Review: Fitbit Charge HR & Fitbit Surge

Let’s talk about my love for all things Fitbit. It may be bordering on obsession, but the Fitbit Flex changed my life last year. And while that sounds a bit lot dramatic, consider this: I have lost 25 pounds in the 12 months, and the only thing I’ve been consistent about in all that time is reaching my daily goal of 10k steps. Sure, it’s taken more than that to make this progress, but when all else has failed, I just go back to the steps. When I have nothing more to give, I know I can at least get my steps.

Sounds silly, right? I get that. But it’s working for me. So I might as well shout it from the rooftops. I am your classic sedentary person. If I’m not actively exercising, I’m sitting on my ass. It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s just that I use my brain a lot more than my body so most of my activities take place in a sitting position.

Just last week, I hit my one year anniversary wearing this brand. James did as well. And in March, we both upgraded from our Flexes. James went with the Fitbit Surge, and I chose the Fitbit Charge HR. I won’t go over the specifics of each product because I’m assuming you’re at least somewhat familiar with the brand or wearable activity trackers in general. If not, there are a lot of them out there, and this is just my experience with this particular one.

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I loved the Flex and used it for a solid nine months, but my main issue was how it charged. I don’t know if it was something about my skin or the oils I produce, but I had the most difficult time connecting the contacts and getting it to charge. Sometimes James would spend 20-30 minutes just getting it going. His own wasn’t always perfect, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as mine. And yes, I followed all of the online troubleshooting tips about how to clean it. It was just a constant problem for me.

My other reason for wanting to upgrade was the heart rate feature on the Charge HR. It’s not really important if you aren’t tracking your daily intake and burn, but by March, I had started that. So I wanted to make sure I was eating enough (or not too much) based on my activity level.

James wanted to upgrade because the Surge offers a GPS function. He thought it would be helpful on his runs. Truth be told, if the Surge wasn’t so gigantic, I would have gone with it as well. But it is, so I didn’t.

Before I talk about our upgrade, let me explain why I love the brand itself.

It’s not perfect – no brand is. But I love the sense of community it provides. I love having a network of friends that all own Fitbits, and I love competing! It’s not about beating anyone (I get my ass kicked on the regular by half of my friends list.) It’s about seeing how they’re all doing and pushing myself just a little bit harder.

And beyond that, our kids were able to get their very own Fitbit Zips which has made it a total family affair. Our oldest son – who we thought wasn’t moving enough – gets 15-18k steps per day. I think in the past six months, I’ve only beat him a handful of times in our daily challenges. No wonder he’s so skinny! This step count has become part of their daily responsibilities, and they don’t get to play on their video games until they’ve moved enough. It’s a simple way to teach them how important being active is. (And how you can achieve your desired level of activity in multiple ways.)

But back to the upgrade. I wanted to review them right away of course, but I’m happy I waited. I wanted to be able to give an honest impression of how we feel about our purchases. Two months later, I’m ready!

Let’s start with the Charge HR first.

Pros:

  • The step count is accurate. I double check often to make sure I’m not getting cheated out of any steps. If they don’t count, you might as well not be walking, right? Ha.
  • Although I never cared much about the Flex’s sleep tracking option, I love that the Charge HR tracks sleep automatically. When I feel cranky, it’s nice to look at my app and see that I didn’t get enough sleep. It makes me feel better about myself.
  • I compared the heart rate function to my Polar HR monitor’s numbers, and it seemed to match up pretty nicely. Shortly after I purchased my Charge HR, my Polar HR watch seemed to have a seizure in protest, so I can’t say with 100% certainty, but I feel pretty confident about it.
  • I love that I can see the time, my steps, my daily burn, my distance, my current heart rate, and my floors climbed right there on watch’s display.
  • The exercise tracking function is great for non-distance activities. I love being able to easily record my weight lifting time with a simple button on the watch.
  • Because I connected the Charge to my phone, I can see when someone is calling. (Although my phone is right next to me, so this isn’t super important.)
  • It’s SO easy to charge it, and I only need to do that every 4-5 days.
  • The numbers it is providing are helping me steadily lose weight – or maintain, depending on the week. That is quite possibly the most important part for me personally. When it says I should be losing, I generally am. That makes me feel really confident about the Charge’s ability to accurately calculate my calories burned through the HR feature. And I’m able to use the Fitbit app to input my calories consumed so I can see the difference.

