Wearable Review: Fitbit Charge HR

The Fitbit Charge HR is one of the more heavy-duty wearable tech you can get for fitness tracking. Sporting a wider band than its predecessor the Flex, the Charge and Charge HR features a display screen which tells its users time as well as various activity information.

About the time I ended up getting the Charge HR, I was upgrading from Flex. I believe this was early the start of 2015. I’ve previously also used Jawbone’s UP24, but at some point phone compatibility forced me to switch to Fitbit. Eventually, this no longer became an issue, but I enjoyed the community I had formed in the platform and didn’t switch back (at least, not for a while).

Overall Assessment

I loved this fitness tracker a lot for the time that I had it. The Charge HR was the first fitness tracking device I had which displayed information directly on the screen, and I found this made everything more top-of-mind than having to access the same information on my phone.

The ability of the device to inform me of phone calls and notifications was fun in a tech girl nerd way, but didn’t always work 100% on my (1st Gen) Motorola X phone. Since it was included in the whole package, though, it was fine. Fitbit also gets bonus points for being ahead of the fitness tracking game when this device came out by foreseeing the smartwatch craze which has been slowly creeping in (with Apple’s watch now really bringing this type of wearable more into the public eye than previously before).

For those who value fitness more than smarts, a device geared more towards your training, but that had smartwatch-like abilities is definitely a good choice. It’s slimmer than Fitbit’s new Blaze, as well, and doesn’t limit you to wearing only this device as a watch.

The one drawback of the Charge? My skin had a reaction to the band to the point that eventually I had to return it. To Fitbit’s credit, they quickly and easily accepted the return–despite that I had bought it through Sports Authority. I was really impressed with how little of a hassle it was to do this.

If it wasn’t for that I probably would have ended up keeping the Charge (well, at least for a while).

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Fit + Design

I won’t lie. The Charge is much less comfortable for everyday wear than the Flex or Jawbone’s UP devices. As a female with relatively tiny wrists, it was very wide. The band was in no way inconspicuous, and it didn’t really give any of my outfits any style points.

Design wise, the material and shape aren’t super stylish from a woman’s perspective, but they are much nicer looking than say Garmin’s Vivosmart or other devices. I like the straight edges, and overall material and surface look. I feel like on a man both the Charge and the previous Flex actually looks fine even with business attire.

That being said, on me the style and large band were pretty big negatives.

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Device Function

The Charge HR does have a lot more functions than my other experiences with trackables from Jawbone. I could get instant information on my miles, steps, heart rate, floors climbed, as well as information during a run.

Going for a run, it always felt great to check the device here and there to peak at how I was doing. Even during my week when at work I found myself more willing to take extra steps wherever I could when I could check my overall total as often as I wanted. Oh, I only need 50 more steps to reach 6,000? No problem.

Sleep

It’s important to note that the sleep for the Charge HR is an automatic detection. And in fact, you can’t set it manually even if you want to. I like having the option to do both. The issue with automatic detection is that if you sleep at weird hours, it won’t be able to track it. Additionally, if you want to know how long it took you to fall asleep, it can’t tell you that either with automatic detection. I believe knowing how long it took me to fall asleep is an important aspect of understanding my overall health.

Heart Rate

I did enjoy looking at my heart rate stats for the first time ever during exercising. While I don’t yet know much about how heart rate is involved in the overall scheme of things–other than it’s higher with more intense exercise–I did find myself wanting to become more familiar with it and try harder during my workouts as a result of having this feature. Fitbit also did its best to explain the different “levels” your heart was in during different types of activity levels. I believe this is a great insight for those like me, who aren’t really as informed as other, more experienced athletes, but might like to be.

But how accurate was it? That’s hard to say, given my limited knowledge. Those most knowledgable in this area generally state that only chest rate monitors give the best results when tracking heart rate and true training results from any kind of device. But having any kind of knowledge is better than not having it, in the end. If you are looking to up your game, this isn’t a bad way to go.

Fitbit App

The Fitbit App isn’t as great as the Jawbone UP app in my opinion, but that could easily be personal preference. I enjoy the timeline layout of the UP app, as well as the periodic insights, advice, and encouragements that pop up throughout the day.

Fitbit’s app, on the other hand, really make your stats the focus of your attention. To this end, you are truly constantly thinking about going more. In fact, as a result of the layout I began to think more about my total miles throughout the day than my total steps. This had both good and bad affects, as steps look more encouraging at times. However, looking at the miles made me push more often.

The community on Fitbit is really great as well. You are able to create challenges not only among individual friends, but also as groups. I found myself always in a challenge, and often it was these challenges that were really pushing me to do more all the time. My fitness level would have certainly increased if I had been able to keep the Charge HR.

Would I recommend the Fitbit Charge HR?

Ultimately, yes. If you don’t mind the small risk you could be allergic to the band (mind you, I didn’t get a reaction from the Flex so I have no idea why the Charge gave me one). For anyone looking for everyday, overall fitness tracking with some extra stats thrown in, at $149 ($139 currently on Amazon), the Charge HR is a decent device.

While I still find the Jawbone UP device to be more what I am looking for in my personal health goals, features like group challenges and a information display screen really make the Charge HR a great fitness wearable.

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