Review – Fitbit Surge – GPS and Optical HR Fitness Watch

Fitbit Surge GPS HRMost reviews are based on the original 2015 unit. Things have moved on with improvements to the device’s software. Let’s see how the improvements stack up approaching Summer 2016.

You can find a much more detailed review (here).

But first I’ll try to position the product for you so you understand where it really sits.

What is The Surge?

Like many other products it is a smart “sports and activity tracking” device. it’s ‘smart’ in the sense that it integrates SIGNIFICANTLY with the capabilities of your smartphone; it’s a highly competent 24×7 activity tracker; and it is a handy support for your sporting endeavours.

It’s not a top-end running watch BUT it is made for running as well as your indoor classes.

It has GPS and OPTICAL heart rate on the wrist. Fitbit’s similarly priced Blaze has a different look and feel BUT only gets GPS from your smartphone. Not ideal.

Is it any good?  

I thought I was NOT going to like it.

BUT I liked how it looked and it performed well. Sleep and activity tracking were good. Distance tracking was excellent in terms of post-run maps and absolute distance travelled.

It picks up a GPS signal very quickly and running speed/pace is broadly OK, certainly usable.

The altimeter is a bit rubbish. But fun if you want that sort of thing.

It works well as a gym watch. If you were just buying it as a running watch it would not be an optimum choice. But as a good looking all-round sports watch it does super nicely.

The Surge has a relatively unusual 24×7-on mode for optical HR. I’m not sure how useful that really is but it certainly is interesting.

The online Fitbit Dashboard and app are both HIGLY competent and to be recommended.

Much has been said about Fitbit’s heart rate accuracy. Let’s clear this up. Optical heart rate FROM ANY VENDOR is NOT MEDICALLY accurate. All wrist-based optical heart rate devices throw wobblies from time-to-time. Fitbit is no different from the rest as this shows; it’s a bit rubbish at the start but actually very good once it settles down.

10m-Blue-fitbit-Red-Polar

10miles Blue fitbit, Red Polar

But sometimes it’s great. And for general fitness usage you’re good to go. don’t worry about it.

14k-Blue-fitbit-Red-Polar

14k Blue fitbit, Red Polar

Remember ALL the other optical devices WILL have similar levels of erroneous reading from time to time. If you read a review to the contrary…it ain’t true! Even HR chest straps have spikes and dropouts 🙂

Other Stuff

It has a legacy Bluetooth mode for all you people with older smartphones. Smartphone notifications are basic. Battery life of 6 hours in GPS-mode is reasonable by industry standards. With HR and GPS turned off the battery will last a LOOOONG time.

Data can be taken out of the Fitbit ecosystem. But there’s no real need to for most of you.

 Summary And Thoughts

Considering the device is a year old now and I’m grumpy then this is a very nice little fitness watch – and that includes use as a ‘parkrun’ watch.

Sure it’s not perfect. But neither are ANY of the competition.

After a day-or-so I grudgingly came to like it and after a week it was still on my wrist.

I like it (gulp).

It’s one of those rare watches that photoshops up WORSE than the reality. It actually looks and feels nice, it’s comfy and unobtrusive. I like the aesthetics. The display-whilst-exercising is rudimentary, in terms of the screen resolution and graphics, yet the screen certainly does the Fitness job for which it is intended.

You can EASILY wear it in bed – it’s COMFORTABLE, which is pretty fundamental for a 24×7 tracker. You can’t say that for a LOT of competing devices especially if you are a skinny-armed person. The sleep tracking is generally good but it can throw a wobbly from time-to-time.

Sure, the optical HR (oHR) is not 100% accurate but then again none of the wrist-optical devices can claim that either. It’s acceptable on the oHR front for general fitness usage and nowhere near as bad as some others suggest. Maybe there have been firmware improvements? If it was that bad I would have said so. I am not beholden to any supplier in my views.

FOR ME?: I’m a runner. I COULD use it for running but I have more specialised devices for that purpose. I’m also a triathlete and it is not really suited for that although you could quite easily use the Surge for an odd triathlon. I have quite specific needs for high levels of HR accuracy and as such I can only ever rely on a HR strap at present.

WHY I WOULD BUY ONE AS A PRESENT: It looks nice and the Fitbit ‘data ecosystem’ is excellent. It really is a great ‘fitness’ gift for someone.

FOR A PARKRUNNER?: doh! That’s why Fitbit sponsor parkrun. YES it is suitable for parkrunners.

Prices:

Fitbit Surge £148.00 Link $199.00 Link
Fitbit Blaze £149.00 Link $197.00 Link
Garmin Forerunner 235 £223.00 Link £329.99 Link
Polar M400 £115.00 Link $157.00 Link
TomTom Runner 2 £99.00 Link $130.00 Link
TomTom Runner 2 Cardio + Music £208.00 Link $230.00 Link

 

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