- Durable and comfortable
- Heart rate monitor
- Automatically tracks sleep
- Fantastic app
- Battery life
- Proprietary charging port
- Gets dirty easily
- Notifications only supported on limited devices
- Accuracy of step count
Fitbit has made a big name for itself in the fitness tracking world. Being one of the most popular options when you’re in the market for one. They started with normal waist worn pedometers and evolved to wrist worn. With the Fitbit Charge HR they’ve taken it a step further by adding a heart rate monitor, hence the HR part of the name. Now Fitbit doesn’t only track your steps, flights of stairs climbed, calories burned, and sleep. It will also keep track of your heart rate and graph it for you.
In the box you’ll find the Charge HR, USB charging cable, instructions, and a USB dongle. The dongle is used for syncing your Charge HR to your computer. However if you use a phone with Bluetooth as we all pretty much do. You’ll probably find you have no use for the dongle. I found it a lot easier to just sync with my phone and more fun because you get an immediate look at your stats. The USB cable is disappointingly short as you have to be super close to charge it. Also since the Charge HR uses some nonstandard port you are pretty much stuck with this. Unless you want to buy a USB extension cable, but really Fitbit should just include a cable three times as long.
The Charge HR has a flexible rubber band which feels very durable and stays place very well on your wrist. Unlike with the Fitbit Flex it doesn’t offer exchangeable bands. Instead it comes in two sizes Large and Small. I have the Large one but my wrists are a little bit on the smaller size, and was able to fasten it on the 2nd to last notch. Also unlike the Flex it offers an OLED screen and a button. The OLED screen is very visible outdoors even in sunlight. I really appreciate having the OLED screen as it makes it fast and easy to check the time and your stats.
An improvement over the Fitbit Flex, where I would always have to open the app and wait for it to sync to check anything. It feels lightweight and if you’re not use to wearing a watch or the Flex it will take some time to adjust. I usually wear a watch so it was easy to adjust to wearing the Charge HR.
One problem with the material used for the Charge HR is that it really collects grime. After wearing it a few days you can clearly see it on the inside of the band, and some was even on the outside. While it’s not a deal breaker, be warned you’ll want to wash it off from time to time. Besides that the band is quite comfortable and feels durable.
Whenever you buy a Fitbit device it’s not all about the hardware. They offer a fantastic software experience with their app and website. The Dashboard gives you a great overview of your steps, heart rate, miles walked, calories burned, floors climbed, active minutes, exercise logged, weight, hours slept, and will even let you keep track of your food and water intake. As you can see it’s a pretty exhaustive list, and that’s just the main screen, and if you long press you can even rearrange them.
Tapping on each of those brings you to a new page. Filled with more stats, graphs, and showing your readings from previous days. The app really is quite amazing at showing you your data and graphing it for you to watch your progress. You can see what hours you’ve been most active during the day by checking the graphs. This is one of my favorite parts of the Fitbit experience.
You can also set custom goals but it starts you out at 10,000 steps per day, which is the recommended amount of steps for an adult. Once you hit your goal it will vibrate to let you know.
Fitbit has also recently added a section for hourly movement. Trying to encourage you to get 250 steps broken up into 9 hour increments throughout the day. This seems very similar to the Apple Watch and it’s activity reminder. While the app mentions you will get notifications to get moving each hour, while using I received none.
Almost all of these are automatically logged without any intervention on your behalf. Except for a few like weight, food plan, and water intake. All of these require you to manually input, unless you have one of their scales to record your weight. Exercise is one which says it is automatically logged and to some extent that’s true. It only recognizes a certain set of exercises, and I’m not sure how accurate it is. As it recorded me cycling one day when I mowed the lawn.
The heart rate monitoring was very interesting, and it seemed to match up with my watch when I compared the two. That being said I have no reliable way to test the accuracy. Still it was very interesting to check the graphs, and see what activities increased my heart rate throughout the day.
While I don’t typically check the sleep logging much, because it’s no fun to see how little sleep I am actually getting. I really enjoyed that it automatically tracks sleep. My Fitbit Ultra I was required to tell it when I slept and woke up. While the Fitbit HR is able to track my sleep without any user intervention.
The food logging didn’t impress me much. It’s a simple calorie in and calorie out count. While calories in/out is very important for weight loss, it would be nice if you could also track your protein, carbs, and fat. Plus there is no way to track other nutritional stats like sodium or fiber intake.
You can add food three different ways by scanning barcodes (a favorite of mine), quick calorie add, and searching their database. I ran into some issues with some things I scanned not being in the database though. It will ask you to take photos of the item to add it to the database. Which is nice but it’s not added immediately. It would have been better if you could add it manually like with MyFitnessPal. There also didn’t seem to be support for custom recipes. It seems like they offer it on their web interface but I found it incomplete and a bit confusing.
All in all the food logging would work ok as long as you don’t do a lot of home cooking, everything you buy is already in the database, and all you care about is calories in and out. A much better solution would be to use the MyFitnessPal app and connect it with your Fitbit. Where you could use the better food logging of MyFitnessPal and still keep track of your calories in and out with Fitbit.
There are also a couple of extra features like a silent alarm. Where you can set a certain time and the Charge HR will vibrate to wake you up. I really liked this feature but it didn’t always work. I was able to sleep through it a couple of times. If you happen to be partially awake though, it definitely gets your attention and makes you want to turn it off.
Another feature is caller ID but that only works on some phones. I had to check on their website to find if I had a compatible phone. After checking the phones in my possession, none of them supported the calling or text notifications. So I was unable to test that, if that’s a feature you’re really wanting make sure to check beforehand.
The battery life is pretty good I was able to get around four days of usage at a time. One great thing is that it will notify you on your phone, and even email you when the battery is low. That way you won’t forget to charge it up. I’d say the worst part is that since it uses such a short cable and proprietary port. You need to make sure to keep it very close to where you’re charging and it won’t be easy to find a replacement or spare if you need one.
I’ve actually been using a Fitbit personally for around three years now. I started with the Fitbit Ultra and when it started to break I gave the Fitbit Flex a try. I didn’t really like the Flex because when I compared it to one worn on the waist, it just wasn’t nearly as accurate. I then made the switch back to another worn on the waist the Fitbit Ultra.
Since the Fitbit Charge HR is a whole new generation I hoped the accuracy would be much better. Sadly I was disappointed when I compared the Charge HR to my Ultra worn on the waist. The Charge HR always gave me many more steps, usually around 400-600 more. While I still think it would be good for motivation and tracking your sleep and heart rate. Don’t expect it to be very precise in counting your steps.
Regardless it’s still a fun gadget and it does really motivate you to be more active. It gamifies getting fit and seeing your results in real time makes you want to do more and challenge yourself. Plus you can connect with your friends and family to compete against each other. Big thanks to AT&T for lending us this review unit.