Fitbit Surge – First Impressions
The Fitbit Surge is the fitness-focused smartwatch that had to happen. As the likes of the Misfit Flash proved last year, basic activity tracking can now be done on the cheap. Fitbit’s ‘super watch’ promises to do much more than the company’s previous trackers, adding the same smartwatch support as the Fitbit Charge along with heart-rate monitoring, built-in GPS tracking and a bigger screen on which to view data.
Inevitably, those more advanced features come at a price. At £200, this is the most expensive member of the Fitbit family and it’s venturing into the same territory as dedicated sports watches from the likes of Garmin, Polar and TomTom.
While I didn’t get to take it out for a walk or a run, there are signs here that this could be Fitbit’s best device yet.
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If there’s one thing Fitbit continually fails at, it’s making something that looks nice around your wrist. The Surge doesn’t stray far away from the plain, sporty design of previous Fitbit trackers, with the same textured finish on the outside of the band to give it that rugged, more durable look.
It’s the same elastomer strap as found on the Charge, although it’s significantly wider to accommodate the new 1.25-inch touchscreen. Fitbit has swapped OLED for a monochrome LCD screen with a backlight to help for nighttime viewing. Don’t expect Samsung smartwatch-like vibrancym but in keeping with the basic design, it’s not too dissimilar to what the Garmin Vivoactive smartwatch offers.
There are three physical buttons that sit around the sides of the screen and around the back is where you’ll find the optical heart rate sensor. That’s the same light-based optical heart rate sensor technology you can find on Android Wear watches like the Moto 360 to measure resting heart rate but it’s not clear if it’s based on the more accurate Mio Alpha-based wrist-worn sensors found in the TomTom Runner Cardio sports watch.
Unlike the Garmin’s new Vivoactive smartwatch, you do get built-in GPS to track your location along with a host of motion sensors including a 3-axis accelerometer, gyroscope and altimeter to track elevation. Along with automatic sleep tracking, Fibit has added dedicated tracking for activities such as running and cross training, so there’s less of the manual logging. The vibration motor works in conjunction with a smartphone to bring similar notification support to the Fitbit Charge through Bluetooth 4.0, as well as the ability to control music playback via Bluetooth Classic.
Data is synced wirelessly over Bluetooth 4.0 to compatible Android, iOS and Windows Phone smartphones, and there’s still a web tool that requires that USB dongle to transfer information. There’s room on the Surge to store motion data up to seven days and daily totals for 30 days, while heart-rate data is collected at one-second intervals during exercise and five-second intervals outside of exercising with it strapped on.
Battery life is up to five days, with a one- to two-hour charging period when it goes flat, although there’s no telling what damage using GPS every day is going to do it. Fitbit recommends charging it every couple of days to be on the safe side, which doesn’t sound all that positive.
The Surge is an interesting move for Fitbit. This is the company’s most feature-packed device so far and as a result is the most expensive, too. Fitbit isn’t offering anything that’s not already available in similarly priced sports watches, however.
It doesn’t take very long to get to grips with the interface and the Surge’s basic functions, so that could appeal to someone ready to take casual tracking to a more serious level. If Fitbit can deliver the data accuracy to go with the ease of use of its current trackers, the Surge could have real appeal.