Fitbit Blaze assessment: A smartwatch in seems solely
When Fitbit launched its Blaze smartwatch again at CES, many individuals hyped it up as an Apple Watch competitor. It is $one hundred fifty cheaper, however nonetheless includes a colour touchscreen, notifications, a number of health-monitoring options and spectacular 5-day battery life. It is also probably the most trendy Fitbit but, with interchangeable watch bands that embrace leather-based and metallic choices.
However within the week I spent testing the Blaze, I noticed it isn’t a smartwatch within the typical sense of the phrase. The Blaze is a health-first system that does a lot of the similar issues as Fitbit’s Surge health band, simply in a extra trendy package deal. It appears and acts like a smartwatch, however when you anticipate it to have as many options because the Apple Watch or most Android Put on units, you will be dissatisfied. However does the Blaze at the very least deliver sufficient to the desk to succeed by itself deserves?
- Interchangeable bands
- Good health-monitoring options
- Wonderful battery life
- Feels low cost
- Restricted function set in comparison with different smartwatches
- It is type of ugly
The Blaze continues Fitbit’s custom of creating high quality health trackers, however the system is finally let down by an uninspired design and an affordable-feeling design. These deficiencies in fashion and supplies make for a wearable you will not truly need to put on all day, which makes it a troublesome promote.
The Blaze is made up of two elements. The primary is a band related to a stainless-steel body. All the center of the Blaze itself are contained in a small, standalone black rectangle that includes a shade touchscreen on the entrance, coronary heart-price screens on the again, and three buttons on the edges. Simply snap the little tracker into the body, and you then’re good to go.
The $200 base mannequin comes with an elastomer sport strap, out there in black, blue or plum. If you wish to use a unique band, you do not swap the band itself; you simply pop the tracker out and insert it into a brand new body-and-band combo. I examined the black leather-based strap, which sells individually for $ninety nine and comes with one other metal body. Whereas it is easy sufficient to take away the bands, Fitbit clearly thinks that coming out the tracker and dropping it into a brand new body makes for a greater expertise.
Even for those who do not personal a number of bands, you will be popping the tracker out and in of its body to cost it. The tracker drops right into a bizarre little plastic charging body for energy; you’ll be able to’t rejuice it with out eradicating it from the strap. It is odd and somewhat awkward, however thankfully you will not have to cost it fairly often. Fitbit guarantees 5-day battery life, which is about how lengthy my evaluation unit lasted. When you’re doing prolonged exercises day-after-day, you will in all probability burn by means of the battery quicker, besides, I did three in a 5-day interval and the battery held up simply advantageous.
As for truly sporting the Blaze, it is much more snug than I anticipated. Maybe my nerves have been shot once I first tried the system at CES, however I used to be initially unimpressed with it. Although the watch lacks the polish of a premium product, I did not thoughts sporting it for prolonged durations of time. The Blaze could be very mild, which helps it recede into the background when you’re sporting it. The elastomer strap is clearly the higher selection for understanding, however the remainder of the time I most popular the leather-based choice. Fitbit’s silicone is sweet sufficient, nevertheless it’s undoubtedly not as snug as Apple’s personal sport bands.
The leather-based choice felt extra snug to put on for prolonged durations, however neither band feels notably properly crafted. With the bottom $200 version and elastomer strap you are getting what you pay for, however at $one hundred the leather-based strap is not precisely low cost. For the cash, I might have anticipated a better-high quality, extra supple really feel. That stated, over the week or so I wore it, I did handle to interrupt the strap in a bit, and it finally turned my go-to band once I wasn’t exercising.
Finally, the entire package deal feels respectable for the worth, however it’s not one thing I seemed ahead to sporting day-after-day. It is simply not trendy, and it feels somewhat low cost. It lacks the retro futurism of the Moto 360 and the craftsmanship of the Apple Watch. Sure, it is inexpensive than both of these units, however for a wearable to achieve success, individuals ought to truly need to put on it day by day, and that simply wasn’t the case for me. I might even be extra inclined to put on Fitbit’s new Alta tracker over the Blaze: It makes no bones about being only a health tracker, whereas the Blaze is is within the awkward place of being a gadget that tries however fails to be trendy. It is onerous to make a smartwatch that does not appear to be a tiny pc in your wrist, however the Blaze is even much less profitable in that regard than its rivals.Software program
Most Fitbit units have a naked-bones UI, the higher to accommodate their tiny shows. That is not the case with the Blaze, which includes a bigger 1.25-inch shade touchscreen with a 240×180 decision. As such, there’s much more you are able to do instantly on the system in comparison with older Fitbits.
The “house” display here’s a watch face; there are 4 to select from within the Fitbit app. The default analog watchface crams in a shocking quantity of information: apart from viewing the time, you’ll be able to faucet the display to cycle by means of the steps and distance you’ve got taken that day in addition to view your coronary heart price, energy burned, stairs climbed and the date. By default, a hoop across the clock dial additionally exhibits you ways shut you’re to getting in your advisable 10,000 steps per day.
