Review: Fitbit Charge HR – new device makes Fitbit Charge obsolete

Fitbit Charge HR

Fitbit Charge HR
7.75

Design

8/10

    Ease of use

    8/10

      Use of information

      8/10

        Motivation

        8/10

          Pros

          • Price
          • Reasonably accurate real time heart rate monitoring
          • Compares well against the competition
          • Well suited for the everyday user
          • Sleek minimal design

          Cons

          • Lack of meaningful analysis of data
          • Not fully water-resistant
          • Does not integrate with Apple Health

          The Fitbit Charge HR was released in early 2015. The main difference between 2014 Fitbit Charge and the new device is that the 2015 versions include a continuous heart-rate monitor.

          Fitbit’s proprietary PurePulse optical heart-rate technology, uses safe LED lights on the underside of the wristband to detect blood volume and capillary-size changes under pressure. When your heart beats, your capillaries expand and contract based on blood volume changes.

          When compared to trackers with no heart rate monitor and those which only measure heart rate on demand, the ones that continuously measure heart rate provide a much more accurate calorie burn figure. Knowing your heart rate means the wearable knows the intensity of the exercise.

          Design
          Ease of use
          Use of information
          Motivation
          Overview

          View technical specs


          Design

          simple.b-cssdisabled-png.hcce004048fb72c49ebe4e84ddd964cf4.packThe Charge HR is an activity tracker that displays fitness stats right there on your wrist. The device sports a slightly retro look. Nevertheless, the sleek minimal design is discreet and the textured rubber looks smart. The device features an improved clasp over the predecessor Charge tracker.

          The screen has a monochrome OLED display and is really vibrant and easy to read despite being roughly the size of a fingernail. It shows the time, daily steps total, distance travelled, calories, flights climbed and your heart rate. You cycle through those metrics using the button to the left.

          All Fitbits have a MEMS 3-axis accelerometer that measure motion patterns to determine your steps taken, distance travelled, active minutes, and calories burned. The Charge and Charge HR both include a clock.

          Unlike the Apple Watch, the Charge HR also features an altimeter that measures floors climbed to push you to climb those stairs instead of taking the lift, or to take the uphill route to work. Every 10ft elevation you walk or climb is counted as one flight of stairs.

          The device boasts a battery life of around 5 days and is water resistant up to one Atmosphere, which theoretically means it can be submerged to 10 metres. In reality though it will only withstand splashes and a quick dousing, so don’t plan on wearing it in the pool or the shower.


          Ease of use

          simple.b-cssdisabled-png.h2bcd8a23ffc17d72af3891ed5c1ca90f.packThe Charge HR is extremely user friendly. Once you have done the initial set-up strap it on and you are ready to go.

          You can look at the results on the excellent smartphone app, the internet or by clicking on the buttons on the tracker. Unlike older Fitbit devices, you don’t have to tell the Charge HR when you are planning on snoozing, and sleep mode will automatically kick in from your movements and heart rate data.

          Since late 2015, the Charge HR also features something called SmartTrack. This essentially means that the device automatically identifies the type of activity and records it in the Fitbit app along with an exercise summary, including duration, calories burned and heart rate stats. SmartTrack is capable of identifying a wide variety of activities, including elliptical, outdoor biking, running, walking, and general categories of aerobic workouts (i.e., Zumba, cardio-kickboxing and other dance classes) and sports (i.e., tennis, basketball and soccer).

          Because everyone’s definition of exercise is different, users can select the types of activities they want recognized as exercise and adjust how long they must be moving before an activity is recorded in the Fitbit app. By default, activities are automatically recognized when users have been active for at least 15 minutes.


          Use of information

          Advanced tracking is the name of the game, and the Fitbits record all the usual statistics, enriched by heart rate data for Fitbit HR. Features include: steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned, stairs climbed, active minutes, caller ID and sleep.

