Fitbit Charge HR Review
As the name suggests, the new Charge HR is Fitbit’s latest entry model activity tracker featuring a heart rate monitor. The device comes in at a reasonable price, and is cheaper than most similar devices fitted with heart rate monitors. It’s main competitors are the Jawbone UP3, The Garmin Vivosmart, the Polar Loop and the Basis Peak.
The original Fitbit Charge was a very popular device, so what improvements/additions have they made? Let’s dive in and see what they’ve come up with.
What’s in the box?
- 1 x Fitbit Charge HR
- 1 x Charging cable
- 1 x Wireless sync dongle
First let’s look at the strap, which is a different design to the original Fitbit Charge.
The strap comes in three different sizes.
Small – will fit wrists from 5.5″ to 6.5″
X-Large – will fit wrists 7.6″ to 9.1″ (only available from Fitbit main site)
You can find the Fitbit sizing guide here.
Although the original strap I found to be perfectly adequate (albeit a little annoying to put on) Fitbit have decided to change to a more traditional strap, which is 100% loss proof. The buckle is robust and made from surgical grade stainless steel. The strap itself is made from an elastomer material, which I found to be very comfortable. It’s light, and with its smooth turned surfaces it doesn’t seem to catch on long sleeves or cuffs.
The screen appears to very tough and scratch resistant, as does the plate that houses the optical sensors (aka heart rate monitor) on the underside of the device.
To charge the device, attach the charging cable to the port on the underside of the device. To fully charge the device should take around an hour, but can take anything up to 2 hours. Fitbit say you can get around 5 days use from a full charge, which is about right as a full charge for me lasted just under 5 days.
The main drawback to the Fitbit Charge HR, (and unfortunately it’s a biggie) is the device is not waterproof. In my opinion, being waterproof is something that should be pretty much a requirement of any activity tracker, especially one in this price range (at time of writing – $149.95) Let’s be honest, it’s not going to take much to make the thing waterproof surely? Fitbit specify that the device is only “splash proof”, so that means no swimming, showering or baths while wearing the device. This may not bother some, but to me, this was quite a disappointment considering that one of it’s main competitors – the Misfit Shine, is 100% waterproof to 150 feet.
The device is also fitted with an altimeter for measuring height (stairs climbed) and a vibration motor (notifications).
OK, let’s take a look at the display.
The display is OLED and pleasingly crisp and clear. It’s also still clear in bright sunshine which is always a plus.
By pressing the button on the side of the device the display will show:
Flights of stairs climbed
Another cool feature which I like is caller ID. After you’ve set up and synced your phone to the device, the Charge HR will notify you any incoming calls with a little vibrating buzz and the name or number of anyone who calls your phone. A really helpful little feature if you’re in the middle of a run and don’t want to stop and get your phone out, it really is convenient.
The Fitbit Charge HR has a decent memory and will track 7 days worth of activity (including sleep data) and will also track your daily stats totals for 30 days.
All in all Fitbit have managed to pack a reasonable amount of tech into one of the smallest devices out there.
OK, let’s take a look at the syncing the device.
The Fitbit Charge HR will sync to your PC and now, according to Fitbit, will sync to over 150 different smart phones. I’m glad they have addressed this as previous Fitbit devices would only work with a reasonably small selection of phones. The Fitbit dashboard and App are now available across a much wider selection of handsets and tablets, and is available on iOS, Android and Windows operating systems.
Find out if your phone is compatible here.
The Fitbit Charge HR uses new bluetooth 4.0 technology, which uses far less power than normal bluetooth to save on battery usage.
First you’re going to need a Fitbit account which is a straight forward process, you can sign up here. After that you can then download the Fitbit software to your PC, which you can find here, and then download the Fitbit App. The download links are below. You don’t need a device to download the app, so you can have a play around and see what it’s like beforehand.
And now on to the The Fitbit app.
To those familiar with the Fitbit app, the dashboard remains the same, which is a good thing, as in my opinion, the Fitbit app is one of the best. It’s non cluttered and simple, but still gives you an excellent amount of data.