I favored the idea of this face, however finally it was just a little arduous to truly learn as a watch, so I used an alternative choice referred to as “Pop” that exhibits the time in daring numbers alongside little icons indicating how shut I used to be to assembly my day by day objectives. Tapping the display let me cycle via steps, coronary heart fee and energy burned.
From the watch face, you possibly can swipe to the fitting to entry the Blaze’s different major “apps” (for lack of a greater phrase): At this time, Train, FitStar, Timer, Alarms and Settings. The final three are self-explanatory; we’ll delve extra into these first three now. When you can view all types of health knowledge from the watch face, you are higher off leaping into the “In the present day” view, which presents a simple-to-learn abstract of your progress, together with steps, complete distance, flights of stairs climbed, coronary heart fee and calorie burn. All of this knowledge is on the market within the Fitbit smartphone app, nevertheless it’s handy to view it proper on the watch itself. That stated, it is unusual that the “lively minutes” measurement, which measures “average” exercise completed in durations of 10 minutes or extra, is not obtainable on the watch.
If you wish to formally monitor a exercise, the train app is the place you do it. There you will discover choices to document outside operating, biking, treadmill, elliptical and weights, with a generic “exercise” catch-all for every part else. It covers the essential set of actions that Fitbit expects customers will need to monitor and that the Blaze can seize with a point of accuracy, and it is just like the function set you will discover on competing merchandise. People who find themselves actually critical about monitoring their exercises will in all probability choose costlier and function-constructed monitoring units, like a triathlon watch or biking pc, however for the Blaze’s audience, these preset exercises must be sufficient.
Most of my train comes within the type of operating, however the Blaze features a function referred to as FitStar that features three totally different brief cardio routines: an eight-minute warmup sequence, a seven-minute exercise that places you thru thirteen totally different workouts (pushups, leaping jacks, crunches, squats, and so on.) and a ten-minute ab exercise. It is a sensible addition, and hopefully over time Fitbit will add much more packages. Fitbit did affirm the Blaze would get software program updates over time, the primary of which can add reminders to rise up and transfer round.
That is it for native apps, however there are a couple of different software program options value noting. From the watch face, you possibly can swipe down to regulate music playback in your telephone with primary pause / ahead / again controls. Moreover, you’ll be able to flip the quantity up and down utilizing the 2 buttons on the Blaze’s proper edge. The watch additionally helps a restricted set of notifications: You’ll be able to see incoming calls, with the choice to reply or dismiss them; view incoming textual content messages; and obtain alerts out of your calendar app. (Should you’re on iOS, it needs to be the default Calendar software.)
Whereas I sometimes longed for the Apple Watch’s numerous reminders and apps, there’s one thing to be stated for paring down. In addition to, I’ve already turned off most notifications on my Apple Watch anyway. Fairly than supply its customers that choice, Fitbit simply determined to restrict the notifications out of the field. It is a logical strategy, as Fitbit hasn’t positioned the Blaze as a real smartwatch competitor. The Blaze’s non-health options are restricted, and that is in all probability a superb factor: The gadget has a small display, and making an attempt to do extra with it will in all probability make for a irritating expertise.In use
What actually issues for a tool like that is what it is wish to put on everyday. Despite the fact that the Blaze’s design did not bowl me over, it continues Fitbit’s lengthy custom of providing strong exercise monitoring options that work properly on their very own, within the background. On days once I wasn’t doing a full exercise, the Blaze largely left me alone. I might get the occasional notification for textual content messages, and I in fact checked the time and my step rely, however that was it.
All informed, the Blaze calls for much less consideration than the Apple Watch, and there is undoubtedly one thing to be stated for having a smartwatch that is not continually begging for use. That is a superb factor, as a result of the display on the Blaze is quite small and unresponsive. I am unsure if that is a hardware or software program problem, however my faucets to the display did not all the time register. The “increase your wrist to see the time” gesture was equally hit-and-miss; I want it have been extra delicate by default.
The Blaze turns into extra helpful once you work out regularly. Once I began an outside run, the Blaze hooked as much as my telephone to trace and save my route, simply as Runkeeper does. As you run, you’ll be able to see the entire distance, steps taken, present and common tempo, and energy burned. As for the accuracy of its distance monitoring, the GPS reference to my telephone means it gave me close to-similar outcomes to what each Runkeeper and the Apple Watch reported.
