Fitbit has been in the fitness market for a few years, being one of the most important brands in the sector of activity quantification. Founded in 2007, the Silicon Valley company launched its first product in 2011, the Fitbit Ultra.
There have been more devices, but with the Charge versions they have reached maturity, offering a very complete product not only at a hardware level, but mainly as a mobile and web platform, with applications for the main operating systems and for desktop computers through the browser.
Although this test is specific to the Fitbit Charge HR wristband (the version with an optical pulse sensor), it is the same as the Fitbit Charge, except for the heart rate recording part.
You know I like to specify the origin of the test units. On this occasion I have to thank Fitbit for lending a unit to perform the analysis, which will be returned as soon as I hit the "publish" button. Truth be told, it may take a little longer and go away when it's the Fitbit Surge test that gets published, which you'll have in the next few weeks.
If you like the work I do, and thanks to this test you are encouraged to buy your Fitbit Charge, do it through the links I provideThat way you will contribute to the site without costing you any money. What's more, the offers I put up usually allow you to save good money, which is a benefit for both parties!
With all that is clear, let's go with the analysis and all the details of Fitbit Charge and Fitbit Charge HR.
This time it looks like the box of this Fitbit Charge HR that I received was run over by a herd of elephants. The truth is that, aesthetically, it arrived quite deteriorated. Luckily, both the bracelet and its contents were intact, so I not only tested the device, but also the quality of the packaging. 2×1!
On the back of the box, as usual, you will find all the details and characteristics of the bracelet. The first thing that is indicated is the possibility of controlling the heart rate. Logical on the other hand, this is the HR model and not the normal one.
But let's throw the box away and stick to the interesting stuff: what you see below. The content is quite brief, but you don't need anything else. The bracelet, the Bluetooth Smart dongle (which is only compatible for synchronizing the bracelet, you can't use it for connection to keyboards, phones or other devices) and the charging cable. Despite having a USB connection, synchronization is exclusively wireless, and it's used to recharge your Fitbit Charge.
Let's go with the wristband. The material that covers it is elastomer (rubber), and it feels good to the touch. Far from it are the complaints of some users regarding Fitbit's latest products (the range before Charge), in which some complained of skin irritation after wearing the wristband for several days. I can say that in the trial time I barely took it off, and I didn't notice the slightest problem.
The small display uses OLED technology, with higher brightness and contrast than an LCD screen, while offering lower power consumption.
The design is slightly different between Fitbit Charge and Fitbit Charge HR. If in the basic version the bracelet has linear shapes as decoration, in the version with a pulse sensor it will be small squares that give joy to its aesthetics. But the main change is in the fastening system, which in the Charge version is two clips and in Charge HR is a steel buckle, similar to the fastening system of the watches. This is because the optical pulse sensor requires a greater fastening on the wrist.
This sensor is located on the back of the bracelet. The concept is similar to that of Mio LinkIn this case, the LEDs have less power and instead of remaining on permanently, they flash. You can also see the charging port, which has no protection at all.
The bracelet is, in theory, waterproof. But on the Fitbit website recommend that you take it off when you shower or swim. There is no problem with sweat, rain or any other splash. I have personally used it without any problem in the shower, so it is most likely a recommendation, and a way to save possible future problems.
Here you can see the sensor, along with the two LEDs that will flash green. The sensor is separated from the body of the bracelet by a few millimeters, so it can always be in contact with the wrist and thus make the pulse reading correctly.
And that's how you charge the Fitbit Charge HR, by connecting the cable to the back and the USB connector to your computer or mobile phone charger.
Finally, the Bluetooth dongle, which will only serve for synchronization with the bracelet, but nothing else.
Once we have released the Fitbit Charge HR from its packaging, let's play with it.
The initial setup process is very simple, you can do it from your computer with the included USB adapter (a Bluetooth adapter that you can only use to sync with Fitbit), or the most common way, which will be connecting your Fitbit Charge with your mobile phone (compatible with Android, iOS and Windows phones that have Bluetooth Smart connectivity).
In all cases the procedure is the same. First you will be asked to enter your profile data.
