Review: Fitbit Inspire HR, a budget friendly option that does the basics well
Inspire HR is Fitbit’s most recent addition to its wearables range. Along with its lower spec sibling, Inspire, it consolidates the company’s fitness tracker line. These devices make the Alta HR, Alta, Flex 2, and much older Zip and One trackers redundant. You can still buy them, but only while stocks last.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
Inspire HR takes everything offered by its predecessors and packages it in a slim and attractive form factor. It appeared first at the start of this year, but until a couple of months ago the activity band was only available to Fitbit’s corporate, wellness, health plan, and health systems partners and customers of their organizations, participants and members.
Seeing that it’s now in the wild and available to all, it’s time for our full review. Here’s what we made of the Inspire HR.
Fitbit’s new fitness band is not all too dissimilar in looks to its predecessors. However, it does adopt a more modern, curved style with rounded edges. Weighing only 20 grams you will hardly feel it on your wrist. It’s also very narrow, though fairly thick to house the battery.
A price you have to pay for the slim form-factor is the small display. Inspire HR comes with a 37 x 16mm, black and white, OLED touchscreen which has pretty good visibility both indoors and out. To preserve battery life it turns off when not in use. Lift your wrist or tap the face and it will spring to life. It’s all pretty standard Fitbit stuff.
It’s worth noting, the display only takes up a part of the front of the device. I’m not sure why Fitbit opted for such a thick bezel. Needless to say, this is not ideal. This means when tracking exercise you’ll only be able to see one stat at a time. And while this does the job, it’s not ideal to be messing about with the screen in the middle of a workout. The Charge 3, for example, shows two stats at a time which makes it better suited for quickly glancing down at your stats.
There’s a single physical button on the left which is used to wake up the tracker and move you back out of menus. A press of the button is also used to pause a workout, another press ends it. A long press lets you see the battery percentage and certain settings. The rest of the navigation is done by tapping and swiping on the screen.
Some of Fitbit’s older trackers, such as Alta HR, require you to tap on the display. Inspire HR is an improvement in the sense that it comes with a proper touchscreen. I found it to be very responsive to touch.
Navigation is pretty simple to learn. Swipe up from the main watch face to scroll through your daily stats. Swipe down for the exercise app, timer, alarm and settings. After a bit of practice you won’t even think about it.
You’ve got the color options of lilac, black and white for the device. Out of the box it comes with a classic band made of soft silicone. The standard watch buckle is made of anodized aluminum. Other bands can be purchased separately and it takes only a few seconds to release the springs and switch the bands. I actually opted for a third party metal mesh option. These can be bought pretty cheaply on Amazon.
A clip-on accessory is also available but only for the non-heart rate version of the tracker. This is to cater for those who would previously have opted for Zip.
Most recent Fitbit devices are water-resistant and Inspire HR is no different. You are ok to dunk it down to depths of 50 meters and it will track your swim sessions, too, albeit only with very few details.
Inside the tracker is a 3-axis accelerometer, vibration motor and optical heart rate sensor. This is enough to cover the basics when it comes to fitness tracking. What is missing is an altimeter for counting floors.
There’s also no built-in GPS, which is not really surprising. Ionic is the only Fitbit with built-in GPS, something that is bound to change in the near future. This means you will need to allow Inspire HR to tag onto your smartphone’s GPS signal when running or cycling.
As you’d expect from the San Francisco outfit, battery life is pretty decent. The thing has an advertised life of around 5 days, but that depends on usage. I had no trouble squeezing 4 days out of the lithium polymer battery but above that was a struggle. In fairness, I was using it quite a bit. The proprietary charger needs a couple of hours to take the battery from zero to full.
Inspire HR is meant for those who want the basics and are not too bothered about advanced features. And it serves this purpose well. Not surprising considering this is what Fitbit is best known for.
