As part of Fitbit’s new lineup of fitness trackers, they announced the Surge smartwatch back in October. The ambitions were clear—the company wanted to offer a do-it-all wearable that not only took advantage of Fitbit’s experience and success in the activity tracking industry, but also brought with it the functionality of a Bluetooth-enabled watch, ensuring their place among other smartwatches like the (upcoming) Apple Watch and the Pebble.
So does the Fitbit Surge hit the mark on the company’s lofty ambitions or does it fall short of expectations? Let’s find out.
The Surge is easily the largest of Fitbit’s devices, coming in at a width of 1.34″. That’s hardly a surprise, however, given that it has to accommodate a 0.82″ x 0.96″ screen (1.3″ diagonal) along with all of the device’s other internals. By comparison, the Fitbit Flex has a width of 0.6″ and the Charge HR has a width of 0.83″.
Aesthetically, the Surge reflects Fitbit’s overall minimalist looks. An elastomer band is held by a stainless steel clasp, and the face of this smartwatch is plain aside from the three buttons on the sides. Unlike the Apple Watch or the Moto 360, there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about how the Surge looks, and it might even be mistaken for a cheap sportwatch to anyone not looking closely.
Fitbit refers to the Surge as a “fitness super watch,” a lofty yet defensible claim given that it combines Fitbit’s excellent activity tracking with smartwatch functionality. Tracker-wise, the Surge fares pretty well. It has a continuous heart rate monitor (just like in the Charge HR) that stores second-by-second data when you’re exercising (and logs it at 5-second intervals when you’re not). Due to the optical nature of the sensor, it does have to be worn snug around the wrist, especially during exercise, and it will be a balancing act for some users finding a level of tightness that ensures an accurate reading while not being uncomfortable.
The Surge can also track your location with a built-in GPS, tell when you’re climbing stairs with its altimeter, and use a bevy of other features, including a 3-axis gyroscope and accelerometer, a digital compass, a subtle vibration motor (to wake you up in the morning), and even an ambient light sensor (to turn on backlighting for improved visibility).
All of the watch’s data can sync with your phone, tablet, or computer via Bluetooth 4.0 (range: 20 ft) and USB. And if you can’t sync every night, no problem—it can store up to 7 days of detailed motion data and 30 days of daily totals. It keeps track of your nightly sleep data as well.
As a smartwatch, the Surge superwatch is somewhat bare bones. It does have a touchscreen, but the display is a monochrome LCD (by comparison the Moto 360 has a full color display). Basic watch functions, like a stopwatch and alarm, are noticeably absent, let alone smartwatch features like displaying the weather, for example. The Surge is able to display call and text notifications and control your music wirelessly, however.
With an MSRP of $249.95, the Fitbit Surge superwatch certainly costs a fair chunk of change and represents a $100 premium over the Fitbit Charge HR. While it’s got strong health tracking features and a robust Fitbit app to make all that data useful, the other smartwatches at this price point offer many of the same features. For example, both the Samsung Gear 2 and the Moto 360 can do heart rate monitoring, and they function relatively better as watches. Both come in at a similar price points as the Surge.
If you expect a watch to be a fashion statement, the Surge is probably not for you. If you’re looking for a smartwatch first and an activity tracker second, the Surge may still not be for you. But if you’re considering a Fitbit anyway and are looking for a way to consolidate wrist accessories, the Surge could fit the bill.
For Fitbit’s first attempt at a smartwatch, the Surge is an admirable effort, but one that’s likely to get overshadowed by its competitors. I expect the company to learn from their shortcomings and produce a truly must-have device in the next generation.
- Optical heart rate monitor
- 3-axis accelerometer
- 3-axis gyroscope
- Digital compass
- Ambient light sensor
- Monochrome LCD screen
- Water-resistant to 5 ATM
- Band: Flexible, durable elastomer
- Buckle: Surgical-grade stainless steel
- Battery life: Up to 7 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