Fitbit Charge 2

When I reviewed the Fitbit Alta back in August last year, my verdict was that it was a great activity accessory. The device lacked some key features however. Look, I’m by no means a fitness guru, but I know that if you’re a moderately active person looking to keep a firm track on your health, a GPS and a heart rate monitor are absolute musts.  The Alta lacked both.

It can’t really be blamed for excluding such features though. It’s a near entry-level wearable after all, and thus, has somewhat trimmed down functionality to keep it’s price down. In a nutshell, it’s a product for those only just entering the world of health and fitness, or those looking for some motivation to be a little more active. Those wanting something a little more advanced should consider the Fitbit Charge 2 instead. It’s a more expensive wearable, but with good reason. I’d describe it as an Alta on steroids.

Seriously, the Charge 1 is a similar piece of tech, is just has a whole lot more packed into it. I would recommend you take a couple of minutes to read my Alta review just so you’re up to speed on Fitbit’s core features. Why? Because with this particular review, I’d like to primarily focus on what the Charge 2 does over and above the standard.

Much like the Alta, I feel that the Charge 2 is quite an attractive looking wearable. It ships with a standard strap that should fit with any fashion style, whether it be smart or casual. For those looking for alternate colours or something a little fancier, there are other options available for sure – for a price. Personally, I wouldn’t change the default strap, but I know others who might. Alessandro and my girlfriend for example, both disliked the standard offering, saying it didn’t feel very comfortable. I really have no complaint myself.

Moving on, the Charge 2 a little big bigger in size over the Alta thanks to its larger OLED screen. I can tell you, this extra real estate never went unappreciated. One gripe I had with the Alta was that its screen was difficult to read out in direct sunlight. The Charge 2 never gave an issue in that department, at least not that I ever noticed. Whenever I was out on a morning or afternoon run, it was easy enough to keep track of all my stats.

Scrolling through everything on the display was made all the more easier thanks to the button on the Charge 2’s side – another neat little extra the Alta lacks. Pushing it, combined with the standard tapping on the device’s face allowed me to see everything I wanted to with little difficulty.

Fitbit Charge 2 HR

With regards to performance and tracking, the Charge 2 soars miles above the Alta. As I’ve already mentioned, the cheaper device lacks a GPS and heart rate monitor. The Charge 2, albeit a little more expensive, has both. Well, kind of. There is no GPS built into the wearable unfortunately, but it does make use of a paired phone’s internals which somewhat makes up for this exclusion. This, along with the heart rate monitor (that is actually built in), makes the Charge 2 a device capable of more advanced readings, and thus, a little more useful overall.

I’m not entirely sure if it’s 100% accurate, but the heart rate monitor works well enough as far as I can tell. It sits underneath the LED screen, and by the power of its magical flashing greenlight, is able to tell you exactly how that particular organ is working.

From the device itself, you can check your current beats per minute, and even your resting heart rate. If you want a little something more detailed, consulting the Fitbit’s excellent phone application will show how your heart has been behaving the entire day, or over a longer period of time. This is a dead handy, and surefire way to see how your overall fitness is doing. What’s really nice is that all of this functionality comes without the need for one of those pesky chest straps that are normally required to get a heart reading. It really is as simple as strapping the watch on and letting it do its thing. The Fitbit app will even go so far as to calculate a cardio fitness score for you, making it incredibly easy to see if your hard exercise is paying off or not.

Fitbit Charge 2 fashion

I was a lot less impressed with the Charge 2’s connected GPS feature I’m afraid. On paper, it should work without issue, I mean, it really is just a matter of the device syncing up with a phone and hijacking its GPS hardware for its own personal use. Sadly, that feature didn’t work nearly as well as I hoped it would.

I regularly take part in a weekly event called Parkrun. These Saturday skirmishes, regardless of where they take place, are almost exactly 5km in length (give a take a few dozen metres). I know this because I make use of a running app called Strava, which I religiously use to track every run I do.

Imagine my shock to find that when I used the Charge 2 to map out my activities, I got results that were several hundred metres off the mark. A 5km run was showing up as 5.3km, and some of my other personal routes, a 10km one for example, as 10.5km, and sometimes more.

Fitbit Charge 2 run

I don’t understand why that happens to be honest. When I compare my maps with each other, from both Strava and the Fitbit app, the routes shown are identical. Where is that extra distance coming from? Is it an inaccuracy generated exclusively from my specific phone model (an iPhone 6s) because the Fitbit has trouble communicating with it properly over Bluetooth (or the other way around), or is it a common problem across the board?

Over the near two months I had the Charge 2, I couldn’t quite figure this dilemma out. It’s an unfortunate hiccup, and granted, one that may be exclusive to just me. It did make me realize though that when I buy a wearable in future, I need to do some research to make sure it’s compatible with my setup.

Distance discrepancies aside, the Charge 2 also couldn’t outright sync with Strava (for heart rate readings) for example, which for me, is a deal breaker. I’m invested in this particular running app, and I have no plans to move to anything else anytime soon. The fact that the Charge 2 and it didn’t play nice was disheartening to say the least.

Fitbit Charge 2 bands

Does all that change my perception of the Charge 2? Of course not. I do still think it’s a great device, one that I’d happily recommend to others. It’s just not something I would buy for myself sadly based on the issue I detailed above.