The gizmo keeps tabs on steps, distance, active minutes and calories burned. It will also dish out values on heart rate thanks to small LEDs on the underside of the tracker. This includes resting heart rate in the morning, one of the most important indicators of health and fitness.
Sleep tracking stats are very detailed. They include info on light, deep, REM and time spent awake. All of this is done automatically so there is no need to press any buttons in the evening. The device will also pick up on afternoon naps.
But the list does not end there. Let’s not forget Breathing Sessions to keep you stress free and Female Health Tracking. An impressive feature lineup for the price.
Move reminders are there to give you that nudge when you’ve not taken 250 steps during your active hours. If you’re not close to the target, you’ll get a vibration on your wrist as the hour approaches.
People should make more use of this type of functionality. Official physical guidelines in the US have recently changed in the sense that they now integrate findings on the importance of sitting less. Adults are encouraged to move frequently through the day, regardless of duration. Previously only 10-minute bouts of physical activity counted toward meeting the daily guidelines.
As mentioned, when it comes to the basics, the only sensor that is missing is an altimeter for counting floors climbed. Not a deal breaker but it might make a difference to some.
Inspire HR also does not have Fitbit’s blood oxygen sensor. Not that anyone would notice. The sensor has been slapped on to devices such as the Charge 3 and Versa, but Fitbit is yet to put it to real-world use. For now it’s just sitting there not really doing anything.
Seting up the tracker is fairly easy and the accompanying smartphone app is simple to use. Once you’ve entered all your details and paired with the tracker, Inspire HR will sync automatically via Bluetooth whenever you open the app.
You can view daily activity stats on the tracker itself, but for more details, trends and graphs the smartphone app is the place to go to. All the information is there. Tap on pretty much any metric for further breakdowns.
Inspire HR comes with more than 15 exercise modes, too. This includes swimming, but the only stats there are duration and calorie burn. So don’t look for more detailed info such as laps or distance, metrics that can be found on some of Fitbit’s other devices.
For running, simply start the exercise and Inspire HR will automatically begin tracking. You also have the option to start a workout manually by navigating through the screen menus. I actually suggest you take the effort to do this as it will ensure your efforts are properly logged.
The Connected GPS is a useful addition for those who exercise outdoors on a regular basis. It makes your stats more accurate and allows for some more advanced performance metrics such as VO2 Max and Cardio Fitness Level. The tracker is pretty good at establishing the connection to your smartphone’s satellite signal and maintaining it.
Essential reading: Fitbit Inspire HR vs Charge 3, which is best?
Running stats are quite detailed and the quality of data is pretty good. The heart rate accuracy is not on par with chest straps, but it’s right up there with other wrist based wearables. As mentioned, the negative for those that run is the small screen size.
You’ll get info on distance, pace, average pace, heart rate, calories burned, steps and time. Post run, a map of your route will appear in the app as long as you had your smartphone with you.
To round things off, Inspire HR comes with some basic smartwatch functions. This includes silent alarms and notifications to keep you connected on the go. A vibration will alert you when a notification comes through. You will be able to make out the gist of the message on the tracker’s display. To read it in full, though, in most cases you will need to reach for your phone.
Inspire HR does not come with anything revolutionary. Rather, it repackages Fitbit’s existing technology into a more modern form-factor, and makes it affordable to the masses. In a sense, the activity band sits somewhere between the Alta HR and Charge 3.
Fitbit Inspire HR
The device is a good option for those starting to track their fitness as it covers the basics without overloading you with data. The only sensor that is missing is an altimeter for counting floors, but this will not be a dealbreaker to most.
Having said that, if you’re more serious about exercising you might be better off going for Charge 3 or Versa. In addition to the larger screen (which means more on-screen data) and altimeter, they come with more detailed swim tracking, slightly longer battery life and more smartwatch functions.
Those that prefer a slimmer, more discreet look will be perfectly happy with Inspire HR. It’s currently one of the best value for money fitness trackers in Fitbit’s range.
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