Fitbit Charge 2 review

The Fitbit Charge 2 activity tracker is a neat, lightweight trackers that boasts just about everything apart from a built-in GPS. It records all the major fitness stats, and has a heart-rate monitor, plus specialised sleep-quality measures. Here is our Fitbit Charge 2 review, and details of release date, models and prices. 

View it on Amazon here.

See also: Best fitness trackers

Fitbit Charge 2: features

The Fitbit Charge 2 is similar to the older and popular Charge HR in features and looks, but with some significant enhancements. Here's a summary:

•    Quick release, interchangeable straps

•    4x larger screen which shows more information

 •   Reminders to Move

 •   Interval training

 •   Cardio Fitness Level rating

•    Guided Breathing sessions

•    Smartphone GPS syncing

•    Tap-sensitive navigation

New Fitbit Charge 2 features

In late December 2016 Fitbit announced a further bunch of new features (pictured above) for Charge 2 users when they update their Charge 2 firmware:

• Workout Pause Function

• Guided Breathing Vibration Cues

• Do Not Disturb Option

• Improved Heart Rate Zone Display

• On-Device Battery Life

• New Clock Face

From March 2017 Fitbit added Sleep Stages, which uses accelerometer data and heart-rate variability to estimate how long you spend in Light, Deep and REM sleep stages. Sleep Insights are also available to Charge 2 owners in the Fitbit app.

Fitbit Charge 2 review: wristbands and accessories

The interchangeable wristbands work very much like the Fitbit Alta's straps. And like the Alta, the main body is metal so it's tougher but sadly not waterproof (it is water resistant, so fine in the rain or a particularly sweaty gym session or run). if you want a waterproof Fitbit you need either the Flex 2 or latest Ionic smartwatch; read our Fitbit Ionic review

The flexible elastomer band feels comfortable and lightweight. The Charge 2 is 9g heavier than the old HR, but it's barely noticeable. The stainless steel buckle feels robust and should ensure that the wristband won't slip off, as some pop-clasp trackers do. The Fitbit Alta HR, colour-screen Fitbit Blaze and GPS Fitbit Ionic also have the steel buckle.

Fitbit Charge 2 hands-on review

Accessories are clearly a big part of the Fitbit's strategy - now seen with the Flex 2, Alta, Alta HR, Blaze and Ionic trackers. See our updated Which Fitbit is Best round up for more details on the whole Fitbit range, and detailed comparisons.

The Charge 2 has some new accessories, including the Sport Band – a breathable, perforated design in Black, Cobalt Blue and Coral; pictured below. Each costs £24.95 / $29.95 / €29.95.

Fitbit Charge 2 Sports bands

Owing to the basic similarities we can be confident that the new Charge 2 is a worthy replacement for the HR. In fact, it's a worthy upgrade if you already have a Charge HR; for a detailed comparison of the Charge 2 vs Charge HR, see further down this review. The old non-HR Charge 1 won't be missed as it's ably covered by both the Alta and the new Flex 2 wristband. See Fitbit Alta review and Fitbit Flex 2 review.

Fitbit Charge 2 straps bands

Fitbit Charge 2 colours

Fitbit Charge 2 review: price

The Fitbit Charge 2 price starts at £129.99 (US$149.95; €149.95) for the entry-level Classic Band edition, available in Black, Blue, Plum and Teal colours.

This might sound a lot (and don't forget to check out the prices shown at the end of this review for the best available now) to pay for a tracker, but, believe me, you will quickly save that money back through walking more and catching buses, taxis and trains less, or just leaving the car back at home. I worked out that I saved the price of my first activity tracker within about two and a half months.

You can change the wristbands for new Classic straps, costing £19.99 (US$29.95; €29.95) each.

A Special Edition Fitbit Charge 2 costs £159.99 (US$179.95; €189.95), available in Lavender/Rose Gold, plus Black/Gunmetal. The Special Edition wristband features the same Classic Band material but "reimagined" with a beveled diamond texture.

A Luxe Leather band is available separately in either Brown, Indigo and Blush Pink leather. Each Luxe Leather band costs £59.99 (US$69.95; €69.95) on the Fitbit Store. The leather band is not sweat proof so you need to swap back to the elastomer Classic band when doing heavy exercise.

Check out the best online prices at the top and bottom of this review or click here to view today's best prices on Amazon. We've seen the Charge 2 with 20% off at some online retailers; you can see more Fitbit deals

Fitbit Charge 2 review: features

Using its MEMS 3-axis accelerometer the Fitbit Charge 2 continues to track Steps, Distance, Calories Burned, Active Minutes and Hourly Activity, plus Sleep Duration and quality. An altimeter records number of floors climbed. Pushing yourself to take the stairs rather than the lift or escalator, or running uphill rather than on the flat is a great way to increase your heart rate and burn more calories.

The Charge 2 might not have HR in its name any more, but it retains the HR's PurePulse Heart Rate monitor, which allows users to track workout intensity and calorie burn, and see the results via interactive charts and graphs on the app and Fitbit dashboard.

Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate Monitor

The heart-rate icon on the Charge 2 display tells you if you're in one of three heart-rate zones. The low- to medium-intensity Fat Burn zone is measured at 50-69 percent of maximum heart rate. The optimum Cardio zone is at 70-84 percent of maximum heart rate, and is the medium- to high-intensity exercise zone. The Peak heart-rate zone is the high-intensity exercise zone for short intense sessions that improve performance and speed – it is greater than 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

A quick-glance gauge allows you to adjust your intensity on the fly for a precision workout.

Heart-rate monitoring works well with the new Interval Training feature, which guides you in alternating periods of high-intensity exercise and recovery to maximise workouts like circuit training so you can stay focused on your workout.

Experts now believe that 60-80 beats per minute (bpm) is a healthy level. Your heart rate can change as you get older, but it can also indicate a change to your health. If your resting rate is consistently below 40bpm or above 120bmp, you should see your GP to check if that’s normal for you. The heart is a muscle, so the more aerobic exercise you do, the stronger it becomes. The fitter you are, the lower your resting heart rate will be.

Fitbit Charge 2 hands-on review

If you want super-accurate heart-rate data then you need to strap a specialist device to your chest. This will truly measure your heart rate at source. Wristband heart-rate monitors instead use an optical heart rate monitor that detects the pulse by shining a light through the skin to see blood flow. Some consumers recently took Fitbit to court over its claims of heart-rate accuracy, but tests by the respected US Consumer Reports organisation backed up Fitbit's reasonable level of heart-rate accuracy.

So if you demand medical-level accuracy either buy a chest strap or check your pulse using your fingers (!). Wrist-based optical heart-rate monitors like that found on the Fitbit Charge 2 might not be as accurate but will certainly give you an indication of how your exercise is pushing your heart, and that's fine for most casual athletes.

The Charge 2 can also measure your Cardio Fitness Level, which gives a score as an estimation of your VO2 Max (the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use when you’re working out at your hardest). The higher the Cardio Fitness Score, the better your cardiovascular fitness.

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