Cons:

  • The watch band is wide and usually feels too tight or too loose. I’ve gotten used to it for the most part, but I’d love to see a redesign where it’s narrow like the Flex. (Would it be too much to convert it into a cute silver bangle?)
  • When using the exercise tracking function, it calculates your distance with steps because it doesn’t have GPS. And it’s not accurate – for me at least. It will be off by a half a mile or more after just an hour. It’s fine to use on hikes though where you’re just trying to get a decent gauge of your distance. I remedy this by simply using the Fitbit app to track my walks. This is really only a problem for number nerds like me and runners trying to improve on their time.
  • I can’t change out the colors. I really don’t like these types of long-term commitments. 😉

Overall, I feel very happy with my decision to upgrade. The ease of charging the dang thing is reason enough in my opinion, but I love that it tracks my heart rate all day every day.  During a workout, it will show me how long I was in the fat burning zone, the cardio zone, and peak zone. I don’t pay much attention to how many floors I’ve climbed, but I find everything else to be valuable.

I think the Fitbit Charge HR is a winner.

If you are just trying to get more steps, and none of the other information is important, then I would say go for the Fitbit Zip. It uses a watch battery that is cheap and only needs to be changed every month or two.  The real benefit of the Fitbit Flex over the Zip is that you don’t have to worry about transferring it when you change clothing.

Now let’s talk about the Fitbit Surge.

This is all secondhand knowledge because James wears it, not me. But I’m with him a lot, so I feel qualified to give you a review. And he’s sitting here with me as I type.

Pros:

  • On the display, it gives you a constant real-time look at how active you’ve been throughout the day. James loves that feature.
  • Both the step count and GPS seem to be pretty accurate, and James loves not having to use his phone’s Fitbit app to track his runs.
  • He can see when he receives a phone call, and his text messages show up right on the screen. It shows the same activity things the Charge HR does as well.
  • The wristband is comfortable for his arm. (And he’s not a watch-wearer by nature.)
  • The heart rate feature seems to be pretty accurate, although it does occasionally lose track and thinks he’s flatlined.

Cons:

  • The battery drains very quickly if he uses the exercise/GPS tracking feature. However, charging it isn’t difficult, so it’s not a huge issue.
  • “Walk” is not an exercise tracking option. He must use “hike” or “run” when we go on our evening stroll.
  • Sometimes, he notices that it’s not counting his steps. It will often catch up after a bit, but not always. (So while his step count is accurate most of the time, it does often have blips but they likely don’t affect his daily total much.)
  • He has to remove the band when he’s riding his motorcycle because the vibration counts as steps. (This was true for the Flex as well.) However, riding in a regular vehicle doesn’t seem to affect any of the products at all.

Overall, he loves the Surge. The “pros” definitely outweigh the “cons” for him.

In a perfect world, my Charge HR would be a skinny little thing that could be accessorized. It’s not a perfect world, BUT Fitbit did recently make a change that helps me out tremendously. On the app, I can now add another device that will work with my personal account. So if I wanted to wear my old Fitbit flex and color coordinate with an outfit just for an evening, I can do that without changing devices in the app completely. I am really excited about this.

This kind of wearable technology is great, but it isn’t a magic wand. You still have to want to get in your steps – it’s just a way to keep you going on those days you don’t wanna. But I’m really not kidding when I say it’s changed our family for the better. It’s shown me just how sedentary I am by nature, and it’s shown me how badass I truly can be. Even on the days where we are so busy we don’t fit in a walk, James and I will walk around our bedroom at night for a solid hour while watching a TV show. It’s hilarious really, but it gets the job done. And you better believe we talk trash to each other because, well, it’s fun.

Regardless of whether you go with the Fitbit brand or one of the others, I cannot recommend this type of item enough. Especially for those people (like me) who have no concept of their daily activity. If you feel like you’re doing everything right, but you just can’t seem to lose weight (or even maintain), give one of these a shot. See if you’re really doing as much each day as you think you are. It can’t hurt, right?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, but the opinions are entirely James’s and my own.  Fitbit did not sponsor this review or send us any free products to try.

Comments

  1. Lois-Lynn says

    Great review! I got the regular Charge and love it, too. I didn’t know I could track miles more accurately with the Fitbit app on my phone. Thanks for the info!

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