Besides Garmin, Fitbit is probably one of the few fitness companies to actively roll out fitness trackers in 2016. The wrist wearable tech scene is a far cry from 2014-2015 when companies were squeezing as many tracking functions into a wearable. The entry of traditional watch makers and fashion houses into the wearable tech scene has stemmed this movement somewhat with consumers showing a slight preference for customisation than functionality. Fitbit’s answer to the burgeoning watch makers’ presence in the wearable tech scene is the Fitbit Blaze.
Here’s what I have to say.
- 24/7 activity tracker
- Crisp and coloured LCD touch screen
- Tracks steps, distance, calories, active minutes, sleep, heart rate, resting heart rate
- Measure HR with PurePulse technology
- Tethers to smart phone’s GPS during running and biking
- Automatically recognises exercise sessions
- End of workout summary displayed on watch
- Multiple exercise modes
- Smart notifications
- Control music from the Blaze unit
- On board Fitstar workouts
- Vibration enabled for alarms and workout cues
- Changeable wrist straps
- Rain and splash resistant
- 5 days battery life
- Wireless syncing
- On board Fitstar workout less than impressive
- Limited music control from Fitbit Blaze
- Limited smart notifications
- No idle alerts
- Display turns off after a short while even during workouts
- Pricey accessory wrist bands
- Only rain and splash resistant
- No on board GPS capability
As usual, I’d recommend you browse through the entire review to check out the workings of the Fitbit Blaze thoroughly.
LOOK AND FEEL
The Fitbit Blaze wears and feels like a normal watch. The display performed well under both lighted and dimmed conditions. All LCD screens will fare poorly under bright day light but the Blaze held up decently. For a company like Fitbit which is synonymous with activity trackers, I’d expect no less.
The heart rate monitoring module at the back of the Fitbit Blaze is powered by Fitbit’s PurePulse technology. I’ll come to the accuracy later.
For those of you who are accustomed to the lightweight Fitbit Charge and Charge HR series, you’ll find the Blaze heavier, but with no compromise on comfort. In fact, I found the thin wrist strap comfortable enough to work with; I spend a lot of time at work on my laptop and nothing irks me more than poorly planned fitness devices that get in the way of work.
The Fitbit Blaze tracker unit is removable and the wrist strap can be easily swapped though additional purchase is necessary. What you’re actually swapping is just the wrist straps. The metal frame pretty much stays the same unless Fitbit or other 3rd party vendors come up with a titanium or gold version.
The classic bands go for $29.95 while the metal link bands go for $129.95. I wished the better looking accessory bands were cheaper though. I find it hard to cough up 50% of the price of a fitness tracker for accessory band; that’s like buying a $1000 iPhone and spending a further $500 on a phone cover. But that’s just me.
The Fitbit Blaze comes with a charging case that encapsulates the entire tracker device. A full charge supposedly lasts up to 5 days. That is only true if you receive minimal smart notifications (messages and calls). The Blaze is vibration enabled so continuous notifications will drain the battery pretty quickly. I managed about 3.5 to 4 days.
The LCD screen is touch enabled with control buttons though each fulfil is own unique purpose. Think of the control buttons as quick access to music controls and notifications, and for returning to the main screen.
Unfortunately the Blaze is only rain and sweat resistant so water based activities are a no no. Come on Fitbit, make something waterproof already.
FUNCTIONS AND DATA PRESENTATION
An iPhone 5S was used for the entire review of the Fitbit Blaze activity tracker. As a dedicated activity tracker, the Fitbit Blaze performed superbly. The device tracks steps, distance, calories, sleep and automatically detects when there are bouts of exercises going on and records that.
There are a couple of main screens on the Fitbit Blaze which coincides with all the functions so I thought I’d go through those one by one. First let’s check out the PurePulse heart rate measuring technology.
Heart rate measurement
The Fitbit Blaze was compared versus a Polar H7 HR monitor connected to the Polar Beat mobile app. Now because Fitbit does not allow the exporting of HR data, I had to resize the HR graph. Other than that, nothing was amended.
It’s pretty clear there are mild differences; the HR graph of the Fitbit Blaze appears smoother, missing out on most of the minor dips and peaks. Nevertheless, it should suffice for anyone who’s merely keen to estimate their HR during exercise and not using it for performance training.
Also, the Blaze perpetually showed my resting HR as 67. While I’m no hardcore fitness fanatic I’m well aware of my fitness levels and resting HR range. I’ve measure my own resting HR to be below 60, backed by readings from Beddit and Forerunner 235. Personally wasn’t too satisfied with the resting HR readings from Fitbit Blaze.
The main screen is the clock face which you can choose out of a possible 4 only. Each clock face has some features that will further surface when activated.
For example, the top right clock face has a background that varies from blue to green and eventually orange depending on the HR reading at that point of time.
Basically emulates what you can see on the Fitbit mobile dashboard.
This menu is where Fitbit’s strengths in activity tracking start to shine. With SmartTrack activity tracking, the Fitbit Blaze detects moments when you’re active and logs those session into the mobile app automatically. Specifically if you engage in running, walking, cycling, sports, elliptical or just working out, it will be recorded.
