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Fitbit Charge 3 review : The Charge 3 is top of its game – but rivals are playing a different one

Fitbit Charge 3 review

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The Charge 3 exhibits that Fitbit is top of its game – but rivals like Apple are beginning to play a different one. What’s extra, there are bugs within the machine, which Fitbit wants to wash out. It’s a well-rounded health tracker that appears the half, and just like the Versa and Ionic, it’ll get higher with time. Fitbit simply want to select up the tempo.

  • Respectable vary of tracked exercises
  • Lengthy battery life
  • Sleep monitoring is nice
  • No GPS
  • HR sensor laggy
  • Fitbit Pay solely in Particular Version

The Fitbit Charge 3 arrives at an fascinating time for the wearables business. Once I sat down with Fitbit co-founder Eric Friedman and requested him whether or not the health tracker has a lot of a future left, he was adamant that this class nonetheless has fuel within the tank.

But analysts disagree: smartwatches are beginning to encroach on health trackers’ floor, providing all the identical options and extra, for not rather more cash. What’s extra, the swashbuckling new Apple Watch is delivering well being options unseen on shopper units. The Charge 2 was top its league (a lot that it earned a prestigious four.5 stars) but as a sure Minnesotan as soon as stated, the occasions they are a changin’.

The Charge 3 takes all the things that made the Charge 2 nice and provides extra: a swimproof design, extra battery life, a higher UI and smarter notifications.

It additionally packs Fitbit’s new SpO2 sensor in, and whereas we gained’t instantly see the advantages of that, the corporate will quickly launch its new Sleep Rating Beta program, which delves deeper into the connection between our sleep patterns and general well being.

It’s competitively priced at £129.99/$171, but Fitbit is additionally launching a Particular Version model that features Fitbit Pay for £40/$52 extra. That bifurcation is unlucky, but it permits Fitbit to maintain the essential model down in worth.

There’s a lot to unpack within the Charge 3, so let’s get to it. We’ve been spending a lot of time with the Charge 3. Right here’s our in-depth review.

Design

Fitbit Charge 3 review

Fitbit Charge 3 key specs

  • Waterproof as much as 50 metres (pool and ocean)
  • As much as seven days battery life
  • Swim monitoring
  • 24/7 exercise monitoring
  • View smartphone notifications
  • Reply to notifications (Android solely)
  • Fitbit Pay help (Particular version solely)
  • Works with iOS and Android (Home windows coming quickly)

When you’ve been paying consideration, you’ll have observed that Fitbit has formalized its design language over the previous couple of years. Meaning hexagons, octagons and a lot extra angles. The Charge 3 follows this development, but to its favor. Fitbit’s new tracker seems nice, with simply sufficient display to not really feel compromised and a band that not often feels too giant.

Which is simply as nicely, as a result of Fitbit solely provides the tracker in one measurement. Different sized bands, sure, but the core half of the tracker stays the identical.

The show is 30% bigger than that of the Charge 2 (Fitbit does a good job hiding the bezels, but they’re there) and I’ve discovered this has made it simpler to learn notifications and skim throughout the UI. Earlier than slapping the Charge 3 on my arm I used to be testing the Garmin Vivosmart four, and the quantity of unintentional presses has decreased dramatically. You possibly can argue that the Alta HR is a nicer wanting tracker, but the Charge 3 strikes a higher stability between fashion and practicality.

Actually, the Charge 3 walks a high quality line between health tracker and smartwatch. With extra display area, notifications are a lot simpler to learn, whereas all of your health knowledge could be seen on the Fitbit show in a cinch. There’s no broad app ecosystem, but the distinctions between health tracker and smartwatch appear to be diminishing.

It additionally matches nice. I’ve been monitoring my sleep for nearly two weeks now, and never as soon as have I had a drawback sporting the Charge 3 in mattress. That’s a matter of choice, and for individuals who do discover trackers annoying to put on to mattress, the Charge 3 isn’t precisely tiny. However it is mild and cozy, I’ll say that a lot.