          The Charge activity tracker wristband offers a lot of real-time fitness stats right there on your wrist, which is an advantage over some rival trackers that doesn’t have a display, altimeter and heart-rate sensors.

          We did find the number of steps to be slightly on the high side in some early days of testing, but nothing to be concerned about. There is no GPS built into the Fitbit Charge HR, which puts it behind the likes of dedicated running watches and it’s big brother, the Fitbit Surge.

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          PurePulse allows users to track workout intensity and calorie burn with algorithms that provide insight through interactive charts and graphs on the app and Fitbit dashboard. The heart-rate icon on the Charge HR display tells you if you’re in one of three heart-rate zones. These zones can help you optimize your workout by targeting different training intensities, and are calculated based on a percentage of your estimated maximum heart rate.

          Fitbit calculates your max heart rate with the common formula of 220 minus your age. When you’re “out of zone” – that is below 50 percent of your maximum heart rate – your heart rate may still be elevated but not enough to be considered exercise. Instead of using the three default zones you can create a custom heart-rate zone on your computer’s Fitbit dashboard.

          Essential reading: Fitness trackers for heart zone training

          When you pair your Charge HR with the app you’ll notice a resting beats per minute field. This will be populated once you’ve slept while wearing the wristband. Resting heart rate is traditionally measured just before waking up and certainly before you start moving around. The app graphs your resting heart rate so you can see how it changes from day to day, week to week and month to month. You can also examine your daily heart rate graph and see how long you spent in the three zones. For us, the resting heart rate results seems a bit on the high side when compared to other heart rate monitoring devices.

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          Sleep tracking seems relatively simplistic, bordering on the pointless. The graph shows a blue block, which is your sleep duration. The total time is listed in the app, along with the day’s stats. The block isn’t coloured to designate deep or light sleep as with other sleep trackers, but there are lines that mark when you toss or turn.

          Overall, the mobile app remains a well-designed, easy to navigate tool for looking at your data, monitoring your fitness progress, and also tracking your food intake and water consumption. Any metric can be tapped to show historical data, and weekly totals. That’s especially useful for ‘active minutes’ which is the amount of time spent in the day with your heart rate elevated. Upping this total means you’re getting fitter.


          Motivation

          The Fitbit Charge HR is comfortable to wear and minimalistic. It offers a wide selection of data to provide added motivation to help you achieve your fitness goals. Our one wish though, is that Fitbit does more to provide users with meaningfull analysis of its sleep tracking and heart rate data.


          Overview

          The verdict

          The Charge HR should appeal to someone wanting more advanced activity-tracking stats than a Fitbit Flex or Charge user. The tracker retails for only $30 more than the Fitbit Charge, yet offers both 24/7 heart-rate monitoring for the more active user and a better-designed strap and buckle. Spending that extra $30 is in our opinion definitely money well spent.

          Bear in mind that no Fitbit tracker integrates with Apple Health, so your fitness data from the Fitbit app can’t be imported into the Health app (unless you use a third party app). And as mentioned, we find the lack of meaningful analysis of heart rate data or sleep data a bit of a let down.

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          Fitbit Charge HR
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          Fitbit likes to think of the Charge as a device for everyday users who want to get fitter and see how they are doing in real time on the wristband and also via the excellent free app and graphics-heavy desktop dashboard. The wearable definitely serves this purpose. Overall, this is a very solid tracker, which does the basics extremely well.

          While the Charge HR may not necessarily be our choice for the perfect fitness wearable it is certainly up there with the best of them. The device is a powerful training tool which represents excellent value for money, and certainly makes the original Charge tracker a much less attractive option.

          View technical specs

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          2 Comments on "Review: Fitbit Charge HR – new device makes Fitbit Charge obsolete"

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          Splashy
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          If it is claimed as being water resistant to 10 meters, why do you say it isn’t? Surely if they claim that, it is either a false claim or it is resistant to 10 meters. Can you clarify please?

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