Fitbit is back and better than ever with their new Fitbit Blaze smartwatch. The Blaze boasts a vibrant high-resolution touchscreen, sleep tracking, automatic exercise recognition and tracking, and more. We got to explore the ins and outs of the Blaze and here is what we found.
The Fitbit Blaze most resembles the Apple Watch in its design. You could be forgiven for thinking it is just that with a passing glance. Look closer, and you’ll see the Fitbit Blaze has a 1 1/4″ square face, instead of the more rectangular face of the Apple Watch. The size is just right to be able to see information clearly on the high-resolution touchscreen. The Blaze face pops into a metal frame attached to the watch band. While there are three buttons on the frame, navigation is primarily touch-based. The left side button is a back button and the two side buttons let you navigate music and notifications.
Setup and Battery Life
To get started you need to download the Fitbit app so you can review your metrics on your phone. Turn on Bluetooth and pair the device and that’s it. It is a very simple setup. The app has you plug in some personal information such as height and weight first, and from there you can also track calories for the day making it truly an all-in-one fitness tracking program.
On a full charge, the Fitbit Blaze has about a five-day battery life. In order to charge it, pop the unit out of the metal frame and put it into the charging frame. It doesn’t take too long to recharge.
The Fitbit Blaze has a SmartTrack feature that automatically recognizes when you begin to exercise. This is nice for the very active. For example, if you are biking to work every morning, it is very convenient not to have to set up a workout each morning — you can just hop on and ride. It will track your heart rate throughout the exercise session, and will also use GPS to track speed, route, and elevation. The multi-sport mode lets you preload workouts so you can get relevant feedback while using them. I am not a runner, and often find the tendency for all fitness trackers to be heavily running-centric annoying, so I liked that the Fitbit Blaze accommodated my workout style of weightlifting with break time in between sets. The FitStar feature has three preloaded workouts — “Warm it Up,” “7 Minute Workout,” and “10-minute Abs.” Each workout walks you through exactly what to do and times you.
Metrics measured are: steps taken, average resting heart rate, calories burned, floors climbed, and number of minutes that you were active. All day pulse tracking gives you a really good picture of what your overall fitness is like outside of exercise. To test the accuracy of the heart rate monitor, I used the Fitbit Blaze, the Jabra Sport Pulse (which we recently reviewed), and a pulse oximeter. The pulse readings between the three devices were fairly similar while at rest, with just about 5 bpm difference. However, when exercise started the differences were drastic, with the Fitbit lagging behind. This is where following the directions is important. You need to push the watch up a little on your arm so it stays put. They recommend leaving two-to-three finger widths of space between the Blaze and your wrist bone, which does make the heart rate measurements more accurate. Just remember to slide it back down when you are done.
All of your workout feedback is captured and integrated into weekly exercise goals. One brand new feature I really appreciated is an hourly reminder to move at least a little bit. Time passes way too quickly when sitting in front of a laptop without moving, so the reminder was welcome and not intrusive. That being said, I couldn’t wear my watch while using my 15″ Macbook Pro because the Fitbit watch band has a metal buckle on the bottom of my wrist that would scratch the laptop, which prevented me from really taking advantage of this feature. However, if you have a separate keyboard for your laptop or desktop, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Wearing the Fitbit Blaze at night was both informative and awkward. I am not accustomed to having something on my wrist at night, so it took some getting used to. If I took my hand out from under the covers, I could see the green flicker of the heart rate monitoring light. After a night or two, I got used to it and it didn’t bother me anymore. It has been helpful to see what affects my sleep each night. It gives you three metrics — the time you are asleep, restless, and awake. You don’t have to set it into Sleep mode either, it automatically detects this. You can also set a vibrating alarm that will wake you, which in my opinion is a lot less jarring than an auditory alarm.
You can turn on notifications and music control so that when you aren’t looking at your phone, say when you are driving or sweaty from a workout, you can still be aware of messages and phone calls. I really liked how the music controls can interact with music streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora, since those are my go-to choices for workout tunes. There is a lot of personal configuration that can be had with the Fitbit, including a wide range of watch faces to choose from.
Speaking of customization, there are several bands available in classic, leather, or metal. The classic band comes in black, blue, and plum. We got the plum and found it to be very durable and sporty in a subdued way. It is made of an “elastomer material similar to that used in many sports watches, and includes a surgical-grade stainless steel buckle.” We also got to try out the leather band and frame in camel leather, but it also comes in mist grey and black leather. As a big fan of leather goods, I found this to be really stylish and easy to match with all my outfits. The leather band really makes it look classy. With both bands, it is recommended that you take it off before showering. The Plum band is sweat proof and water resistant, but the leather band is not. If you are more of a gym enthusiast, the leather band is fine, but if you are a runner, go with the classic band.