In the mobile application the data it asks for is the same, but it's a little more colourful when entering it, at least in the iOS application.
On Android there is only one configuration screen, with a less showy appearance.
When Fitbit already knows everything about you, we simply need to pair the device with your account. To do this, the application will make a connection with your device and ask you to enter the verification code shown on the screen of your Fitbit Charge.
If you are setting up from your mobile phone, the procedure is the same. The application will ask you to turn on your Bluetooth if it is off, and it will search for the Fitbit Charge HR to pair it with your phone in the same way, entering a code that will be shown on the screen.
In the next step you will receive some basic usage tips, such as placement, how to clean it, etc.
The position for wearing the Fitbit Charge HR is more specific than the version without an optical pulse sensor. You must place the bracelet with one finger between the point where you will wear it and the wrist bone, so that no light enters under the sensor, allowing a correct reading of the pulse.
You must wear it firmly, but you don't have to strangle your wrist. You're putting on a bracelet, not a boa constrictor. And now that everything is set up and we have the bracelet on our wrist, it's time to start wearing it.
Both Fitbit Charge and Charge HR do essentially the same thing. Both are an activity monitor that will help you quantify your daily activity. There are two main metrics, estimating the total number of daily steps on one hand and the number of floors climbed per staircase on the other.
This data will be taken thanks to the accelerometer and the barometric altimeter that the unit incorporates. And using algorithms we will have an estimate of steps and floors climbed, and thanks to them a calculation of the distance walked throughout the day and calories consumed. In the Charge HR version with optical pulse sensor, your pulses will be one more variable in the calculation of calorie consumption (very important variable on the other hand).
All these data will be shown on the screen of your Fitbit Charge or Charge HR, and through the button you can alternate between them (Fitbit Charge shows the same data, except for the heart rate). By default they are in this order: clock, steps, heart rate, distance, calories and plants.
But Fitbit allows you to configure your Charge to your liking. You can change the order in which the different data screens appear, both from the web and from the phone.
And also the format of the watch, being able to select between four different options or to deactivate the time. If you are accompanying the bracelet along with a traditional watch, you save a touch of button to reach the data that interests you.
Fitbit also offers an additional setting, called "touch gesture". This is a quick access to the information of your choice. Two taps on the wristband (on the body of the wristband, not on the button) will allow you to go directly to the information you want to see, such as heart rate.
All the data that you record throughout the day will be regularly synchronized with your phone, leaving the application updated with your activity data, as well as the web application panel. I remember that there is an application available for the main platforms: Android, iOS and Windows Phone. The only thing you have to take into account is that your phone must have Bluetooth Smart 4.0 to be able to synchronize both devices. This is necessary because it is a type of low power consumption connection, so you will not notice it on your phone's battery.
The mobile application will also show you the current pulse, in addition to the average resting pulse for that day.
In short, it is in this application where you will consult all the details and information of your activity, because it is where you will find the most complete and detailed information, in my opinion, even more complete than what you can see in the web panel, which is slower and more complicated to use.
You can access each of the sections to check how your evolution has been in that particular metric. By default you will see the development of the last week, but you can change the view to months or years, for example.
As for the website panel, the information you can see is the same.
As in the mobile application, you can click on any of the "tiles" or icons that appear to expand the information of the day or of a specific period.
The main metrics Fitbit uses are steps. Thanks to them and using various algorithms including height and weight data, it will determine distances traveled, calories consumed or activity time. And thanks to a barometric altimeter, the number of floors climbed, which will motivate you to stop using the elevator and opt for the stairs whenever possible (escalators will not take them into account, cheater).
In the case of the Fitbit Charge HR, having the optical pulse sensor, the calculation of calories will be more precise since it will allow you to know the intensity of the exercise you are doing, especially in activities where you are not walking, such as a spinning or gym session, which in the case of the version without sensor will not be able to register correctly.
The calculation of steps is not an exact science. Each manufacturer uses a specific algorithm to try to determine what movement is produced by walking and what is a simple parasitic movement of your hand, such as a simple gesture. To give you an example of the complication, imagine you are walking through the supermarket pushing a cart. It is very difficult to determine whether you are taking steps or not, because even though you are walking, your arms will not move when you are leaning on the cart.
