Fitbit was kind enough to send over some samples of their new products—the Surge and the Charge HR. A couple STACK staffers tested the wearable tech for a few weeks, and here are our thoughts:
Fitbit Charge HR
If you’re familiar with the Fitbit Force from some years back, you’ll notice a lot of similarities between that model and the new Charge HR. The size and display are similar, but the Charge HR includes more functionality. A few noteworthy additions are the heart rate monitor, the watch-style strap, auto sleep tracking (you used to have to tell it you’re going to sleep) and caller ID when synced with your phone. The Charge HR also tracks all-day activity and various workouts, as opposed to just being a glorified pedometer. Tester and co-worker Annie Koeblitz had this feedback:
Aside from being a sleek looking watch that I preferred to wear over my other more glamorous watches, the Fitbit Charge HR offers so much info about day-to-day activities that it’s hard to pick which function I liked the most. The Charge HR tracks your daily steps, heart rate, distance walked, calories burned, flights of stairs climbed, and time spent asleep.
I’ve used sleep trackers and pedometer bracelets before, but none offered as much additional information and functionality as this one. Although I thought I’d be most excited about the pedometer aspect, since I walk to work almost every day, I loved the sleep tracker and bluetooth syncing with my phone the most.
Whenever you receive a call, the watch lightly vibrates and displays the caller ID. Since I keep my phone on silent most of the day, this was a nice way for me to know when and by whom I was being contacted, so I didn’t miss any important phone calls. The sleep tracker has a similar function, which aside from recording the quantity and quality of your sleep, vibrates as an alarm when you want to wake up.
It’s so advanced it’s almost scary. I got so comfortable wearing the watch that I almost forgot to take it off before showering. Although the display of the Fitbit Charge HR is not as large or have as many buttons as the Surge, I highly recommend it to gain a better understanding of and improve your daily physical habits. Since I started wearing the watch, my average sleep has gone up by two hours a night.
The new flagship of Fitbit’s product series is also its most robust. Fitbit previously offered small fitness trackers that clipped onto clothing or thin bands for the wrist. They went big (well, larger anyway) with the Surge, their first smartwatch-style fitness tracker. And they make use of that extra space.
Along with all the functionality of the Charge HR, the Surge provides a lot more feedback on the watch itself. The watch face allows you to set up different workouts from the screen as opposed to doing it through the app. You can view your alarms (but not set them for some reason—that function is done through the app), and if your phone is synced, it shows who is calling, and you can even check your text messages.
I used it mainly as a pedometer for hiking and bike workouts, and to measure sleep. Unfortunately, although the website shows images of someone biking while wearing the band, the Surge doesn’t have a specific “Bike” option as a workout type. I had to use the “Hike” option, since it has heart rate monitoring and GPS location tracking. I found it interesting when I opened the app to see the map of how far I traveled during hikes and bike rides.
I also used it during yoga just to check my heart rate. When you look at the dashboard online, the heart rate monitoring varies wildly during most workouts, but it seems to give a good average reading per exercise. I suppose it has something to do with how the monitor is connecting with my skin.
I got the most use out of tracking steps, floors climbed and active minutes in my day. Most days, I tried to at least match my step goal, if not beat it, so it prompted me to take the dog for an extra walk or park a little higher up in the parking garage to get a few extra floors in. I think that’s where this type of activity tracker shines—motivating you to get off the couch.
I had conflicting feelings about the sleep tracking. I kind of know when I don’t get a good night’s sleep, and sometimes the ability to track it subconsciously led me to feel bad about it. I still like getting metrics on it, but at the same time I don’t really like wearing a watch to bed.
I personally don’t need the full functionality of the Surge, nor do I want something taking up that much space on my wrist, so I would opt for the Charge HR. If you’re looking for smartwatch functionality and a fitness tracker all-in-one, the Surge would be a good fit. Find them both at fitbit.com.