Fitbit Inspire HR full review

The Inspire HR replaces Fitbit's popular Alta HR. It offers a decent set of fitness features at an affordable price, with highlights including heart monitoring and detailed sleep tracking.

The HR stands for "Heart Rate", and it's this monitoring functionality that sets it apart from its cheaper sibling, the Fitbit Inspire.

It tracks steps, distance, active minutes and calories burned, plus the advanced sleep measurements. It lacks an altimeter so doesn't count the floors you climb - if this is important to you, you should turn your gaze on the Fitbit Charge 3.

But is it the right fitness tracker for you? In our Fitbit Inspire HR review we test out its features and battery life, and rate its design, specs and value for money. For broader advice read our group test of the best fitness trackers, and our roundup of Fitbit deals.

Price & availability

The Inspire HR is available now and costs £89.99/$99.95. That's a £20/$30 premium on top of the less functional Fitbit Inspire, but still an affordable price tag - in fact, as we'll outline in this article, we think it's well worth the extra money.

The device can be bought direct from Fitbit, but it's worth shopping around for the best price. It's also available from Amazon, Best Buy and Currys/PC World.

Design & build quality

The Inspire HR is a plain, minimalist fitness band with a small touchscreen display and a single button on the left. While the device is 1mm thicker and 2g heavier than the non-HR version of the Inspire it's still so slim and light that you barely notice it.

The body is matt plastic, with details (the button, the sensor array on the underside and the screen surround) picked out in gloss.

Fitbit Inspire HR review: Design

When the screen - which is monochrome, low-res and rugged plastic rather than glass - is lit up, it inevitably looks a little cheap. Conversely, however, the device looks convincingly premium when the screen's asleep, because it blends in with the bezel and creates a large, curved, glossy surface.

We found the button a bit cheap-feeling if you don't press in the centre: it's relatively long (1cm) but the top and bottom thirds of that are noticeably less satisfying to press, and slightly less reliably responsive, than the sweet spot in the middle.

Fitbit Inspire HR review: Design

The strap is easily replaceable, with the attachment points controlled by little levers.

The HR is bundled with an elastomer strap whose simple look matches the device as a whole, and which is comfortable and easy to put on and take off, because it has a conventional buckle instead of the fiddly 'peg and loop' affair you get with the non-HR Inspire. But there are plenty of official alternative straps available (such as this attractive print band), and we'd expect cheaper and more varied third-party offerings to appear too.

Fitbit Inspire HR review: Strap

Colour options

The Inspire HR is available in three colours: black, lilac, and white - the leftmost three models in the picture below; to the right you see the non-HR Inspire, which adds a natty Sangria colour option. We reviewed the white model, which still looks lovely after around a week of use but may prove dirt-friendly in future.

Fitbit Inspire HR review: Colours

Features & specs

Rather than a battery-draining always-on screen, the Inspire HR wakes up when you turn your wrist and goes to sleep again afterwards. (You have the option to instead wake up only when prompted manually, but not to keep the screen on all the time.) We found the waking mechanism reliable, but there is a tiny delay.

The touchscreen display is swipeable, an upgrade from the 'tap screen' on the Alta HR. But this swiping is limited to up, to see fitness statistics, or down, to trigger workouts and access alarms, timers and the onboard settings app. Confusingly, however, a number of important controls, as well as the battery percentage, are instead found in a separate 'quick settings' menu accessed by pressing and holding the button.

Other than that, the button functions as 'back' while navigating, and turns the screen off (from the home screen) or on (if you can't or won't use raise to wake).

Fitbit Inspire HR review: Screen

Fitness tracking

The Inspire HR offers a moderate range of fitness tracking features.

By default and without prompting it counts your steps and measures your heart rate, calories burned, active minutes and distance moved. Depending on which watch face you choose, some of these stats can be shown on the home screen, but they can also be accessed (in the order above) by swiping up.

Fitness stats can often be subjective, and for most people and most motivational purposes it will be more important for the device to be consistent than scientifically accurate. Nevertheless we did our usual step accuracy test, seeing how well the device counted 100 and 250, and found the Inspire HR okay at this. It recorded 104 and 264; for comparison the plain Inspire got 100 and 255.

Keep swiping beyond the five basic stats and you'll see the number of steps you've taken in the current hour, out of a target of 250; the number of days when you've exercised this week, out of a target of 5; the amount of sleep you got last night; the water you've drunk today; and your weight loss progress, if you've set a target for that. That's a lot of data.

So how do you rack up the numbers? Aside from the obvious ("be active"), there are two main options: start a workout manually, by swiping down from the home screen and selecting run, bike, swim, treadmill, weights or interval (but not walk, unusually); or just go for it and let the device auto-detect what you're up to.