So the information provided by these activity monitors (whether they are from Fitbit or any other brand, they all face the same problem) should be used as a reference, not as an absolute value. It doesn't mean that if you are marked with 16,500 steps you have walked that distance. What you should do is use it as a reference, since the day it indicates you have walked 15,000 steps, your activity will clearly be higher than the day it indicates you have walked 8,000.
As for its accuracy, during the days I was testing Fitbit Charge HR it was always accompanied by other activity monitors, so that I could compare the data offered by all of them. Besides the Fitbit Charge HR bracelet, I was wearing a Garmin Fenix 3 and a Fitbit Surge. The Garmin Fenix 3 and the Fitbit Charge HR were on the same wrist, so it's the best way to get an equivalent comparison.
As you can see, the data is very variable in terms of exact number, but you should use this data to assess the activity and your daily trend, and it doesn't matter if it shows that you have walked 500 steps more or less, or if it counted steps while you were typing "time wasting games" in Google.
The Fitbit Charge and Charge HR not only quantify your activity during the day, they also record how you sleep at night (and only then, that is, they won't take into account the pajama nap you can take while watching the flat stage of the Tour de France).
The change of mode - from monitoring activity to sleep - is automatic. There is not really a change as such, but all the data is synchronized and it is the server that interprets it and determines when you have started sleeping.
So to record how your dream was, all you have to do is... sleep. And do it with the Fitbit Charge on your wrist. The next day, when you synchronize, you can check on your panel how your dream was during the night. And of course, in the case of the Charge HR, check the heart rate data during the night.
By clicking on the sleep panel you will expand the information, with data from both the current night and the last 7 days. Here, by passing the mouse over each of the lines, you will have the specific data for each of those days, along with the times you have gone to bed and woken up.
The automatic recording has surprised me pleasantly. It has been very accurate in establishing the hours at which I have started to sleep, always very different from the hours at which I have gone to bed. That is, you can be in bed reading, working with a computer or watching a movie, but the algorithm is capable of differentiating that type of activity (by the movements, position of your hand, last movements before sleeping, etc) from what it is, specifically, sleeping.
Moreover, compared to other monitors, the confirmation of bedtime and wake-up time matches. For example, these are the same night's data obtained with Fitbit Charge HR, Fitbit Surge and Garmin Fenix 3.
In addition to the accuracy of setting specific times, Fitbit devices are among the best at recording data overnight, and the possibilities for later analysis (you can compare it to Garmin's capture, which is much leaner in terms of information).
You can check this data both in the web panel and in the application of your phone, although perhaps it is at this point that the www.fitbit.com stands out more compared to the mobile version. In the rest of the analytics, I think I'll stick with the way the "app" displays it.
24 hour heart rate monitoring
This function only applies, logically, to the Fitbit Charge HR (because it has an optical pulse sensor).
Thanks to this heart rate sensor you can check your pulse at any time. In addition, the Fitbit Charge HR will record your pulse data throughout the day, remaining synchronized with the application and, consequently, with the web. The pulse sensor, while the bracelet is on your wrist, never stops taking data.
You can access these graphs at any time of the day (no need to wait for the next day), where you can check all the details, seeing how any daily activity affects your pulse, such as peeling a few pipes while watching a football match.
And entering any of the days listed, you will have the breakdown of how the day has been by hours, as well as the heart zones you have been active in, which you can set yourself. It also tells you your resting heart rate, which is not the lowest rate (usually and as you can see from the graph, it occurs while you are sleeping). This resting rate is the measurement when you are awake, calm and not active, although it also takes into account the rate while you are sleeping. It is the average of all these resting measurements, rather than the absolute lowest.
The most important thing is accuracy. And in the graphs I find that the pulse shown is correct at all times. There are no strange spikes in them and, at the times when there is more intensity, I can easily correlate them with times of the day when I can confirm that instead of sitting watching YouTube videos, I have been moving or just walking. In the graphs you can see that as soon as there is movement, there is a rapid spike in heart rate, which decreases as soon as I sit down again.