One factor you may need observed is gone is the aspect button. As an alternative there’s a small dimple on the left aspect of the tracker that features as a haptic button – and it really works a appeal. I’ve discovered the touchscreen is nonetheless a problem for sweaty fingers, but have had no drawback with the haptic button. The swap has allowed Fitbit to make the Charge 3 waterproof, so that you’ll now be capable of take it swimming. Having spent a couple of weeks with it now, I can guarantee you that you simply gained’t miss the bodily button.

Well being and health options

Fitbit Charge 3 review

So… how does it carry out? Take a step again for a second. The final two units launched by Fitbit have been smartwatches – the Ionic and Versa – so that you’d be forgiven for questioning why it’s doing a health tracker in any respect. And fact be informed, the Charge 3 does a lot of the belongings you’ll get on these aforementioned watches.

But (to name again to my chat with Eric), Fitbit nonetheless sees a marketplace for individuals who don’t put on watches. Or individuals who put on (correct) watches and don’t need to substitute them, or put on two. But they’ll put on a health tracker on the opposite wrist.

As a result of at its coronary heart, the Charge 3 is nonetheless health, health, health. Fitbit guarantees we’ll see the app ecosystem increase sooner or later, but its Charge units have all the time had a laser concentrate on exercise. The Charge 3 stays on the right track, supporting a vary of health modes together with operating, swimming, biking, treadmill and power coaching. Positive, you’ll be able to’t play tic-tac-toe on it, but truthfully, there’s not a lot that you are able to do on the Versa which you can’t do right here.

Fitbit Charge 3 review

One factor that is lacking is GPS – and this stunned us. The Charge 3 as soon as once more foregoes this function, but can use your telephone connection to get that motion knowledge. This isn’t a dealbreaker when you think about the Charge 3’s different limitations in comparison with a smartwatch; it doesn’t help offline music or LTE. Possibilities are, you’re not going to take the Charge 3 out for a run with out your smartphone, so the shortage of GPS – whereas, once more, a tad shocking – isn’t world-ending, even for the intense athletes amongst you.

But in phrases of exercise it’s a properly rounded wearable. Not solely does it monitor a broad vary of actions (though not what you’d get with a respectable Garmin watch) in addition to steps, energy and sleep, Fitbit’s acquired higher at doing so with minimal enter.

The Charge 3 as soon as once more gives automated exercise detection, and in testing this has been fairly correct. For swimming and operating, the Charge 3 had no drawback detecting what I used to be doing.

Sleep monitoring

As for sleep monitoring, the outcomes have been sometimes good. I’ve been sporting my Charge 3 to mattress most nights, and it continues to be the gold normal for me.

Positive, some mornings I discover it taking a jiffy than it ought to to register me being awake, but on the entire it appear to be fairly correct.

Fitbit Charge 3 review

Coronary heart price accuracy

The place it’s instilled much less confidence is within the coronary heart fee sensor. Now, to caveat, two members of the Wareable staff have been offered Charge 3 units, and one of us (me) had a far much less spectacular expertise than Wareable’s co-founder James Stables. I’m placing mine right down to a defective system (which Fitbit is within the course of of changing) but having trawled by way of the Fitbit boards and the subreddit, I do know I’m not the one one who’s encountered glitches with the tracker.

So right here’s James’ readout from monitor session, designed to push the sensor past its consolation zone, in contrast with the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus (on top). The Charge 3 had a mean coronary heart fee for the session of 146bpm in comparison with 145bpm on the chest strap/Fenix, and a max of 184bpm throughout each. You’ll be able to’t fault that for accuracy, particularly throughout such a wide-ranging session.

Fitbit Charge 3 review

Top: Garmin with chest strap. Backside: Fitbit Charge 3

But wanting again on knowledge is different to the expertise of utilizing it out on the monitor, on the roads, or within the health club. And truly, the Charge 3 is higher at analysing knowledge within the app than it is throughout a exercise.

We nonetheless observed that the sensor lagged behind the chest strap (and the Polar Vantage M optical sensor) throughout climbing coronary heart charges. The recorded knowledge is a lot extra correct than it appeared on the wrist, which signifies some lag in processing knowledge on-device, or a problem with the show, that really brought about challenge in our testing of the Charge 3.

