Fitbit Charge HR full review
Also see: Best Black Friday Fitness Tracker Deals
Fitbit has now released a new tracker, the Charge 2, which replaces both the Charge and Charge HR. The Charge 2 feature set is very close to the HR, and includes heart-rate monitoring despite not boasting the letters HR in its name. It now has interchangeable straps and some new alerts to make it a worthy update to the best-selling Charge HR, reviewed here. For more details read our Fitbit Charge 2 review. The Charge HR is no longer sold direct by Fitbit but remains on sale at online retailers at some possible bargain prices. For example, you can pick it up for under £80 on Amazon, John Lewis and Argos which is a great deal compared to its £119.99 RRP and the £129.99 cost of the new Charge 2.
For a full breakdown and comparison of all the Fitbits see our feature “Which Fitbit is Best”.
Now read our Fitbit Charge 2 review
Here's our original Charge HR review:
The Fitbit Charge HR is a more advanced version of the Fitbit Charge, which was released in November 2014. The Fitbit Surge features even more features for the performance-obsessed fitness fanatics. As such the Charge HR should appeal to someone wanting more advanced activity-tracking stats than a Fitbit Flex or Charge user – particularly heart-rate monitoring – but not to the level and price as the more sports-oriented Surge.
The Fitbit Charge HR also has some extra benefits, such as a watch-type buckle that is far more secure than the clasp on the Flex and Charge. It's one of the reasons that the Charge HR is one of our favourite activity trackers. See the foot of this review for the latest best prices online.
It features all the functions of the Charge and adds some compelling new monitors that will make many Charge buyers stop to consider paying the extra £20 for the Charge HR’s extras.
The recent Fitbit Blaze offers everything the Charge HR has, plus multisport features, text notifications and music control. Read our Fitbit Blaze Hands On Review.
The Fitbit Alta (read our Fitbit Alta review) doesn't boast the altimeter for floors climbed stats, or heart rate monitoring – although it does have text notifications and an inactivity alert. We think the Alta is worth considering against the Charge, but the HR's heart rate and altimeter make it more advanced.
Fitbit Charge HR review: features compared
Now check out the new Fitbit range's features.
Fitbit Charge HR review: price
While the Charge costs £99.99 (US$109.95), the Fitbit Charge HR is priced at £119.99 (US$149.95). Spending that extra £20 ($40) is tempting because of the extra features the HR offers. And check our best online prices at the bottom of this review for cheaper online prices, which are often a lot cheaper than when bought direct. At the time of writing we've seen the Charge HR selling for just under £100 on Amazon UK and under US$130 on Amazon.com. Update: No longer sold direct the Charge HR remains available from online retailers.
Bear in mind that no Fitbit tracker integrates with Apple Health, so your fitness data from the Fitbit app can't be imported into the Health app. However. this is no major problem since the Fitbit app presents the data nicely and lets you compete with friends. Also: Fitbit vs Apple watch
Pictured from left: Fitbit Charge (Black), Fitbit Charge HR (Plum), and Fitbit Surge (Black).
Fitbit Charge HR vs Fitbit Charge: it’s all about heart rate
All Fitbits have a MEMS 3-axis accelerometer that measures motion patterns to determine your steps taken, distance travelled, active minutes, and calories burned. The Charge and Charge HR both include a clock so you can ditch the watch if you like, but many wear the fitness band alongside their wristwatch. For a full breakdown and comparison of all the Fitbits see our feature “Which Fitbit is Best”.
The Fitbit Charge and Charge HR also feature an altimeter (unlike the Apple Watch) that measures floors climbed, to push you to climb those stairs instead of taking the lift, or to take the uphill route to work rather than the easier flat. Every 10ft elevation you walk or climb is counted as one flight of stairs.
The Charge HR isn’t the multi-sports powerhouse that is the GPS-packing Fitbit Surge, but – as with the Charge – you can use it to log workouts and – via the app – see a monthly exercise plan. Fitbit sees it as for “Active” users, compared to the Charge that’s aimed at “Everyday” users. You might also be interested in Fitbit's Aria scales that sync with your account, and measure weight, body fat percentage and BMI; read our Fitbit Aria scales review.
