Fitbit Charge HR Review

Fitbit Charge HR Review

After being thoroughly disappointed with the Microsoft Band 2, I feared the Fitbit Charge HR may also be a disappointment. I thought I had set my standards too high.

But I was not disappointed.

Just putting the on Charge HR was easier, and it is much more comfortable to wear than the Microsoft Band.

I am also pleased to see that the Fitbit Charge HR is much more accurate in tracking my steps, and it has a few more perks that make it a great little device to help you take control of your health and keep you motivated.

What I Love About the Fitbit Charge HR

I love a number of things about this little device:

  1. It counts steps accurately, no useless bells and whistles
  2. It tracks heart rate continuously throughout the day
  3. It’s extremely comfortable to wear
  4. It automatically detects when you’re sleeping
  5. It tells you when and if you are in the fat burning heart rate zone and how long you stayed there both during workouts and throughout the day
  6. It’s affordable

Ok, let’s take an in depth look at the Charge HR.

It Counts Steps Accurately, No Fancy Sensors

The Charge HR actually counts steps! Just like my Fitbit Force, the Charge HR misses a few steps throughout my workday, primarily when I’m examining a patient and only taking one or two steps around the patient chair. But when working out and walking through the office, the Charge HR didn’t miss a step (I counted!).

Another perk of the Charge HR? No fancy sensors that inflate the price. It has the basics:

  • Optical heart rate monitor
  • 3-axis accelerometer
  • Altimeter
  • Vibration motor

While the Microsoft Band 2 boasted 11 sensors (supposedly, it really only has eight, read my review here for more info), the sensors on the Charge HR are more accurate. Especially step counting and heart rate. Speaking of heart rate…

It Tracks Heart Rate Continuously Throughout the Day

Unlike the Microsoft Band 2 which tracks heart rate every 10 minutes, unless you’re exercising, the Fitbit Charge HR records your heart rate at five second intervals. If you’re working out, it tracks your heart rate every second.

Fitbit Heart Rate Shot

On the Fitbit website, it warns that certain exercises such as kickboxing can affect the heart rate monitoring, and it does. All of my workouts are kickboxing with some weight work, and I have found that the heart rate sensor has difficulty keeping up when I work out. But it may not be the type of exercise. Here’s what I mean.

In the middle of a workout, if I check the heart rate monitor (which is easy to do mid workout with just a double tap of the device), my heart rate might actually be up to 150, but the heart rate monitor says 138, and then 143 and then 148 and then 151. It does reach an accurate heart rate, but it seems as if there is a delay.

And there actually is. On the Fitbit website it states the device

stores heart rate data at 1 second intervals during exercise tracking and at 5 second intervals all other times

So it’s not 100% continuous, although one second intervals should theoretically be seamless. But it’s enough to affect what seems like a delay. I’ve never used any other heart rate monitor except the Microsoft Band, so I don’t honestly know if all heart rate monitors do this. But I do know the Charge HR is much more accurate than the Microsoft Band 2.

(If you have any experience with other heart rate monitors, please tell us about your experience in the comments below!)

It’s Extremely Comfortable to Wear

Unlike the Microsoft Band 2, the Charge HR feels like you’re wearing a watch. The Fitbit website states you should wear the band slightly tighter than a watch and at about one finger width above the wrist bone, which I thought would feel weird. But actually, it’s quite comfortable.

Even when I wear it up higher while exercising (as the website instructions suggest) the band is still comfortable.

The only complaint I have about the band is the little belt designed to hold the end of the band down (like what you would find on a watch) is actually a pain. It’s awesome because once you get it on there, it doesn’t move. But that also makes it a pain in the ass to take off. I only take my band off to shower and charge it, so this doesn’t happen anymore than twice a day (and usually only once a day because I charge and shower at the same time), but I think about it every time I removed the band, so it is a slight irritation.

I have found that the easiest way to remove it, is to squeeze the little belt slightly so the hook on it releases from the band itself, and then slide it off the end of the band. If that makes any sense.

Automatically Detects When You Are Sleeping or Exercising

Next to the heart rate monitor, this has to be my favorite feature. With my Fitbit Force, I constantly forgot to start the sleep function when I went to bed and turn it off again when I woke up. So I was forced to try to remember exactly when I went to bed and woke up, and my memory is horrible when it comes to things like that.

With the Charge HR, I don’t have to worry about it.

Although not 100% accurate, the Charge HR gets pretty close to when I go to bed. It even recognizes when I’m playing with my phone before I actually try to go to sleep (which you really shouldn’t do!).

Four times, while I was sleeping, the Fitbit Charge HR stopped tracking my heart rate altogether for about 30 to 55 minutes. I suspect this is because I was in such a deep sleep that the device thought I had taken it off. (When you take the device off, it turns off the optical sensors used to track the heart rate to conserve battery power.) I’m not the only one who has had this issue, there are several people in the Fitbit Help Community that have also had the problem. It doesn’t happen consistently, I’ve only noticed it four times, but in the interest of being thorough, I thought it should be mentioned.

The Fitbit Charge HR will also auto-detect a variety of exercises including walking, running, biking, elliptical, sports and aerobic exercises like Zumba and kickboxing. I admit, I haven’t tried this feature because I’m so used to starting exercise mode with the button when I work out. So I can’t comment on how it works. But I will try it, and update this review when I do.

Shows Detailed Workout Info Including Fat Burn Zones

This is one of my favorite features. For each workout, the Fitbit app will tell the percentage of your workout that was in the fat burn heart rate zone and what percentage was cardio.

Fat Burn Screen Shot from Windows Phone App

You can also see how many minutes you spent in each zone. (Of course, you can also see how many calories you burned throughout the workout and the impact the workout had on your steps and active minutes. But that feature has been in the app for a while.)

Fat Burn in Minutes

You can also see how long your heart rate was in the fat burn zone for the entire day along with how many calories your burned in that zone.

Daily Fat Burn

Some of the information you can get from the device depends on the app that you have. For example, in the Windows Phone app, you can’t enlarge the heart rate graph and see what your heart rate was a various times. But you can do this on the Android app (I can do it on my Kindle). However, you can get all of the information on the dashboard of the Fitbit website.

The app has a variety of other cool features, but this is a review of the Charge HR device, not the app. Although a post on apps to keep you motivated is coming soon!

It’s Affordable

For its price ($149.95), the Charge HR gives you a lot of bang for your buck. If you have an iPhone or Android, you can use the caller ID on top of all the other cool features. Sorry Windows Phone users, you’ll need the Microsoft Band 2 if you want any smart watch functionality.

If you don’t need GPS, but want a fitness tracker that will count steps, track heart rate and sleep etc, the Fitbit Charge HR is a device that is thorough, well-made, comfortable and affordable. Unlike the Microsoft Band 2, the Charge HR doesn’t require a difficult set up. The app walks you through the entire process, which only takes a few minutes.

So, if you need an affordable, comfortable, and accurate device to help keep you motivated, the Fitbit Charge HR is an excellent choice. I highly recommend it!!

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