- Slender design
- Offline music playback
- Full range of stats tracking
- Well priced
- No GPS
- Occasionally clunky performance
- App store needs filling
Fitbit is back with a refreshed version of its Ionic smartwatch, boasting a slimmer design and a reduced asking price to match. We’ve been pounding the pavement to test out the new Fitbit Versa for this in-depth review.
As far as fitness trackers go, Fitbit has the market nailed. The brand name is now synonymous with step counting and stats tracking, like Hoover for vacuum cleaners or SodaStream for anything that spits out Diabetes-inducing sugar water.
Its first foray into fully-blown smartwatches wasn’t entirely successful though, and the Fitbit Blaze almost immediately sunk without a trace. Last year’s Fitbit Ionic was a massive improvement thankfully, offering a full range of features including GPS, NFC payments and offline music playback. It was also just as expensive as an Apple Watch, however, which is a very strong rival indeed.
That’s why the new Fitbit Versa seems like a great prospect. Not only has that design been reworked to make it even slimmer and more attractive, but it’s a hell of a lot cheaper: just 199 quid here in the UK. So is this the fitness-focused smartwatch we’ve been looking for?
Read next: What is the best Fitbit tracker?
Fitbit Versa review: Design
Personally we liked the unique stylings of the Fitbit Ionic, but those sharp angles certainly weren’t for everyone. Good news for the haters, because the Versa sports a more typical rounded finish instead.
That slender body is a pleasing change from the chunky norm. You won’t find any frills or premium touches, but the aluminium frame is pleasingly curvaceous and also impressively light. You really won’t feel the thing when it’s strapped across your wrist. Of course, any Pebble Time owners may get a serious sense of deja-vu from this bad boy.
Fitbit loves to serve up plenty of choice when it comes to the straps, so you can customise your tracker and pimp it out for nights out on the town. So while the Versa comes with small and large rubbery straps as standard, you can grab additional bands for a bit of extra cash. There’s something to suit all tastes, from leather and fabric to chunky metal mothers.
And as the Fitbit Versa can track your swim sessions, it’s not too surprising that the skinny chassis is fully water resistant. No need to wrap your arm in a Tesco bag or anything. In fact, this watch is good for diving to a depth of 50 metres, and doesn’t seem to mind the odd bit of washing up either.
Fitbit Versa review: Display
The Versa’s screen is a bit smaller than you might expect, as the surrounding bezels are rather chunky. Still, the 1.3-inch display is perfectly crisp thanks to the 300×300 pixel resolution. Viewing angles are great and we had no problems seeing in strong daylight on the auto brightness mode. This thing tops off at 1000 nits, to really punch through your retinas. Colours are reasonably punchy too, which shines through on some of the more vibrant clock faces.
As far as smartwatch screens go, this is just as strong as the displays found on more premium 300 quid devices.
Fitbit Versa review: Setup and app
Setup is relatively painless using the Fitbit app, which is available for both Android and iOS. However, you’ll want to make sure that your smartphone is fully supported by Fitbit before diving in. We tried connecting to our shiny new Huawei P20 and P20 Lite and had constant sync issues, until we swapped to a supported iPhone 8 Plus instead.
Once synced with your phone, you can control and customise your Versa using that Fitbit app. Changing clock faces and downloading new apps is a piece of pie, and although that online store is a bit barren right now, we reckon it’ll be well stocked in a few more months. After all, Fitbit only started offering app downloads at the tail end of 2017.
That Fitbit app is also a good way of checking out your past stats, taking on challenges and bragging about how seriously bloody fit you are.
Check out the setup process and app in action in our full Fitbit Versa unboxing and hands-on tour below.
Fitbit Versa review: Features
Although you can expand the functionality of the Versa using that store, there’s plenty of great stuff already packed on to begin with.
As usual you get full notifications support, which you can setup through the app. This seems to work just fine for checking out your messages, although there’s no option to quick reply. You can also quickly check your stats or record your next workout, using the Exercise tool. And as ever, the Fitbit Coach is on hand with a selection of training sessions to get you into shape.
The only difference compared with the fully-fledged Ionic is the lack of built-in GPS tracking. If you want to map out your route when roaming around, you’ll need to tether the Versa to your smartphone first and keep that blower on you at all times.
Still, it’s impressive to see the likes of NFC payments make it onto this more affordable watch. Fitbit Pay is quick and secure and supported by any standard contactless receiver, just like your bank card or smartphone. However, the number of supported banks is still absolutely tiny here in the UK – right now, only Danske Bank and Starling Bank are signed up. Here’s hoping that changes significantly in 2018.
One of the best features however is that offline music playback. Hooking up to Bluetooth headphones is a cinch and we had no issues with connection stability, even when flapping about during one of our enforced jogging sessions. You can control track playback and volume direct from your watch too.
There’s now support for the Deezer streaming service, complete with a three month trial subscription so you can check it out. There’s just as much choice as Spotify on there and the Flow feature is a great way to check out fresh tracks. Actually moving your tracks over can be a real patience test at times and the process occasionally falls on its arse partway through, although the force sync option seems to work more often than not. And once it gets going, the sync process thankfully doesn’t take a ridiculously long time.
If you don’t use Deezer, you’ll have to shift over your digital albums instead, using Fitbit’s desktop app. Here’s hoping Fitbit can secure partnerships with Spotify and other streaming services soon.
Fitbit Versa review: Performance and battery life
One of our few bugbears with the Fitbit Versa is its general performance. We wouldn’t exactly describe the experience as buttery smooth. Quite often as you’re skipping through menus and the like, you’ll witness little stutters and stammers. Nothing that makes you want to pound your arm against a brick wall, but it’s a shame that the Versa isn’t a bit nippier.
As for battery life, the Versa lasted anywhere between four and five days on a full charge, depending on how much use it gets. If you’re streaming songs and indulging in non-stop fitness tracking then you can of course expect the battery to drain faster.
Fitbit Versa review: Verdict
While the Versa is slightly lacking in performance and some bits can be a little clunky, there’s no denying that the Versa is a seriously slim and feature-packed smartwatch. The only thing we miss is built-in GPS support, but the affordable £199 asking price more than makes up for that.