Overall, the Fitbit Charge 2 has everything you could ever hope for in a wearable of this nature, and at a recommended price of R2999, it’s not too expensive. Think of it as the Alta (which retails for around R2499), but with a whole lot more packed into its chassis for a little bit of extra buck. Really, if you’re looking for the perfect fitness companion, look no further. Just remember to do some research to make sure this particular piece of hardware is the right fit for you.

Oh, quick side note: if you’re a swimmer, I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere too. The Charge 2 is not water resistant.

Last Updated: January 31, 2017

Fitbit Charge 2
Summary
The Fitbit Charge 2 is a great, feature-filled device that’s perfect for anybody looking for a more advanced way to monitor their health, and take the steps to improve it. It's solid piece of hardware, and combined with the excellent Fitbit software, it makes for a great fitness companion.
8.5

Matthew Figueira

Defence of the Ancients? More like Defence of the cabbages! Have you seen my head? I look like a Merino Sheep on pole. NO SHANGE only SHAPPIES! :D

  • Not water resistant, how about sweat resistant?

    • Matthew Figueira

      Works well enough 🙂 ran with it too in a light drizzle and had no issues.

      • Admiral Chief

        Well DUH, your hair caught all the rain!

        • Matthew Figueira

          TRUTH!

        • Hammersteyn

          LOL!

      • Hammersteyn

        Yeah, but have you’ve never seen me sweat

  • Admiral Chief

    Yeah, no. I quite like the appeal of it, but not the price

  • Lizzard

    How is the accuracy? I have heard of SOME people accusing Fitbit devices not being accurate?

    • Matthew Figueira

      Well with regards to its GPS and all, accuracy was off for me. In terms of sleeping and step counter though, surprisingly accurate.

      You know when you wake up for example, and you just know you’ve had a good proper sleep? I could see that on the Fitbit app clearly, which was quite amazing. Same goes for restless nights, which showed up on the app too.

  • Original Heretic

    I enjoy watching people exercise.

    One of the words in the sentence is a lie. Any guesses?

    • VampyreSquirrel

      Enjoy?

    • Matthew Figueira

      people?

      • Original Heretic

        That’s the word! It just needs replacing and BAM, a true statement will be made.

    • Hammersteyn

      I watch them jog past the pub every day

      • Original Heretic

        My exercise is continually picking up and putting down a 20kg creature that, if it does not wish to be picked up, squirms and fidgets to no end.
        And trying to get this creature into a car seat is an even greater challenge.

        Pound for pound, these creatures are stronger than gorillas. True statement.

  • How does it fare on a “casual run”?

    • Matthew Figueira

      Well, I consider 5km quite casual 😛 its distance calculation seemed a bit out for me.

      • If it’s connecting to strava. It’s gonna be out a bit. Even when out on MTB, strava and my TomTom give different readings

        • Matthew Figueira

          Yeah but why though? They should give very similar readings. I know Parkrun is 5km on the dot almost always, and that shows up on Strava. Where is Fitbit (and TomTom I take it) getting that extra mileage from?

          • My cycling partner uses a fancy Garmin and there is usually a 200m difference between our GPS watches while strava can be out by almost 1km. So I have always thought Strava was the inferior tracking option.

          • Matthew Figueira

            Hmmm… it’s a possibility. Reason I always considered it reliable though is based purely on Parkrun and that standard 5km distance.

            Thing is, on a bike I wouldnt mind that 200m difference. It really is nothing if you’re doing like 20km and up. In running, it’s a biiiig deal. That’s like 20-60 seconds added or missing for no reason.

          • Ever seen how erratic Pokemon Go can run around with bad signal? I think that’s whats happening on the track when we move to far away from cell signal and the build in GPS is not as accurate without the data link.

          • Matthew Figueira

            Yeah it’s a possibility. Basically, all these people making devices should just get gud 😛

            Like I said though, it’s a minor criticism. Biggest shortfall for me was the fact that the Fitbit doesn’t outright sync with my Strava. It’s my go to app – I don’t wanna change to anything else 🙁

          • I am forced to use the TomTom MySports app. But only for downloading since the watch saves all the data for up to 200km. And does not need to be synced to my phone or use mobile data.

      • What, you ran 10 meters and expected the bribe to say 1km? 😛

        • Hammersteyn

          10 meters? Is that like a marathon?

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        You filthy casual!

      • miaau

        How did you verify the distance ran? Or verify that your setup was correct? For example, did your iphone CONSTANTLY have GPS signal or did it “fill in” from time to time? Perhaps carrying phone in pocket means less GPS signal.

        Is your hammer (testing tool) not broken? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheeltapper

        • Matthew Figueira

          I’ve done several dozen Parkruns now, and distances recorded on each always seem consistent 🙂

  • Tracy Benson

    I love my Charge 2, got it on a Cyber Monday sale. I almost went with the Alta, but last minute changed my mind and I’m so glad I did.

    • Matthew Figueira

      Yeah Charge 2 is waaaaaay better 🙂 good choice!

  • Hammersteyn

    The fitbit is just what I need to exercise more often….
    https://media.giphy.com/media/pOuPxEkNZoIXm/giphy.gif

    • Admiral Chief

      Matty has a better afro

      • Hammersteyn

        Even better than Trumps?

        • Admiral Chief

          Matty trumps Trump’s trumpet

          • Hammersteyn

            O_o

  • GooseZA

    Wish it didn’t have to pair up with a smart phone for GPS. Don’t like running with my phone.

    • Alessandro Barbosa

      Garmin Vivosmart HR+ is your friend then (that’s what I’m using)

  • Craig “CrAiGiSh” Dodd

    Does want!!!

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