Review: Razer Nabu
The wearable fitness tracker market is more crowded than ever. While most modern phones are capable of tracking basics like steps taken and distance traveled, fitness trackers offer a more convenient way to monitor this info, and usually bring some bells and whistles to the table too.
The Razer Nabu is an entry into the fitness tracker space from gaming peripheral company Razer. Best known for their stylish mice and keyboards, Razer has shown a willingness to experiment with products like the OSVR and the Nabu X, the company's previous wearable device. The Nabu X was an affordable, stripped-down wristband with only a few basic functions, and met with mixed reviews. The new Nabu is a step up in features, performance, build quality, and price. It's currently available for $99.99 on Newegg.
The Razer Nabu is surprisingly rigid, and seems to be constructed of hard plastic covered in a dense black rubber. The Nabu comes in two sizes, "Small/Medium" and "Medium/Large," and each size comes with a pair of swappable plastic connectors which can be used to adjust the size a bit more. There's a handy sizing guide on Razer's website to help you find the right option for you, though the fact that a given Nabu isn't adjustable beyond the two sub-options means you might be stuck with one that doesn't feel quite right. It would be tricky to find a complete solution to this sizing problem without a total redesign of the Nabu, but one more differently sized connector in each package would be a good start.
From the outside the Nabu's black finish is pretty nondescript, though the flashes of the device's green underbelly around the edges are a nice touch. More so than most other wearable devices out there, the Nabu evokes the word "shackle" when you first start wearing it. It's the same shape and size all the way around, in contrast to something like the Gear Fit which has a large screen on one side and a slender band running the rest of the way around your wrist. Razer's twist on this formula with the Nabu looks pretty cool — though your mileage may vary there — but I found that it just wasn't comfortable for long-term use.
On the plus side the Nabu is a sturdy piece of tech, with a tough screen that's flush with the rest of the device and should stand up against bumps and scrapes with no trouble.
Features and Performance
The Nabu connects to your device (running iOS 8 or higher or Android 4.3 or higher) via Bluetooth, and once connected it becomes an extension of your phone's notification system. The Nabu will buzz (with a vibration that always seemed too long and too intense for me, even on the lowest of the three settings) when you get a call, message, or other alert. If you're the kind of person that's always missing out on notifications because your phone is in your bag, the Nabu will definitely make sure that doesn't happen anymore.
Depending on your preferences you can allow the Nabu to display the text of messages you receive and other compatible notifications, which is handy for seeing who is contacting you and what they have to say before you decide to go to the trouble of digging your phone out of your pocket.
The Nabu also acts as a nifty watch, as the screen wakes up and displays the time when you turn your wrist to look at the display. I spent several weeks wearing the device and this was my favorite feature, minor as it is, and it always felt cool to have the device wake up and show you the time in response to your motion.
The reason most people will pick up the Nabu is as a fitness tracker. It tracks your steps (fairly accurately), calories burned (this is always crazy guess-work that probably way overestimates the total, as is the case with most fitness trackers), and hours slept (or hours during which the Nabu doesn't move, which could mean it's charging or you just took it off for a while) among some other standard metrics. It syncs wirelessly with the Nabu fitness app on your phone, which means you can take the Nabu with you while you're running or going for a walk and you'll be sure to get credit for all your steps even if you leave your iPhone at home.
What the Nabu doesn't do is track your heart rate, which really seems like a disappointing omission for a device that's on your wrist all day anyway. Many smartphones have built-in ways to track your heart rate on demand these days, but the ability of some fitness trackers to monitor your pulse over time is something you won't get with the Nabu.
In terms of performance the Nabu does very well, with a bright and responsive screen (though it's only black and white) and smooth, easy-to-use syncing. The battery also charges quickly and will last you a couple of days with normal use, though the fact that the Nabu requires its own special charging cable is an annoyance.
Socializing and Gaming
The Nabu is called a "social wearable smartband," and puts its social features front and center. Aside from getting your notifications and being able to read your messages on the Nabu's screen, the Nabu also has some special social features you can take advantage of if you're around other people with Nabus. The foremost of these extra social features is that you can exchange contact information with another Nabu-user just by shaking their hand. That's cool in theory, but I just cannot imagine when in the world you would actually be able to take advantage of this feature. The Nabu is a niche-enough product that your odds of meeting another person wearing one, and then that person being someone you want to shake hands with, approach zero (unless you're at some kind of Razer fan event, I guess).
Also, shaking hands is something you do with your right hand but watches and fitness trackers are usually worn on your left wrist if you are right handed so...what's the deal with that?
I also feel that Razer missed a chance with the Nabu to make a wearable band designed for the company's prime audience: dedicated PC gamers. Why isn't the Nabu flat under your wrist so it doesn't clunk against the table when you're typing on your Blackwidow? Why doesn't the Nabu have any dumb little games on it? And why in the world doesn't it feature at least one programmable RGB light that can flash and pulse in sync with your other Razer peripherals?
In the end the Nabu is a much more robust and stylish device than its Nabu X predecessor, but it doesn't offer much to help it compete with more popular fitness trackers and wearable devices. Diehard Razer fans will enjoy the opportunity to literally display their love for the company on their wrists, and for some people the Nabu's distinctive look and feel may be exactly what they are looking for, but for most people the missed opportunities and odd features of the Nabu will be tough to ignore.