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Hands-on Gear Review
Fitbit Blaze Review
Price: $200 List | $148.00 at Amazon
Pros: Sleek, stylish, fantastic display
Cons: No built-in GPS, large
Bottom line: The best choice for those that want a smart watch, but still want dedicated fitness tracking capabilities
Tying for the top overall score out of the bunch, the Fitbit Blaze took home our Editors' Choice award. The Blaze is packed full of features, showed a strong performance across the board, and has a fantastic display. This model most closely resembles a smartwatch out of the bunch, and definitely puts a higher emphasis on aesthetic design. This model lacks a dedicated GPS, and is more focused for those that want something stylish to wear while working out, as well as cruising around town.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
One of the largest and most striking trackers out of the group, the Blaze is aimed at those that want the strong fitness and health tracking performance of a dedicated fitness tracker, along with the features and functions of a smart watch. This model will notify you when it is time to get up and move, as well as when you have an important text or call.
The Blaze did very well in our fitness impact test, earning an 8 out of 10 only missing out on the top score by a single point. We determined these scores off of the tracker's performance in counting steps and stairs, and monitoring a cycling and high-intensity cardio workout. In addition, we evaluated this device's skills at tracking other physical activities, as well as what kind of online community exists to complement the tracker.
The Fitbit online ecosystem is the most complete and fleshed out of all the brands, and we rated it as the best, hands down. You can see your stats, such as steps taken or stairs climbed by the way of weekly email updates, as well as which of your friends are dominating the leaderboards. You can also compete in 1-5 day challenges with your friends, found through the app or Facebook. You also have the option of partaking in non-competitive challenges, branded "Adventures", where you can virtually take a trip to various point of interest, learning fun facts along the way.
This model did pick up a few false steps based on random arm movements, but on the whole, the Fitbit models were the least likely to pick up false steps, even tending to underestimate real steps. We compared to the step count on the tracker to our manual count over several mile walks, and found that it only averaged about 1.4% off, or 29 steps. It recorded an average distance of 1.02 miles, but you can customize your gait settings to make the estimate more accurate.
This model does a great job of tracking cycling workouts — provided you pair it to your GPS-enabled smartphone and take it with you while you are out pedaling. When connected to a GPS device, the Blaze will display your top speed, average speed, distance, time, and elevation change upon completion of the workout. The app will also show you a graph of your speed and a map of the route you took when you review the data later. It will also show you basic heart rate stats and calories burned, as well as how long you were in each heart rate zone.
This model tracks similar stats when completing a cardio workout, and we particularly were a fan of the ability to pause workout tracking to take a quick water break. This model also has FitStar workouts, which are short, approximately 20 minute exercises dictated by the device, if you need some inspiration on what activities to do.
This model can also purportedly auto-recognize an activity after 15 minutes have elapsed and track basic stats, as well as accurately count flights of stairs climbed throughout the day.
Once again, the Blaze did very well in this set of tests, earning an 8 out of 10, putting it in a tie for the top score. We checked the accuracy of the heart rate reading against a chest strap heart rate monitor, and looked at what aids this model could give you when it came to dieting or implementing lifestyle changes, as well as if the model had sleep tracking and a gentle wake up alarm.
The heart rate sensor in this model did reasonably well in our tests, only averaging about 16 bpm off of the chest strap control model. We found that it was more likely to read on the lower side, and like all wrist strap heart rate monitors, was more accurate at reading a resting heart rate compared to an active one. This model's companion app, shared among all the Fitbit made trackers, is great at assisting you in tracking dietary goals, allowing you multiple ways to enter food data. You can scan the barcode of the item with your phone's camera, and Fitbit's database will automatically populate the relevant information, or you can manually enter the nutritional info.You also have the option of logging the amount of water you drink, allowing you to track your level of hydration and see if it matches with you goals.
The Blaze's resting Metabolic rate (rMr) calculation aligned perfectly with a generic calculation, using our tester's basic physical information. This device also has automatic sleep tracking, as well as a vibrating alarm to wake you at the prescribed time, and the sleep data reported by the tracker aligned well with our tester's recollection of the night, and number of times woken up.
Ease of Use
Continuing a trend, the Blaze did very well in our ease of use tests, earning the second highest score of 7 out of 10. This model has an alright battery life, purportedly lasting up to 5 days before requiring a charge. This tracker is popped out of the wristband to use a proprietary charger, and takes 1-2 hours to completely top off after being fully depleted.
This model syncs quickly with your smartphone, transferring the data in 2-10 seconds. The Fitbit app is super easy to use and incredibly intuitive, definitely the frontrunner in our tests. The menus are straightforward, and you can easily check your previous progress. It was also very easy to peruse through the menus on the tracker itself, navigating with a combination of 3 physical buttons and a touchscreen. The Blaze is not waterproof, only water resistant and rated as sweat, rain, or splash proof. The wristband has a nice stiffness to it, and is easy to put on, just like a larger watch.
Our ergonomics score was broken down into three components: comfort, aesthetics, and profile design. The Blaze did about average in this metric, earning a 5 out of 10. While it did do very well in aesthetics, it was bogged down by its large size.
This model ranked below average in our comfort test, particularly for those with smaller arms and wrists. It was also ranked poorly when it came to comfort while sleeping — our testing panel definitely wasn't thrilled to wear this to bed. The Blaze did shine when it came to visual appeal, standing out as one of the top ranked models by our panel in this test. This larger model does have a decently high profile, and was prone to getting caught when putting on a jacket or backpack.
In our final rating metric, display quality, the Blaze took home top marks, meriting the highest score we awarded, a 9 out of 10. This model is very visible both in bright light and in dim conditions, with a user adjustable backlight. This model displays the current month and day, as well as the time, and also offers some level of user customization.
The screen was really responsive, and will show your basic fitness stats — stairs climbed, steps taken, and calories burned on secondary screens. The Blaze can also receive text and call smart notifications, displaying the sender and an initial bit of the text message.
This model is a little too expensive for a good value pick, much more the Ferrari of fitness trackers than the budget sedan. It performs great and has one of the highest scores — but you definitely pay for it.
The Fitbit Blaze is the perfect option for those willing to sacrifice a little bit of fitness performance for a sleeker style. Lacking the dedicated GPS, it requires you to carry your phone with you to get GPS data of your physical workouts, but comes at a reduced price with a little more pizzazz than the Fitbit Surge.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer
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