Tracking every beat.
Fitbit are well known for their fitness and activity tracking wearables, ranging all the way back from the Fitbit Classic.
Gaining renown especially in the last few years with their increasingly ambitious and stylish trackers.
So how does the Fitbit Charge HR compare?
Fitbit were kind enough to send us a review unit and sponsor one of our acquaintances with a Charge HR to use for their training and completion of the Shine Night Walk in late September which was in aid of Cancer Research UK.
The Charge HR comes in a neat little plastic and cardboard package, which houses the device itself, a charging cable and a wireless sync dongle. Simple but effective.
First things first, let’s talk about the features quickly.
It is available in 3 sizes, small, large and extra large (which I needed due to my big hands, so it was a welcome addition!).
Fairly long battery life of up to 5 days (more like 4 — 4.5 in our experience).
There is a optical heart rate monitor on the interior section of the strap, it has a built in accelerometer, altimeter and vibration monitor.
On the front side there is a small but extremely bright and effective OLED display which has a variety of functions which we will go into in a bit.
The Charge HR is sweat, rain and splash proof but IS NOT waterproof, so do not even think about going swimming with it, which let’s be honest is a shame.
If you wear it while you sleep it can also automatically track your sleep pattern and even wake you up with a silent vibration alarm.
It will operate up to 30,000ft (for those mountaineering folks) and in temperatures ranging between -4 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit.
Design of the Charge HR is well thought out, the body is fairly slim without feeling ‘cheap’, the screen is well placed and has the brightness to be easily readable in any lighting situation.
It has a standard watch strap which is a welcomed addition, unlike some other units that have ‘popper’ style straps that can easily be unclipped accidentally during activity, this is a no nonsense approach that benefits.
The strap even has a little retainer at the end to hold the strap even more securely in place, fantastic design.
There have been very sparse reports that a few users had problems with the watch strap giving them rashes, but fortunately here we had no issues.
It is believed to be people with slight Nickel allergies:
“Charge has a stainless steel clasp, while Charge HR and Surge have a stainless steel buckle. All stainless steel contains nickel, but the amount of nickel in all Fitbit products meets the European Union’s stringent Nickel Directive. As with any product made of stainless steel, a limited number of users with nickel sensitivity may still experience an allergic reaction.”
So it is most definitely not a single brand problem but any products that have Stainless steel in them. Something to keep in mind!
The major difference between the Charge HR and their other product, the Charge is the addition of the PurePulse optical heart rate sensor.
This measure your heart rate every second during activity or every 5 seconds normally. We found it to not exactly be the MOST accurate reading, but it was consistent which is what really matters.
Even if it deviates from a tried and true pulse monitor, as long as it’s deviating at the same interval then you have a consistent reading that is useful.
I did notice that the heart rate sensor surface gets very dirty quite quickly, so be sure to give it a wipe down every time you take it off, as it can hinder the reading accuracy.
The Charge HR also has a pedometer built in that shows you how many steps you have taken that day, this once again was not 100% accurate but fell within a 20% margin and did this consistently.
You can easily swap between the time, pedometer, heart rate and floors climbed on the display itself, as well as having caller ID show up when synced to your phone which is a nifty little feature.
By giving the button on the side a long press you can also log activity, then long press again to end it. This is then stored and can be accessed for more in-depth information on the computer or app.
During activity the heart rate sensor and other information is stored more accurately and periodically, so I advice if you are going to be doing any exercise you make sure to start it up first. It’s easier to forget than you think.
Another great feature of the Fitbit is the ability to wirelessly sync it to your computer or mobile app and benefit from the truckloads of content provided.
The app is well featured, providing you with extra benefits such as seeing your progress through easy to read charts and graphs, logging your workouts and seeing the stats in a more up close and personal way.
You can even track your run / walk statistics and routes using MobileRun.
Then you have the ability to share your achievements and stats with family / friends who you can compete with on a leaderboard.
Fantastic way to keep everyone interested and get the competitive spirit going.
You can also log your eating habits, along with food, calorie intake, even using the barcode scanner to get accurate details.
It takes you away from the physical device and able to look in-depth at your logged stats for the month, with a surprising amount of detail, especially when it comes to tracking your sleep.
You can see when you were awake, when you first nodded off, when you hit REM sleep, got woken up in the middle of the night, so much to keep you hooked.
The unit that was donated to Nicola Guthrie, the Shine Night Walk participant, was most definitely put through it’s paces on the run up to the massive 26+ mile marathon around London.
Nicola would wear the Fitbit throughout her daily training, using it to track her steps, distance and average time per mile.
It is an incredibly handy training tool for those preparing for an event like this, giving you all the vital info you need to track your progress.
On the night it was extremely beneficial, not only do you have the time at hand, you have the ability to see how far you have come without the need to scout for mile markers.
Plus it is a handy way to track your current pace, knowing you have travelled roughly a mile within whatever set time.
At the end of the Marathon, Nicola had clocked in just over 9 hours and 26 minutes which is 26 minutes off the pace set for power walkers, which is a brilliant achievement. Especially considering that towards the end of training she had a knee injury!
The stats themselves were actually remarkably close to the official numbers, the Fitbit tracking the distance as 26.35 miles, when the estimated official number was 26.2 miles, a 0.57% difference, not bad!
This constituted of 57,784 steps.
A couple of points raised by Nicola after her marathon were that it was rather frustrating that the unit reset the activity tracking at midnight, as the marathon started just before and carried on till 6am, so her stats were divided into two days rather than one session.
Also as she works in the medical field, they are not allowed to wear anything on their wrists, so she would of liked to be able to wear it on her ankle to keep track of her stats, but the strap did not make this possible.
My knees tremble at the mere thought of that distance!
The Charge HR is priced at £119.99 currently which in the market currently, is not a huge chunk of change for what it provides, but we do personally feel it would do much better at a £99.99 price point.
Overall the Fitbit Charge HR is a well rounded activity tracker that bundles lots of awesome features into a neat little package, ready for any aspiring exerciser to take full control of.
It is definitely the unit that we would currently recommend to those just getting into exercise or pursuing an undertaking such as the Shine Walk Marathon.
Be sure to check out the Fitbit site — https://www.fitbit.com/uk/chargehr