- Decent battery life
- Plenty of fitness features
- Selection of straps
- Iffy notifications
- Few non-fitness features
Fitbit Blaze Review: We’ve tested the first Fitbit smartwatch for over a week now and here’s what we think of the Blaze’s fitness features, notifications support and stats tracking.
Fitbit Blaze Review: Design
The Fitbit Blaze sports a very unique and angular design, in sharp contrast to the popular rounded finish found on smartwatches like the Moto 360, Huawei Watch and Samsung’s Gear S2. At first glance, I wasn’t sure what to think; it was almost like stepping back in time to the 80s or something.
However, after a short time on the wrist, I started to like the Blaze’s slim and light design. Most smartwatches are on the chunky side, which isn’t ideal if you want to wear them during workout sessions and the rest. But the Blaze only pokes up a few millimetres from your arm and you’ll forget it’s even there after an hour or so.
Of course, the Blaze itself is just a small plastic square that snaps in and out of the strap. The coupling/decoupling action is fluid and the Blaze is held firmly in place during use, so you don’t need to worry about it somehow popping free and tumbling down the nearest drain. It’s a handy feature if you’re planning to swap the straps often, otherwise it’s merely a minor pain when you need to charge the Blaze.
Check out our full Fitbit Blaze unboxing video
Fitbit Blaze Review: Screen and interface
The Blaze’s tiny 1.6-inch screen may be smaller than most other smartwatch displays, but it works perfectly well for Fitbit’s many functions and the 240×180 pixel resolution keeps things pleasingly sharp.
You can adjust the main watch face to one of four designs, the first of which was our favourite. This analogue face shows you how close you are to completing your step goal, as indicated by a meter that fills up around the circumference of the watch. You can also see one other stat such as your most recent heart rate (measured every five seconds), which is handy if you want a quick readout, or the current date.
The Blaze’s menus are navigated with a flick of your finger and contain all the features you’d expect. Swipe right from the main watch face and you’ll find the ‘Today’ tool (which gives you your stats from…well, today), the Exercise app which records your vitals during one of several types of workout, the Fitstar trainer app which helps you complete an intense workout, a basic Timer, and a silent Alarms function.
You can also swipe down to turn notifications on and off and control your phone’s media playback, or swipe up to see a lengthy list of your recent notifications (which can be cleared with a single button push).
The Blaze’s screen is just about bright enough to read in bright daylight, with decent viewing angles and reasonable contrast levels. It’s responsive too, only occasionally failing to pick up on a jab or swipe.
Fitbit Blaze Review: Setup and notifications
Pairing the Blaze with your smartphone is a little bit clunky. You need to first download the Fitbit app to your phone and then turn on Bluetooth and go through the usual connection process. Normally, that’s the end of that. But if you want to use the Blaze to control your media, you also have to turn on ‘Bluetooth Classic’ in the watch settings and then pair a second time, as if you have two separate devices.
When it comes to notifications, you’ll have to manually fiddle around in the settings some more to get things up and running. At first I was confused about why I was only receiving certain types of notification on my watch, until I realised that you can select just one app for each category (call, test and calendar). That means, for instance, that you have to pick whether you want the Blaze to buzz you every time you receive a text, a WhatsApp message or a Hangouts message, with no way to receive notifications from all three.
Fitbit Blaze Review: Features
When it comes to fitness, the Blaze does as strong a job as the other Fitbit trackers. The list of supported exercise types is decent, including the usuals such as hiking, running and biking, plus more niche stuff like kickboxing and calmer activities like yoga and pilates.
You can quickly kick off an exercise session with just a couple of taps and your session will be recorded in full, to be viewed back through the app. This includes a map showing any motion (recorded using your phone’s GPS), plus essential stats like your average heart rate, pace and so on. You can dive a bit deeper too, seeing your overall bpm/calories burned charted on a graph.
When it comes to accuracy, the Blaze seems to do the job during activities. Pulse rate was a match for our simple finger-and-neck estimate, as was the number of steps taken and so on. Of course, like all fitness trackers, the Blaze overestimates how much you’re in motion outside of these fitness sessions. Simply scratching your arse or stirring a cup of coffee is usually translated into steps that were never taken.
Fitstar is another decent addition, offering up three workout sessions to choose from; ‘Warm It Up’, ‘7 Minute Workout’ and ‘10 Minute Abs’. These are basically combinations of various exercises such as squats and lunges, which can be performed without any equipment. You get a brief animation of each exercise and then a minute countdown to perform. The watch vibrates at the end of the slot and then gives you ten seconds to rest and check out the next exercise, before the next minute kicks off.
Fitbit Blaze Review: Battery life
Fitbit reckons you can get five days of continuous use from the Blaze between charges, and that’s pretty much bang on the money. If you’re not bothered about sleep tracking (which always struck me as completely pointless) then you can extend this to almost six days, even with notifications enabled. Of course, it all depends on how much training you’re recording each day.
Fitbit Blaze Review: Verdict
The Fitbit Blaze packs in a strong selection of fitness features and marries up well with the Fitbit app, giving you a pretty comprehensive overview of your exercise sessions. The Fitstar is a simple but effective feature for getting into shape, while stat measurement seems as accurate as the best fitness devices out there. Battery life is also as strong as many simple trackers, despite the handy addition of a screen.
However, as a smartwatch the Blaze sadly falls short of most rivals, offering up limited notifications support and few bonus apps such as navigation or full calendar support. If health is your primary concern, then you’ll find plenty to like here. But as an all-round device, it’s not quite as feature-packed as we’d like.
|Bonus features||Fitness tracking, FitStar coaching, notifications support|