When you get a Fitbit, you're not just buying a gadget; you're buying into a new regime. The company has capitalised on a burgeoning health industry and are well ahead of the trend. One of the more popular of its products is the Charge HR. It's the mid-range of products and has a few more bells and whistles than the base models, which are essentially just pedometers.
The Charge HR does a lot more than count steps. As its name suggests, the HR is for heart rate monitoring, which gives a much better picture of your overall activity. It uses LEDs to measure the pulse in your wrist.
In testing, it's not as accurate compared to a chest strap (though much more comfortable), especially during hard exercise when your HR is above 150, or when your wrist is too sweaty, but it's pretty darn good. Fitbit recommend making sure you don't have the band on too tight (so as not to restrict blood flow), and wear it about two finger-widths above your wrist bone for better accuracy. You'll have to play around a little with this, but when you find the sweet spot, the HR does well.
The Charge HR is user friendly. You simply press the only button on the device to scroll through the displays, or tap the screen. It even uses the accelerometers inside to flash up the display when you move your wrist as if to look at the time. Speaking of which, the watch function is a surprisingly handy one. In a world where the traditional watch is losing out to smartphones. It was refreshing to be able to see the time without digging around for my iPhone.
The simple band isn't too obvious on your wrist, particularly when you opt for the black version. It took a little while getting used to wearing the band because I haven't worn a watch for so long. After some playing around with the tightness of the band, after a few days I barely noticed it.
Fitbit claims the battery lasts for 5 days, though this is at the extreme end, if you're not using it a lot. In my experience, I charged it every 3-4 days so as not to have the dreaded battery life fail without a charger nearby. After getting hooked on the competition of steps, it's disappointing to have the battery fail part-way through the day and not have that activity count. Fortunately the charging is quick - about an hour for a full charge.
The one downside of the Fitbit Charge HR, like the others, is that it's only water resistant, not waterproof. This means it's ok for sweating and being showered on, but no go for swimming or other water activities.
It does have some useful other features, such as sleep tracking (how restless you are and how many times you wake) and silent alarms, for a gentle reminder/wake-up. The Bluetooth connection to your phone will also come in handy for those who don't like to miss a call. But I found I didn't' really use it because I didn't want the Bluetooth draining my phone battery all day.
The wireless syncing is easy - through a dongle for your PC, or just via Bluetooth on a smartphone app. I found I easy to just switch on the Bluetooth to sync my phone at intervals throughout the day. And it's easy to set up your activity goals right from the phone app.
For outdoor types, you can also track your exercise via the app, selecting - run, walk, or hike options. On your phone, you can GPS track your route and see stats such as pace and distance etc. It's no Garmin, but it's not a bad additional feature for a simple device.
You can also log activity - everything from cleaning to rock climbing to tai chi - you have set on your device by timing your activity (just holding down the button for a few second to start, and then the same to end).
The big part of the whole Fitbit experience is the community and competition element. It's a whole new online world, where people can become so addicted to earning badges and topping leadership boards. If you're ever wondered why your work mates suddenly get up and start circling the room, now you know - they're getting up their Fitbit steps. But I must admit, there's a certain gratification that comes from the little buzz delivered when you reach your goals for the day.
Comes in black, plum, blue, tangerine, in small (14-16cm), large (16-19cm), or X-large (19-22cm).