Fitbit Charge HR review

Jim Carson

Since my Fitbit Force was recalled earlier this year, I’d been pining for a simple motivational aid.  Microsoft’s Band looks awesome, but it’s sold out as soon as they get another batch of units.  The Garmin VivoSmart had some interesting features, but lacks stair climbs (important to me because I do so much of that in a given day) and was at the upper end of my price range.  (They weren’t discounting it for CyberThanksGivingBlackShoppingHolidayWeek, either.)  Fitbit, meanwhile, has been such a tease, but finally wanted to take my money in exchange for Fitbit Charge HR.  I’ve used it for two weeks.

I was a little nervous about the heart rate sensor needing to be super snug against my arm.  I’m happy to say that it doesn’t need to be.  If you’re used to wearing a watch, you won’t notice the difference.  If you don’t wear a watch, like me, you’ll fiddle with it a few times a day.

Fitbit Charge HR on my very hairy arm.
Clearly, my day job as a data scientist doesn’t involve a lot of physical exertion.

The heart rate sensor uses two green LEDs that need to be “close enough” to the skin to do their thing. When you take it off for charging, or if there is some kind of malfunction, the LEDs will power down.  If you bump it at night, you may get an eyeful of blinking green LED.  Reason: the Fitbit is designed to record your heart rate all day.   The pretty HR graph is available on the Fitbit web site, but not the phone application.

stairway
The web page shows the full day’s heart rate. My peak represents powering up Pike Place Market, on the way to the bus stop.

I’ve found the HR sensor works best if the watchband is two to three finger-widths from the end of my wrist. The heart rate reading seems believable. The “resting heart rate” setting should record after one wakes up, but is still lying in bed. Unfortunately, it seems to wait until I’m up and out, reading a little higher than expected. I’m sure they’ll get this kink worked out.

The Fitbit web site sorta kinda integrates with other apps and products. For example, I use MyFitnessPal to record my dietary intake because its food list is very good and EveryMove for additional motivation.  The “sorta kinda” is FitBit records my caloric intake, but not the things I ate.

Fitbit Dashboard.  Jes continues to kick my ass.
Fitbit Dashboard. Goals complete, yet Jes continues to kick my ass.

A huge plus over the Force and the Charge (non-HR) is the band has a real clasp. The little nub on the prior model was prone to coming undone when anything tugged against the band or if the nub wasn’t thoroughly pushed through.  In my first week of The Force, I nearly lost it twice.

Another really nice improvement is the sleep recording is automatic. Previously with the Force, I’d have to remember to set the timer before going to bed and unset it when I get up. Needless to say, I often didn’t. Now, it’s more of a wear and forget device, which is precisely what I wanted.

Nightly sleep measurement.
Nightly sleep measurement.  Is 92% efficient good?

Battery life seems to be on the order of 5-6 days of normal use, where normal use is “Use the vibrate to wake up Monday-Friday” (it is really nice you can set multiple alarms on different days) plus walking and occasionally hitting 10k steps. Because the cord is proprietary and apparently incompatible with every other model of Fitbit, I have been charging it roughly every fourth day.

No wonder I was feeling really awful at work Monday
No wonder I was feeling really awful at work Monday

So, overall, I’m pleased with the device. It’s also had the desired effect of getting me to the indirect route through Seattle’s stair district in an effort to boost my stats for the day.

4 thoughts on “Fitbit Charge HR review

  1. Hey…
    Congrats on hitting your 100k week. I’ve had my HR for 2 days now and I’m unimpressed with the HR accuracy so far. Running up some hills on cougar it says I’m running about 85-90. That’s.just.not.accurate. Happy to have my sleep function back but I’ve had to charge it every night so far for a bit. Also, my active minutes have been taken away (which was my primary goal). Maybe I’m wearing it too tightly? I’ll find out more tomorrow with my am run I suppose…

  2. When running, I’ve noticed I have better results if the fitbit HR sensor is on the underside of the wrist. Also, its instantaneous rate doesn’t seem to be very accurate, though it seems to record the data differently. For example, after doing an interval, it may show 124 when in fact it feels closer to the 150+ range.

    Are your active minutes influenced by your default activity setting? Comparatively, I’m a couch potato to you. Maybe the new one doesn’t consider your intra-day workout?

    1. Ahh-I mean… I can’t select it as my primary goal. No buzzzz when I hit 45 active mins and I can’t see them when I scroll through the display. I can only see active mins on the app

      Strangely enough. The HR was super accurate during my run this am. Just not as much for hiking as I’d like. Perhaps it’s because my hiking was in short bursts yesterday. Drive. Hike. Drive. Etc

      Perhaps I need to accrue more data before laying such harsh judgement on the device.

      1. (Sorry been super busy the last two weeks)

        Huh, you’re right about the active minutes not being a primary goal or a displayable. The only thing one can configure with the website pulldown are steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed.

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