The screenshot opposite is the main dashboard of the app when connected to the Fitbit Charge HR. As you can see, the data collected is displayed on the left of the screen with your goal displayed in grey on the right. All goals can be set to your particular preference by holding down on the figure and entering your number in the pop up screen. Hopefully in the near future, Fitbit will consider implementing the “smart goal” system as currently used in the Garmin Vivosmart, where the goals are automatically adjusted as the device starts to know your activity patterns. This is extremely useful as the device is then always pushing you to try harder.
At the top is total number of steps taken, followed by heart rate (beats per minute), distance traveled, calories burned, flights of stairs climbed and number of active minutes.
Tapping on each category in the menu will expand to reveal a more in depth look at your data, with detailed bar graphs showing you your activity over greater periods of time from a weekly basis all the way up to yearly.
Now on to the heart rate monitor. When setting up and for consequent heart rate measurements, Fitbit suggest making sure the device is one finger width up from the wrist bone for optimum performance. Do not do the strap up too tight as this will restrict blood flow and affect readings.
I personally found that the heart rate sensor was not particularly accurate at first, as on taking my own readings on several occasions the readings were sometimes nearly 10 beats per minute out from a manual reading using the traditional “finger on the pulse and a watch” method. However, after a short while, and the sensors had sorted themselves out, the device returned same data as the manual reading. It appeared to me as if the heart rate sensor in the device had some sort of delay, which seemed a little odd. That said, I’ve yet to come across a wearable device advertised as a”heart rate monitor” that measured heart rate effectively.
Tapping on “Heart Rate” will reveal more stats and interesting graphs related to your heart rate measurements and the data collected. An emphasis is given to “Heart rate zones” including fat burn and cardio, and for a more in depth explanation of what heart rate zone training is, and its benefits, have a look at the Fitbit Heart Rate FAQ’S.
Another great little feature is under “Track Your Exercise”. This uses the GPS in your phone to track your runs (or walks) on a map with all the relevant data. As well as this, you can plug your headphones in and the App will give you automatic audio prompts such as distance covered, time taken, average pace. You can set the audio prompts for a time of your choosing e.g on the mile, the data is also stored so you compare runs in calender format over a period of time. There are some great features in the app, but I found this section of the app to be particularly helpful.
From the main menu you can access a section where you can enter your body weight and body fat percentage. You can also set a target weight to reach and the app will display how many lbs before target reached.
The sleep tracking section isn’t as in depth as other devices, which I found a little disappointing. I would expect a device capable of tracking your activity in such detail to be able to let you see a little more data in the sleep tracking department. The app does only an adeqate job as far as I’m concerned. The data is displayed as – asleep, restless and awake, and is displayed in a basic color chart. You can expand this to show a little more detail about your nights sleep, but no sleep cycle graphs I’m afraid.
Another minor disappointment is the calorie intake section. Jawbone leads the way in this field with their app able to scan the UPC code on any food packaging, it will then automatically log the calories, fat and salt content of that item. Fitbits’ calorie counter/food log is manual entry only, and does become a little tedious after a while, but if you stick with it, it does do the job. On the up side, other apps are compatible with data collected by a Fitbit device, such as the ever popular Myfitnesspal, which would be much easier option to log calorie intake.
The app also lets you log your water intake for the day, which can then be viewed in stats over a longer time period.
The social side of the Fitbit app is pretty good with the option to add friends from your phones contact list. You can compete and compare stats with friends which always a good motivator. Along side the social side there is a “Challenges” section where Fitbit set you certain goals and challenges in which you can also compete against friends that you’ve added.
The settings section is pretty self explanatory, and is where you enter personal details, as well as height and weight etc.
There are a couple of other functions that are quite handy, one of them being the alarm. You can set this and the device will buzz silently on your wrist to alert you or wake you up. This is great for not waking a sleeping partner!
As mentioned before the device will also display caller ID which you can set up from the app. N.B. The device will only register calls and not messages or notifications.
The Fitbit Charge HR I think is a great little device, it’s light, comfortable and returns a whole wealth of information you can use to your advantage. One of the main niggles for me was the heart rate monitoring, it seemed like it was sometimes struggling to display real time statistics. But as I said before, I think there is yet to be a device out there that is foolproof in this department. Aside from that, I think the device would serve you well and you would definitely see the benefits of prolonged use.
Best price – Amazon
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