Withings' luxury scale is amazing, even if it's not essential

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I wonder how often tech journalism is ambitious rather than helpful, like when you watch car reviews test drive million dollar rides. I take comfort in knowing that while flagship laptops are expensive, there are few gadgets so expensive that they only cost one percent. What then of Withings’ new smart scale, the Body Scan Connected Health Station, which is priced at four hundred pounds sterling (around $479)? It’s crazy money to pay for any smart scale, especially when you can get a great scale from Withings for a quarter of that price.

Withings’ Body Scan was actually announced in early 2022, but the usual array of regulatory hurdles means it’s only now making its debut in Europe. It will arrive in the US at some point in the future, but given the FDA sausage machine, it’s hard to get anyone to commit to a firm date. The following year also brought the price down, which was originally set at $300 before semiconductor costs and crisis pushed things ever north.

Withings sells, and was selling this on the basis that it’s not just a smart scale, but a larger suite of comprehensive body analysis tools. It’s meant to be on par with the kind of equipment you might find in a high-end gym or a low-end clinical setting. It analyzes your segmented body composition, runs a six-lead ECG, measures your nerve activity, and monitors your vascular age. He will also use Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) to monitor sweat levels in your feet to look for signs of neuropathy.

My first impression is that it looks like someone stuck Withings’ cheaper Body Comp scale on its own weighted base and it’s wonderfully sturdy. The same goes for the grip, which you’ll need to perform one of the sophisticated body analysis tests during your morning weigh-in. It’s held in place by a thin but sturdy looking braided tension reel cable which I’m sure will survive a lot but, having said that, I won’t leave it anywhere near my kids.

Withings has the setup process down to an art: wake up the scale, open its Health Mate app, give it your WiFi password and sit down. The mandatory software update lasted two minutes, and then you can set a weight loss goal in the app. Weigh yourself for five days in a row, and it will then be settled and ready to give you suggestions on how best to improve your lifestyle. You’ll also see a series of how-to guides on how to get the most out of your new hardware.

Not that there’s much to learn: Step on the scale, hold the clamp at hip height, and wait 90 seconds for it to do its thing. It will run a range of tests measuring your weight, body fat, muscle mass, visceral fat, ECG, pulse wave velocity, vascular age and nerve health. It will then pass those data points to you in a big, bright, bold and easy to read way, followed by today’s weather and a local air quality indicator (taken from an online service) .

Image of the Withings Body Scan connected health station on a wooden floor.

Daniel Cooper

I’ve spent a lot of time looking at scales, and some scales like to put a lot of data on a very small screen to the point where it’s unreadable. Withings has nailed the UI here, and despite the color display, the layout is clean and everything is super easy to read. Especially at 7am when you stagger out of the shower and you haven’t put on your glasses yet. Fonts are clear, trend lines are thick and clearly differentiated from the background. It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many companies don’t get this stuff right. The sweaty sense of detail extends to the fact that the scale has a vibration motor, telling you when the process has started and ended.

I’ve always praised Health Mate as Withings’ secret weapon in the health tech wars, with its clean UI and depth of data. I was worried that as his devices get more powerful he’d start to feel flabby or cluttered, but the map layout on his home screen remains easy to digest. Each diamond presents a small graph that simply shows the trend rather than filling it with individual data points. And it’s only when you tap into each sub-menu that you can see the information in its most accurate glory.

It’s early days, but there’s nothing in the scan to make it look like it’s wrong, although it will take a lot of benchmark testing to definitively prove it. The segmented body composition is certainly perfect, highlighting the areas of my body that bear the most wood. And it’s nice, easy to understand, and sobering (remove as appropriate) to see healthy and unhealthy parts of my body. Having all of this showcased with Withings new Health+ coaching system, which will start offering suggestions on how I can improve, is also a bonus.

I know people will disagree with me, but I like that the Body Scan has a built-in USB-C charged battery with a rated life of one year. Some people prefer to have AAA batteries instead, but I always feel like when you’re spending that much on a scale, being tasked with buying extra batteries makes me feel nickel and dime. I’m also of the opinion that any recurring revenue service should work hard enough to justify my money, but I haven’t had enough time with Health+ yet to say whether or not that’s the case.

There is the problem that all this data may not be taken very seriously by your doctor if you rush to ask for help. A British doctor, who asked not to be named, said that while the inclusion of a six-lead ECG in a bathroom scale was impressive, they would not be swayed by the results it produced. Instead, they would review the symptoms the patient was exhibiting, their medical history and run their own ECG before making a judgement. And that there was a risk that the data would be misinterpreted by novice users and used to make bad decisions.

So on the one hand, I have nothing but praise for the Withings Body Scan Connected Health Station, which is the pinnacle of what a smart scale can be right now. And I’m certainly thrilled that you can have this wealth of data gathered in one place for better tracking of your health. But, and this is the most obvious but in the world, I’m not sure anyone really needs to spend that much money on one. Especially if you already have a smart scale and a smartwatch that can do some sort of heart health analysis with an ECG.

In many ways, it’s like one of those car reviews that shows you what you could have if you had a million spare dollars in your checking account. Yes, it’s well designed, does everything you could ask for, and does it in one of the best health tech ecosystems out there. But for that money? You can get to work in both a Toyota and a Maybach.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. All prices correct at time of publication.

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