Fitbit Charge 2 review: A great wearable with snazzy extras
Fitbit Charge 2: Performance and battery life
Breathing exercises? That’s new. Yes, just like Apple’s watchOS 3, Fitbit is introducing meditation as part of its overall wellness package, and without really adding too much to the package, it’s quite well implemented. Just tap the screen to pick between two or five minutes, and then hold the button to begin. The Fitbit will tell you when to inhale and exhale based on real-time heart rate data, with the result being a calmer, more relaxed state.
Whether most Fitbit users will bother with it is immaterial. It isn’t as in-depth as the InteraXon Muse, for example, but then the Charge 2 does come in at half the price – and it does a lot more. The standard Fitbit tracking of steps and calories works well here, and there are occasional prompts to get you moving again when you’ve been still for too long. Day to day, the heart rate tracking feels about right – resting at the 60 mark, and hitting 140+ when running up the stairs at Goodge Street station.[gallery:2]
Since writing this review, I’ve taken the Fitbit Charge 2 on a couple of sporting outings, first running 5k and then wearing it during a five-a-side match. During the run, the Fitbit connects directly to your phone and changes its display to prominently show useful metrics from a light tap. It shows heart rate, distance, pace, average pace, calories burned and steps. At all times, it shows the time elapsed alongside these stats. At the end of a run, it gives you a summary of your data on the wrist, including elevation, average pace and your average heart rate.
For more detailed feedback, you head to Fitbit.com or look at the app. This is the kind of thing you’ll see:
This sidesteps the need for the likes of Runkeeper, and keeps all your exercise in one place, although it does look like something has gone wrong here. Not the fact that it’s only showing 4.12km (that was down to human error), but that it was a two lap circuit, and for some reason the GPS of my phone hasn’t filled in the gap. Regardless, the rest of the stats feel right, so it’s not the end of the world.
If you’re running without your phone, say in a five-a-side match where it’s just inpractical, this is the kind of thing you get:
In other words, the Fitbit does some guesswork to fill in the details based on your heartrate and steps. It’s certainly good enough, and should put your mind at ease if you do a lot of exercise without your phone in Bluetooth range.
Despite the Fitbit Charge 2’s larger screen, the battery life doesn’t appear to have taken a knock; it still manages around five days without the need for a recharge. This is definitely good enough, and furthermore, Fitbit will send you an email when it notices that the device is running low on juice.
It isn’t a perfect system, but it generally acts as an early warning for the forgetful. And it’s just as well, because Fitbit has once again treated us to a proprietary charge cable – and no, not even your Fitbit Charge HR lead will match up. It’s like folk at the company just love coming up with new designs – but for consumers, it means spending £17 for a replacement cable.
The Charge 2’s stamina is, of course, partly down to the absence of built-in GPS. As such, any attempt at measuring distance pretty much comes down to guesswork. The lack of GPS is a disappointing omission, but it’s the price you pay for a strong battery life and – more importantly – a mid-range price point. If you desperately want a Fitbit with a built-in GPS sensor then you’re looking at the Fitbit Surge – one of the older members of the Fitbit family, which suffers from dated looks, and a lack of customisation. Plus, it costs £70 more.
The app remains the same as before, so previous Fitbit users will be very familiar with it, and as they’ll know, it does the job very well. All the data is presented cleanly with graphs to demonstrate how you’re progressing, and the competitive are treated to comparisons with their Fitbit-using friends. There are challenges to be taken and badges to be won by being healthy, but it’s also unobtrusive enough that you can just forget about it, and let it passively record your data until you’re read to digest it.
Fitbit Charge 2: Verdict
A couple of minor bugbears aside, it’s hard to find fault with the Fitbit Charge 2. Okay, it’s slightly more expensive than the model it replaces, but the cosmetic and design changes more than make up for the £10 price hike. And yes, it doesn’t have GPS built in – but aside from that, it has pretty much everything the casual fitness fan could possibly want in a streamlined, attractive package.[gallery:4]
There were three issues with the (decent) Fitbit Charge HR: it wasn’t particularly comfortable for long-term wear; it valued function over form; and it wasn’t customisable. Fitbit has addressed every one of my complaints to produce a device that has simply been a delight to review. The Fitbit Charge 2 is another confident step in the right direction from a company that is certainly going places.