Using Mobile Run both can track run, walk and hike stats and map routes using your iPhone’s GPS; the Surge has its own built-in GPS. These functions are not quite there on Android yet, unfortunately.
This is great for recording Average Pace and Split Paces. It also offers music controls so you can use it to select and shuffle songs on your iPhone. You can view runs from the past four weeks. You tap specific runs for an expanded view, where you can view steps, calories, and active minutes taken during your MobileRun.
Fitbit has introduced new features that track your Hourly Activity and Stationary Time in the app. You should aim to also take 250 steps each hour, which is roughly two to three minutes of walking. As your Hourly Activity time goes up, you’ll notice a decrease in your Stationary Time patterns over time.
In addition, the Fitbit Alta actually buzzes you to get you out of your seat if you fail to meet the hourly 250-step goal (daytime only, obviously!). This feature isn’t available with the other Fitbits yet, but the Hourly Activity stats do show up in the app. With news that sedentary desk-based office work is as bad for you as smoking, anything that will get you out of your seat and on the move has got to be good for you.
Fitbit Charge HR: Auto sleep detection
Both wristbands also measure the duration and quality of your sleep, which is an often-forgotten aspect of leading a fit and healthy lifestyle. Sleep detection is now automatic. In the past you had to tap or push a button as you drifted off to the land of nod – which meant that this action was occasionally missed. This is another area where the Fitbits beat the battery-shy Apple Watch.
Sleepers who manage fewer than six hours of shut-eye each night are four times more likely to get ill than those who manage at least seven, says 2015 research from the University of California. Sleep was found to be a more important factor in catching a cold than stress or smoking. And Surrey University Physiology researcher Professor Derk-Jan Dijk says sleep is a fundamental ‘pillar of health’ alongside diet and exercise.
Both trackers feature a vibrating alarm to wake you – but not your partner – at the times you set beforehand.
Fitbit Charge HR: Caller ID
If your phone is nearby you can set the Fitbit Charge and HR to show incoming call notifications using Caller ID. The top-of-the-range Fitbit Surge (plus Blaze and Alta) goes further yet, with built-in text notifications, music control and GPS tracking, so you don’t even need your phone nearby.
Fitbit Charge HR review: heart rate tracking
So far, so similar for the two Charges. What does the Fitbit Charge HR offer that’s missing from the Charge?
The Charge HR is designed for more active users than the Charge – gym regulars (but not nuts), joggers and the more dedicated keep fit people, rather than the moderate exerciser who’ll be happy with the Charge or entry-level Fitbit Flex.
The main difference between Charge and Charge HR, as pointed out rather obviously in the name, is the Charge HR’s heart-rate monitoring (shared by the Surge), which delivers continuous heart rate, and lets you see how you’re doing on the wristband as well as on the smartphone app. Unlike other heart-rate monitors it doesn’t require a device to be strapped to your chest. It’s all done on the wrist, which means you’ll get a more complete picture of your heart rate as it is on all day and night.
Charge HR features Fitbit’s proprietary PurePulse optical heart-rate technology, which uses safe LED lights on the underside of the wristband to detect blood volume and capillary-size changes under pressure.
When your heart beats, your capillaries expand and contract based on blood volume changes. PurePulse LED lights on the Charge HR – and Fitbit Surge – reflect onto the skin to detect blood volume changes.
Fitbit says that the LED lights are safe for skin and are on the visible spectrum, similar to the domestic house lights. They are very low power so will not burn the skin, and are programmed to shut down if your device freezes or doesn’t see the right signal.
PurePulse allows users to track workout intensity and calorie burn with algorithms that provide insight through interactive charts and graphs on the app and Fitbit dashboard.
The heart-rate icon on the Charge HR display tells you if you're in one of three heart-rate zones. These zones can help you optimize your workout by targeting different training intensities, and are calculated based on a percentage of your estimated maximum heart rate.
Fitbit calculates your max heart rate with the common formula of 220 minus your age. When you’re “out of zone” – that is below 50 percent of your maximum heart rate – your heart rate may still be elevated but not enough to be considered exercise.
During low- to medium-intensity Fitbit classes this as the Fat Burn zone, measured at 50-69 percent of maximum heart rate. This is called the Fat Burn zone because a higher percentage of calories are burned from fat, but the total calorie burn rate is lower.
