Fitbit Blaze

Hands-on: We go for a workout with Fitbit’s smartest tracker to date

Fitbit is one of the biggest names in the fitness tracker market, and for good reason. The company hasn’t jumped on the fashion wagon, like Misfit, or tried to shoehorn smartphone features into its wearables. Instead, Fitbit has stuck to its guns and focused purely on making top-notch activity trackers.

This makes the Fitbit Blaze all the more curious and a slightly puzzling departure for the firm. The Blaze is an activity tracker that offers smartwatch-like notification alerts, and comes with a wealth of fashion-focussed case and strap options.

Video: Watch our hands-on impressions of the Fitbit Blaze

Fitbit Blaze – Design

Fitbit claims the Blaze is the ultimate fitness watch. But, at first glance the demo unit I tested looked like a regular smartwatch. It has a detachable 1.2-inch. 240×180-pixel colour screen, metal frame and rubber textured strap. The strap in particular will be familiar to owners of previous Fitbit devices.

It’s not as ugly as the Razer Nabu Watch, but the Blaze doesn’t have the top end chique of the Withings Activité Steel.

However, up close there are a few things to like about the design. The Fitbit Blaze comes with lots of customisation options, although how many of them buyers will actually use remains to be seen. For starters, you can choose from classic, ‘Luxe’ leather and ‘Luxe’ metal strap types.

Fitbit Blaze

The classic band is a rubberised sports watch strap, while the leather and stainless steel metal straps are designed for people that want to wear the Blaze outside of the gym. From there you can also choose from a variety of digital watch faces and metal cases for the central tracker unit.

For me, the customisation is a big positive. While I had no problem wearing the recent Fitbit Charge HR in the gym, the purple unit I had felt a little gaudy and chunky out in the real world.

By comparison, the Fitbit Blaze looked reasonably unassuming and watch like with the leather and metal straps attached – I could see myself wearing this as my everyday watch, not just as a fitness tracker, if Fitbit’s quoted five-day battery life figure turns out to be accurate.

Fitbit Blaze – Activity tracking and features

Fitbit has worked to ensure the Blaze is up task as a fitness tracker, despite its watch-like facade. The Blaze has a built-in PurePulse heart rate monitor and wealth of new activity tracking features.

As the first Fitbit to have a colour display, the Blaze has a completely reworked user interface. From the main watch screen you can scroll through the Blaze’s various applications. Apps on offer during my demo included basic things like Exercise, Settings and Smart Alarm, as well as a nifty new FitStar service.

FitStar is a genuinely interesting new feature on the Blaze that’s designed to help you start and stick to a work out regime. The app comes with a number of preconfigured workouts that run you through a series of different exercises over a set period of time. The seven-minute regime I chose tasked me with everything from squats and pushups to more esoteric exercises, like cat and cows – which are as weird and awkward to do in public as they sound.

The seriously handy feature that I like the most is how it instructs you how to do each exercise via a series of on screen graphics. This will be a serious boon for people that want to get fit but don’t fancy watching endless YouTube video tutorials while at the gym. If the exercises and regimes are constantly updated, this is a compelling reason to buy into the Fitbit ecosystem.

Related: Best Fitness Trackers 2016

Fitbit Blaze

The Blaze also offers the same information breakdowns after each workout as previous Fitbit models. Basic info, such as the number of steps taken, or calories burned, can be viewed locally on the Blaze. When you’re done, you can drill down into it and get a full breakdown of your activities and progress using Fitbit’s smartphone, or web apps, which are some of the best around.

All this is great, but I’m slightly concerned about the absence of an built-in GPS. This makes activities such as running a real faff, especially if you have a large smartphone: I personally hate carrying my phone in an armband and would much rather leave it at home when I’m out for a job, but the lack of a built-in GPS would mean I’d have to carry both it and the Fitbit Blaze to get accurate workout stats and pretty maps of my running routes.

Fitbit Blaze – More notifications

The Blaze is the first device from Fitbit and aims to offer a reasonably robust array of notifications. The Blaze will push alerts for incoming calls and texts and upcoming events in your calendar, when paired to an Android or iOS smartwatch.

The features appeared to work a treat during my demo. Be warned, though, the Blaze still doesn’t come close to matching the functionality of a true Android Wear smartwatch, or the Apple Watch. You can’t set the Blaze to push alert from key third party apps, like WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter. The Blaze is still a firmly a fitness tracker, not a smartphone, and this will be a turn-off for buyers who only want a single wearable in their lives

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Fitbit Blaze – First impressions

The Blaze may at first glance seem like a puzzling move for Fitbit. The addition of a colour screen and improved notification support make it feel like the mongrel child of a smartwatch and fitness tracker.

However, once I slapped it onto my wrist I found a lot to like about it. The FitStar app is a positive addition that could prove a massive selling point for people that want to get fit, but aren’t regular gym rats.

But, with pricing starting at a hefty £160, the Blaze comes with a serious upfront cost when you compare it to competing dedicated fitness trackers, like the Moov 2.

I’m also slightly concerned about its lack of an inbuilt GPS, which will be a serious pain for regular runners who don’t want to have to lug their phone with them while exercising.

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