With an ever-increasing number of models now saturating the wearables market, it’s becoming harder and harder to discern the good from the bad and everything else in-between.
From user-experience and style through to the features offered and effectiveness of such components, you now have a lot to consider when purchasing a fitness tracker.
Case-in-point are the three fitness wristbands released by Fitbit alone at the end of 2014: The Charge, Charge HR and Surge.
This is also evidence of Fitbit’s increasing pedigree as a provider of top-quality fitness trackers and focusing on the Charge, the cheapest model at £99.99, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by this tracker that provides a decent bang for your buck.
Available in black, slate, blue and burgundy, the Fitbit Charge features a sleek all-round design that makes it the perfect 24/7 accessory for both the sports field and the workplace.
The first thing I noticed about the Charge was the OLED screen. It seemed, at first glance, rather small and I felt this might detract from the trackers performance. But having worn the device my fears quickly dissipated, as it provides highly legible readings during exercise.
To be honest, I’m not sure you would need it to be much bigger given the simplistic, straightforward readings it provides.
Aside from legibility, manoeuvring through the tracker’s data is incredibly easy with the one-button control system. Whether you’re running or cycling, you can quickly scroll through the relevant data without trouble, even in gloves; something you may find difficult with a touch screen tracker.
Surrounding the screen is the textured elastomer (rubber) strap. This is a material commonly used in sports watches and it is highly durable and flexible, making it the optimum choice for an activity tracker.
The textured finish does seem to pick up lint and dust very easily which has resulted in regular cleaning, but I actually prefer the textured look instead of the smooth finish of its predecessors, such as the Flex.
The strap completes the stylish aesthetic of the tracker and nicely complements the futuristic feel of the Charge.
The main problem I have is with the clasp. This may be down to personal preference, as the clasp isn’t going to come loose and the surgical steel will stand the test of time, but I feel it’s a bit of a pain to clip on in comparison to a standard pin and buckle style, as featured on the Charge HR and the Surge.
This being said, the overall design of the strap and buckle affords an extremely comfortable fit, which I especially appreciated when it came to testing the sleep function.
Another area I felt could be improved, is in respect to the Charge’s water resistance of 1 ATM - up to 10 metres. Whilst this will provide protection against sweat and splashing, you won’t be able to swim or shower in the tracker.
I wouldn’t expect it to be able to do so, but the main problem I foresee is the possibility of accidental submersion, which is a possibility if you are wearing the Charge 24/7.
All in all, the pros outweigh the cons. The overall design of the Fitbit Charge is one of the best I’ve seen within the price range and it affords a commendably stylish and effective design.
Fitbit provide an app that is compatible with 120 leading smartphones across a range of operating systems including iOS, Android and also Windows phone. You can also access the Fitbit Dashboard is available on laptop, PC and Apple Macs.
They also make it incredibly easy for users to orchestrate their fitness plans and view daily and historical data, with seamless automatic Bluetooth syncing completing what is a highly friendly user-experience.
When you setup your account, Fitbit will ask you to insert your age, height, weight and gender, which it will use to accurately calculate the amount of calories you burn across 24 hours. Aside from this, the dashboard and app allow you to choose which features appear and in which order on your tracker.
I kept the original order. It seemed to work nicely, with time, step counter, miles covered, the calorie counter / calories burned, altimeter and then alarm being shown consecutively.
But you can select to view as few as one feature if you need to. Using these features you can set personal goals, whilst the dashboard also affords you the opportunity to log workouts and view monthly results and plans.
In true Fitbit style, the Charge also allows you to compete against other users in a leader-board system. Whilst you may not want to make your friends privy to your fitness (or lack thereof) it’s quite a clever way to motivate yourself to accomplish your goals.
Further to this, the dashboard and app system provide a solution to any fitness regime, by allowing you to log and track the food you consume. Fitbit also determines how much you can eat in order to meet your goals, giving you a comprehensive breakdown of how to manage your diet.
Accessing such information is quite simple, and the synchronisation with your phone is an exceptional part of the Charge experience. Not only does it provide you with call and text notifications via caller ID and vibrating, my favourite addition is the ability to shuffle and select your music through the tracker.
In regard to other notifications, the vibrating alarm is a useful feature and makes for a pleasant contrast to the shrill ringing of an alarm clock.
Whilst it sets a dangerous precedent by not including a snooze button, the Charge is a useful night time companion thanks to its ability to track your sleep by providing you with accurate data regarding the quality and length of your rest. With a good night’s sleep an essential part of any fitness regime, this is a highly useful component to an athlete of any standard.
Finally, I have been impressed by the longevity of the Charge’s battery. Fitbit states that it will provide 7-days of operational use and this seems to be the case even after extensive use.
The app and dashboard will allow you to monitor battery life, but you will also receive an email when the batteries are running low. A nice touch, completing the host of useful features the Charge provides a user.
There are two different sizes available with the Fitbit Charge: The small size has a circumference of 5.5 - 6.7 inches and the large measures 6.3 - 7.9 inches. Both sizes have a width of 0.83 inches.
As previously mentioned, the Charge is water resistant up to 1 ATM (10m) and can be used up to a maximum altitude of 30,000 feet and in a temperature range of -4 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 to 45 degrees Celsius)
The device boasts an OLED display, Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology with a syncing range of 20 feet and a Lithium-polymer battery that will last up to seven days.
My main concerns, regarding the water resistance and the clasp are rather negligible in the scheme of things.
This demonstrates how little there is to criticise with the Fitbit Charge. Essentially, it is an exceptional fitness tracker that affords a simple and effective way of keeping on top of every aspect of your fitness regimen.
Within its price range, I would highly recommend this innovative tracker to any casual or more serious exercise enthusiasts.
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