What we additionally each realized was that Fitbit’s secret algorithms do their work through the sync, and the ultimate leads to the app have been a little extra in tune with the chest strap than what we noticed on the Charge 3 display throughout our exercises.

So if correct stay readouts are what you’re after (and for a lot of runners, these might be necessary) the Charge 3 doesn’t ship in addition to we’d hoped. Nevertheless, for an general snapshot of your session, displaying how arduous you labored, and what number of energy you burned, it fares a lot better.

Fitbit Charge 3 review

Reliability points?

But right here’s my knowledge. Additionally a 5K run, but one that produced considerably different outcomes: a mean distinction of 10bpm and far much less correct modifications throughout interval bursts. The truth is, I skilled the identical drawback with treadmill operating too. Fitbit is at present wanting into the difficulty to see what brought about it, but as you’ll be able to see, the outcomes are suboptimal to say the least. Given the outcomes from a new system, this is merely right here for transparency.

Fitbit Charge 3 review

Sensible options and UI

Fitbit Charge 3 review

Whereas the Fitbit Charge 3 is blurring a line between health tracker and smartwatch by doing its greatest to impersonate the latter. Notifications is a massive one that’s been improved this time, taking benefit of the bigger display to show extra info.

The Charge 3 can show notifications from all third-party apps, and the Fitbit app itself will allow you to toggle those you need. This is one thing that was additionally a bit damaged once I first began testing the Charge 3, but via subsequent updates (one purpose we held this review) issues appears to have smoothed out.

The display is large enough that I’m capable of simply learn textual content message (one of the few issues I permit notifications from) and a swipe down on the primary clock face will drag down the notification tray. It’s a bonus of the Garmin Vivosmart four, for instance, the place notifications would disappear as soon as they’d displayed. Right here, you’ll be able to scroll via your historical past of missed calls, calendar updates and missed messages.

Talking of, a new function of the Charge 3 is the swipe-up menu which provides you a take a look at your health progress for the day together with steps, distance traveled and (for those who’ve synced together with your telephone since waking up) what number of hours you slept the night time earlier than. Once more, it’s one thing Fitbit has migrated over from the Ionic and Versa smartwatches. You’ll additionally see menstrual monitoring on the brand new well being dashboard, if that’s one thing you’re monitoring.

For Android customers, Fitbit can be rolling out fast notifications down the road. This is one thing we’ve tried on the Fitbit Versa and Ionic and… it’s high quality. I’d have an interest to see if it really works any in a different way on the Charge 3, but as a (presently) iOS consumer, it’s not one thing I really feel like I’m sorely lacking out on.

Battery life

Fitbit promised us seven days of battery life on the Charge 3, and it’s delivered. That’s a couple of days greater than the Charge 2, and in the event you’re not maxing out the train modes you’re going to succeed in that no drawback.

It’s nonetheless one of Fitbit’s largest edges over Apple, and the upside of not incorporating GPS is that the related GPS choice drains a lot much less battery. It’s additionally a purpose Fitbit can proudly boast being an efficient sleep tracker.

Fitbit Charge 3 review

Within the panorama of wearables – and the longer term

I began this review by speaking about how the panorama of wearables has modified a lot within the final yr, and that has a actual bearing on how we see the Charge 3. Sure (some bugs apart) it’s Fitbit’s most finessed and succesful health tracker. However the game has modified. Once you examine it towards what Apple is doing with well being proper now, it’s arduous to not level out that the Charge 3 seems like… extra of the identical.

That stated, Fitbit tells us it’s put its SpO2 sensors (additionally featured within the Versa and Ionic) within the Charge 3, which means that – when the day lastly comes – it will be capable of scan for critical well being issues like atrial fibrillation and sleep apnea.

Fitbit tells me it’s utilizing these sensors to gather knowledge proper now, but it’s unclear when these shall be “switched on” for shoppers. But contemplating some individuals purchased even the Ionic for this function – and that Apple has obtained out the door first – Fitbit must get a transfer on.

(wareable.com, https://bit.ly/2yq2G21)

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