour of the Steel HR and the Health Mate app in the video below.

Nokia Steel HR review: Battery life

As well as its stylish nature, one of the biggest advantages of the Steel HR is its fantastic battery life. Despite the continuous heart rate and motion tracking, this watch can keep you going for just over three full weeks before it needs a recharge. Considering most Fitbit trackers die within five or six days, that’s a seriously impressive effort.

When it comes time to power up the Steel HR, just slap it into the bundled USB dock. You won’t have to wait long before it’s back up to full strength.

Nokia Steel HR review: Verdict

For 189 Euros, the Nokia Steel HR really is good value for money. That cash nets you a great-looking device that can track all of your usual fitness stats, with seriously long battery life to boot. The only drawback is the dinky digital display, although it’s still perfectly fit for purpose.


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