In addition to tracking the activity on a daily basis, we can also activate a training mode. Despite not having an integrated GPS receiver, both Fitbit Charge and Fitbit Charge HR allow you to track running or walking activities, giving data on distance traveled and average pace. Of course, without such assistance, these distances are only an estimate.
I find that in the calculation that it makes by default the distances are short, so if you want the distance estimation to be more accurate, Fitbit has prepared a stride size adjustment guideYou will have to enter the new stride size data through the web panel, and once done the data provided will be somewhat more accurate.
If you are a casual runner, the information provided by Fitbit will be more than enough, especially after you have adjusted your stride size a bit, as you will be able to follow more or less correctly your performance and improvement in both distance and pace.
Unlike other activity monitors, where Fitbit Charge HR excels is in other activities. There are many activity monitors and GPS watches that are totally focused on running and leave aside gym activities, however Fitbit Charge HR does the opposite. Thanks to its optical pulse monitor it is possible to analyze the exercise session performed (whether it is weight work, spinning class or a soccer game) and provide data on calories consumed.
Activating the training mode is very simple, especially since we only have one button that we can use. If you hold it down, it will start to record the activity.
While you are in the training mode, you can press the button to go through the different information fields it offers. These are exercise time, current pulse, calories, steps, distance traveled and floors climbed. And of course, also the time to keep the saint in heaven.
When you have finished your workout, you leave the button pressed again and the activity will end.
All these activities are reflected in your control panel, which you can access from the mobile application or from Fitbit's websiteHere you will find all the details of the activity, including distance (the accuracy of which depends on the setting you have made, or if you have left it set by default) and a heart rate graph.
From a casual runner's point of view, this data may be sufficient, but as you can guess, it will not be enough for more serious training.
But if instead of running, your use is more specific to other activities, such as spinning, gym or simply walking, Fitbit Charge can be the perfect tool to help you in your progression or diet, if your goal is to lose weight, since in addition to tracking the calories consumed you can also record the food intake (or synchronize data directly with MyFitnessPal).
So if you're on a diet, or plan to be in the next few days, Fitbit Charge HR will be a big help, because it will help you realize how easy it is to eat 300 calories with any snack you make, and all you have to sweat to burn them off.
Optical heart rate sensor
As I mentioned before, the main difference between Fitbit Charge and Charge HR, apart from slight changes in design, is in the optical pulse sensor. You've already seen how it tracks activities during your day-to-day life, where there is no strange data in the graphs. That is, we can perfectly validate it as a correct graph.
But taking the pulse when the intensity of the activity is low has nothing to do with taking the pulse during the activity. In the days I've been training with Fitbit Charge HR, I've always worn at least another device next to the wristband (sometimes two), not only to validate estimated distance data, but most importantly, to be able to sit quietly in front of the data obtained and be able to make the corresponding comparison.
This is the graph of a medium-intensity workout of just over 30 minutes, obtained with the Fitbit Charge HR. This is the most common use that an amateur runner can make without looking for an improvement in pace or distance, that is, to stay in shape.
The graph appears as shown, it is not possible to enlarge it or make it bigger, but it will be enough for the comparison I want to make.
On the other hand, this is the graph of the same activity taken with a Garmin Fenix 3.
At first glance, they have nothing to do with each other, but you have to bear in mind that the scale of the graph changes the impression it gives. While Fitbit's graph is eminently flat at around 147 keystrokes on average, Garmin's has many more peaks, as well as setting the average keystrokes at 150 for the activity.
Unfortunately, even though Fitbit allows to extract the file of the activity in TCX, I haven't been able to get any utility to recognize it in order to make a comparative in conditions, so what I have had to do is to rescale the Fitbit graph manually, adjusting the width and height sizes and matching the matching points of pulses (150, 125, 100 and 75) of both graphs.
Garmin's graphic is in the original red color, while Fitbit's graphic is in the blue color. You can click on the image to see it enlarged and appreciate the details better.
There is a small difference in the onset of activity, where the rise in pulse rate has had a slight delay in the case of Fitbit. This same delay can be seen at some other point in the graph. Where there are abrupt drops in heart rate, Fitbit takes a little longer to register it. It is in these rapid changes that some difference can be found in both graphs.
