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Fitbit Charge Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Great battery life
  • Plenty of customisation
  • Social features

The Bad

  • Specialised charger
  • Can't update goals via app
  • Limited to walking/running
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We review the Fitbit Charge, the latest wearable fitness tracker from Fitbit featuring full day and night tracking, a handy display to check your progress and impressive social features.

Design

Fitbit fans will immediately recognise the design of the Charge wristband, which looks almost identical to previous devices like the Flex. The rubbery band fits snugly around the wrist and the clasp holds tight, never accidentally coming undone even when you’re pumping your fists like a power ballad pro. Occasionally it can get scuffed up, with bits of grit and grime lodging in the tiny ridges, but we like the subtle and slightly angular design.

The Fitbit Charge is water resistant to 1 ATM and can also operate up to 30,000 feet, so it’s perfect for serious athletes and fitness freaks who take to the great outdoors. It’s rugged enough to put up with all kinds of punishment, including being hurled across the room for whatever reason, with no ill effects.

Display

The main difference between the Fitbit Charge and earlier models is the tiny strip window that’s built into the front of the wristband. While older bands displayed your stats and progress in the most basic manner, using dots for instance to denote how close you are to completing the day’s steps goal, the Charge gives you full text feedback so you know precisely how much you’ve sweated.

A quick tap of the side button activates the display, bringing up the first piece of info – by default this is the time. With each subsequent tap, you scroll through more info – steps taken so far today, calories burned, etc. Each is preceeded by a quick illustration so you know exactly what you’re looking at, making the Charge an intuitive and user-friendly device.

The display will even show you caller ID when you receive a call, although that’s the limit of the Charge’s notification support.

You can customise the screen to show precisely what info you want, setting which order your stats are displayed as you tap that button, and even deleting any stats you couldn’t care less about. You can even change what your main goal for each day is, be it steps taken, floors climbed, distance travelled and so on. This level of customisation put the Charge ahead of most other competitors, as well as previous models.

App

All of that customisation is buried away in Fitbit’s app, which is also used to pair the Charge and your smartphone (via Bluetooth). Once connected, all of your stats will sync to your phone so you can track your daily progress via the colourful graphs.

But the functionality goes well beyond that. You can also manually add exercise sessions and foods and liquids consumed, and even set a silent alarm (which makes the band vibrate like mad at a set time, until you tap the side button).

Motivation can be a serious issue even with all of your stats being scrutinised, so Fitbit also throws a bunch of badges or trophies at you when you complete certain goals, such as climbing a set amount of flights. We’re pleased to see a more social side to Fitbit too, with the ability to easily hook up with fellow Fitbit users from your contacts list and challenge them through the app – for example, seeing who can walk the most steps in a single day.

Our only annoyance is that you can’t change your daily goals through the app; you need to login to your dashboard on a computer instead. Still, it’s unlikely you’ll be changing your goals too regularly, so it’s a minor inconvenience.

Battery life

Charging the Charge is done via the bundled cable, which slips into a USB slot on your computer or an adapter (not included) to hook straight up to the mains. It’s not micro USB sadly, but a specialised connector, so you will have to take it with you if you’re travelling; you can’t simply plug in your phone charger.

However, the Fitbit Charge’s battery life is superb for a fitness tracker sporting a display. We used the Charge non-stop for five days and it still had plenty of charge remaining, roughly half according to the app. So you can expect around nine or ten days of use before the Charge dies a death.

Verdict

The Fitbit Charge is a fantastic fitness tracker, for everyone from the casual enthusiast to the dedicated athlete. It may be limited in that it can only track walking and running, but the level of customisation is impressive, the social aspects help to keep you motivated and the rugged design mean this is one band that won’t fall apart under intense use.

Specification

TypeActivity tracker
Screen size1-inch
Screen resolutionN/A
OSWorks with Android, iOS and Windows Phone
Bonus featuresWater resistant, built-in alarm, sleep tracker, caller ID

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