Monday, February 9, 2015

Fitbit Charge HR Review

I was interested in a fitness band and because I had the Fitbit Aria scale, I was split between one of the higher end Fitbit fitness bands (Fitbit Charge, Fitbit Charge HR, or Fitbit Surge) for easy integration with my Fitbit account. The only product that was available in Canada was the Fitbit Charge. I wanted something to monitor my heart rate so I was mainly interested in either the Fitbit Charge HR or the Fitbit Surge.

During my recent trip to the US, I saw a Fitbit Charge HR so I decided to buy it rather than wait for it to become available in Canada. I've been using it for ~2 weeks since coming back from the US and I thought that I would write a review on the product.

Some of the features of the Fitbit Charge HR include the ability to monitor your heart rate, monitor your sleep, track your distance, monitor your calories, caller ID, and silent alarm. I use the product mainly for the heart rate feature, the pedometer feature (as well as the number of floors climbed), and the sleep monitor.

You can download a PDF manual for the Charge HR either from Fitbit's website or you can also download it directly from my blog *HERE* (which saves you from having to look for it).

Installation of the Fitbit Charge HR was pretty straightforward. It involved inserting a USB dongle which came with the product into a USB port on my computer and downloading/installing the application program. In my case, after installing the Windows program, it detected my Fitbit Charge HR which was nearby and updated the firmware on the fitness band. After setting up the software on my computer, I rarely ever perform a synchronization using the USB dongle and my computer. I will perform the synchronizations using the Fitbit application on my Android smartphone.

Everything for the Fitbit Charge HR is configured on the Fitbit website. I configured the unit of measurement for metric and the time was set based on the 24 hour display that I prefer. 

The Fitbit Charge HR is what I would classify as being water resistant but not really water proof. The manual suggests not using it when swimming nor using it when taking a shower but also mentions that it is capable of getting wet either from rain or from the sweatiest workout.

It isn't necessary to tightly place the Fitbit Charge HR on your wrist. I have it in place on my wrist not really loose but not tight enough to cause any marks on my wrist. In terms of the accuracy of the heart rate readings, I find it to be relatively accurate bearing in mind that it is not really a medical instrument. When I work out, I have noticed that sometimes it will take a longer time to calculate/display my heart rate. I have the heart rate monitoring set for automatic continuous monitoring. The Fitbit Charge HR monitors heart rate by using shining a light on the skin and detecting the change in light patterns.

I believe that the pedometer (number of steps) feature is very accurate. It is more accurate than my U8 Pro Smartwatch. Of course, you can increase the number of steps taken by shaking/moving the fitness band in a certain way but I find the Fitbit Charge HR to work well even when I have my hands in my winter coat pocket while I'm walking. I tested this by counting 25 steps and then checked the Fitbit Charge HR and it correctly displayed 25 steps whereas my U8 Pro Smartwatch displayed 27 steps.

What I find really amazing is the sleep monitoring capabilities of the Fitbit Charge HR. My U8 Pro Smartwatch also "monitored" sleep patterns but with this smartwatch, sometimes it will say that I'm asleep when I'm sitting in front of my computer at work, typing for a few hours. With the Fitbit Charge HR, there are 2 settings for the sleep monitoring (normal & sensitive). I set mine on "sensitive" and I'm amazed that it actually knows when I'm in bed and it also knows when I wake up in the morning. Sometimes in the morning, I will remove my Fitbit Charge HR and charge it and even though the Fitbit Charge HR is not moving, it will know that I'm not asleep which I find amazing. In certain cases, you might want to modify your actual sleep period and you can do so via your Fitbit account on their website.

The battery life of the product mentions that you can 5+ days of usage before recharging. During my tests and my usage pattern, I have only gotten 4-5 days before needing to recharge it. Recharging is done via a proprietary USB cable which is plugged into the back of the fitness/activity band. Depending on the current battery level, recharging can take up to 2 hours. I tested this when I received a battery low warning on my Fitbit account on the Fitbit website, my Fitbit application on my smartphone, as well as a warning on the Fitbit Charge HR itself and it does fully recharge in 2 hours.

The Fitbit Charge HR mentions that it will display the phone number or the callerID information on the display (and vibrate) when someone calls your smartphone. I've tested this feature and it does work but because it requires the Fitbit application on the smartphone to relay the callerID information, it doesn't instantaneously notify you of the call. Your smartphone might ring 1-3 times before the Fitbit Charge HR notifies you that you are receiving a call. This delay can in some cases make you miss your call. I believe that the reason for this "limitation" is that it is not constantly connected via bluetooth to the smartphone but connects via bluetooth when necessary (either when the Fitbit Charge HR is syncing information to the smartphone or when the smartphone is relaying the callerID information from the smartphone to the Fitbit Charge HR). This is unlike my U8 Pro smartwatch which displays the callerID information almost instantaneously but it requires a constant bluetooth connection to my smartphone. The Fitbit Charge HR will only display the callerID information and does not work as a bluetooth/wireless speakerphone (unlike my U8 Pro smartwatch which displays the callerID information and works as a bluetooth wireless speakerphone).

One other feature that I use is the silent alarm feature which I wanted to mention. The fitness/activity band can be set to vibrate at a certain time in order to wake you up without disturbing anyone else. I find the vibration to be strong enough to wake me up from a restful sleep.

The one negative that I can say about the Fitbit Charge HR is that it uses a proprietary USB charging cable. I personally would have preferred it if the product used a standard USB cable where the end that plugs into the Fitbit Charge HR is a standard microUSB cable. One other thing that I personally don't like is that it is a bit difficult to remove the Fitbit Charge HR from one's wrist because the loop where the excess band goes underneath/through has a "piece" that "locks" into one of the holes used when strapping the fitness/activity band to your wrist. In order to remove the excess band from the loop, one must life the loop slightly to ensure that the "piece" isn't in the wristband's holes and then you will be able to easily slide the excess band through the loop and remove the band (similar to what you would do with a watch). I would have preferred that this loop be similar to the ones found on watches without the extra "piece" that "locks" (or goes) into one of the holes on the wristband.

After using the product for approximately 2 weeks, I don't have any issues recommending the Fitbit Charge HR. I find that it works very well and is very comfortable and provides a lot of useful information.

If you have any comments/questions regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment containing a URL link (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as spam and will not be posted.

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