But in spite of this slight delay, and always remembering the usual use that Fitbit Charge HR will have, I think it's a very positive result. While I was running, when consulting instant heart rate data on Charge HR and Fenix 3, the figure shown was always consistent. The biggest difference I could find is that if the Garmin marked, for example, 150 beats, the Fitbit bracelet could mark 148 or 152, but always in a very close range of pulse.
The Fitbit Charge HR not only marks the pulse, but if you look at the image, to the right of the figure you have an indication of which heart zone you are working on. If you leave these zones in their default settings, there will be three grids to indicate the zone. If you want to specify these zones manually, you will only see two zones.
The Fitbit Charge and Charge HR wristbands have notifications on their screen, and as is normal and given the limited size of the screen, will only notify you of incoming calls.
But it's the only notification you'll receive. It won't alert you if you get a message, an email or any other notification, not only will it not show the message on the screen (which wouldn't fit anyway) but there is no warning, which could be appreciated, even if it's just a vibration. To tell you the truth, I think the vast majority of us are getting fewer and fewer calls, and a lot of emails and messages. It would be quite practical to have a new message warning, even if it's just an icon with an envelope.
If you don't want your wrist to vibrate every time you receive a call, you can also turn the function off from the phone's own application.
This completely separates the notifications from the data synchronization, i.e. you can be continuously synchronizing data and choose whether you want to receive call notifications.
Both Fitbit Charge and Fitbit Charge HR are small devices that, despite their small screen size and light weight, are very complete when analyzing your activity. Both models offer you the same level of quantification, but when calculating calories, the Fitbit Charge HR data will be more precious, as the heart rate data is available.
They are not perfect, nor are they the cheapest. They can improve some aspects, such as vibration message notification (even if it does not show them on screen, it only warns of reception) or have greater accuracy in pulse data without any delays in the graph. But both Charge and especially Charge HR are among the best activity monitors, and are supported by Fitbit's global platform, with everything it offers: applications for Android, iOS and Windows Phone, synchronization with other major companies in the industry such as MyFitnessPal, a very complete website and, above all, very high expectations for the future.
Who will appreciate what Fitbit Charge has to offer?
Anyone who wants help to maintain a good physical shape and who also likes to keep track of their data, as well as anyone who wants to maintain or reduce their weight, by being able to compare the calories consumed with the calories ingested.
Which one is right for you?
If you only want to analyze your daily activity and the walks you take, and you don't care much about pulse data, with Fitbit Charge you'll be satisfied. On the other hand, if you frequent the gym regularly or are an occasional runner and want to monitor your activity during exercise through your heart rate, it's worth the effort to opt for the Charge HR version with optical pulse sensor.
Who is it not suitable for?
If you're a frequent runner and want to keep an accurate record of distance and heart rate, then you'll need to look at a more specific device. Not only because it has GPS for distance and pace measurement, but also because, despite the fact that the Fitbit sensor provides very accurate data, there is a slight delay in recording it. This, which in weight training or spinning may not be relevant, can become a major inconvenience if you're doing a workout with variable intensity series. This is where Fitbit Charge HR will find its limitations.
Did you like the test?
I hope this test has cleared up all your doubts with the Fitbit Charge and Fitbit Charge HR wristbands. If you want to know the truth, it takes many hours to perform each analysis. Taking data, photos, videos, writing the test itself... It's a long and demanding process, because I only like to offer you the best.
If you liked it and want to help, you can leave your impressions in the comments below. It will help me to know your opinion, or to ask me questions if something is not clear. Share the post on social networks, I'm sure your friends will also like it.
If you want to buy the device, you can do it in the links below, this way you save by getting good offers, and I get back a small commission that supports this website and its tests.
Buy Fitbit Charge or Charge HR
Fitbit Charge offers two options: the normal version called simply Charge, which only has the activity monitor, or the version with the continuous pulse sensor, which is called Charge HR. In both models you can choose between different sizes and colors, although the most common is the size L and a discreet black color. Here are some links where you can buy it