We found auto detection respectably accurate, but by no means perfect. That's true of most devices, to be fair, but a more advanced tracker would not only notice that you've been running for the past three minutes, but then go back and add on the calories and time that happened before auto detection was triggered. That doesn't seem to happen here, because the times and calorie counts we ended up with were slightly but consistently lower than our stopwatches and other trackers were telling us.

Some short walks weren't picked up, and the device got a couple of workouts wrong (it claims we went for a cycle ride, but we don't own a bike). Such inaccuracies, again, aren't unusual; our Apple Watch Series 4 consistently and hilariously labels pram-pushing as an elliptical workout. But because there's no on-device indication that a workout is being auto-triggered, there's no opportunity to tell it not to, or to record a different type.

The HR monitor means your exercise is monitored far more usefully than on the plain Inspire. Tapping through to a workout's data on the Fitbit smartphone app shows time in various heart rate zones (peak, cardio and fat burn), and you can view HR against time as a graph.

Fitbit Inspire HR review: Exercise statistics

Calories burned can also be viewed as a graph, and the app shows how how many steps, calories and active minutes the workout has contributed to your daily stats. But you don't get split times for individual kilometres/miles, a map of the route, local weather conditions or steps per minute.

As on Apple's watchOS, but not on Google Wear OS, you can set up exercise competitions with friends. It's great that you can choose from a variety of time periods and have up to 10 participants (the Apple Watch supports week-long competitions only, and imposes a limit of two competitors) but limiting things to just step counts - not calorie counts or active minutes, for example - is a shame. Nevertheless we found this feature both fun and motivational.

In terms of monitors the main thing that isn't included is an altimeter. That means you get no record of floors climbed, a metric that many people find motivational when it comes to choosing the stairs over the lift. If you want an altimeter, go for the Fitbit Charge 3, Ionic or Versa.

Sleep tracking

We love the HR's sophisticated sleep tracking, and the five-day battery life and slimline design means we were happy to wear it through the night.

In the morning you'll be able to see a chart of when in the night you were awake, and when you were in REM, light and deep sleep, together with typical figures for each. You get weekly and 30-day averages, benchmark ranges for your age and sex, bedtimes and wake-up times, and sleep-related snippets and factoids.

Fitbit Inspire HR review: Sleep tracking

Sleep tracking is a real strength for the Inspire HR, and the Fitbit app is great at presenting your sleep patterns in appealing visualisations and charts.

Notifications

The Inspire HR tells you to move if you haven't hit your hourly step target (unless you find that feature annoying and turn it off), and triggers a simple but endearing celebratory animation when you get your daily 10,000. But its full repertoire of notifications goes far beyond that, ranging from bedtime alerts to silent alarms, and from calls, texts and calendar alerts to app-specific notifications mirrored from your phone.

These alerts won't display pictures, but in other respects the HR does a decent job of imitating a full smartwatch's notifications game.

Fitbit Inspire HR charger

Battery and charging

The official specs sheet pegs the Inspire HR's battery life as five days. Our review model actually beat that, managing five days and about five hours of moderate use. This means you rarely have to worry about battery life (it'll send you notifications and even emails when the battery is getting low, too) but about standard for a fitness tracker with a small mono screen.

The bundled charger attaches magnetically, with a satisfying thunk, to a three-point connector on the Inspire HR's underside and takes around two hours to charge completely. At a little under 18cm, the cable is worryingly short, and therefore far more suited to charging from a laptop's USB port than from a mains plug. Still, it's a tidy option at least.

Fitbit Inspire HR review: Charging

Verdict

We liked the Inspire, but we really like this HR version. The extra £20/$30 is well worth it to get heart rate readings, along with the far richer fitness analysis they make possible - and for some inexplicable reason the HR also allows manually triggered workouts while the plain Inspire does not.

The range of fitness metrics is respectable. Fans of floor counts will miss an altimeter, and there's no GPS to track your routes, but most of the other stuff you'll want to know (steps, HR, calories, distance, active minutes, and the basic details of individual workouts) is presented via a reasonably user-friendly app. Sleep tracking is a real highlight, and you get a good and customisable range of on-device notifications.

This is in our view a good price for a light, smart-looking device that does a great job of covering the fitness basics and excels at sleep tracking.

Specs

Fitbit Inspire HR: Specs

  • Monochrome OLED touchscreen
  • Lithium-polymer battery: claimed battery life tip to 5 days, takes 2 hours to charge fully
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Water-resistant to 50m
  • 3-axis accelerometer
  • Optical heart rate monitor
  • 11mm thick at thickest point
  • 17g (with small strap)
  • Compatible with iPhone 4s and later, iPad 3 and later, Android 5.0 and later, and Windows 10 devices