From my experience, it’s not dead on accurate but it does capture the periods in a day when you’re not participating in sports per se but are still active.
Activities like running and biking allows the Fitbit Blaze to tether on to the connected smart phone’s GPS which will in turn provide stats like pace, heart rate, distance covered, time lapsed, calories and current time. You can scroll through the various stats during a workout through swiping.
The other non-GPS enabled workouts include weights, treadmill, elliptical and plainly workout for those sessions that doesn’t fall into any of the pre set categories. Choosing the correct event allows the Fitbit Blaze to log the activities accurately into Fitbit’s mobile app which double up as a workout diary.
At the end of every workout, you’ll get a summary. Depending on the extent of the workout, it can range from pretty short for a Fitstar warm up to pretty lengthy for a GPS enabled running or biking.
I was disappointed with the 3 Fitstar workouts pre-loaded in the Fitbit Blaze and gravely worried if these 3 workouts are the only ones I’m stuck with.
- Warm it up
- 7 minutesworkout
- 10 minutes Abs
While the workouts are pretty general in nature, there isn’t any scaffolding; exercises specifically designed for a beginner to someone who’s been working out out for a while and eventually to the hardcore fitness individuals.
The workouts are a one size fit all with no options for customisation. So it’s up to the individual to decide what he or she can do or repeat the workout as necessary.
While I appreciated the vibrations that serve to indicate the instructions, followed by the commencement and conclusion of the exercises, I cringed at the poor quality animations guiding the user on how to perform each exercise. Also it’s really up to the individual to ensure good form is kept for the exercises.
You can use the Fitbit Blaze as a stopwatch or set a single countdown timer. Nothing fancy.
While a single pane of menu was designated for alarm function, you can only choose to turn it on or off, nothing more. Setting the time for the alarm and the frequency can only be done within the Fitbit mobile app. Bummer.
Here’s where you can further tweak the brightness level of the display from dim to max. I set mine to auto and found that it performed adequately even under bright sun light. Setting it to max would likely sap the battery life really quickly.
You can also choose to set the heart rate monitor to read automatically, on or off. In automatic mode, the reading is taken once every 5 seconds. In workout mode, HR readings are taken every second.
I was able to control the music (iTunes and Spotify) being played on my smart phone device conveniently from the Fitbit Blaze. But the functions are limited to jumping to the next song or the song before that and pause. Just long press the top right button.
You can’t access playlists or select albums. Also you’ll need to start playing music on the compatible smart phone device first before controls can be initiated from the Fitbit Blaze. The idea is great, implementation not so much.
Calls can be “taken” from the Fitbit Blaze with the caller ID prominently displayed, but you’ll have to speak through the connected smartphone.
Smart notifications such as text messages and calls will appear across the screen. To access previous notifications, just long press the bottom right button.
However, notifications from apps such as Whatsapp, Facebook and so on will not appear. This is not false advertising, none of Fitbit’s devices are capable of displaying notifications from mobiles apps.
The Fitbit Blaze isn’t waterproof so you’re advised to remove it while taking a bath or even shower.
Furthermore the shortcomings of the touch enabled LCD screen became starkly apparent during workouts when I had difficulties swiping the screen with my sweaty fingers. At times like these I really wished the buttons on the side served more purposes.
The display goes off after a short while during workouts and it got frustratingly irritating to tap the Fitbit Blaze to turn on the screen.
Also where’s the idle or reminder to move alert which is available on the smaller Fitbit Alta?
29th March – There’s report from Wareable that the Fitbit Blaze is capable of receiving and displaying Whatsapp messages when paired with Android smart phones.
IN A NUTSHELL
From a user perspective, the Fitbit Blaze is hardly impressive. More doesn’t mean better. This is where the comparison with smart watches begin and chips away at Fitbit’s attempts to “smarten” up their fitness trackers. The Blaze is not a smartwatch, it’s a Fitbit Charge HR on steroids.
By adding frivolous features like the unimpressive on board Fitstar training animations, extension of the Fitbit mobile dashboard and limited music controls to connected smart phone device, Fitbit highlights the portholes en route to smartness in an alarming way.
To further add insult to injury, the Blaze completely abandons mobile app notifications at a time when billions are on Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and many more.
The lack of an on board GPS unit forces the Fitbit Blaze to tap on the phone’s GPS. Again, Fitbit already allows motion tracking with iPhone’s motion sensors and I could easily start a GPS workout right from the smart phone with the Fitbit mobile app. There’s no need for the Blaze really.
The strengths of the Fitbit Blaze lies in the display screen and the potential for customisation, none of which makes the activity tracking experience better.
Fitbit’s current line of activity trackers have been upgraded with exercise recognition and with better HR reading capability so there’s no compelling reasons to upgrade to a Blaze unless you really crave for the screen to check out your workouts.
If you’re keen to purchase the Fitbit Blaze ($199.95), you can get it from Amazon where there’s usually a small discount and free delivery depending on where you reside. Plus your purchase helps to fund the running of this site! Thanks for reading. As usual, drop me a comment if you have further queries and I’ll try my best to answer.