[HEALTH TECH] Fitbit Charge 2 REVIEW

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For the past few months we have been testing the Fitbit Charge 2 fitness tracker and here are our conclusions.

Build & Appearance

The first thing you will note on seeing the Fitbit Charge 2, is the common aesthetic styling with the Fitbit Alta and Fitbit Alta HR, we reviewed previously. All three have the same spring loaded strap to tracker connection enabling users to personalise their trackers by replacing their strap with one of the alternative rubber or leather straps available from the Fitbit Shop. If none of the Fitbit supplied straps appeal, there are a plethora of rubber, leather and metal straps and bracelets available from other sources like Amazon.

Fitbit Charge 2 box front
Fitbit Charge 2 box front
Fitbit Charge 2 box rear
Fitbit Charge 2 box rear

The build quality of the Fitbit Charge 2 lives up the high standard we have come to expect from Fitbit devices. The core tracking unit looks and feels solid with a Stainless Steel body, housing its large OLED scratch resistant screen and connecting it to a choice of black, plum, blue or teal buckle closing rubber straps. If you are after something a little more special there are also two limited edition versions in either Gunmetal Stainless Steel with a black rubber strap or 22k Rose Gold plate Stainless Steel with a lavender rubber strap.

Sadly with all other Fitbit trackers, with the exception of the Fitbit Flex 2 and recently released Fitbit Ionic and Fitbit Versa, the Fitbit Charge 2 is only splash resistant, so no showing, bathing or swimming in it. This has been a long frustration for Fitbit owners as Fitbit has held the mantle of best fitness tracking app and web interface for years, but a number of the competition have offered waterproof tracker options for a number of years now.

Fitbit Charge 2 what's in the box
Fitbit Charge 2 what’s in the box

Functionality

The functionality of the Fitbit Charge 2 is closest aligned to that of the Fitbit Blaze, with:

  • Step Counting: a 3-axis accelerometer is used to measure changes in wrist movement equating changes is direction of motion to steps.
  • Floor Counting: an altimeter is used to measure changes in altitude which are equated to the number of floors climbed.
  • Active Time: this is calculated based on the number of steps counted during a set period.
  • Continuous Heart Rate Monitoring: an optical heart rate tracker is used to detect heart rate. We have found this functionality valuable in the past to diagnose when, and when not, to train as sickness can be identified by comparing your daily average with the longer-term rolling average trend via the app or web dashboard. You may not feel unwell yet or this think you have recovered, but we have found this knowledge to make a difference.
  • Fitbit Charge 2 HR Sensor
    Fitbit Charge 2 HR Sensor
  • Connected GPS: Bluetooth connection to a mobile device is used to obtain GPS information for location logging. We much prefer integrated GPS, but connected GPS is better than no GPS at all. The main issue with connected GPS is that you need to have your phone with you and the Fitbit app open for it to track your GPS position.
  • Exercise Logging: both auto and manual exercise logging is available, with the user able to select up to 6 exercise types to be selectable on device and a sub-set being auto detected based on wrist movement.
  • Reminder to Move: wrist movement is used to assess the level of activity during hourly periods. This is then used to provide silent reminders to the user that they have not been active enough during the current hourly period. This is an excellent way to help achieve you daily step goal and break up sedentary periods.
  • Breathing Exercises: heart rate is used to infer breathing which is used to provide guided breathing exercises, via the tracker screen and internal vibration motor, to help de-stress.
  • Sleep Tracking: wrist movement and heart rate are used to calculate the duration and quality of sleep periods. Although you usually know when you’ve had a bad nights sleep this information can help you diagnose patterns and improve your sleep quality and pattern.
  • Clock: you can choose from 11 user selectable watch faces via the web dashboard or mobile app, with different levels of fitness data overlaid.
  • Stopwatch and Countdown Timer: although these are less useful, they are useful to have.

Although the above functionality is shared between the Fitbit Charge 2 and the higher priced Fitbit Blaze there are two main areas of functionality which are not present on the Fitbit Charge 2:

  • Silent Alarm: a vibration motor is used to provide silent alarms. Although the Fitbit Blaze enables creation, and deletion of alarms via the tracker, the Fitbit Charge 2 is limited to enabling and disabling alarms, requiring the mobile app or web dashboard to create and delete alarms.
  • Screen: although this is not specifically functionality the Fitbit Charge 2 screen is roughly half the width of theFitbit Blaze screen and is black and white whereas the Fitbit Blaze screen is Colour.
  • Fitbit Charge 2 and Charger
    Fitbit Charge 2 and Charger

Having covered functionality shared and on the Fitbit Blaze, but not present on the Fitbit Charge 2, there is functionality included in the Fitbit Charge 2, but not present on the Fitbit Blaze.

  • Interval Training: This was requested may times for the Fitbit Blaze, but was never added. Happily it is included in the Fitbit Charge 2, enabling users to do interval training (repeated sets of training and recovery periods) based on user selection of durations and quantity. Although you can’t set the interval durations on the tracker you can set them in the mobile app. Go to settings, and then select the Fitbit Charge 2. Scroll down to exercises and select interval training. Now you can set the training and recovery durations and number to sets.
  • Sports Strap: although this is not specifically functionality the Fitbit Charge 2 has a perforated Sports Strap option which is not available in the Fitbit Store for the Fitbit Blaze. This may appear to be a minor thing, but the perforated strap permits your skin to breath beneath it during high intensity workouts.
  • Fitbit Charge 2 and Charging
    Fitbit Charge 2 and Charging

When it comes to battery life, the Fitbit Charge 2 lasts up to a week between charges, which exceeds Fitbit’s guidance of 5-days. This is impressive as unlike the Fitbit Blaze, the Fitbit Charge 2 cannot be turned off, so we assume it drops into a low power mode when not in use or just has a larger battery compared to it’s power consumption. As with most Fitbit trackers charge time is between one and two hours (nearer to one than two hours in our experience).

Conclusion

Based on our experiences the Fitbit Charge 2 is the best Fitbit for the money conscious fitness enthusiast with. When compared with the higher priced Fitbit Blaze, your loose on-wrist alarm creation and deletions and the larger colour screen, but you gain interval training and the optional sports strap.

Fitbit Charge 2
Fitbit Charge 2

Although we miss the integrated GPS of the Fitbit Surge, having relying on a mobile phone for connected GPS, our real frustration is that the Fitbit Charge 2 is only splash proof.
All in all the Fitbit Charge 2 is an excellent fitness tracker backed by, in our opinion, an industry leading app and web user interface.

Verdict

Pros

• Interval Training Timer
• Up to a week between charges
• Connected GPS – distance data on screen
• Reminders to move
• Silent alarms

Cons

• Only Splash Proof – swimming exercise is missed.
• Connected GPS – need to have phone
• Need phone to create new alarms

Scores

Build & Appearance **** [4/5]

The Fitbit Charge 2 looks and feels like a quality product with a slim profile aimed clearly at the fitness enthusiast.

Functionality *** [4/5]

The functionality is close to that provided by the Fitbit Blaze, loosing alarm creation/deletion, but adding interval training.

Affordability **** [4/5]

With the Fitbit Charge 2 priced at £139, only £10 more than the Fitbit Alta HR and £40 less than the Fitbit Blaze, it is our preferred tracker of the three. When you venture out of the Fitbit Store and into the high street you can find the Fitbit Charge 2 as low as £110.

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