For the record, I support what Fitbit is trying to do. In a world full of fast food, fast life, and no time, they aim to support and motivate those that strive for a more active life. When they were founded back in 2007, they released the original Fitbit tracker, a simple wristband which functioned primarily as a sleep and step tracker. Since that time, they have come a long way in terms of technology and aesthetics. They now produce 8 different types of trackers and are branching into other areas of fitness and health technology. When the Fitbit Blaze was initially released back in January of 2016 I was intrigued. It was their first step into the “smart watch” world and I saw potential. With the release of their Gunmetal Steel edition, I couldn’t resist.
What is the Fitbit Blaze?
If you are unfamiliar with fitness tracking technology, take a trip to a local electronics store and you will likely find dedicated aisles to this type of tech. The Fitbit Blaze is a cross between an activity tracker and smart watch.
What Does it Do?
Though its main function is activity tracking, the Blaze can do a few useful and not so useful functions depending on your lifestyle. For this review, it’s worthwhile to note that while there are plenty of compatible apps that supply a wide range of functions for Fitbit trackers, we will focus on what comes stock out of the box.
As with all Fitbit products, the Blaze will estimate your “steps” based on the rhythmical and typical movement of your wrist and arm. It will also estimate your calories burnt depending on your body weight, height, activity level, and automatically or manually logged activity time. You can log several different types of workouts such as spinning, biking, running, weight lifting, treadmill, and elliptical. To enable tracking of an activity simply navigate via the touch screen to the exercise section and select the appropriate activity. Upon clicking on your selection, the fitbit will initiate the timer and begin monitoring your heart rate. The Blaze uses Fitbit’s Pure Pulse heart rate tracking technology to provide a continuous feed. Another classic feature of fitness trackers is sleep tracking. The Blaze will estimate the amount of time you spend awake, restless, lightly sleeping, deep sleeping, and in REM sleep.
Additional functions built into the Fitbit Blaze include FitStar workouts and Relaxation training. FitStar will provide onscreen direction and coaching with pre-loaded workouts (i.e. Core Training) while Relaxation will coach you through controlled deep breathing sessions with visual cues presented on the screen.
Since we are talking about the Blaze, we are also talking about a “Smart Watch”. Functions of typical smart watches which are also present in the Blaze include: Music control, timers, alarms, text message/email/phone notifications, and calendar reminders.
Setup is fairly standard among all fitbits. Simply download the official Fitbit app from the app store or play store and follow the on-screen instructions. I will say that I became quite frustrated during the setup. The deal is, when you first attempt to setup your Fitbit you will be prompted to update the firmware. In order to do this you MUST have adequate battery life regardless if you are connected to an outlet. I was able to turn on my Fitbit Blaze, download the app, navigate to the update screen only to be prompted to charge the battery. No problem. I placed the device in the supplied cradle and plugged it into my Samsung S6 USB wall charger. Apparently there isn’t a battery life indicator until the device is successfully setup. Regardless, I left the device in the charging cradle for 4 hours only to return to the same battery life notification. Upon searching countless forums, discovering plenty of people in the exact same situation, I decided I would give it one more try and let the Blaze charge overnight. To my relief, the device was fully charged in the morning and I was able to proceed with the setup.
Fitbit Blaze Features
What We Think
Build and Look
The main beauty of the Blaze is the full colour 2.5 x 1.9cm display. You can change the clock on the main screen to whatever suits your needs. The special edition comes in gunmetal stainless steel frame and gives a much higher quality look and feel to the device. The wrist band is a thinner rubber than expected, but is textured providing a slight improvement in elegance. The tracker is easily removed by applying a gentle pressure to the face of the device thereby “popping” it out from the cradle. We can do without the plastic, enclosed charging cradle however.
The touch screen interface is pleasantly easy to use. Every swipe, slide, and tap is registered without frustration while the display itself is full colour and is fully utilized by the on-board software. Due to the recent scrutiny that calorie estimators have endured, we seriously doubt its accuracy in that department. The Pure Pulse technology, however, seems to be quite accurate. While walking, biking, and running we monitored our heart rate via the Blaze, the cardio machine’s native sensors, and manually. The results were comparable with all readings being within a couple bpm. The sleep tracking is neat and has always been a huge draw for this writer, though if you really think about it, it’s not really feasible to individually verify accuracy. Connecting the device to my phone and controlling my music was painless as was setting up notification settings. The battery life is exceptional compared to my previous fitbits as I reached 4 days of heavy use before requiring a charge (compared to the quoted 5 days by the company).
We are missing a lot of standard Smart Watch technology, such as the ability to respond to and view emails or text messages. The addition of some of these features would significantly bolster the value of the device.
Aside from a very frustrating initial setup, the Blaze functions well as a fitness tracker and performs somewhere in between a digital watch and fully functioning smart watch. Make no mistake, though it is labeled as a smart fitness watch, it should not be placed into the same league as an Apple Watch or Samsung Gear. That being said, those looking for a Fitbit with a little more watch functionality, then this is a solid option for you.
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