Here’s my first attempt on a product review on the FitBit Charge HR after several months of use.
::Table of Contents::
- Fitbit Charge “HR” stands for heart rate so it measures your heart rate. It has other options at your fingertips such as steps you have taken, miles you have walked, floors you have climbed, calories burned, sleep patterns and more. The numbers are based on a rough calculation of your age and weight. Fibit HR can be used by majority of the people, young and old, non-active to active. Its a tool to motivate the non-active, its a tool for active people to improve. What is included in the box, manuals, the FitBit HR, ANT+ USB and a USB port charger.
- It looks very modern, simple and compact, sometimes you won’t even notice you’re wearing it at all. That would include me! It comes in a few different colors but I have the black Fitbit HR. The display screen sits just above the bulk of the FitBit HR, a small rectangle. I wear it on my left wrist by the way. The bulk is a little thicker than 1/4 inch, seems pretty standard when compared to other watches. On the underside there is and LED light that shoots through your skin (this should be safe light and not cause radiation) to find a pumping blood vessel to calculate your heart rate. You’ll also find an attachment port that will connect to a USB port for charging up the battery.
- The strap is made out of a rubber that doesn’t irritate the skin. I can vouch for this because my skin screams all the time when moisture builds and sits for a while, skin allergies, sensitive skin, whatever you want to call it. The strap doesn’t necessarily “breathe” like a dry-fit shirt but so far it seems to marry my skin so far. :) I have a fairly small wrist but ordered a large based on the sizing chart and it fits perfectly. So it seems true to size if you follow the chart they provide.
- Something to be concerned about, maybe, is the tightness of the strap. To ensure consistent heart rate readings, it needs to be snug against your skin. Not tight so it will constrict blood flow, not so loose that it will rotate. If it rotates you’ll know because the bulk will hurt your wrist bone. The instructions say place the unit 1 finger width above the wrist bone, so far for me its been reading fine. I find the readings drop when I’m typing on the keyboard because it pushes the sensor up and away from my skin.
- When sleeping, at least for me, it can get in the way. I sleep laying face down, without a pillow and the FitBit sometimes presses on my face leaving me with an imprint in the morning. I’ve found ways to get around that but if you sleep as awkward as me, rest assured, you’ll find a way! Or at least you’ll get used to it. ;)
- Physical aspects of the FitBit HR its very simple and allows you a stress-less button punching fanatic. The display is default to appear on the ‘off mode’. To turn it on there is a little button on the left side of the display that can be pressed. The button can be pressed more to toggle through a menu that you can customize on your phone or computer by downloading their mobile app or log in after creating your very own profile on their website. You can also ‘double tap’ the display to wake it up. This seems fun at first but I noticed that on bumpy bike rides or at a symphony concert applauding will active the ‘double tap’ mode, can get a little annoying but I’m just nitpicking. If you keep the button pressed long enough (1-2 seconds) it will start a timer. This is used during your workouts. When you press the button again (1-2 seconds) a flag will display as workout is complete.
- Software and applications on computer and phone are easy to follow, pretty straightforward to understand graphically. Setting up your profile for the first time is amusing. If I recall correctly, they send you a security code to your email in which you enter on their website for verification. Seems a bit exaggerated as far as security goes but it amused me for some reason. I suppose for the price of this gadget its nice to know you’re in good hands (wrist)? I’m not sure if this warrants anything if its stolen though. It doesn’t say please return to the rightful owner or FitBit will happily find a replacement no questions asked. There are many customizations you can apply to your FitBit HR either by phone or computer, very convenient. The FitBit will default a basic layout that you can later change where you’ll be able to toggle/cycle through button pushing on your FitBit display. My setup was using the default but I changed the order of some to my liking, which displays: Time, Heart rate, Calories burned, Steps taken and distance traveled (by foot). You can delete and/or add ones you want to see. After you save the changes this updates via the ANT+ USB FitBit provides you in the box.
- The beauty of this product is that it is objective/goal oriented and gives you and idea of how ‘productive’ you are during each day of your life. FitBit allows you to modify certain goals such as how many miles you want to achieve by walking/running, the amount of calories you want to burn or the amount of steps you want to meet. If you achieve any of these goals at the end of the day, you get a reward similar to Strava or Mapmyrun applications. Trying to beat your old score or goals to improve yourself. You can add friends and compete and showoff and share your achievements too.
- There are however some features that are for free but limited time use. I never used or have any intentions to use them so I can’t say much about those but there is an option to enter the foods to the T and calculate the calories you intake. I assume this would be best used as a weight loss program, as you can also add your daily weight. I’m not familiar with this part of the goodies, sorry :( I feel it can be tedious entering the foods you eat everyday and the amount of calories per ounce, I’m sure there is an easier way.
- Another fun feature FitBit provides is Caller ID, I have not used this and assume its provided free when you link it to your phone.
