Fitbit Blaze Review

Fitbit Blaze watch the smartest and the most stylish yet, but is it for you?

Review Update – 05th April 2017. It’s been a year since our initial review, and boy has Fitbit rolled out a few new products since. From Fitbit Charge 2, Fitbit Flex 2 to Alta HR, the Fitbit Blaze has been updated.  Like the Alta HR, the Blaze is moving away from the plain plastic bands that that have dominated its design to date, and progressing more to the fashion-oriented space. It is a fitness tracker that doubles partially as a smartwatch with a battery life up to five days.

The design of the Fitbit Blaze itself is a black plastic square that pops into and out of a stainless steel frame, which has a detachable black plastic strap that allows you to buy and swap the interchangeable straps (sweat-resistant elastomer strap to a more stylish leather or stainless steel band) suited to ‘workout friendly’ and ‘fashionable’ occasions. ‘Customization’ is now the “in’ thing. It has a 1.25-inch 16 colour display and the touchscreen allows you to swipe for screen options, workout data and incoming push notifications from your smartphone.

On the side of the fitness watch, there are three buttons on the frame; one on the left side and two on the right side. The left button is the back key, and the two buttons on the right lets you start and stop workouts plus get stats mid-session like heart rate, pace, etc..

However, in order to conserve power, the display on the Fitbit Blaze is not always on, so that means the screen will be blank when it is not used.

Unlike Fitbit Flex 2, the Fitbit Blaze is not waterproof for swimming.  On the device, you can expect data on the wrist from Today (statistics for today), Exercise (activities from cycling, running, elliptical, other), FitStar (set exercise plans), Relax (a routine for guided breathing), Timer (stopwatch capability including a countdown), Alarms plus Settings.

But if you are thinking of a genuine smartwatch capability like the Apple Watch, then don’t buy it. The Fitbit Blaze has only a few ‘smart’ functions as it is totally built for Fitness (with fitness watch faces) not on Smartwatch features. This will suit someone who does not want a smartwatch rather a high end fitness tracker that has a watch with a few basic smart notifications.

What Does The Fitbit Blaze Offer?

More or less it does what the Fitbit Charge HR does, it offers step counting, floors climbed, heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, calories burned, nutritional tracking, social challenges with friends and it has a few dedicated sport modes which will recognise particular workouts and track it. Also the fitness tracker can act both as an alarm and as a stopwatch or timer which allows you to customise your individual workout session.  But for GPS geeks, the Fitbit Blaz will still require your smartphone to provide GPS tracking. Bummer.

Another exclusion is the ‘smart alarm’ where it is intended to wake a person up at the lightest cycle of a sleep. But there is a silent vibration alarm wake up call.

The latest 2017 addition is the Guided Breathing. It only makes sense that it is included in the Blaze. In it, there are 2 breathing modes: 2 minute and 5 minute breathing. Each mode will monitor your current breathing pattern and customises a breathing pattern to help you relax or de-stress. All is required of you is follow the animation by breathing in and exhaling to match the rhythm.  Other sofwatre updates include Sleep Stages, Cardio Fitness Level and third party smart notification.

In essence, it is like a smarter fitness watch with heart rate monitor.

And the overall best feature of Fitbit is the Fitbit App, it displays the most important data and information you really need on one single page. Furthermore, it is so simple to use, and navigate around with. It takes only a few minutes.

The Four Differences to the Fitbit Charge HR

The four* differences are

  1. The more stylish fashionable look and it has interchangeable bands to suit a fitness workout or cocktail.
  2. The OLED touchscreen which allows you swipe for options on the screen
  3. The guided workouts that comes with three pre-installed guided workout sessions and easy to follow instructions that will display on the screen. For exmaple: warm up/down, 7 Minute Workout and 10 Minute Abs. Note the Fitbit Blaze will not know if you’re executing the exercise correctly, it just offers timers and simple structured workout. It is not a substitute for a qualified trainer.
  4. Better smart style notifications which only displays texts, shows incoming phone calls and calendar reminders. Kinda Mickey Mouse stuff.
  5.  *According to Fitbit, the get-up-and-stand notifications that signals you to move will be an added feature coming soon.

Unfortunately the Fitbit Blaze is not a waterproof fitness watch and it does not have GPS built in. So for serious runners you will have to strap on your smartphone for the Blaze to sync with the GPS on your phone to track runs. But … plenty of runners will use a phone for music, so that should not be big deal to bring along.

