We talked on Friday about the increasingly diverse range of Fitbit devices, and how its getting increasingly tough to differentiate between the companies 6 active fitness bands in this very extensive buying guide. Today we wanted to dive in a little deeper into the Fitbit charge HR Vs Surge – two devices which are almost like the two faces of the same coin. Its coming to something when we have to run an in-depth and detailed comparison of two devices form the same company, and that’s before we start looking at devices like the Asus Vivowatch, which beats the Surge 2, in our opinion. As we can see, this is a pretty darned crowded space all of a sudden.
The Fitbit Surge 2, the second generation model, recently joined the Fitbit stable. It follows the companies MO – beautiful design with sleek and simple lines combined with quite strong colour schemes. Add in some nifty features which help ad some substance to the style, such as sleep tracking and activity monitoring and you have all of the hallmarks of one of these fitness gadgets. Then you add in the Charge HR, which is one of the new wave of fitness bands which is looking to measure your heart rate from your wrist.
Before we even dive any further into these devices, we need to quickly discuss the concept of wrist based heart rate monitoring. Its not new, nor sadly is it especially effective. We covered the topic of the science behind wrist HRM here, and concluded that wrist tracking will always be inaccurate compared to a chest strap. However, and nevertheless the approach is gaining in popularity. Its allowed manufacturers to add a unique feature to their bands which you can’t get from a tracker baked into your smartphone, and this point of difference is one worth lingering on. Wearable tech has been trying hard to find unique angles vs the ubiquitous smartphone sine the beginning of the wearable era, without it must be said, too much success. So here is a chance to add a feature which has been lacking on smartphones and one which has ben popular for ages on heart rate monitors. In a heartbeat, pun intended, these devices are suddenly much more unique, useful [to gym goers and athletes especially] and thus, valuable. This is not to say there isn’t value in wrist based reading, its just never going to be ECG accurate, but i you can live with that and find value in the trend-line data provided, then the Charge HR is clearly amongst the group of trackers and fitness bands that you should be weighing up.
So which of these two devices is better?
Fitbit Charge HR Features
As we have already extensively touched on, the Charge is part of Fitbit’s new family of heart rate reading fitness bands. Allied with this is an overhauled and arguably watered down design, with this device being pitched as less of an obnoxious ‘leap of your wrist, hammer your healthiness in the face of your friends’ device and much more of a discrete yet genuine fitness aid.
In light of this push from fashion statement to useful kit is the extent of the data points collected, analysed and displayed via the companion app. So you get your usual steps taken, activity uptime monitoring and waterproofness, rendering it useful in measuring activities including swimming. Once you chuck in the heart monitoring, then you can also take it into the gym with you. Where in the past such a device would be near-useless in the gym (it may assume that when your ‘not moving’ by say sitting on the leg press that you’re instead sat behind your desk) it is now at least able to understand that something more strenuous is going on, based off of your heart rate.
What I love about the concept of measuring your HR from your wrist is the continuous, ‘always on’ nature of it. You don’t need to strap up with an old school – and they do sound old school now – heart rate monitor, instead you just continue wearing the one band. Then when you do something out of the ordinary but not necessarily ‘exercise’ – like say go for a Sunday walk which suddenly takes in a steeper hill than expected, then you can measure how your fitness stands up to the challenge. What’s more, the Charge HR measures the height that you climb, so this example becomes all the more pertinent.
The Charge is more than just a new-fangled HRM though, as it has features which you may closer associate with a smartwatch – not least caller ID monitoring via Bluetooth (with your smartphone). Whether you see this as a pro or a con in the gym – its a con for me, but i am old school myself – this doubtlessly has its upsides.
So how does this compare to the Fitbit Surge?
The Fitbit Surge 2 Features
The SURGE 2 is the latest device to roll off of the Fitbit conveyor belt. This device, perhaps more than any fitness band to date, amply showcases just how fitness bands and smartwatches are converging, with ever greyer lines drawn between them. Here, we have the inclusion of a GPS chip, which enables the device to understand where you are, which direction you’re going in, how fast your moving – and a much more accurate understanding of the distances that you travel and move during the day. Like the Charge HR, it has Caller ID tracking and equally like the other model, it has much of the same stats being collected – including your everyday movements and sleep behaviours.
So the main difference between the Charge HR and the Surge 2 is the GPS chip. This does however elevate the devices usefulness for the keen athlete, gym-goer and trainer in general. Its thus a much more fitness rather than everyday health optimised devices. GPS tracking opens up split time testing, run/walk/hike distances and elevations and other such training specific data points. All collected with pin-point accuracy without the need for a smartphone.
This is basically Fitbit’s shot across the bows at Apple, whose introduction of the Apple Watch earlier this year was a clear shot at the fitness tech market. Whilst the Apple watch has been declared a flop by some, it has grown quickly to become the second highest selling wearable behind Fitbit. Fitbit have so far maintained top dog position, and their recently announced 168% revenue hike in Q3 15 Vs 14, is proof that they’re still going strong. However, with Apple’s annual release cycle, the second generation of their watch will be due soon, and that piles the pressure on a company of the size of Fitbit to try and keep up with such a relentless release cycle. Having more money in the bank than the GDP of half of the worlds countries, plus the upside of developing on top of a generation 1 product, Apple will surely be confident that they’ll bring more to the table next time around. As it stands, the Surge 2 is $100/£60 cheaper than the Apple Watch, but the pressure is on for this offering to hold back the Apple watch. This will be one of the more interesting wearable battles of 2016 for sure.
The Fitbit Surge vs Charge HR Compared – which device wins?
We’re going to compare some different components of the two devices to try and decide the winner. Lets dive in.
Band: Much like the strap on a watch, the band is an important if downplayed component of a fitness band. The Charge HR band is lower profile and thinner, and comes in lighter as a result. Its available in four colours and three sizes, ranging across small to XL. The Surge 2 on the other hand has more device to take account of and thus comes in bigger. The latter is more like a sports watch band verses one found on a activity tracker. Available in three colours and three sizes, its otherwise comparable. Tough shout, but we’ll give the win to the Charge HR on this one.
Display unit: The Surge 2 comes armed with a powerful LCD touch-screen, with great contrast rations and brightness, meaning its infinitely readable across different light spectrums. This compares the Charge HRs OLED screen but this device lacks the backlight, rendering it basically obsolete in the dark. The newer Surge 2 wins hands down here, in my opinion.
Otherwise the features are so similar, these two devices are neigh on identical.
Fitbit Charge HR vs Fitbit Surge: Which one should I buy?
There are clear upsides to both, and in truth, either would be a great purchase. The newness of the Surge 2, with its GPS and heart rate monitoring, plus its better screen and marginally better battery life means that it is my victor.