- I find the sync time on my phone is too slow, I’m still using Samsung Galaxy 3. This is updated via Bluetooth so make sure its turned on when you want to sync. You have the option to sync periodically but this will only drain your battery faster. I tend to sync the data weekly so that takes a long time, I have noticed its faster just before you go to bed. I manually sync just to save the battery power. Syncing from your computer via ANT+ is much MUCH faster, just a FYI. The FitBit does a good job of recording data throughout your daily activities (movement).
- As some of you may know, the ‘steps’ FitBit calculates unfortunately is inaccurate. How did I find out, while I was syncing the data to my phone, the steps jumped 10 in a matter of 15 seconds. Why was this, I didn’t move from my spot, but I had been moving my arm around either plugging in a charger, finger swiping on my phone or scratching my head? Any motion that the FitBit is attached will record. I can totally cheat the system and not move one step. I’ve found this was ‘cheated’ when playing tennis and biking too. This probably throws off the distance you have traveled as well. So if you think you walked 10 miles in a day its probably a little less than that unless you just wear FitBit only on your workouts.
- In addition to inaccurate readings was the ‘floors’ display. I’m not sure exactly how this is calculated. I don’t believe there is an altitude meter built in. I climb steps everyday, at least 6 flights a day but sometimes by end of day it shows I’ve done only one, or as much as 12! This is on a regular day, nothing special, no workouts. Get up, go to work, sleep for the whole week. So I took that off my display all together. Don’t trust all the numbers you see, its only a way to gauge yourself.
- What I find most helpful or interesting is the sleep pattern. My resting heart rate has fallen to 38 bpm. My average HR is 50 bpm. This was pretty cool to see. The FitBit automatically calculates resting heart rate once it can’t detect motion. Once you toss or turn over in bed it records the amount of time in (minutes or seconds) you have been moving around. Minutes may be from getting up to use the bathroom :P Its a good way to observe your recovery from a long hard workout. If your resting heart rate is higher than usual, there may be signs of fatigue, stress, dehydration, etc. Great way to monitor yourself if your body is really getting the amount of rest it needs. It records the “total amount of hours you are sleeping” too. I have heard from my best friend that he was unable to get sleep readings while he sleeps during the day (nursing has him working night shifts) maybe the firmware has been updated but that seems bias to the other population of hard workers. Maybe it was a glitch or just a lemon.
- The cost seems to be pretty steep for what I use it for, but I had a hefty discount on my purchase. To be completely honest, if it weren’t for the discount, I probably go for a more budget friendly alternative. I think its a fun and useful product to have which is very portable and with the flexibility to view it on-the-go is worth the coin. If you like technology and want something to motivate you along the way and actually see improvements, I don’t think you should hesitate. I can only speak of this product because it is the only thing I have owned in its class. Fortunately, there are other versions of the FitBit such as the Charger that don’t include the HR but it may be more affordable. There are other competitors such as Garmin but then you’d have to compare yourself.
- So far its going strong. Its been through bumps, rain and shine. The rubber strap is holding on well and still very comfortable to wear. The display however, from normal day-to-day use seems to have some wear on it. May have been when reaching in narrow spaces and rubs on surfaces. The display is still readable but cosmetically if you look really close you can tell there are surface scratches, at least they aren’t deep scratches. FitBit claims it is water resistant, yes its true. Is it waterproof I’m trying to avoid that test, however in one of my longer bike rides, Dallas to Austin, there were T-storms off and on, torrential downpours up to 5 minutes long, I’d have to say were it held up pretty good afterwards. I had to cancel my ride just south of Waco because of floods, lightning and tornado warnings. That’s Texas weather for you. Even on my bike trainer indoor high intensity rides I am sweating profusely, it doesn’t effect the heart rate or timer in any way. I also didn’t test this in the shower, I always take it off, just a precaution unless you don’t care.
- On average the FitBit battery dies at about day 4-5. It isn’t too bad because charging time isn’t more than 1 hour or so. FitBit provides a USB cable which connects to the underside of the unit to your laptop or a wall outlet. There will be a battery warning flashing when you active the FitBit. You can also check the percentage via mobile app. I’ve used it until it completely died. It records up until the battery completely dies. I have also used it during a workout until fully drained, I don’t believe it was saved however. To save battery power, manually sync the data or sync via ANT+, its much faster too and doesn’t kill your phone battery. Keep your Bluetooth turn off when possible. Make sure you turn off the timer when you finish a workout. I had left mine on for 12 hours on accident :P
- All in all, its a pretty fancy piece of gear to own. I think what I’d like to see in the future product is that the bulk of the FitBit be a little thinner, maybe half its size. Maybe the display is scratch-proof or at least a rubber outlining the plastic display to prevent less contact surface, especially for arm swinging, hand waving, wrist snappers like me.