The Fitbit Charge HR: More Than Just a Fitness Tracker

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Editor's Review

8.83
9 Form
8.5 Function
9 Value

If you’ve been in the market for an activity monitor, no doubt you’ve been well aware of Fitbit. The Fitbit Flex has been a best-seller in the fitness monitor market, with over six thousand positive reviews. But while the Flex does its job very well, it does take up real estate on your wrist, and for many, you want something that can do a bit more. Enter the Fitbit Charge HR.

Unlike the Flex, the Charge HR comes with an actual screen, which allows it to convey a variety of information to you quickly and efficiently. An upgrade over the previous model (the Fitbit Charge), this version comes with an improved heart rate monitor (hence the HR designation) that continuously measures your pulse.

Form

The Fitbit Charge HR is certainly a sleek device, featuring a minimalist design in a goes-with-everything matte black or your choice of three other colors (Blue, Plum, Tangerine). The Charge HR comes in three sizes: small, large, and extra large (only available directly from Fitbit) to accommodate a wide range of wrist sizes.

Compared to the ubiquitous Fitbit Flex, the Charge HR is a bulkier device, but not by much. It has a 0.83″ width, making it a little over two-tenths of an inch wider than the Flex (0.6″). Unlike the Flex (and the non-HR Charge), this device features a sportswatch-style locking clasp to ensure that it stays on your wrist, losing a little bit in the comfort department but gaining a lot of peace of mind.

Of course the big difference between the Charge lineup and the entry-level Flex is the functional screen that allows the Charge HR to dip its toe into smartwatch territory. The screen itself sits flush with the band and is bright and clear when you need it and unobtrusive when you don’t. We’ll talk more about the functionality of it below.

Fitbit Review
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Function

Like the Charge that preceded it, the Fitbit Charge HR features a functional OLED screen that can show you your heart rate, track your activity, display the time, and even sync with your phone to show caller ID. The benefit is that you don’t have to pull out your phone every time you want an update on your activity level, and the caller ID functionality is a neat feature for when you can’t conveniently check your phone (in a meeting, for example).

Where the HR differs from the previous model is in its continuous heart rate monitoring, a feature that previously had required a chest strap. With the new PurePulse™ continuous monitoring, Fitbit has made their activity tracking even more accurate, and the data all syncs wirelessly with the Fitbit app. Heart rate can be monitored day and night, as the Charge HR has a 5-day battery life. The device can store up to 7 days of minute-by-minute motion data onboard, and up to 30 days worth of daily totals. It’s unlikely you’ll need that, though, since it syncs effortlessly at a range of up to 20 feet via Bluetooth 4.0.

The Fitbit app itself is a nice piece of software, and together with the desktop companion, it allows you to monitor your progress, track food and sleep, set goals, and connect with friends. Your data is presented in a bright, straightforward interface that makes it see to see trends over time. One area of weakness remains the food logging, where the database is relatively limited.

Unfortunately for iPhone users, Fitbit isn’t interested in integrating with Apple’s Healthkit. The rationale is simple: Fitbit wants you to use their own premium subscription service (aptly named Fitbit Premium), but it also means an interruption in what could have otherwise been seamless integration with other apps you might use.

Check Out the Whole Fitbit Lineup!

Fitbit SurgeFitbit ChargeHR
Fitbit FlexOneZip

Value

The Charge HR currently has an MSRP of $149.95, representing a $20 bump from the original Fitbit Charge. For the additional functionality it offers with its continuous heart rate monitoring, that seems like a fairly good value proposition, assuming all of the other features were worth $130 to you, anyway.

This fitness tracker also comes with a 1 year warranty, and it’s worth noting that Fitbit has excellent customer service. I know someone who actually lost her Fitbit (due to the strap design on the Flex and Charge, the device could fall off your wrist without you knowing—something that’s been resolved with the Charge HR) and the company sent her a new one.

The Fitbit Charge HR’s feature set (particularly the continuous tracking) might put it in competition with other fitness trackers like the Jawbone UP3, but the UP3 is $30 more expensive (MSRP: $179.99) and lacks the screen that Fitbit’s activity monitor has. In terms of the device itself, it certainly seems like Fitbit’s offering a good bang for your buck.

Final Word

There’s no doubt that the Fibit Charge HR is a must-have fitness wearable. It’s sleek and modern, with all the functionality you could ask for. Continuous tracking? Check. A functional screen? Check. Sleep tracking? Check. An app to visualize all your data? Double check.

As soon as the HR was announced, people were advising buyers to just wait instead of buying the Fitbit Charge. Now that it’s out, the wait is over and you should slap one on your wrist ASAP. While it’s short of perfect—things like food tracking still need refining—it’s a great device at a very competitive price point. Unless you’re enamored with the Fitbit Surge instead, there’s really no reason to hold off any longer. The activity tracker you’ve been waiting for is here.

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Specs

SensorsDisplayWater ResistanceMaterialsBatteryMemorySync
  • Optical heart rate monitor
  • 3-axis accelerometer
  • Altimeter
  • OLED screen
  • Sweatproof
  • Rainproof
  • Splashproof
  • Band: Flexible, durable elastomer
  • Buckle: Surgical-grade stainless steel
  • Battery life: Up to 5 days
  • Battery type: Lithium-polymer
  • Charge time: 1-2 hours
  • Stores 7 days of continuous motion data
  • Stores 30 days of daily total data
  • Stores HR at 1-second intervals during workout, 5-second intervals otherwise
  • Automatic, wireless sync to computer, tablet, or smartphone
  • Bluetooth 4.0 (wireless), USB (wired)
  • Range: 20 ft

  • Amanda O’Brien

    Neel, didn’t the previous Fitbit model (Fitbit Force) have issues with skin reactions? (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/13/fitbit-force-rashes_n_4590859.html ) Does the Charge HR have the same problem, or is it resolved because of the different clasp mechanism?

    • Yes Amanda, Fitbit is in fact aware of the reaction issue, which led to a recall: (https://www.fitbit.com/forcesupport ). While Fitbit says they’ve learned from their experience with the Force, it’s worth pointing out that at least one Charge reviewer still complained of skin problems (https://www.yahoo.com/tech/reviewed-the-fitbit-charge-is-effective-but-104934385489.html ). That said, Fitbit itself says that the irritation issues with the Charge are different in nature than with the Force (http://www.engadget.com/2014/12/15/fitbit-charge-skin-irritation-complaints/ ) and are likely just due to soap, sweat, or friction–things that would be common to any type of wearable or jewelry worn on the wrist. As for the HR, it’s tough to say. Yes the clasp is different, but if Fitbit says the problem isn’t their materials, then there’s little reason to believe that in and of itself would fix the problem. It’ll be interesting to see as reports come in. If the problem *is* something about the steel that Fitbit uses, the Charge HR will likely be no better than it’s non-HR cousin.

  • Carol Alvarado

    Hi, do you know if there is a way to have continuous display of the heart rate while exercising?

    • Hi Carol, your best bet would be to use “Exercise Mode”. To enter exercise mode, push the button on the left side of the device, and hold it down until you see the stopwatch icon (the tracker should also vibrate). Now you can press the button again to cycle through various stats for your activity, including elapsed time, current heart rate, calories burned, steps taken, distance covered, floors climbed, and the time. To exit exercise mode, just hold down the button again. When you sync your tracker, you’ll see the exercise as a separate activity.

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