Fitbit Charge Review

Quality Activity Tracker With a Few Missteps

Fitbit Charge
Fitbit

Fitbit is one of the most popular fitness tracking companies, regularly releasing devices to the market for customers to track steps, count calories and generally apply biometric data to make positive health changes. The Fitbit Charge ($130) isn't the fanciest device Fitbit offers, but it's a more affordable, middle-of-the-road option with a few smart features that increase its appeal.

The Fitbit Charge Band

The Fitbit Charge band is nothing to write home about.

I've tested a lot of different tracking devices, and from a style standpoint, the Charge is lacking. While comfortable and easy to wear, it's very plain and looks like a cheap digital watch, not like a piece of jewelry or a more high tech gadget. I spent a few weeks wearing around three trackers at once, and I got a lot of comments on the style of the other two (the Jawbone UP2 and the Inbody Band), but none about the Fitbit.

That said, I do appreciate that you can easily monitor steps taken, estimated distance and calories, as well as flights of stairs climbed straight from the watch, rather than needing to log into an app to note the details. While many trackers have similar digital readouts, the Jawbone UP2 does not, so it's an important feature to be aware of when making a choice.

The Fitbit Charge band is also the first band I've tested that tracks fights of stairs climbed. I was excited to try this feature out, and it seemed to do well in real-life situations (like climbing up a hill or a flight of stairs), but didn't track distance climbed at all in simulated situations, such as using a StepMill at the gym or climbing up the stairs on an escalator.

The FitBit Charge App

The FitBit app is solid and easy to use. The main dashboard syncs automatically with the wearable band and keeps all your current metrics up to date for easy monitoring. You can also get more details on past metrics and trends over time by clicking into each given metric (for instance, steps).

Like many other fitness tracking devices, the Fitbit Charge enables and encourages you to set short and long-term goals for steps, distance, calories burned and consumed, sleep and managing your weight. You can set these goals from within the app, receiving notifications both within the app and with a buzz to your wrist band when you reach a goal.

Smart Features

Like the Inbody Band and the Basis Peak devices, the Fitbit Charge band can be synced with your phone to buzz your wrist whenever you receive a call or text. In terms of benefit, I found it to be a mixed bag. The Inbody Band's sync feature was so well-tuned that my wrist often buzzed before my phone even rang. However, the Inbody Band only alerted me that I had a call or text, it didn't tell me who was calling or what the text was.

The Basis Peak had similar response-time, often buzzing at the same time as a call or text, but went a step further, providing me with the name of the caller and even delivered text messages straight to my wrist so I could read them..

The Fitbit Charge lands somewhere in between. I found the sync to be poorer - often showing up after I had already answered my phone - but it did, at least, provide me with the name of the caller in addition to the call or text notification.

Accuracy of Steps and Sleep

While I found most of the Fitbit Charge features to be mediocre, I was actually quite impressed with the accuracy of the step counter and sleep monitor. While I always say to take monitoring devices with a grain of salt, using them to track trends and improvements rather than to-the-step accuracy, I feel confident that this tracker is one of the more accurate devices. During the two weeks when I wore three devices concurrently, I was fairly sure the Inbody Band overestimated steps (and way overestimated sleep), while the Jawbone UP2 seemed to significantly underestimate steps. The Fitbit Charge almost always landed somewhere in the middle, giving me the confidence that it was probably the most accurate of the bunch.

Takeaway

If you're looking for an easy-to-use, accurate fitness wearable without a slew of bells and whistles, the Fitbit Charge might be the tracker you're looking for. This is good for sleep, step, distance and goal monitoring and also offers a few smartwatch features.

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