Nonetheless, there have been some variations within the knowledge the Apple Watch and Blaze reported. Although the Blaze sometimes confirmed a better step rely than the Apple Watch, it stated I did not journey as far. Equally, when operating on the treadmill, the Blaze reported considerably totally different quantity versus the Apple Watch — nevertheless it appeared to be extra correct, at the least when in comparison with what the treadmill itself stated I used to be doing. The Apple Watch sometimes says I run so much quicker than the treadmill (a pleasant ego increase) however the Blaze’s readout was nearer to the treadmill’s, although it says I am slower. What’s most necessary is a tracker being constant, and the Blaze is.
Whereas the Blaze’s train monitoring options work nicely sufficient, there was one function I missed from different apps like Runkeeper or the Apple Watch’s constructed-in health app: I discovered it unusual that you simply could not set objectives for a specific exercise — say, run for half-hour or burn 300 energy. It is good to get a way of how far alongside you’re in the midst of a exercise, and when you can set a objective in your head, it makes it a bit more durable to see how shut you’re in the direction of assembly it. Getting particular suggestions from the watch throughout my exercises would have been useful.
That stated, in case you’re the kind of one that typically forgets to formally monitor a exercise, the Blaze has you coated. The tracker can routinely acknowledge numerous actions and add them to your exercise historical past. By default, it’s going to solely add an exercise if you stick with it for quarter-hour or extra, however you’ll be able to regulate that within the settings for if you do shorter exercises. In my checks, it labored like a allure.
Whereas the Blaze did not acknowledge my 4-minute warmup stroll on the treadmill, as soon as I began operating, my coronary heart price went up and the Blaze proceeded to trace my whole run. It was even sensible sufficient to not terminate the exercise once I took a brief strolling break. The draw back is that utilizing the auto exercise function does not monitor distance or use the GPS to document a route, so you aren’t getting as a lot knowledge as you’d in any other case.The competitors
The Blaze has a whole lot of competitors, each inside and out of doors of Fitbit. The closest factor that Fitbit provides is the Surge, which has an almost similar function set. The Surge, which prices $50 extra, presents constructed-in GPS for telephone-free run monitoring, whereas the Blaze as an alternative brings a extra watch-like design, interchangeable bands and people FitStar train routines. The $one hundred thirty Fitbit Alta and $one hundred fifty Fitbit Cost HR each even have shows (albeit tiny ones), however lack some key options the Blaze presents: The Alta does not have coronary heart price monitoring or music controls, as an example, whereas the Cost HR does not help music controls or incoming notifications.
Comparable merchandise from different manufacturers embrace the Foundation Peak ($one hundred fifty), Microsoft Band 2 ($one hundred seventy five), Garmin Vivosmart HR ($one hundred fifty) and Polar A360 ($200), to call just some. All of those units have screens of some type, and all will present you some subset of your telephone’s notifications. Aside from the Polar A360, all are cheaper than the Fitbit Blaze, however once more, the options range, so select rigorously.
In fact, the Apple Watch ($350-plus) and Android Put on units just like the Moto 360 Sport ($300) deserve point out as nicely. Health monitoring is definitely the most effective issues concerning the Apple Watch, and it does a heck of much more than the Blaze. The Moto 360 Sport does not stack up as nicely towards the Fitbit as an train tracker — however once more, Android Put on makes for a extra versatile gadget general.Wrap-up
Should you consider the Fitbit Blaze not as a smartwatch, however simply the newest in an extended line of health trackers, the gadget is pretty profitable. It is $50 cheaper than the Surge however has almost the identical function set. It additionally provides some necessary options like a colour show, changeable bands, and probably the most trendy design we have ever seen on a Fitbit product. It is undoubtedly not as engaging as competing smartwatches, however it no less than does not scream “health tracker” like the remainder of Fitbit’s lineup.
The corporate additionally gave the Blaze a purposefully restricted function set, relatively than making an attempt to make a real Moto 360 or Apple Watch competitor. Which may come as a disappointment to those that thought the Blaze would scratch the smartwatch itch at an reasonably priced worth, however for those who’re on the lookout for a health tracker with a smartwatch-impressed design and some good extras, the Blaze is value contemplating. It combines strong health monitoring, wonderful battery life and some different tips in a package deal that is extra engaging than anything Fitbit has ever put out.
The large knock I’ve towards the Blaze is that it nonetheless feels much more gadgety than I might like for a tool you prominently show in your wrist. Clearly, seems to be are subjective and a few may fall in love with the Blaze’s design. Nevertheless it faces stiff competitors from the likes of the Apple Watch and Moto 360. The Blaze works greatest in case you put on it in your wrist day-after-day, forsaking all different watches, sensible or in any other case. Finally, that is not a dedication I am be prepared to make.
Nathan is a senior editor at Engadget and was previously an editor at The Verge. A semi-current San Francisco resident by means of Boston, Nathan covers Google, gaming, apps and providers (particularly music), bizarre web tradition and far more. He’ll evaluation nearly any odd piece of hardware that comes his means. In his spare time, Nathan enjoys the superior meals SF has to supply and loves taking pictures round northern California.