Fitbit is to sports trackers as Apple is to MP3 players. Fitness trackers are *almost* colloquially referred to as Fitbits. So whilst I’m waiting for the Fitbit Aria to arrive, I thought it would worth while looking at the Fibit Charge HR, which is ostensibly Fibit’s break out device.
Fitbit Charge HR review
The Fibit Charge is available in two flavours, the regular Charge, and also the Charge HR, with an optical heart rate meter on the back. In a no effort shop, you’ll probably find a £10 difference between the two units, but with a bit of digging around the inter webs, you can ostensibly find them both for around the £75 mark. As such, I’m just going to look at the Fitbit Charge HR review
One of the things I really enjoy about Fitbit is the colour array. You can have you HR in any of 6 quite interesting colours. Although I mentally dock a point for not being available in screaming yellow, but that’s just me.
As a result of no screaming yellow available, I opted for the similarly sunny Tangerine
Included in the box is a charge cable, and USB bluetooth dongle and the Charge HR itself.
The USB dongle MAY be required, as the charge cable is exactly that. A charge cable. There is no facility to sync over it. Only via bluetooth. Hence Fitbit have kindly included a dongle in case you have a laptop/home computer which doesnt have USB.
Personally I’ve never once even WANTED to sync the device with my laptop, opting to use the phone constantly instead
On the face of it, the Fitbit Charge HR is a very simple device. There is a small OLED screen on the front of the Charge HR
Whilst on the side is the single button with which to cycle through the displays
On the back of the unit is the optical HR and the charge port
The charge cable is another proprietary standard, which is a little odd, as the unit is not really water resistant, coming in as “splash proof”which basically means DONT GET IT WET!
The device is held on your wrist with a nice chunky buckle, which is needed to ensure the device is snug enough for the optic HR to work
Width wise, the Fibit is about comparable, but you can see in the direct sunlight one of the things I dont like about plastic displays on every day devices, they tend to easily get scuffed.
Now the Vivosmart HR actually has relatively hard plastic, but the sheer size of the screen, puts it prone to scratches, but the FitBit HR scratches very easily
Frankly I’ve not seen a device which scratches quite so easily in a while. Maybe this is a facet of the screen being very small, so scratches are more obvious?
Easily scratched devices, are a pain BUT they are also relatively ease to polish out, with a bit of car polish, or if you are not automotively inclined, then toothpaste. If you are not the sort of person to use toothpaste…well then I’m surprised you are looking at an health activity tracker!
After 2 mins polishing with a paper towel
Yes it’s not 100%, but I’ve just given it very little effort and things are vastly improved.
Speaking of the display…
We have a OLED display which is gorgeous inside
When you take things outside into the generally dull UK weather, the screen is rather dimmed, but still passable.
However, as is the nature of OLED screens, it’s practically unusable in full sunlight
Sensors: 3 – Accelerometer, altimeter, vibration sensor and motor
Battery – 7-10 days reported. I was getting and easy 8 days
Communications: Bluetooth low energy 4.o
When you first get the device, it can take 5-10 mins to get the FitBit Charge HR connected to your phone, as it wants to update to the latest firmware, but then you are good to go
From here you can set up all of your personal data, and crucially input your daily goals, if you are wanting something different to the regular 10,000
The FitBit Charge does have onboard memory, so if you run out of juice in your phone, it can still hold detailed movement date for 7 days, protecting your hard won steps
Whilst there is a single button to cycle through the displays, you can also set within the FitBit app actions for tapping the device
There is also the ability to have to clock display when your raise up your wrist
The FitBit charge focuses on recording steps, heart rate, distance, calories burnt, flights of stairs climbed. SO it’s no surprise that these are the fields you can scroll through with the devices button. Each metric giving it’s corresponding symbol before showing your data
Continuous Heart Rate Monitoring
This really is the headline feature on the Charge HR.
Generally the sensor works very well.
You do need to stick to the “two fingers above the ulcer styloid rule” (the bump on the outside of your wrist)
This is because light is the enemy of optical sensors, so you want to get things as flush as you can the skin.
The Garmin Elevate sensor uses two green and one yellow LEDs for increased accuracy. But as the FitBit is not looking at training and with a greater focus on activity rather than sporting prowess, the Fitbit uses two LED’s instead for continuous HR
You can set the “tap” function on the Charge, to show your HR at any point of day, something I found I quite liked doing.
The Charge is then able to calculate your resting heart rate during the day, which many people will consider as a crude metric of cardiovascular fitness. I’m not going to go into pathological issues which can cause a bradycardia
The app will allow detailed tracking, which can give you an idea then as to how your are improving, or not, your fitness. This is mid exam season, so I’m off my fitness here and am currently aiming to get back to not eating junk, and back to <50 BPM average!
Long pressing the button on the side of the Charge will also enter work out tracking.
Regrettably this function is very poor for anything other than running and walking. For whilst my bike ride recording the HR data very nicely
In spite of hitting a happy max of 46kmph and an average of about 30kmph, the charge just isnt able to work with that and gives me a very slow pace.
For comparison with accuracy, the Charge HR does read a little high. This is the same ride, as recorded from my Garmin HRM on Strava
The overall graphs may look similar, but the data from them, especially the average for the ride, is actually quite different
You can also get a brief overview of your days activities, and calories from the app.
Reinforcing the activity rather than fitness tracker, these activities cannot be exported, or combined with any other apps. Similarly, there is no HR broadcast from the Fitbit charge, but at this price level, not I’m surprised. Similarly the intended audience is also why the ability to connect an external HRM is not included
Ultimately, for accuracy, we’re talking about the difference between just being able to hit the target, vs hitting the bullseye evert time. Fitbit is at least able to get roughly in the right zone, but this is HR data not to put excessive amounts of weight on.
FitBit is very much more than just the device., and has currently developing a new dashboard for their app making things easier for the user to get a feel for their data, and interact with the app
Personally I think the new dashboard is a bit improvement over the older one. With the centre bottom “+” sign being you port of call to add in any data manually
This is especially useful for water tracking
I’m veer impressive with the revamp of the dashboard. Frequently the app has the feel its an after thought, or needlessly complicated (Garmin I’m looking at you!). Here is seems like Fitbit have a good balance between simplicity and information.
Thankfully the Fitbit Charge HR will detect when you are in bed from a lack of movement, and will activate sleep monitoring
The tracking of your sleep duration, is good. But the detailed sleep tracking, is very superficial. It feels a little like they wanted to make it seem more than it is. by trying to give detailed information. I think it would have looked better if you just focused to the time, as that is very accurate when compared with the Withings Aura
The Fitbit Charge is an everyman device. I think that is why is has sold so well. Anyone can physically have the device. Yes someone with tech knowhow might need to set it up for you, but from there, you are sorted.
The device tells you everything you need from a standard activity tracker. Note I’m not saying fitness tracker. I think it’s a little too rudimentary for that, but for most people a great device. With the changes to the dashboard, I think FitBit are holding their own as once of the activity monitoring market leaders.
The accuracy of the charge is…borderline. But again for the intended audience, that is probably ok. But certainly not for anything more than casual interest compared to the gold standard of an HRM. It will certainly be interesting to compare things with the newer FitBit devices.
Fitbit Charge HR review summary – Good for Gran, but not accurate enough for anything serious