Fitbit Blaze Watch Faces

Most smartwatch like the Apple Watch doesn’t offer dedicated fitness watch faces, but Fitbit does and it does it really well. With Fitbit Blaze you will have the ability to get a quick glance of your steps, heart rate and activity goal to date in one convenient moment.

Fitbit Blaze Tracking Features

The nice part about Fitbit in general is the automatic Sleep Tracking. It is a pain when you have to ‘set it up’. Overall, it is quite accurate in it’s tracking and it will account for both toilet breaks and restless periods. Hence you will know when you got out of bed.

A 2017 Update now includes ‘Sleep Stages’, which utilises accelerometer metric, heart rate date and algorithms to record a sleep cycle from wake stage, light stage, deep snooze to REM shut eye.

Moving on to the step counting, it is relatively accurate, but at times we found it to be a little high at times.

The third tracking feature is the exercise tracking. Like the Fitbit Charge HR it has the tool to automatically detect and track the exercise it has on the dedicated database, from running, walking, cycling, elliptical sport, threadmill and aerobic workout. It tracks it really well.

For the cycling and running enthusiasts, you will need to bring along your smartphone to lend it’s GPS to report on the distance, pace, route and the gimmicks that comes with it. Again we were impressed with the accuracy.

FitStar

This is a quick way to start a workout to get you going. Essentially It is a guided workout plan that comes with 3 quick workouts: Warm up, Seven Minute Workout plus Ten Minute Abs workout.

What About the Heart Rate Monitor Watch Function?

First and foremost, if you want real heart rate accuracy for your workout then you will have to use a heart rate chest strap.

The Fitbit Blaze will not suit high intensity interval trainning workouts like sprinting.

However for beginners and the less serious gym junkies, an optical heart rate monitor watch like the Fitbit Blaze will suffice for running and steady jog.

The all day, resting heart rate tracking (which is a great way to measure your improving fitness) we found was accurate against our spot pulse checks when resting.

But when you use it against a high intensity workout, it is unable to track it accurately and it suffers from a lag time which is not desirable for upped pace sessions.

A 2017 software update is the measurement of your ‘Cardio Fitness’. This tracking feature of the Fitbit Blaze allows you to compare the state of your fitness (VO2 Max metrics) against other people of similar age and gender.  This data is compiled by using a range of data – resting heart rate versus the heart rate whilst on a minimum of a 10 minute run

However, the Fitbit Blaze does offer a good option for beginners and long distance runners, and it is one best fitness tracker with heart rate monitor.

Is Heart Rate Monitoring Necessary?

YES. For people wanting to shape up, then you will need to track your heart rate so you can continually motivate yourself to improve your cardiovascular fitness and heart rate efficiency.

The normal resting healthy heart rate for adults and young people over the age of 10 years it is between 60 and 100 heartbeats a minute.

Whilst, for a well trained fitness person, a normal resting heart rate can be as low as 40 beats a minute.

Hence a must have fitness tracker with heart rate monitor like the Fitbit Blaze comes in handy.

Smart Notifications

With the 2017 update, you can expect notifications like the standard caller id, text and so on, and now from 3rd party apps like Twitter including news app like Wall Street Journal.

Whilst the Fitbit Blaze displays the 3rd party messages you cannot do much with it, except read them on your wrist.

Is the Fitbit Blaze For You?

Look if you are getting serious about your fitness, the Fitbit Blaze is a great quality heart rate monitor watch tracker for beginners and improvers to bring along to the gym or for a jog. It is a nice all round high end activity tracker. However, for serious gym junkies or people looking at high intensity training to train within specific heart rate zones, then this will not be suitable.

The heart rate monitor watch functions on the Fitbit Blaze has one of the best heart rate monitor for running and walking – and provides great all round stats.  As well, with the 2017 update you can guage a better insight into your sleep with Sleep Stages and track the level of your fitness with VO2 Max Fitness.

Although the smart notifications has been widened to include third party apps it is still ‘basic’ and requires improvement. In this space, Garmin Vivosmart HR+ still rules.  As well, the Fitbit Blaze will not be a slam dunk for everyone, and it will not suit the serious athletes and hardcore fitness junky.

Otherwise it can track various activities, sleep, steps, floors climbed, record exercise sessions and it has a simple to use but effective App.

In a nutshell, if you are new to the world of fitness tracking, and want a fitness watch that does fitness first and won’t stand a dorky looking fitness tracker, then the Fitbit Blaze is a solid all-round heart rate monitor fitness tracker which offers a satisfactory compromise for those in the market for a good-enough smartwatch.

The Blaze might be the right Fitbit device for you.

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