The optimum Cardio zone is at 70-84 percent of maximum heart rate, and is the medium- to high-intensity exercise zone. Fitbit describes this zone as when you are “pushing yourself but not straining”.
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.
Instead of using the three default zones you can create a custom heart-rate zone on your computer’s Fitbit dashboard.
When you pair your Charge HR with the app you'll notice a new resting BPM field (new, that is, if you're upgrading from an older Fitbit). This will be populated once you've slept while wearing the wristband. Resting heart rate is traditionally measured just before waking up and certainly before you start moving around.
The Fitbit Charge HR (plus Surge and Blaze) go one better than most current activity trackers as they measure your heart rate - including your resting rate - throughout the day. The app graphs your resting heart rate so you can see how it changes from day to day, week to week and month to month. You can also examine your daily heart rate graph and see how long you spent in the three zones.
If you track workouts by pressing and holding the Charge HR's button to start and stop the stop watch, you'll also get workout summaries showing your heart rate and time spent in each zone for that activity. This is what a cardio workout looks like in the iOS app:
Crucially, when compared to trackers with no heart rate monitor and those which only measure heart rate on demand, the Charge HR gives you a much more accurate calorie burn figure. Knowing your heart rate means the Charge HR knows the intensity of the exercise - a value missing in the equation when there's no heart rate data.
Also on the horizon is the Microsoft Band. Here's what we think of the Microsoft Band compared to the Charge HR.
Also read our Best Smart Digital Scales review.
Fitbit Charge HR vs Fitbit Charge: specs
The designs of the two wristbands are very similar. Comparing the two next to each other shows that the lesser-functioned Charge, strangely, is very slightly wider than the HR.
The Charge – not having to worry about tracking heart rate – boasts a much longer battery life of 7-10 days, compared to the HR’s 5+ days. When we have tested the Charge HR for longer we’ll update this review with our own battery test results.
Both are water resistant up to one Atmosphere, which theoretically means they can be submerged to 10 metres, but in reality it means each will withstand not much more than splashes and a quick dousing. Neither should be worn in the shower or when swimming. The Surge is more water resistant (five Atmosphere) than these two. For more details see Is the Fitbit waterproof? Swimmers should read our round up of the best swimming trackers.
Fitbit Charge HR vs Fitbit Charge: design
While the two Charges look similar we much prefer the HR’s watch-like strap and buckle, which feel less likely to slip off. Fitbit has improved the Charge’s clasp, following complaints about the previous model Fitbit Force’s looser clasp, but the buckle is a real bonus for the HR. I’d go as far to say that it alone is worth the extra £20!
The Charge HR is available in six colours (see below): Black, Blue, Plum, Tangerine, Teal and Pink.
The Charge (below) comes in Black, Blue, Slate and Burgundy.
Fitbit likes to think of the Charge for everyday users who want to get fitter and see how they are doing in real time on the wristband and also via the excellent free app and graphics-heavy desktop dashboard. The Charge HR user is more active and will get more data from the heart-rate monitoring – especially when used with the Peak, Cardio and Fat Burn Zones.
We think that the casual Charge user might very well be tempted by the heart-rate tracking, too, and it’s only an extra £20. You also get the more secure watch-like buckle with the Charge HR. Or the Charge customer might prefer the newer Fitbit Alta.
We love the Surge for its GPS and more sports-based features but the Fitbit Charge HR is a welcome, minimal step below for the rest of us.
Fitbit HR: Fitbit app
Fitbit has recently updated its app to include much-improved graphs and other visual displays of your activity and health stats; see below.
You can delve into each function in great detail and re-orientate your phone or tablet to see even more granular detail.
The app (and the excellent desktop dashboard) is where you can also see how you are doing against a set of Friends, competing Step Count, and entering a range of competitive challenges. You also gain special badges for completing various activity milestones. See New Fitbit trackers rumours and release date.
Fitbit Charge HR: Specs
- Tracks Steps, Calories, Distance, Heart Rate, Sleep quality, flights of stairs walked
- Caller ID
- Small band: 5.4"to 6.2", Large band: 6.2"- 7.6".