I’ve had a Fitbit Charge HR activity monitor for a few months now so I reckoned it was about time I did a review for those of you who like your gadgets, bit of tech, lots of data analytics or those who perhaps just want be more mindful of their daily activity and overall health.
Personally, I love a good bit of data. Oodles of information and detailed analytics – whether it’s the breakdown of a run or a cycle, food nutrition or the energy cycle of the human body over the course of 24 hours, I’m all ears. No idea why, but pouring over detail whatever the subject matter might be, is something that quietly gives me a nutty amount of pleasure. (See, I have lawyer bursting out of me at any given opportunity 😉 – or nerd?!)
The Fitbit Charge HR has been on the market since January 2015 but has really only taken off here in Ireland this year. More and more people are wearing activity monitors now as competitors seem to be constantly coming out with new models at more competitive prices. Before buying, I had done quite a bit of shopping around homework on the various options out there, narrowing it down to a choice between the Fitbit Charge HR and and the Garmin Vivofit. In the end I went with the Fitbit – liked the app, had good reviews and the heart rate monitor was something I definitely wanted.
The Fitbit Charge HR (FCHR from now on because I’m getting lazy now 😉 ) is a neat little accessory. I opted for the black colour, making it a slim, very neat and quite discreet wrist accessory. So if looking smart and tidy is important for your job, then FCHR makes for a good choice.
The display blacks out when not in use so if you’re not jigging about too much, onlookers might not even realise it was a watch, which is actually quite nifty. Bit M16/ James Bond-ish… and who doesn’t enjoy the odd moment of feeling like a secret agent in the middle of their working day 😉
There is only one button on the side of the rectangular screen – you press it once to get the time, then continue to press it again to move on to the next screen.
There are 6 screens to scroll between and 6 bits of information it gives you. Time of day, daily step count, current heart rate, distance walked that day, number of calories you’ve burned so far that day and the number of floors you’ve climbed that day. Basic, block figures – nothing fancy, just the numbers.
Before I got injured, I had about 3 months of running with the FCHR. I popped it on the same wrist as my Garmin 910xt, which I nearly always wear out on a run. Overall, I found it was a fun addition to the Garmin but I wouldn’t be replacing the Garmin with the FCHR by any means.
Running with both devices allowed me to compare the two closely and highlight any flaws or advantages in the FCHR. I’ve always found that once you step outside and the Garmin locates its GPS, it is generally very accurate on distance, pace and time so I knew it would make for a good comparator.
Good points – The step counter on the FCHR is great and when running, it seems to pick up every step. I loved this because I never knew beforehand how many steps were involved in say, a 12 mile run. Made me feel great about myself when I’d get to the end of a run and have thousands and thousand of steps clocked up – and it only 9am 😉
Not So Good – Distance. The distance covered during a run was always short. Not massively short, but short. If google maps, mapmyrun and the Garmin all have the distance at signigicantly longer, then I’m gonna have to conclude that the fault is with the FCHR GPS. Not the end of the world, but somewhat annoying nonetheless.
The HR monitor on the FCHR is quite handy for cycling when you want to train according to your heart rate. However, I don’t think the FCHR was really designed with cycling in mind as the step counter really does get very confused when you start spinning your legs in circles. It counts steps, though not all of them – perhaps mistaking leg rotations for steps – so on days I cycle, I generally just ignore the stepcount.
WAIT, THERE IS A GOOD POINT! After you go for a cycle and synced your data, the app/ website will recognise that activity as a cycle and you can look at the breakdown of your heart rate during the course of that activity, as well as the number of calories burned. I assume it’s the GPS tracker that presumes based on the speed you’re travelling at that what you’re doing is cycling. I rather love this feature, which alhough quite simple, it gives me a little giggle of excitement every time I open up the site and see that Fitbit have intelligently worked out for itself what I was up to earlier 😀
The FCHR is NOT WATERPROOF so unfortunately you cannot take it swimming with you.
Fitbit claim that the battery will last up to 5 days. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a full five days out of it. It lasts about 3 days on average, which isn’t the end of the world and not a big deal, but it’s not great either and it is a bit annoying. To recharge, you plug it into your laptop via USB.
The Fitbit App (Tablet and Smartphone) v Website
Fitbit have a free app available to download onto your tablet or smartphone, where you can log, track and compare all of your food and activity intake and output. Alternatively, you can do this via their website. Here, you can also view an analysis of your sleep patterns, in addition to being able to see how many times you were mobile during the day, as opposed to periods of time where you may have been sitting for prolonged periods of time. Whether you’ve any inclination to change any of these things is another thing, but it is interesting to see the reality of your day all laid out.
Now, there are some differences between the site and the apps, which need attention.
What I like – Firstly, let me just say that I find the phone app is very handy – Bluetooth compatibility allows you to sync with the phone app any time you open up the app and all your data just beams itself up into the cloud. Magic! No need for cables or spinning wheels on the PC, or any prolonged sitting in front of a screen waiting for it all to upload. Takes 2 seconds and NO EFFORT. Love this. The tablet app does likewise.
What I Do NOT like – The website allows you to create “meals” – regular things that you might eat, like Spaghetti Bolognaise (I don’t actually really eat this but work with me here) where you can input all the ingredients and tot up the total calories for a meal. You do it once, save it and from then on, you just need to select it from your list of meals and click to add it to your daily food diary. One click and done.
Neither the phone app nor the tablet work properly here. In theory, they do allow you to do this but I’ve tried many times on this point and the app just crashes every time. Don’t know what the disjoint going on here might be but it would be great if they could address this flaw.
The website does offer a lot more in terms of data and analysis so I generally prefer using it but the app is very convenient when you’re on the go all day and I find it works very well overall.
I like the FCHR, it does what I had hoped it would do. It counts my steps, provides feedback on heart rate and gives me a general idea on my daily energy output v input. The food diary is also quite handy, although the food database is not as comprehensive as it could be. There are a few flaws and inconsistencies with the distance tracker and with the app but overall, I’d recommend it as a solid activity monitor and a useful addition to anyone looking to improve their overall health… or just become aware of it!
For a clear, comprehensive comparison of all fitness tracker currently on the market, it’s worth visiting Reviews.com where they have very helpfully provided a review of all trackers and highlighted the differences between them – and for once, it’s not just tables and endless numbers – it’s simple to read and follow – and most importantly, it makes it very easy to choose which one you want to buy.